Travel blog on one-of-a-kind travel experiences

E-biking the Clutha River, Wanaka, Otago


Justine Tyerman discovers e-biking, and her husband performs a heroic deed…

Justine taking a break on the track high above the river

Whizzing up a steep hill on my e-bike, passing my super-fit husband, is an experience I will always treasure. I stopped at the top with a look of triumph on my face and cheered Chris on as he heroically pedalled his way up to meet me, sweat pouring from his brow.

It was the end of our first ever e-bike expedition and I had unwisely squandered my battery during our 50km ride while my chivalrous husband had conserved his, suspecting I would need it to get back to home base. As anticipated, my battery conked out at the foot of the last hill so we swapped bikes and I coasted home with the aid of the turbo boost while Chris got a week’s exercise in one hit.

Justine cycling from Wanaka to Luggate

Justine on the cycle track from Wanaka to Luggate

Pedalling an ordinary bike uphill is tough enough but an unpowered electric bike is a different story altogether. They are heavier than their traditional cousins, thanks to the grunty battery pack attached to the frame.

We hired SmartMotion e-bikes from Solar Cycles, a small rental business in Wanaka which was far preferable to driving an hour to Queenstown and renting bikes at more than twice the price. Designed by a clever Kiwi called Anthony Clyde, SmartMotion e-bikes are simple to operate and incredibly zippy. They are New Zealand’s top-selling brand and are exported all round the world.
We spent the day cycling along the banks of the mighty Clutha River on a gloriously clear winter day with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains.

The loop track took us along the edge of Lake Wanaka to the outlet where the aqua-turquoise Clutha, one of the swiftest rivers in the world, begins it 338km journey to the sea.

Clutha River

The river near the outlet from Lake Wanaka

Clutha River

The mighty Clutha River near the Wanaka outlet

We followed a narrow, rocky, uppy-downy path right on the water’s edge for about 25km, crossing a bridge just before the small township of Luggate. The return trip on the other side of the river was on a broad, straight, relatively-smooth track high above the river with magnificent views of the ancient glacial terraces enclosed within a necklace of mountains. En route, we stopped beside the river in the warm sunshine for a picnic lunch.

Clutha River

The Clutha River outlet with Lake Wanaka in the background

Clutha River

The cycle track to Luggate alongside the Clutha River viewed from the opposite side of the river on the way back to Wanaka

Chris Tyerman

Chris taking a break on the way back to Wanaka

Justine high above the Clutha River

Justine high above the Clutha River on the track from Wanaka to Luggate. The return track can be seen on the other side of the river.

The ride was quite an adventure. The terrain was probably too technical for me as a novice rider but the experience was hugely exhilarating. The exercise factor was as strenuous as I wanted it to be and when I was tired, I relied on the battery to assist my pedalling and just cruised for a while. I obviously cruised a little too much… but Chris saved the day.

A former flat-terrain-only cyclist, the e-bike concept has opened up a vast world of possibilities to me. It’s levelled the pedalling field for Chris and me and means we can enjoy cycling together… up and down. We’ve joined the e-bike revolution and we’re even planning to go e-biking in the Swiss Alps later in the year!

Justine and her SmartMotion e-bike

Justine gives her SmartMotion e-bike the thumbs-up



About Author

Justine Tyerman is an award-winning New Zealand journalist, travel writer and sub-editor with 18 years' experience in newspaper and freelance work. She has worked as a news reporter, feature writer, designer of an award-winning Newspapers in Education programme and sub-editor on local, national, business, education and international desks.

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