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June 2014

NZ Bikes at the other world cup

This is the proto Dodzy built in '06. Notable detail is the brake mounted on the gearbox, with the drive chain braking the wheel. This is the proto Dodzy built in '06. Notable detail is the brake mounted on the gearbox, with the drive chain braking the wheel.

Nzo is not the only outfit in Rotorua designing stuff for mountain bikers.

On the far side of the lake is Rob Metz and his Zerode downhill bikes.

He started building his own bikes a long time ago, because what he wanted was not available in a  shop. Various iterations of his search for the perfect trail bike have kept his personal sleds a few years ahead of the curve. About ten years ago he started on a project designing a frame with a high pivot, like a trail moto, that would eat bumps much better than other suspension designs could manage. That design meant a new drivetrain was required, because the high pivot would not work with a regular system. He collaborated with the late James Dodds, and they both built prototypes. Rob’s was an elegant trail bike, Dodzy’s was an industrial-looking downhiller. Both had internal gear shifting systems mounted in the centre of the frame, and both ate bumps like hungry hippos.

Rob is now riding version three of his high pivot trail bike. Everybody who sees his new carbon fibre beast asks when it will be for sale: the design and finish is spectacular and it is hard to believe it is a one-off, built in the shed.

Rob and Dodzy refined the DH bike to a race worthy second protobike, and it worked.

Dodzy became very busy with his trail building business, so Rob took over Zerode and continued development. The mammoth task of making the design into something that could be manufactured and delivered to the market at a price that would work is harder than it sounds, and it sounds pretty hard.

It took a while, but when the first Zerode production downhill frames were ready to go, they found homes all over the world.

Many Zerodes have been raced at all levels, and this year a couple of riders are representing Zerode at World Cups. Rupert Chapman is a kiwi, Fionn Griffiths is from Wales. Both are privateers, chasing the race circuit on a very limited budget.

A bike designed in New Zealand, duking it out with the best in the world: that is a very cool thing. To show your support you can order a t shirt or riding top from the Zerode website, all profits going to the riders. Nzo designed the graphics for the Zerode, and we get to make the tops too.

Just like Nzo, Zerode is a small operation, rider owned, making products that are different by design.

If helping the riders to race somehow enables Rob to commercialise the trail bike, I want one!

170614WP2 Here is Dodzy racing the chromoly test rig that proved the concept really worked

170614WP3 Rob visiting Nzo HQ in 2006, with his homebuilt high pivot gearbox bike. The only branding on it is the Nzo stickers.

170614WP4 Rob with the latest personal rig he has built. this thing is on many people's wish lists.




A couple of months ago I mentioned my smart phone in a blog post. I cast aspersions on the idea of it being used as a performance tracking device, and promoted the idea of riding in one’s own version of reality, enjoying whatever pace you feel was achieved without the need to have data to support it.

And that concept was popular - we got a lot of feedback from all sorts of people saying yup, that’s how we roll.

So when I got an email this week from a friend that connected me to this map of everybody’s activities as recorded by Strava, I have to admit to being blindsided by the brilliance of it.

Here was an application of the data sharing on the web that I had never thought of, because I had not engaged in it.

Now I have seen this map, I have to get into the rest of this whole datalogjam to find out what else I have been missing.

Excuse me if this is old hat to you, but back to the map itself: I accept that this info is skewed because it only shows where people who use Strava went. Or the NSA tracks us by our tooth fillings, and it only shows where everybody born before fluoridation went.

But even allowing for the incomplete dataset, its interesting.

In our patch, it provides a good snapshot of the trails that get the most traffic. As we had long suspected: here was proof that for this user group anyway, the mighty Split Enz / Pondy New / RollerCoaster run looks to be the most popular.

From further out in space, you get a clear idea of just how many of us there are, leaving our little glowing trails on roads and trails all over the place. Its awesome!

You can identify hotspots and iconic rides. Moerangi is bizarre, a line that shows up with the telltale redness of repeat visits, in glorious isolation. The Timber Trail is similar, traced by countless bike riders but unconnected to anything else.

The route of the Nzo Karioi Classic, coming up on July 27, traces the outline of Mt Karioi near Raglan. That is inspiration to participate right there: a wiggly line, literally drawn on a map, by bike riders!


Fatties fit fine


Around this month, thirty years ago, I got my first mountain bike.

How it felt to ride it out of the shop is still a sharp memory, because the sensation of big tyres, slack steering and powerful brakes was so new and so different from the several dozen bikes I had ridden before I got that proto-mountain bike.

Of course, the tyres were not that great, the steering was only slack compared to a road bike, and the brakes were nowhere as good as brakes would become. But at the time it was a revelation.

Three decades later and nearly all the improvements that have come along are fully integrated in the mountain biking experience, so that comparing modern bikes is like comparing wines - unless you are an expert, and have access to a lot of examples, its hard to objectively tell one from another.

That is why borrowing a new sub-species of mountain bike this week was so interesting.

I got a chance to borrow a Surly semi-fat bike from RideCentral.

Surly makes several 26” wheel fat bikes with huge tyres, but theKrampus has 29” wheels with monster tyres wrapped around them, making an overall diameter that is off the hook.

Jumping on the thing created almost exactly the same feeling as that first mountain bike ride way back when - the massive tyre, and monster truck handling was new and weirdly exciting. Like, this is going to be a laugh.

First of all, even at about 12psi the tyres had too much air in them. The bike has no suspension besides the tyres, and they are about as much like suspension as a pogo stick. Letting a heap of air out sorted that, and the ride became incredibly smooth over rough ground and small rooty sections. Drops and bigger lumps were still pretty harsh.

I was amazed by how fast it went uphill, factoring in my innate uselessness at going uphill generally. Ungodly amounts of traction and a longer than normal wheelbase meant the back wheel would not slip, and the front wheel stayed planted. Turning corners was also impressive, the traction seemed limitless.

However, even at super low pressure the tyres got bouncy as the speed went up - maybe time on board would help but things got very exciting very quickly whenever a trail went downhill.

All too soon two hours was up, it was dark, and I had to give the bike back.

I am not sure what the Krampus is good for besides riding with a panic-striken grin on the dial - maybe that is enough!



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