Building bikes for the future in Southland

William Blakie with his "veryeco" e-bike, which he started building following a hip reconstruction in 1995.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

William Blakie with his “veryeco” e-bike, which he started building following a hip reconstruction in 1995.

At 78, William “Bill” Blakie rarely uses his car, instead all his travel is completed in his own custom-made e-bike, which he believes is the future of commuting.

A hip construction in 1995 prompted Bill to start cycling as other exercise became too painful, and after realising the physical and environmental benefits, as well as coming up against Southland’s notorious wind and rain, he decided to begin making his own bike.

The original bike, he produced in his garage workshop, a trike with two wheels out front level with the riders knees, had a tendency to turn sideways into gutters, but he was determined to get it right.

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“Like a lot of things, you start off, and then you’ve just got to keep going … I saw something and I wanted to make it better.”

The final product, an electric bike with four wheels, an aluminium tubing exterior and polycarbonate windows, is designed to deal with the south’s weather as well as appeal to those that can no longer physically ride two-wheelers.

It’s called the “veryeco bike” – and Bill has sold more than 35 of them since he began marketing online.

“The last two people that purchased one were in their 90s … and I’ve built a four-seater for a chap in Hamilton who was blind,” he says.

Most houses in Southland had two or three cars, he said, and city developments seemed to be centred around cars and parking.

Encouraging the use of e-bikes such as his own for commuting would not only reduce emissions, but also increase the amount of space that could be used for parks and other communal facilities, he said.

“You could park probably five of these in a single car park… with climate change, it just fits the bill,” he said.

“You can go to work with the same amount of energy it takes to boil the kettle and cook the toast in the morning.”

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