Journal: What’s Rod Up to

Wheelworks Ambassador: Rod Bardsley

I did a lot of bike-trials when growing up and I like to consider myself a pretty capable rider in slow and technical situations, but going riding in the Akatarawas with Rod Bardsley is an absolute masterclass in bike handling.  Rod’s been riding e-bikes longer than anyone and has mastered how to ride them - especially in the slow, awkward and slippery conditions that his Akatarawa jungle backyard turns up.

Modern e-bikes are far more than a simple mountain bike with a motor bolted on.  Both bike manufacturers and bike riders have now learned what works and how to get the most fun from motors and batteries.  

Most e-bike pricetags are eye-wateringly high so in an effort to get their prices down the manufacturers often save money on wheels. Have a glance through the spec sheets for $10,000+ e-bikes and you’ll usually find a pair of $600 wheels. Often the rear hub can’t stand up to the e-bike’s extra power, the rims dent easily from the additional weight and capability of the bike, and the spokes break because of poor build-quality.  

Rod’s been an ambassador for us since the dawn of time and his early adoption of e-bikes taught us a lot. He’s shown us how e-bikes can be ridden, demonstrated their differences to acoustic bikes, and continually helps us show that upgrading those $600 wheels to something worthy of a modern e-bike will improve its capability, durability and fun.

Here are his latest adventures.

- Tristan

Stupid winter…all I seem to be doing is washing my bike. Every day. I suppose that’s not a bad thing as it means I’m riding everyday…thanks to having e-bikes in my shed.

I live in Paraparaumu, one of the worst places to live if you’re into MTB, with only one proper legal singletrack loop in the whole region between Levin and Porirua (shame on you Kapiti Coast District Council).

That loop is in Whareroa Farm, just down the road from me, It’s a great trail but what it’s really good for is an in and out route for the plethora of secretly (and illegally) built jungle trails that magically appear at random as trials-moto guys try and create newer hidden trails as the enduro-moto crowd navigate their way through them with their back wheels spinning and digging in unrideable ruts that can ruin a trail in one wet afternoon.

These trails are generally wet 9 months of the year and are narrow, bog and vine infested and very up/down XC orientated, so it’s always a mission without a motor.

But seeing as I have a motor and battery fitted to my TurboLevo and Kenevo SL bikes I’m in there all the time savouring some sweet trails with stunning backcountry streams and flora.

I’m running a Flite V3 mullet wheelset with Dial hubs on the Levo, fitted with the new Specialized Butcher T9 Grid Gravity tyres and a lightweight tyre insert in the rear. I get down to about 10psi on the rear for ultimate trials riding traction so am bottoming the rim out frequently on the tangle of roots but not even a pinch flat so far, let alone a broken rim.

When It’s drier I take the Kenevo SL for a more natural feeling MTB experience. To keep this rig as natural feeling as possible I’m running the EnduroLite 29er wheelset, Dial hubs, with a fast rolling Grid Gravity Elinator T7/T9 on the rear and the lighter, grippier Butcher Trail T9 up front.

I can’t quite dominate all the steep techy climbs on the Kenevo SL but high speed singletrack flow is far more rewarding and as it’s a gutless version of the TurboLevo I get a much better workout and am happy to grind away alongside my non-E riding buddies who are still confused about what fun and riding a bicycle equal… yes, E-bikes…fun 100% of the time not just the going down bits.

While I’m doing all this riding (10-15 hours a week) I’m constantly pondering the craziness that is the current trend of being obsessed by frame reach and angle numbers of which I can talk to you for hours about the pros and cons but let’s save that for another day.

- Rod Bardsley

If you havn't watched ep.1 of the Rodcast, we definitely recommend taking an hour to listen to Rod and Tristan debunk the world of bike wheels.