Words Lester Perry
Images Cameron Mackenzie

Much of Europe is dialled when it comes to incorporating bikes into daily life. I recall ten years ago, riding around Paris on their city bikeshare bikes with my non-cyclist wife.

Helmet-free we cruised around the city, absorbed into groups of people, also non-cyclists, going about their daily lives. The bikes they were on were merely a tool to get them from A to B. Most had baskets, many didn’t; some had a child seat on the back, but everyone sure looked to be enjoying themselves a whole lot more than those in the cars we were passing, as they slowly crept forward in gridlock.

Having had commuter-style eBikes before, I’ve had a glimpse into how good using an electric assist bike in daily life is. Less effort, less sweat, less reasons not to ride to your destination. A regular eBike is a pretty one-dimensional affair, and they come with their drawbacks; there’s not a heap of space to carry things, and even pannier racks aren’t amazing as they’re almost always an add-on, not an integrated part of the bike design.

Getting my kids to ride anywhere on their bikes, except to the dairy up the road for an ice cream, is a real chore. Regardless of how much they like riding their bikes once they’re on them, attempts to do daily life by bike have failed 99% of the time. However, my two boys, 6 and 8, couldn’t be more enthusiastic to take the Fetch+ out for a mission – the destination has become irrelevant, and they’re now all about the journey. The fact is, they don’t need to use their own steam, or even concentrate, just sit back and enjoy their chauffeured ride. I’m hopeful that by incorporating the Fetch+ into our daily life for a time, the more they’ll realised that a bike can take the place of a car, and consequently the more likely they are to want to use them as a tool in their daily lives in years to come.

The Fetch+ is a longtail cargo bike. The bike is sold as a ‘base’ unit, which you can then add accessories to, to suit your cargo-hauling needs. There are a tonne of configurations possible, depending on what add-ons you purchase and what your intentions are.

Designed around a step-through aluminium frame, the bike (sans accessories) comes in at 31kg and has a maximum total system weight limit of 200kg – combined weight of bicycle, rider, and cargo.

The real money-maker on the bike is the Bosch Cargo Line drive system, and honestly, if the bike wasn’t electric assist it would be verging on useless.

Bosch’s LED remote clearly shows what assistance levels you’re in; ‘Cargo’ offers up to 400% of rider input, similar to traditional Boost mode; ‘Auto’ adjusts assistance levels automatically; ‘Tour+’ is a smooth, incremental sporty feel; while ‘Eco’ is all about efficiency and maximising battery life.

Not once have I encountered a misstep or issue with the drive system, and it certainly puts your mind at ease when you’re out carting kids around town. I’d hate to think about the logistics of getting home with a dead bike, two kids and all the associated paraphernalia.

Like most eBikes in NZ, the assistance maxes out at 32kph. There’s minimal resistance in the unit once you do hit the limit, so it can be smoothly pedalled faster, although I’ve got no idea why you’d need to go over 32kph on a bike like this.

The 20-inch wheels seem small to begin with but help keep the centre of gravity low and feel nimble. Smaller wheels will handle heavier loads and should stay true longer. A 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with a wide-range cassette works well and gives a good spread of gears. The 4-piston brakes, coupled with 180mm rotors, provide ample stopping power even when fully loaded.

With the full accessory pack fitted, there’s room for two kids on the padded rear bench seat. The safety rail gives little hands something to hold onto, and stops even the most distracted of passengers from falling off! Integrated lights are another nice touch; no need for charging or hunting out where they are after last use, just climb aboard and go. Bright enough to be seen during daylight, and to see at night.

There’s a sturdy kickstand fitted and, even when climbed on by over-enthusiastic school kids on a trip to a touch game, it stood firm and didn’t topple over. This also makes loading cargo an easy process.

Having the child-carrying accessories fitted has come with a downside, the boys want to go with me any time I’m headed out on the bike...

It took a few goes for the kids to figure out the easiest way to climb aboard and after using the overbuilt chain guard as a step the first few times – it’s that sturdy – they finally took to using the non-drive-side step which was much easier. Having the child-carrying accessories fitted has come with a downside; the boys want to go with me any time I’m headed out on the bike – I haven’t managed a solo trip to the supermarket yet but there’s plenty of carrying capacity for probably six or so large paper bags full of food, if you’re not carting kids too.

A word of warning, if you’re shooting to the bottle’o to pick up some coldies on a Friday afternoon, I can tell you from experience that you’ll probably need to let them sit for a bit, or at least aim them away from your face as you open one. NZ’s roads aren’t generally the smoothest and a 6’er bouncing around in the bottom of one of the pannier buckets gets a pretty good shake-up!

On the surface, the bike seems pretty spendy, but there are a lot of subtle details going on that set it apart from similar bikes. Multiple small features combine to make this bike not only practical but fun to ride. The price is a significant barrier to entry, but if you live in the right area and make a concerted effort, the bike could take the place of a car – but with much lower running costs and a much higher fun factor!

Trek seem to have removed any barriers that exist to incorporate the Fetch+ into daily life – just get on and go. Having the child-carrying accessories fitted has come with a downside, the boys want to go with me any time I’m headed out on the bike…