E-otearoa NZ Record Run...done & dusted

What can you do that no one else has ever done? I don’t mean eat a world record in bullion cubes or most female mud wrestling take downs in a match, though I’d watch either of those. Being a New Zealander means we are pretty ‘chuffed’ with being only fairly decent (aside from those over-achieving all blacks *NZ rugby teams* making the rest of us look slack), and not sticking our necks out too far. But that’s not all of us. As our famous kiwi speed record holder, Burt Munro, said, “All my life I’ve wanted to do something big, something bigger and better than all the other jokers”. I got you Burt, we are cut from the same cloth. I’d been saying for years that I wanted to make or break a record on an electric bike, even though I didn’t have one or enough to buy one. And after 3 years of grinding around on my ICE bike, I finally sorted a 2016 ZERO SR ZF13 at the right price in October last year, and imported south to Godzone.

Now I’ve been riding long enough to know that racing gives heaps of satisfaction and adrenaline, but my preferred pace is more relaxed while taking it all in. I also knew that although electric cars had ridden the length of NZ before, no one had done it on a two-wheeled e-moto. The fact was that it would have taken weeks to do with slow charging... until DigiNow saved the day. So in an entirely different random story for later, I managed to get some very unique and infamous DigiNow 6.6kW chargers from the electric cowboy himself a.k.a. the ginger wizard, Brandon Nozaki Miller (and Morgan Vetter of course!) via special delivery from SFO to Auckland. With a quick nod to my buddy New Zeroland for his vids, I installed them and amazingly they worked without a glitch just a few days before I decided to set off on a record-setting adventure. No time for test-runs, it was time to ride my newly named, E-otearoa (traditional name of NZ is Aotearoa) from the top of NZ to the bottom over Christmas & New Years 2018/19!

Here in Aotearoa, our network is fairly well set-up for quick chargers, plus we are ‘amped’ with 230v standard plugs just like in Europe. However, as many know, there’s no less than 13 different types of plugs to tap into our 80% renewable electric juice! I decided that I needed 3 different ways to charge, so I had a mennekes T2-T2 cable with inlet/andersons, some blue commando (caravan) plugs on leads with andersons, and a fused adapter extension to go from blue commando to wall outlet for slow charging. It took a bit of space, but gave me multiple options. We also have a free mennekes 22kw network across the country at our version of Kmart, called the Warehouse. Initially I planned to use this network, as they are conveniently in central parts of the towns, but our small Zero fraternity here all had issues with the station tripping out after 5min...every time. Although we later realized after my run that the stations were just very particular about the order of plugging in (it wanted the Tesla switch on the inlet to start the charging!), I was forced to seek power elsewhere at lots of camp grounds which worked well enough except when I was hungry!

I was off! And straight into a headwind. Oh did I not mention that I had never done a multiple-charging ride before? Great way to begin a record attempt. At least the weather was fine, so after all my route planning the night before and into the morning, I was deviating for my first charge. All good though, I decided to go to the beach and catch Māori Santa delivering presents to the kids in board shorts on his waka ama (racing canoe).

Santa and the kids loved the bike and the idea of electric transport, yay no more coal in my stocking! The headwind was still strong, but managed a good run to the last charging spot before the very tip of the North Island (Te Ika A Māui) known as Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga A Ngā Wairua). This was a campground and club rooms, but to my surprise there was a private Xmas function on and no camping! Good thing I also hail from the Far North (Te Hiku) as they not only let me plug into two caravan outlets, but also fed me and gave me a whole house to sleep in. Again, everyone was surprised and impressed at the silent street bike. I awoke from a good sleep early the next morning and made it to the end of the road, or in my case the beginning, at the exquisitely beautiful top of New Zealand.

I suppose I could go on about each stop from there, all the sites and scenery, charging and interactions, or how many times I was asked, “How far does it go?”, “How long to charge?”, “How fast can it go?”, and “Does it do burnouts and wheelies?” But we all have lives and need to ride more, so I’ll just pick a few from the memorable multi-day record attempt. I stopped in Auckland to stay with a riding friend and visit with the Evoke dealer there. Relatively new, they are decent commuter bikes, but the differences between the ZERO and an Evoke were obvious and vast. Reversing was interesting though! Day 3 saw me do 3 runs with two charges in between for a total of around 500 km (310 mi). It was all pretty effortless, the weather was great, and aside from wishing I had less time to wait for full charge, things were going swimmingly. My destination was a donated hotel room on the south edge Lake Taupō, complete with a slow charger and natural hot pools!

This was a ‘gift’ from New Zeroland (another story) as I was well supported with some sponsors and a successful pledgeme campaign to make the run (all thrown together last minute, but all just clicked!). Thanks again mate! I awoke to light rain, and figured I just had to get on with it and see how this very volted vehicle would do when wet. Thankfully it was short-lived rain for about an hour, and the bike acted as if bone-dry. This was good since I was riding through the famous and twisting ‘desert road’ with no signal and no stops! The weather just improved from there. A cracking day with 160 km (99 mi) runs got me to my sister-in-law’s place just north of Wellington, our capital city at the bottom of the North Island, for a rest on Christmas eve and a huge feed!

The plan over and after Christmas was also to spend a day or two with New Zeroland buddy, Sam, and our other Zero cohort, Tim. We wanted to ride together (never 3 Zero’s at once in NZ until then) and also install Tim’s shiny new DigiNow chargers on his DSR. They came to meet me, and we rode towards Wellington with a triumphant stop at the Paekakariki (say that 3 times fast) lookout towards Kapiti Island.

As if on cue, three loud Harleys pulled up and were very interested in our silent but deadly gang... the bikes, not us breaking wind. In true humble fashion, as we left I decided to spin up the rear wheel and crank the throttle! And snap went my belt. Oh yeah, I knew it was a bit loose and had planned to tighten just 15 km (9 mi) down the hill at Tim’s place, but I didn’t have a spare and none were in NZ. I just ended my record run with a pointless act of hooliganism! But wait, what’s that appearing behind Tim? It’s a superhero cape! “I’ve just put on my new belt, but don’t need the bike for a while, so let me go home and remove it, then bring it and a jack back here in my Leaf!” Even though he didn’t wear his undies on the outside (thank God), because of him my run would continue! Sam and I waited briefly, met another old friend of mine randomly riding his bike there, and within 45 minutes we were jacking up E-otearoa and installing a near new belt. A short ride down and we were safely in Wellington at Tim’s superhero lair, complete with Leaf, ENV200, and full solar setup home. We had fun installing his chargers (yet another story there), and after a nice meal together I headed to New Zeroland’s place for a sleep before catching the early morning ferry to Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island). Thanks again Sam and Smiley Jenn, one island down and one more to go.

I chose a frighteningly early ferry so I could use as much daylight to do a decent run once we arrived. So after an extra kip on the boat and some Marlborough Sounds sight-seeing from the sun decks, I disembarked in Picton and began spinning tarmac in the South. It was another dry and effortless run to my friends in Christchurch, so I took another day off the next day to spend time with them. And visit with some local EV drivers who’d also never seen the likes of an e-moto like E-otearoa before. Although I could have easily kept going directly to the bottom of the island, no trip is complete there without a sojourn into the mountains of the Southern Alps. So, inland I went, passing icy-blue glacial lakes, fields of wildflowers, snow-capped mountain ranges, and plenty of tourists looking for Frodo with their cameras.

As epic as this day was, much has to do with the scenery along SH 8 towards Wanaka/Queenstown. It was definitely a highlight to visit a road I was well familiar with on my quiet beast, and have a soundtrack to freedom playing in my ears. More visiting with friends in the Queenstown Lakes area for a day, along with a must-ride blast to Glenorchy and the Paradise Valley. No poetic words here will do it justice, you just have to experience one of our best road rides in the country!

The time had come to head south again, and aim for Bluff (Motupōhue) at the bottom of the island. I was about to complete the record run, but needed to stop in and visit the famous red racer of Burt Munro, on display at the local hardware store in Invercargill. Not only did they welcome me, but I was able to ride E-otearoa right in and next to Burt’s record-setting bike for a photo-op... great hospitality in the deep south and a love for moto history. I was invited to stay in Bluff at probably the only local EV owner’s place, which was just 2 km (1 mi) from the end of the road. After more sun and epic photo shoots, I had essentially made it on New Years Eve! There were some small local fireworks, but we mostly hung out at the neighbors outside around the fire pit, laughing and sharing stories from the road and from the sea. The next morning, some EV people came from Invercargill just 20 km (12 mi) north to complete the run and celebrate with me. The support was really appreciated, and on the crisp morning of January 1st, 2019, the record run was completed on land’s end at Stirling Point. For the sticklers, it’s the end of the road, even though Slope Point is further south and I dropped in there for good measure on the return. And although possible, I didn’t take E-otearoa on the ferry to Rakiura (Stewart Island) just to say I had the bike there. The record was set, and without flaw from E-otearoa, the chargers, or the weather!

The entire record run was composed of 8 leisurely days riding with 3 days off in between. I took my time visiting other EVangelists and friends on the way back home to the Far North, (heaps more stories!) and being grateful for our beautiful country, the freedom feels that cycle-touring provides, and for the electric future that definitely is available today. Most riding days averaged between 350-450 km (185-280 mi) at an average speed of 95 kph (59 mph), and the longest leg being 200 km (124 mi) on a charge (with a tailwind on the only flat section in the country). My 2 DigiNow chargers (should’ve been 3 and I’ve since added the 3rd) gave me 2hr re-charging times, with just the 2, from nearly empty to full, and would throttle down due to the heat in the DS pan they are mounted in. There were zero electrical issues, as in none, and just one snapped belt due to the pilot being a ning-nong. Perhaps one day someone will race the length of the country on an e-moto, maybe even me if someone sponsored it. But in the end I was able through interviews, podcasts, videos, and meet-ups to show in little old New Zealand, that we can still set records doing some pretty unique things and enjoy every moment of it.

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