No loafing around on delivery run

The People's Bread co-owner Ruth Heath, of Albert Town, with two of her four children, Ezra (20 months) and Caoimhe (6), on the family's new electric bike, used to deliver their organic stone-ground sourdough loaves throughout the district. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The People's Bread co-owner Ruth Heath, of Albert Town, with two of her four children, Ezra (20 months) and Caoimhe (6), on the family's new electric bike, used to deliver their organic stone-ground sourdough loaves throughout the district. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Albert Town bakers Jeremy and Ruth Heath say peddling their produce to people via their new electric bike has revolutionised their bread business.

In April last year, the Heaths began the People's Bread - making, selling and delivering organic stone-ground sourdough loaves throughout Hawea and Wanaka. It quickly grew into a full-time job, around raising their four young children and run from their home-based mobile kitchen.

Their car ferried the food and family around the district until they decided an electric form of delivery would be more effective.

''We looked at scooters but the technology didn't seem quite up with the play. So we discovered electric bikes,'' Mrs Heath said.

''We wanted to reduce how much we used our vehicles and we thought, given the distances that we're travelling, it would easily be doable on a bike,'' her husband added.

''And you can get exercise at the same time.''

The couple bought their US-made bike at the start of last month from a Wellington-based distributor and it immediately began to ''revolutionise the way we do things''.

Their five-day-a-week door-to-door deliveries became far more streamlined on the two-wheeler, which uses optional pedal power to boost its motor.

Considered the ''station wagon'' of electric bikes, the Heaths' chosen model was ideal for big families, they said.

It carries up to 200kg and travels at an average speed of 35kmh during delivery runs, with its panniers laden with freshly baked bread and a couple of Heath children on the back.

After the initial outlay of about $5000, the only running costs are for charging the bike - about 50c a day - and minimal maintenance.

The couple said electric bikes were common in Europe and they expected them to become increasingly so in New Zealand, as it was a ''lovely'' way to travel.

''It's amazing what you experience by biking for delivery; just an awareness of the environment and your surroundings,'' Mrs Heath said.

''And it's quite exciting and fun to go out on the bike, as opposed to getting in the car ... the novelty hasn't worn off yet,'' she added.

The unconventional ride has already completed more than 700km in the first few weeks of use and attracted plenty of attention on its travels, particularly from amused cyclists on non-motorised bikes whom the Heaths effortlessly overtake on the open road.

Asked if the bike would remain the permanent People's Bread carrier, the Heaths confirmed it was here to stay, before adding: ''ask us in winter''.

And if demand for the loaves continues to grow?

''We'll get a fleet,'' Mrs Heath said.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz