Jesse (00:01): RNZ National, it's Tech Tuesday. Once every couple of weeks, we check in with Daniel Watson at Vertech IT Services. If you have a tech question for Daniel, you could email it to me anytime during the week, jesse@rnz.co.nz, and we'll put it to him. And actually we talk about all sorts of tech issues, we've talked about viruses and cryptocurrency and hardware and... Daniel, what have you got on your mind today?

Daniel Watson (00:29): Well, I just had a lovely week away with the wife and a couple of friends doing the Otago rail trial and-

Jesse (00:35): Wow, cool.

Daniel Watson (00:36): Yeah, no, it was great. Right at the end of the season and it was unseasonably warm, up to about 18 degrees out there in central Otago, which was great. Could bike in shorts and t-shirt rather than three layers and a wooly hat. But the great thing about it was using e-bikes, right? So electrically assisted bikes to do the trail and it meant that, given that we had a wide range of physical fitness amongst the wife and myself [inaudible 00:01:06].

Jesse (01:05): Yes. Where were you on that spectrum, Daniel?

Daniel Watson (01:08): Put it this way. On the last day, my wife didn't fully charge her bike and it had, I think, nine or 11 kilometers of range in the battery pack, so I took hers and gave her mine because that's what good husbands do, right?

Jesse (01:22): Yeah.

Daniel Watson (01:23): And I just had to mutton it for the 50 ks that that day went, so-

Jesse (01:28): Oh, man. Yeah, because me and Victoria did it. We did it when she was pregnant, actually, and I do remember being halfway along a very bumpy leg of the rail trail and sort of regretting things. But Hazel, our daughter, turned out all right, so obviously no problems there. But you can feel a million miles from anywhere, right?

Daniel Watson (01:50): Oh, there were some places where it was... I don't want to say bleak, but if it was raining and sleeting on you during that, you'd just be going, "I've made a terrible [inaudible 00:01:59]." But on a bright, sunny, shiny day, crisp, clear autumn morning, it was pretty special. So having that juice in the bike to push you along, it was actually appreciated. There were some very long, straight bits, which were getting a bit dull, but being able to pour on the juice to maximum boost, to just go from an average of maybe 18 kilometers per hour of cycling to 25 to 27, did make the time go much faster.

Jesse (02:31): You guys didn't have any spills?

Daniel Watson (02:33): No, no. There was no road rash from us there. It was actually very quiet, so I had to do a little bit of inventing my own fun of going a little bit off piece from time to time. But no, no. We're safe as houses.

Jesse (02:44): Oh, that's good. Because that's one thing they say is, particularly if you haven't ridden a bike for a long time and you get on an e-bike and suddenly you're traveling along at sort of 45, 50 kilometers an hour, people don't know the power of the vehicle they're in charge of.

Daniel Watson (03:01): Absolutely. No, I must say that the outfit that we went with and actually all the [inaudible 00:03:06] bikes that we saw on the trail, they were good quality bits of kit. Well known name brands, like Shimano on them. And these are things that people should look out for generally is the electric motor was centrally located at the pedals, right? So there was not a big weight distribution sitting at the back end of the bike or the front end of the bike, which might put somebody off who's not used to an electric bike.

Say if you're driving a Porsche or... That rear engine, it's a lot of weight sitting in the back and if you put the foot down, it's more likely to spin out on you. But that's where really... What was it? The Aston Martin's that have the centrally located engines, the weight is more central. It's a lot more stable. Nice big fat tires to make things more comfortable. They had the front suspension to kind of help take out a lot of the bumps because although it's a train track that's been converted and had extra gravel on it, it's still fairly bumpy at times, so that helped kind of take away a bit of the bone shaking aspect.

And they all had disc brakes. When I was a kid, I had to do a paper run and we lived on a ridge line, delivering to all the roads down [inaudible 00:04:26] I used to use my foot as a brake, jammed up against the forks, right? Because it was a more reliable brake than the old rubber calipers which had a tendency to just kind of give out in the wet. Whereas the disc brakes, which are just like what you'd have in your car, they could stop you on a dime, which was fantastic, but they also did suggest use both brakes at the same time, so you don't end up over the front handle bars if you have to stop suddenly.

Jesse (04:52): Yeah, okay. Once you've decided to purchase an electric bike, there are still choices to be made and things to look out for that will separate one from another?

Daniel Watson (05:02): Mm, yes. Now, as far as laws go, I just thought I'd bring that up, there's not too many to watch out for. You've got to follow the road rules. That's just what it is. The main one is there that your power is limited to 300 watts-

Jesse (05:17): Hang on a second. Hang on a second. What's going on in the background?

Daniel Watson (05:23): Those telephones [inaudible 00:05:25].

Jesse (05:25): Hey? It's not an actual baby goat?

Daniel Watson (05:30): No, no. It was not an actual baby goat.

Jesse (05:32): All right, all right.

Daniel Watson (05:34): I just like to [inaudible 00:05:34].

Jesse (05:33): As you were. Yeah, as you were. Okay.

Daniel Watson (05:37): As we were.

Jesse (05:38): So laws, you're obeying the road rules and...

Daniel Watson (05:42): And the main thing is that you're limited to a maximum of 300 watts for the output of the bike, which is a bit less than half a horsepower, but you can still get a fair amount of speed out of that, especially on a smooth, flat surface. But that does mean that you are going to be traveling a lot faster than you may be used to riding a bicycle, especially as you said, if you've not been cycling for quite some time. I've seen, generally for a safety perspective, it is an assist rather than a throttle, so as long as you're peddling, it will provide some level of boost to you, which means that at least you're getting some exercise along the way.

Jesse (06:23): Hardly though, really, right?

Daniel Watson (06:24): Well, you can choose the level of boost, right? And they tend to cap out. So depending on the bike, it may cap out at 25 ks or at 32. So that once you get to that cap of boosting, it actually stops boosting further and all the energy that you put in after that is pretty much going to be fighting wind resistance, anyway. So from a range perspective, it improves the range rather than boosts the power. But I'm guessing-

Jesse (06:53): I see out of interest, by the way, because I was just having a look at how fast a 300 watt electric bike will take you. 32 to 35 kilometers an hour. That's completely unassisted and then beyond that, it's up to you. But this website which I'm reading, it's just the first one that came up. MeloYelo bikes. They point out that in Europe actually, the legal power output is 250 watts, which would, I guess, suggest that if you bought a European brand, that might be the wattage that you end up with.

Daniel Watson (07:23): Yeah, yeah. So that may be the case. Also when you're buying overseas, I would be aware of going to Alibaba type stores, because you're going to invest a fair amount of money in this device, right? You can get them for as low as $1,000 but you're not going to see too many of them. And generally you're going to get what you pay for. Some of the Chinese brands are just lowering the quality of the components. It will work, but how long is it going to work for? And I'm not a great proponent of that really cheap consumerism because it becomes almost like a disposable item.

But an awful amount of energy has gone into extracting the materials out of the ground to put that bike together. I'd suggest that it's a kind of investment that you want to be using for at least a couple of years, which would be about the lifespan of a lithium ion battery that you used on a daily basis for a couple of years, doing 25 kilometers each way. If it's going to be less than that, then I'd be wondering are you just buying stuff to throw in the landfill at the end of it?

Jesse (08:35): Now as I recall, you are some distance away from your workplace, many kilometers and involving motorways and things. So I'm guessing this isn't going to be an every day commuting option for you. But did you fall in love with the e-bike a wee bit?

Daniel Watson (08:53): Yeah, so before we went on this trip, I was considering getting a donkey to take me to and from the Puhoi Pub.

Jesse (09:00): Got it.

Daniel Watson (09:01): Yep. I think the electric bike might just be a little bit lower on the maintenance and probably be a similar price with less recalcitrance when I'm trying to get them to go up the steep hill.

Jesse (09:14): Very good.

Daniel Watson (09:15): So, yeah, it's only two kilometers and that would be an easy one for us.

Jesse (09:19): Okay. Just remember what you said about obeying the road rules, right? You might have to park it there overnight.

Daniel Watson (09:23): Yeah, yeah. Or, yeah, get a dial-a-driver.

Jesse (09:28): Good stuff. Hey, well, thank you for taking us through some of these options, Daniel. Pleased you had a great holiday and you'd recommend it for other New Zealand families and couples?

Daniel Watson (09:39): Absolutely. There's quite a lot of older people on it, but realistically, like you did with your wife Victoria, I'd give it a go for couples and that. There is some really, really wonderful BnBs along the way, so it can be quite the romantic trip and the food and drink available through the pubs and bars and restaurants there is superb. Actually they've really done it well. It's a great attraction.

Jesse (10:02): Yeah, I'd agree with that. I remember, and this is over 10 years ago, but I remember the lamb shanks and I remember the blue cod.

Daniel Watson (10:09): There's a fair amount of that.

Jesse (10:11): Yep, good stuff. Daniel Watson from Vertech IT Services, thanks so much.

Daniel Watson (10:15): Have a good one, Jesse.