Three-year-old Finley Reece leans forward, pulls back the throttle and grins from ear to ear. He's never put foot to bicycle pedal before, but he's already a pro at riding the new electric motorbikes at the Amped Motorbike Park in Papamoa.
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“He's having a blast,” says dad Matt, who co-owns the business with Craig Hunter. Craig's children Sam, 7, and Zac, 6, are also out riding on what's said to be New Zealand's first electric motorbike track.
Owning the business makes Matt and Craig the coolest dads in the world. It says it on their business cards. They're the sole importers and suppliers of the new generation, high-quality European-built electric motorbikes available for rent at the park.
The Amped Motos are small enough for three to 12-year-olds to ride, but strong enough to carry 100kg.
“We say if kids can ride a balance bike easy enough, they can ride on one of these,” says Matt. “But they're more than a toy, they go foot for foot with a petrol powered motorbike.”
Finley's going full bore on the track but there's no loud growling of an engine. The roar's been replaced with a whisper. That's because these bikes are totally electric. There's no clutch or gears – just a throttle, on and off switch and a safety lanyard which operates like an emergency stop.
“You just plug them in to charge and away they go,” says Craig. “They don't spill oil when they're lying down and there's no hot exhaust pipes.”
“We call them ‘mother and neighbour friendly',” says Matt. “It teaches the kids balance, throttle control and risk awareness.
“We enforce the fact that it is a real little motorbike, so the kids themselves have to take a certain amount of responsibility.”
This reporter is responsible, is half the 100kg limit and as tall as a 12-year-old – maybe shorter – so she gets on a bike.
But it's safety first. Helmet on, then a quick lesson in how to ride.
“One of the secrets of being a good motorbike rider is throttle control, so nice and smooth on the accelerator Zoe,” says Matt. “Go easy on the brakes too.”
“How fast do you want to go?” asks Matt. “Fast.” He sets the bike to beginner speed.
“This is one of the coolest things about these bikes. Most of our customers are first-time motorbike riders, so it's really important we can limit their speed because using a twist throttle is not something they're used to. The ability to do that means the progression when they learn is phenomenal.”
There's a low humming sound as Finley pulls up beside Dad. “How was that buddy?” There's no reply, just an ear-to-ear grin that stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.
Visit Amped Motorbike Park at 176 Parton Road to buy or try the electric motorbikes, or see the Amped Motos, Electric Motobikes NZ Facebook page for more information.