The boom of the motorised bicycle has opened a world of possibility outside of the mainstream trail riding scene. All sorts of contraptions are coming out with motors attached, from balance to adaptive bikes, motors are enabling everyone and anyone to experience the joy of surfing the dirt.
Like almost everything we consume nowadays, these motorised creations are usually designed in a glossy studio, then made in a factory half a world away, by people we’ll never know, in conditions we mightn’t like to think about. Fortunately, there’s a rare breed of passionate humans sprinkled around the globe who are dedicated to bringing the building process closer to the customer, creating something a little more bespoke and a whole lot more special.
These ingenious and ambitious inventors know they’ll never compete with the big brands, but they do have the advantage of being nimble and can capture one audience that the corporates never will: the niche market.
These folk are still super passionate about riding, but have slightly different ideas about the benefits that bikes can provide. They look at a store jam packed with all kinds of bikes and still can’t see anything that suits their needs.
The fact that these people are constantly dreaming up new ways to use wheels and a set of cranks is one of the most inspiring aspects of our industry. But if you don’t have the skills to build a bike to suit your specific needs, you’re going to need to employ the skills of a passionate few in our industry to make your dreams come to life.
This is exactly what Josh and Berit have done to bring their super-niche rigs to life. The pair commissioned bike builder Jackson Green to create two bikes that can only be described as bike versions of the unimog.
Many of you might be familiar with Jackson Green and his partner, Rose. These two brave souls not only make their own tandem bikes, but also have the sheer grit to ride them in everything from XC to DH events. It’s safe to assume these two know a few things about trust and commitment. When Jackson isn’t steering Rose and himself down a steep, root-infested trail, you’ll often find the humble man in his garage building anything from his next DH tandem to full suspension rigs for his kids. If you can’t buy it, build it, right?
Along came Josh and Berit, an adventurous couple from Wanaka who simply couldn’t find anything to suit their needs. To be fair, their requirements for a bike were more than a little different to the average person. These two had dreamt up the ultimate utility bike that would allow them to lower their environmental impact while giving them a vehicle that could be used for all their urban and adventurous needs.
Their idea was to take the cargo bike platform, add a motor and sit it all on top of fat tyres, then make one for each of them. Initially, the primary requirements they gave Jackson were that the bikes needed to replace their Landcruiser for hunting access and meat retrieval, with the added bonus of using the same bikes to drop off, and pick up, the meat from the butcher afterwards.
They then realised that it’d be useful if the bikes could be used more in their urban environment to transport their children about town. Lastly, they requested the ability for the contraptions to cart both themselves and their analogue bikes to their closest bike park, Bike Glendhu.
In a nutshell, they needed at least one of the bikes to be able to transport both the rider and 200kg+ of cargo. Both needed a bench seat for urban use and storage for at least one deer carcass, and finally, each bike required a rear thru-axle attachment to allow them to tow bikes.
It’s safe to say this ambitious project sparked the interest of Jackson; the sheer obscurity and complexity of the bikes was enough to have him excited to crack into it.
Unsurprisingly, a build like this had its fair share of challenges. The main issue was the weight that Josh wanted his bike to be able to carry. This meant structurally beefing up the back end and sourcing a rear tyre and motor that wouldn’t buckle under that kind of heft. The rear wheel is a Ryde i40; a product with so much weighty reinforcement it rarely gets specced outside of e-cargo or heavy use eMTBs. Coupled with a custom high load rear thru-axle, Jackson believes this will hold together during the unusual stresses these bikes are likely to go through.
To support the high demands, Jackson built the two bikes around the Bafang Ultra Magnesium, which is an e-cargo specific motor that punches out a whopping 160nm of torque and 1000w of power. At 5.3kg, this motor doesn’t pop up very often (if at all) on your off-the-shelf eMTB, but it’s the beating heart of these two monster trucks.
Powering these massive motors is a 884wh battery cell from Samsung. This combination of motor and cell will allow Josh and Berit the luxury of accelerating excessive weights over steep terrain. Hopefully they don’t stretch out too many chains in the process.
In the age of bicycle mega stores, it’s great to know some people are taking a different approach. Josh and Berit could’ve easily been sucked into the mainstream and settled on two burly e-fat MTBs with trailers attached.
It takes open mindedness and trust to inspire projects this ambitious, and the results speak for themselves. The owners are now able to reduce their carbon footprint during their hunts, school drop-offs and trips to the bike park, while enjoying the fresh air and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
Projects like this also give Frankenstein frame builders like Jackson Green an outlet for their crazy talent and ambition. We need more people like this in our industry, keeping the fringe riders out on their bikes and wreaking sweet havoc on the ever-growing mountain biking mono cultures.