Pedal power on the Lake Dunstan Trail


Pedal power on the Lake Dunstan Trail

Jim Vause 2015

Jim Vause

Poplars, Lake Dunstan
Lake Dunstan on a picture-perfect day

“If I’m going to be serious about my cardiac rehab, tackling the Dunstan track’s 300 metre-high Cairnmuir Ladder on an e-bike would be just faking it”

There are e-bikes and there are torture bikes, well, that’s according to our Kiwi Bike Tours shuttle driver. He greeted us in Clyde, Central Otago, after a picture-perfect day riding the stunning Lake Dunstan Trail. A bike trail that is hewed in places out of solid rock, traversing faces that for years I had wondered how anyone could even climb, let alone craft a bike track.

The pickaxes jammed into rock faces along the route are testimony to the mahi of the track builders.

I’ve got an e-bike, like most of the 60-69-year-old boomer demographic, according to ACC injury data. But that e-bike is reserved for the real mountain climbs like the Coppermine or Kaiteriteri bike park; if I’m going to be serious about my cardiac rehab, tackling the Dunstan track’s 300 metre-high Cairnmuir Ladder on an e-bike would be just faking it.

Bike injury stats

As rides go it’s pretty cruisy. Even the Alps to Ocean is trickier, well, at least the Lake Benmore section, so the Dunstan attracts a lot of e-bike newbies. You can spot them a mile away as they weave drunkenly along the track, head down trying to spot each and every wheel-twisting pebble before them.

Suddenly their necks extend as they hear you hooning down on them, eyes alight with terror and handlebars trembling as they teeter towards the gaping abyss of Lake Dunstan, 60 metres below. Guard rails are useful.

According to bike trainer and e-bike specialist Megan Page, most e-bike crashes happened while people got on or off them, a very insightful observation given that often I alight from my bike at interesting speeds and heights. Luckily, I have not achieved fame as one of those fashionable ACC bike injury statistic, well, not yet.

Much has changed

I left Cromwell in 1986. With the dam built, the town was running down, and in the latter parts of that decade, it had all the signs of becoming a ghost town. Now it’s a bustling and interesting tourist spot, awash with bikers (not bikies) and walkers. Decent cafes, nice camping grounds and fascinating tracks thorough the relics of that human obsession with a useless noble metal, gold.

As we sat with a couple of colleagues reminiscing over a latte about the good old days when things like GP computer systems did what doctors, not administrators, wanted, I could not help but reflect how technology in the form of e-bikes and baby-boomer tourists had transformed this town. That we were sitting in the very building that had once been my surgery in a before-IT time just brought home how technology could be so transformative, if you can control it.

Oh, and the latte was a lot, lot better than the Gregg’s we used to have in 1985.