Santa gets “on his bike” for Xmas deliveries


A senior SpokesElf for Santa Claus has confirmed that this Xmas the traditional deliveries would be made using sustainable transport. Santa will be using a specially designed electric assist cargo bike to service Xmas stockings around the world.

“We had to move to a 21st century technology” said the SpokesElf “The reindeer methane emissions meant that the North Pole couldn’t meet its COP22 and Kyoto climate change targets”. In addition, Santa’s multiple manifestations were contributing to traffic congestion “Deliveries to South Auckland, for example, weren’t completed until after New Year, due to gridlock on the Southern Motorway.”

Another important factor was Santa’s health “Obesity is a real hazard in his profession. We’d had him on statins and beta blockers for some time, but there was a real risk of the delivery programme collapsing if he had a cardiac arrest”. Santa has been in training for the 24 December ride, and is seeing positive effects already “Mrs Claus in particular is appreciative of the new, slimmer Santa”.

Santa’s helpers expect the 2016 deliveries to go smoothly, “particularly in Auckland where the Northwest cycleway, and the award winning Lightpath/Te Ara i Whiti, facilitate bicycle transport” Deliveries to the North Shore will be facilitated in future years by SkyPath.

The situation is more mixed in Wellington. “It’s going to be pretty good for Island Bay and Tawa where there are protected cycle lanes, but outside of that Santa will have to take care”. Several elves have qualified as Pedal Ready instructors, and are giving Santa the confidence to ride efficiently in regular traffic.

There are concerns in the US, where the incoming Trump administration is believed to be insisting that Santa uses Detroit built sleighs powered by Nebraska tar sands. In Britain, Brexit may mean that Saint Nicolaus, an EU citizen, will not be able to undertake his share of the Yuletide deliveries.

Meet Chris Winwood: Groovy dude and sweet cyclist!

Welcome to the long-overdue part 2 of my series investigating local Wellingtonian musical scene-celebrities who ride bikes. As I mentioned previously, Wellington is full of amazing people doing all sorts of cool stuff.   Chris Winwood is one of them who also happens to be a cyclist and generously accepted my request for details regarding his bicycling lifestyle.

If you have been to the Southern Cross lately you may recognise Chris as being the frontman of Wellington’s 12-piece funk extravaganza Newtown Rocksteady.



That’s Chris getting the crowd to raise the roof at a recent gig. His mellifluous voice is featured in a few other Wellington acts, including Roy G & the BIVinators.  By day Chris is an architect and can also occasionally be seen outside the Newtown market canvassing for signatures to stop asset sales.  Basically, he’s a totally awesome groovy dude.

This is what Chris says about himself and cycling:

Firstly is general background info – where are you from? Have you lived anywhere besides Wellington?

Born in Auckland, raised in Nelson, half-baked in Wellington……..I have lived in Berkeley while on exchange from university, lived and worked for an architect in Genoa, Italy and Groningen, Netherlands (the city with the highest bicycle usage in europe- over 50%! – you can image in the bike jams!).

Chris participating in San Francisco’s critical mass in 2012

How and when did you first get interested in cycling?

My family has always been pretty keen on bikes. My first bicycle memory is learning to ride on top of a water reservoir in Auckland – just stay away from the edge! Since then I have always had a bike, from delivering papers on the first bike I bought – an Avanti Montari (still goes) to the ‘Tour de school’ – a daily bike race (complete with drafting – not enough for a peleton though) with my neighbours to our intermediate school on the other side of Nelson. It seemed like miles and miles back then but I’m pretty sure it’s about a 2 minute ride….My dad has always been into riding and getting us involved, starting with road rides on family holidays through to mountain biking – even introducing former NZ champion Tim Vincent to the sport (his main claim to fame). My brothers are MTB addicts too (mostly downhill) so I have always been around bikes and riding.

Why do you ride a bike?

Now it’s mostly about commuting – beating the cross-town traffic on my way to work on the hill in Khandallah with the odd ride in Makara/Brooklyn thrown in on the weekend. Whenever I am home in Nelson I end up riding down/off things I never thought I could or should have with my bros – the things you can do with full suspension………

What’s your all-time favourite bike ride?

Hard to say – definitely something off-road, single track, flowing, nicely bermed corners, not too many drops……Makara, Rotorua, Nelson all have good convenient trails.

What kind of bike do you normally ride?

Round town I ride an ol’ Italian Stallion called a Viaggio – though I am not certain if that is the original make. It’s so much smoother and more enjoyable than riding my mountain bike to work! although it is nice to take a detour over Mt Vic or Mt Kaukau on the way home some days after work.

How do you think cycling infrastructure could be improved in Wellington?

A hell of a lot! Cycling needs to be recognised and treated as a separate category from vehicles (and pedestrians) for obvious reasons. Sharing with buses is OK but not ideal due to the overtaking issues. Dedicated cycling lanes with separation from vehicles (lose some carparks if you have to WCC) need to happen along key routes at least.  Adelaide Rd is one which has been done up recently without consideration for cycle lanes. Some green paint with a bike symbol does not count for anything – cars still drive on it – do you see cars driving on the footpath!? right….

I reckon it’s like that wise guy said on Waynes World 2 – if you book them – they will come (alright!). If you invest in some decent infrastructure – not half arsed bullshit like the ‘cycle lane’/gauntlet) that is the old Hutt rd footpath – more people will enjoy riding – and maybe one day there will be more people riding than driving and the cars will have to wear the hi-vis and helmets…….Party on Wayne!



Ambassador of Urban Cycling: Mikael Colville-Andersen

This just in from Patrick Morgan. Worth a listen! Link below to the audio stream.

Ambassador of Urban Cycling: Mikael Colville-Andersen

Montreal’s BIXI public bikeshare program is one of the world’s top bike sharing success stories. With more than 5 thousand bikes available at 400 docking stations around the city, we Montrealers love ’em: usage has risen considerably every year. Toronto and London England have installed the same system.

In Vancouver, meantime, the wheels are turning much more slowly. For a city trying to expand its bicycle infrastructure… it seems a share program is a logical next step. But B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions with mandatory bike helmet laws… laws which makes bike sharing more complex.

Ontario’s coroner recently warmed up the debate with a report on making cycling safer. One of his recommendations: bike helmets for all. It’s a proposition that gets mixed reaction from Montreal’s Bixi users.

In Europe, the main bicycle debates have moved on from helmet usage: there are no adult bike helmet laws in any of the big nations.

Could Canada learn from the European experience? Mikael Colville-Andersen was born in Canada… but lives in Copenhagen where he’s been called the Ambassador, even the Bieber, of Urban Cycling. He travels around the world advising cities on how to be more bicycle friendly, this week he’s in Canada and he joined us from Calgary.

Meet Alastair Smith: Scholar, gentleman bike explorer, and life-long cycling advocate

Alastair descending the Dolomites “Grödner Pass”, Italy, 2009

By Nicole Gaston

In addition to being a life-long advocate for cycling, Alastair Smith is also a Senior Lecturer in Information Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches courses in the Master of Information Science programme.  His research in the areas of information technology, information retrieval, and digital libraries has been presented at conferences all over the world and he has published extensively in number of internationally recognised journals.  Soon Alastair will be able to add “published author on the topic of cycling” to his already impressive CV. Awa Press will soon publish his new book, “Everyday Cycling in New Zealand Cities”.

Alastair is dedicate cycle-commuter, having commuted by bicycle since his days growing up in West Auckland, and throughout his life in cities such as Chicago, London, and here in Wellington.  He is involved with Cycle Aware Wellington, CAN (Cycling Advocates Network) and the Great Harbour Way: TeAranui o Poneke, a continuous cycleway and walkway in development around Wellington Harbour.

Alastair is full of amazing stories!  He described a few of his most memorable experiences, his new book, and cycling in Wellington for “Cycling in Wellington”.

  1. How and when did you first get interested in cycling?

When my partner Marg and I were starting to think about our OE in the 70s, a friend said that his plan was to go to Europe, buy an E-Type Jaguar, and tour around in it. On the spur of the moment, I said we’d buy 10-speed bikes and tour on those. So later we landed in Helsinki off the Trans-Siberian train, bought bikes and spent the next couple of years cycling around Europe [the image is me on Westminster Bridge when we first arrived in London]. After that, bikes have become our default transport for commuting and touring.

As an aside, in London we met up with our friend, who had compromised on the E-Type, and was selling his multi-owned Commer Van at the back of Australia House before returning to NZ!

2.   I know you have done a lot of cycle touring.  Can you talk about some of the places you have gone and what your experiences were?

 Since the big OE most of our trips have been relatively short. In 1979 Marg made bike bags out of deck chair canvas so we could fly with our bikes – our first trip was to New Caledonia, where the mix of cycling, french food, and snorkelling off coral reefs was fantastic. I wrote up the trip for the now defunct NZ cycling magazine Southern Cyclist.

After that we did trips around California, China and India, among other places.

Cycling in China in 1985 was a challenge. It was amazing to ride out into the streets of Guangzhou and join the sea of bicycles with the odd car and van floating like driftwood. However at that time tourists were only allowed to stay in specific cities, which weren’t necessarily a days cycling apart. We ran into a problem cycling from Wuzhou to Guilin, about 300 km. The first day was fine, and we passed through several police checkpoints without any concerns. In the evening we stopped in a small town with a hotel, and got a bed and a meal without a problem, and everyone was friendly if bemused by the sight of a couple of westerners. However the local policeman started to get concerned that we didn’t have the right stamps in our passports, and during the night and next morning we were visited by a succession of increasingly higher ranked officials, culminating with a delegation from the provincial capital who suggested that it would be better if we got the bus. After that we concentrated on using trains and buses to cover the big distances, exploring areas with day rides. We were lucky enough to get into Tibet just after it opened to independent tourists, and the rules about tourists seemed to be more relaxed, so I was able to ride for several days between Shigatse and Lhasa over 5000m passes, staying in villages.

Having children changed cycle touring a bit – once our twins were OK in bike seats, about 18 months old, we spent a couple of weeks touring around Bali. There’s a tradition in Balinese culture that having twins is the prerogative of the gods, and for ordinary people it can be viewed as a sin the family has to atone for. However this didn’t seem to apply to us, and the  Balinese were fascinated by our pair of blond toddlers, so we had a great time.

I’ve been lucky that as a university teacher, I’m expected to present papers at international conferences, and I’ve managed to combine this with some interesting rides. In 2007 after a Madrid conference, I biked through the Pyrenees, following Via Verde rail trails from Girona at the Mediterranean end, to Lourdes in France, taking in some of the classic Tour de France cols such as the Tourmalet. It’s great to watch the Tour on TV afterwards, seeing the riders flash through a town and spotting the cafe where I had a coffee only a few months before!

3.   What’s your all-time favourite ride?

 All rides are different, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a ride that hasn’t had some wonderful aspect to it. In Wellington, we’re lucky that we can bike and walk all the way around the harbour, which is why I’m part of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Poneke project. This is one of the reasons why getting a good quality cycle path from Petone to Wellington, as close as possible to the seashore, is really important. Hopefully the submissions to the Regional Long Term Plan will help to achieve this.

Overseas, the tandem trip that Marg and I did around the Loire Valley would have to be one of the best. France combines lots of bike friendly back roads with plenty of cafes, bakeries and restaurants for replacing burnt calories. The Loire has a network of cycle paths following the rivers and connecting the chateaux. Tandems a test of trust, but are a great way to travel – Marg steers, and I can concentrate on map reading and photography!

 4.   Can you tell me a little about the book you have written, and how you did the research for it?

 “Everyday Cycling in New Zealand Cities” is due out shortly from Awa Press. A few years ago they did a guide to training for the Around Taupo ride, and they asked me who could write a similar guide for commuting – I thought about it and decided it was something I wanted to do. It covers how to get started in everyday cycling – commuting, biking to the dairy, going for a recreational ride with your family. I look at choosing a bike (the best bike to start with is the one that is sitting at the back of your garage!), clothing and equipment (no, you don’t need lycra!) and skills for feeling comfortable on urban streets. The theme for cycling skills is PVA – the glue that keeps you safe on the road: you need to be Predicatable and Visible, and Anticipate what’s happening ahead of you.

The book draws on my own experience of cycling in New Zealand, as well as overseas in Chicago, London, and Vancouver. I’ve also trawled a lot of websites and drawn on classics such as John Forrester’s “Effective Cycling” and Richard Ballantine’s Bicycle Book.

5.   What kind of bike do you normally ride?

 The Mercier 10 speed that I bought in Helsinki in 1975 lasted me for the rest of the 20th century, but eventually I retired it – donated it to the son of a Havana University professor after a cycletour in Cuba in 1999. Given the Cuban talents for recycling, it may well still be on the streets of Havana.

For road riding and commuting, I’ve got a hybrid built for me by Dirt Merchant’s Deklin Cox – off the shelf hybrids don’t have low enough gears for my elderly legs, so Deklin found a frame that would cope with mountain bike derailleurs. For mountain biking I have hard tail that I bought from Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver when I was there on sabbatical.

 6.   How do you think cycling infrastructure could be improved in Wellington?

More people cycling more often of course! But to do that, people have to feel comfortable cycling, and having a network of bike-friendly routes will help to achieve this. This can be cycle lanes and cycle paths on the major routes, but also bike -friendly routes on secondary roads parallel to the major arteries. Wellington’s hills are an issue of course, and that’s why getting bike racks on buses is important – people in Karori and Brooklyn would be more inclined to bike to the CBD if they knew they could hitch a ride back on a bus!

7.  Do you think it’s possible for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to peacefully co-exist and share the roads harmoniously?  If so, how? Or, do you envision a car-free utopia?  If so, how can we achieve this?

We own and drive a car for long trips and carrying stuff that won’t go easily on a bike. I’m not sure that NZ will ever have the public transport infrastructure to make cars (or some form of individual powered transport) redundant. And frankly getting children to soccer and cricket matches with gear is a lot easier with a station wagon, so I admire parents who are prepared to go completely car-free!

I feel that most of the time cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians do co-exist pretty harmoniously (most of us will occupy these different roles in the course of a day!). 99% of motorists are considerate, but communication is important: when I’m a cyclist I need to be predictable and visible. That means not hugging the kerb, staying out of the door zone of parked cars, and clearly signalling my intentions. When I’m a motorist, it’s important to watch for cyclists, but also be patient – waiting behind a cyclist for a few seconds isn’t a big deal when the real delay is going to be the queue at the next intersection, and the fact that the cyclist has chosen not to take their car on this trip means the queue will be that much less, and the chance of a parking spot at my destination will be greater.

That said, NZ road users tend to be undisciplined, and I think we could learn from North America and Europe where people tend to show greater respect for other users- I found it quite embarrassing  in Vancouver that if I stood anywhere in the vicinity of a pedestrian crossing,  there would be a queue of motorists waiting patiently to see if I was going to cross!

Pedestrians – the hidden menace!

I learnt a neat trick from the local paper a while back – make your title inflammatory and accusatory to get more hits*. Did it work? Now I must apologise to pedestrians, (which includes us all at some stage of our daily travel), as they get quite enough flack in Wellington as it is – them with their dangerous iPod-listening ways! How dare they cross the road?!?

Having said that, I’d like to share a tale of caution.

A friend who lives in London has asked us to share this post from London Cyclist. Tiva was the unfortunate victim of some flagrantly careless pedestrianing (careless use of feet?). A pedestrian stepped out in front of her causing injury to her and £150 worth of damage to her beautiful Brompton. She’s facing knee surgery and a years worth of visits to the physio. A rather unpleasant situation. What makes it worse, is that the pedestrian who hit her (yep, I’m comfortable saying that in this case, even if it seems odd that the more ‘vulnerable’ user is the ‘perpetrator’) gave false details. So Tiva has no way to get compensation for her injuries or damage to her bike. Not even an apology. The whole situation stinks.

CCTV from the incident [source: London Cyclist]
CCTV from the incident SOURCE: London Cyclist

So, what should you do if something like this happens to you? Cycling in Wellington has a rather useful page with some advice. What I’ve been told is if someone is injured, (and I add: or something is damaged) or someone is behaving in a way that may lead to injury or damage – call 111. I’m sure the Police would rather turn up to a non-event than not turn up to something that has become serious – or in Tiva’s case, something you thought you had under control, but didn’t. Just remember that after the shock of being involved in a crash, you’re not likely to be thinking straight. Accept help, or if none is at hand – call for help.

Has anyone in NZ ever had experience claiming compensation from another party (or an insurance company) who has damaged their bike? Has anyone ever tried? If anyone has any tips or stories to share, please add comments below.

* There was a pedestrian vs bike incident recently in Wellington. From memory, I believe the original headline read something like “Cyclist hits child”, when the reality is that the pedestrian stepped out in front of the cyclist while holding the toddler. I wonder if that pedestrian has taken responsibility and paid for damages? Obviously the shock of causing injury to your own child is awful enough, but I do wonder if police in this country would ever lay charges against a pedestrian if the damage was severe enough?

Meet Sarah and Zeph: They’re a couple of goodies.

Hey everyone!  Yesterday, you delivered chocolate and flowers and sincere sweet nothings to the one you loved, right? Of course. And now, you wipe your hands clean of all that love business, right? No. Wrong. In the spirit of sourcing love on those not-Valentine’s Days of the year, today’s installment of cool bike people around Wellington brings you a couple.  Hang on, it’s a two-fer.

Cool Bike People #8 and #9: Sarah and Zeph Wadsworth

Here they are.

Sarah and Zeph Wadsworth both ride bikes. Well. Like, I believe there is probably very little terrain these two couldn’t ride over. Maybe they couldn’t ride on water. Maybe. But that’s probably it. These two can ride. They’re also as pleasant as a sunny day and just as full of potential.  When they aren’t riding, Sarah makes and writes about yummy food and Zeph builds cars and bikes and garages. Seriously.

It’s not surprising then that bikes brought them together.  Four years ago, Sarah jumped into a spot with a group of riders taking advantage of the closed road prior to the arrival of the Tour of California peleton.  Zeph was driving support.  They aimed to attack the longest leg, from Seaside to San Luis Obisbo, when the racers weren’t on the scene.  In good conditions, the ride would be breathtaking and rigorous—it’s about 215 kilometers along scenic Highway One.  In 2008, unfortunately for the riders but fortunately for Sarah and Zeph, the conditions pretty much sucked.  The only woman in the group, Sarah was blown to a stop about 90 minutes in and lost the pack.  Zeph shuttled between the riders at the front and Sarah. It took some convincing but she finally agreed to let Zeph drive her up to the others.  Once she was in the van, the rain came.  She settled into the passenger seat.  Sometimes, there are better things to do than ride a bike.  Over four hours, Sarah and Zeph got to know each other.  Three years later, they got married.

It was inevitable that they would find each other.  Both come from California’s beautiful central coast.  They had friends in common.  They both attended the same university—Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo—as well, but Sarah thought the Wheelmen cycling club was only good for poaching rides whereas Zeph enjoyed it for the mountain bike races and mechanical work.  Both grew up on bikes as well although with different motivators.

Sarah says she “despised” bike riding as a kid, mostly because her parents made her do it.  They were into family rides and they went fast.  “We rode a fair amount and it wasn’t fun for me,” she says.  It wasn’t until Sarah started mountain biking on her own that she discovered the pleasure of a solitary ride.

Zeph, on the other hand, rode a ton as a kid, across town to school and wherever he needed to go.  It was mountain biking that really took him.  “I got into it fast,” he says, “and I found my independence.”  He’s only taken a couple breaks from riding: one when he broke his wrist twice in seven months.  “I took time off for that and maybe right after university when I mostly just did downhill shuttle runs and drank a lot of beer.”

During university, Zeph worked at a San Luis Obisbo bike shop.  After graduation, he took a position as the team mechanic for the Luna Pro Team.  For four years, he traveled across North America and Europe to support the 12 female members of the team.  The women competed in mountain biking, XTERRA, triathlon, and Cyclo-cross; there were usually three or four professional mountain bikers on the team and Zeph was one of two skilled bike mechanics hired to keep the gear going.  He was also a driver and all-around “problem solver” on the team, likely a highly necessary role within a group heading overseas with bikes.  “We called it the traveling circus,” he says.  “My favorite part of the experience was seeing these amazing places in the world, way off the tourist track, and becoming more familiar with the trails each time we returned to them.  California is dry and wide but the East Coast of the U.S. and lots of Europe is rooty and rocky. I got to ride in so many different conditions.”  The best spot, in his mind, is Mont Sainte-Anne for its wealth of trails.  Another part of the experience that stayed with him: “as a male rider, I couldn’t have an ego because those women could school me.”  Maybe this is how he prepared himself for Sarah.

While Zeph was trucking across continents with the Pro Team, Sarah was probably dreaming up recipes and riding. Since finding her peace on the bike, she’s never let it go.  She particularly loves high alpine single tracks in the Colorado Rockies and she’s a big fan of Deans Bank in Wanaka.  “No brakes, 25 meters above the river and then you’re in a pine grove.  It’s magical.” She’s never ditched the bike because she likes to feel in shape.  “I feel disconnected when I’m out of shape; I’m not myself.”  Zeph puts it this way: “Sarah doesn’t like to stop.”  He meant on the trails, but it seems an accurate description of her.  To Sarah, being “in shape” might mean a few things beyond physical fitness.  Thinking back on her time on the bike, she mused, “in my teens, it was to get out.  In my 20s, it was for escape.  In my 30s, I need it for my mental stability.”  There is no doubt, however, that she’s a super fit woman.  She completed the Alpine Epic in 2010, for crying out loud.  That was with Zeph and that’s what originally got them to New Zealand.

They’ve made their home in Wellington since arriving in early 2010.  Since then, they’ve had ample time to look around and get a feel for their new home.  Sarah loves that she can get from Brooklyn to the Transient trail in 10 minutes.  They both love Makara and agreed that Deliverance can be a beast.  Zeph qualified it: “only when it’s wet.”  Sarah says, “anytime.”  They also listed Trickle Falls, for its steep drops, and Long Gully for its downhill action, as some great advanced rides.

Fearlessness on the trail doesn’t mean total comfort on the roads, however.  Since moving to Wellington, Sarah and Zeph chose to sell off their road bikes.  They have cruisers and mountain bikes that get them where they need to be, and they have a car as well.  But they got rid of the road bikes because the road didn’t feel safe for that kind of speedy cycling.  Sarah says, “I came home from training rides shaking.  I told Zeph I didn’t want the option anymore.”  She also wasn’t keen on the behavior she saw among pack cyclists.  “Sometimes, I think they’re asking for it.  I see them take the whole lane and refuse to let cars pass.  That doesn’t help other cyclists out there.”

When asked what could be done to improve the cycling infrastructure, Sarah was initially resigned: “It is what it is.  We’ve got narrow roads and aloof drivers.”  She thought it over and added that she’d like to see bike paths that provide direct connections across town.  “People who walk take the shortest routes.  People on bikes prefer to do that too.  It would be great to see bike lanes that connect shortcuts because people would be more likely to ride.”  Sarah and Zeph agreed that getting more advanced bike boxes around town would be great.

Zeph would prefer improved behavior on the road—by cyclists and drivers.  “I’d like to see better education on road use. Drivers should be taught to share the road; cyclists should be aware and courteous.”  He hates to see cyclists who hog the lane unnecessarily and commuters riding with earbuds.  “Our heads have to be on a swivel.  Don’t take away your hearing.”  They’re both advocates of the helmet.  Sarah said, “I protect what I have.  I know too many people who’ve been in comas after an accident without a helmet.”

And here are their Yetis.

Do either of them give abuse to drivers on the road?  Sarah doesn’t. “You always end up catching up to them.”  Zeph is pragmatically optimistic.  He’ll give a wave and a smile with the hope that the driver will recognize a dangerous maneuver.  “Sometimes they get angry,” he admits. “Sometimes, they’re embarrassed. Because they know.”

Sarah and Zeph are both part of the Yeti Tribe which means they ride very impressive mountain bikes.  Zeph is part of a team bringing Yetis into New Zealand so you, too, can ride the beast.  Check out all the cool things these cool kids do and then say hi when you spot them in the real world. They’re much more approachable than real Yetis.  Hi Sarah and Zeph!

Meet Mathew Wright: He likes dirt.

Good people abound out there.  Cycle Aware Wellington wants you to know another one.

Cool Bike Person #6: Mathew Wright

Sometimes, you just stumble on these cool bike people.  I was at Floyd’s Café in Island Bay to chat with a cool bike couple (that story is forthcoming) when the conversation was politely crashed by Floyd’s co-owner: Mathew Wright.  I couldn’t very well turn away a man aching to talk bike culture, especially not a man who’s livened up his café by hanging a day-glow Yeti frame from the ceiling. Here’s what I learned about Mat.

This is Mat and that's the Yeti behind him.

A native of Wellington, Mat was that kid who rode a cruiser at the BMX track and destroyed his dad’s flash 10-speed by taking it off-road.  When he clamored for a 10-speed of his own, his dad opted to save another poor bike from tragedy.  Mat got a mountain bike instead.  It was the old days; Mat had to explain to his friends what a mountain bike was supposed to do.  Or just show them.

Since the old days, Mat’s never really ditched the bike—the mountain bike, that is, and the dirt tracks that lace through most of Wellington’s green bits.  It’s the bike that gets him outside and the bike that keeps him sane, especially these days, with a new café to nurture and two kids to boot.  “The bike is my fastest route to fresh air,” he says.  Sometimes, he acknowledges, this means hopping in the car to get to a trailhead.  “I used to bike to all my rides but with family and business, things changed a bit.  I like to maximize my riding time.”  For Mat, that means time on trails where he doesn’t have to worry about traffic or stoplights or car doors.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t getting anywhere.  Mat figures that he could almost commute on the network of trails around Wellington, if he had to.  But he doesn’t.  He lives and works in Island Bay and whether he rides or drives to a trailhead, it’s never a far slog.

He reckons there’s over 350 kilometers of bike trails around town, and I’m pretty sure he’s rolled up and down them all.  He thinks Makara is the best all-around.  “It’s graded and well marked, good for riders with a variety of skill sets.”  He’s a fan of Wainui and Transient as well.  “If you can ride Wellington trails well, you can ride anywhere,” he says.  When asked for his favorite spots, he hesitated.  “I was going to say Wellington.  Then I was going to say Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec but Canada has so much dirt separating everything.  It’s all so far.  New Zealand is just as great but compact.  Then again, Jasper in Alberta is beautiful.  You’re in the Rockies.  You start at 1800 meters and climb to 2500 and there’s animals all around you.  It’s outstanding.”  Then again, there’s Wanaka.  “That’s like our playground, isn’t it?  You can ride for hours and hours and there’s a gondola.”

Though not a huge fan of cycling on the roads—he’ll give abuse to drivers who deserve it—he’s prepped his kids for a life on bikes.  His oldest rode the trails with him from the time he was eight months old.  His daughter was bombing hills on her scoot by age 4.  When the kids were small, Mat hauled them in a trailer—dubbed ‘the anesthetizer’ for its soothing results.  “They were asleep as soon as we started and I was asleep as soon as I got home.”

Go say hi to Mat.

Aside from the air and sights, the thing that keeps Mat riding is the evolution of the gear.  “These days, it’s not the bikes that limit our abilities.  The bikes are better than I am.”  He likes to see the ways that improved technology has changed the ways that trails are built.  “Trail building has become more dramatic, more thoughtful.  It isn’t just about building any old trail but building specific trails that might not have been possible before.  You can cross crazy terrain now.  There’s great flow on new trails because the bikes can handle it.”

For anyone looking to know more about the flow, stop by Floyd’s and chat up Mat yourself.  He’ll explain it way better than I can and soon he’ll have some nice, new bike racks out front courtesy of Council.  And while you’re there, try the croque monsieur.  It’s yummy.

Everyone, say hi to Mat.

Roger Geller invitation

I can’t go to this, but I hope you will.

Roger Geller is the Bicycle Co-ordinator for the City (i.e. the Council) of Portland. That mild title belies his effectiveness in leading Portland’s transformation into one the the USA’s top transport cycling cities.

To give you some idea of just how good a job he’s doing, Portland has approximately 580,000 residents, about 1/3 more than Wellington. That should put the following set of figures into perspective.

Portland’s economy is benefiting from the cycling focus to the tune of US$90 million every year. They’re on track to save $400 million in healthcare costs (now that would be a nice chunk out of our taxes), and on the tourism side 78% of visitors said Portland’s bike-friendliness contributed to their decision to travel there. And that doesn’t even start to describe how nice it is to live there.

I’m really pleased to see that Wellington City Council are involved in his visit. That bodes very well for the future.