The Queen Charlotte Track runs almost the entire length of New Zealand’s Queen Charlotte Sound. The track stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa – 70 kilometre (approximately 45 miles) of spectacular walking track passing through historic sites, secluded bays and lush coastal bush.
The terrain of the track is regarded as undulating with hills ranging from sea level to a maximum of 400 metres. Most of the track is wide (1 to 1.5 metres in width), and all major streams have been bridged. The surface, being mainly clay soil, is hard and firm in dry conditions but can often be slippery when wet.
For walkers, the track requires boots and a good level of fitness, and the 70 kilometre trip can be done in 3 – 5 days while the entire Queen Charlotte Track is open to mountain biking from March 1 to November 30 each year. The trip takes about 13 hours. You can find a map here: http://www.qctrack.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Queen-Charlotte-Track-Map-2018-compressed.pdf
My mates and I have ridden the track annually for the last few years, this year I wanted to prove a point. I decided to bring out the new Specialized Levo E Bike and boy did I get a ribbing. That is till a couple more E Bikes turned up in our group. I have been saying for ages that the range of a modern E Bike is far greater then what some people expect. I have been called many things when riding the E, for this trip I wanted to prove I could ride to Portage on one charge. Distance wise it is about 42kms consisting of magnificent single track that has some damm decent climbs. When I was a skinny young fellow, I managed to ride almost all of the track but no way now hence the E Bike.
Our early morning start meant that we had to be on the boat ready to go at 8. The trip out to Ship Cove takes about an hour. Ship Cove is where Captain Cook beached the Endeavor to clean the barnacles off several times. It is an historical place and well worth a visit. The track starts off steep, the group banter is there is no way you can ride that on a E. Yes you can, well most of it. I lost traction a few times and because I had the Levo set on a low power setting, the assistance wasn't great. My heart rate was pounding hard on a couple of climbs, E is no free lunch. You still have to pedal them! I found myself having to engage "walk mode" On a non assisted bike, walk mode means you are off pushing. On a Levo, you push the button and the bike starts to "walk" So much better than trying to push a 22kg bike up a hill by hand.
After about an hour of riding and "walking" we reach the top of Resolution Bay, the view is incredible! I often say that you could be anywhere in the world here but it is in our back yard. From here the track starts off on the first of many magnification single track descents around the bays. Our goal is to hit Punga Cove around lunch time and we do it. A bite for lunch while we are lucky enough that the really friendly people at the cafe allow us to plug in, just in case...
From here the track gets step, from Kenapuru Saddle along the top to the shelter above Bay of Many coves are some really descent climbs. They aren't overly long but still a challenge. Not so much on the Levo though. On the Levo you can set the assistance via the app Mission Control. For this trip I set the lowest setting at 20% assistance, mid range at 40% and max at 60%. To conserve battery I had it turned off for the flat sections, on the easier climbs 20% and for most climbs 40% except for a couple of nasty buggers- 60%. My non assisted mates were cussing me, except for Jim. I swear he owns a E-Giant Anthem (they don't make one). He wasn't far behind on most climbs.
The single track descent from above Portage to the top of Torea Saddle is world class, the leader of our group Grant aka Camp Dad had fitted a bloody annoying siren to his bike. This was to let walkers know so they didn't crap their pants when we surprised them. We did come across a few walkers and I hope they appreciated the wa woo siren. The track is smooth and flowing with a good descent.
We had booked our accommodation at Portage Resort, we had a bad experience here before but had heard that the resort had been sold recently so decided to give it a go. The reception team greeted us warmly and handed over the keys to our units. The units were clean and well presented. The shower was awesome. We all head down to the bar(s) there is two. Someone convinced me that a dip in the pool would be great.It was still warm out so why not. What an arse that guy turned out to be! Flip it it was cold.
We made ourselves comfortable at one of the bars, beer was cold, staff very friendly. Looking good so far! As we sat there with a few more people around, crowds started turning up, a barbecue appeared and one of the staff started cranking it up with some bangers and bread. We counted 70 people at the bar on a Saturday arvo. Pretty impressive for a resort in the middle of the sounds. I got talking to the manager as I do. She had organised "local" arvo's with cheaper beer and a barbie. She said it was a real success. We get offered a banger or two each. Thank you! The evening meal was a buffet, as we all know, they can be hit and miss. This was a hit and well worth the $32. Breakfast was the same, really good. The talk around the table was about how one of the newbies had not had much sleep. He had roomed with Captain Kirk, bad move! About 3 am Nigel was heard to be yelling, how can one man snore and fart so much as he dragged his mattress outside!
The start to the next day was as exciting as the first. There were a few more fellow mountain bikers heading out with us. I know from experience that the climb from Torea Saddle to the top is tough. So tough that it is the one section that I can't ride all of it except I can now! On the Levo it was still tough on 60% but I rode it all, first time ever!! From there to the end of the track it is almost all easy downhill on the outstanding single tracks. The views again are incredible, the walkers are still friendly. Sooo good.
We stop at Anakiwa for a bite and decide to hit the trails beside the road to Momorangi DOC shop where the newly build link pathway track starts. We had a quick bite again at the DOC shop and asked if we could plug up and got told pretty quickly no- even offered to pay. Hmm mate you are going to see a few more E bikes soon, isn't it best to provide a service?
One of our group Camp Dad hadn't been that well the last couple of days. He tried to thumb a lift to Picton, no luck chuck. I offered the Levo and after much convincing that he wouldn't be an E Homo as he put it, off he went. I got his Specialized Epic to ride. One of the other guys has only see me ride E and had no idea that I can ride a normal aspirated bike as well. He found out on one of the climbs along the Link Pathway that I can as I dropped him and left him in the dust. Sorry ex world motocross champion Kingy!
For me, the Link Pathway was as good as the QC track. It was like the trails when I first started riding mountain bikes 30 years ago. The trail had a few descent climbs, not too long but tough enough after doing 80km the previous days. The track was just the right width, it was smooth and flowed exceptional well all the way to Picton.
In our group of 12 there was another Levo with a massive 700wh battery and a Merida. Both these guys have done the trail before on manual bikes but as they are no longer that fit, decided to E it. These guys got to enjoy the trail without punishing themselves. If you get the chance to do the Queen Charlotte Track for it. If you get the chance to take an E Bike ( not one of those commuter things but a real off road bike) do it! It is so good!
If you want the North Canterbury Cycling Club to organised a trip to the QC, let us know
PS. 40% battery left after each day- I confess to putting a 700wh battery in my Levo. The standard size is still a big 504wh