We couldn’t finish a North Island trip without dropping into Rotorua. Home to one of two Skyline gondola accessed bike parks in New Zealand and host to Crankworx in March 2015, there is a lot going on right now. But dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover a wealth of world class riding outside of the bike park. Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa forest is accessed by a shuttle bus service, and although not a bike park (see it more as an enduro forest), too many people get caught up on the main trails and lapping the shuttle.
Getting off the beaten track in Rotorua yields some great views
Outback there are some trails that require a bit of effort, maybe 20minutes of pedalling, but you’re handsomely rewarded. Newly built grade 5 mountain bike trails, black diamond monsters of loamy roots, high lines and steep committing corners, and more advanced intermediate mellower trails take you out to the quiet parts of the forest. Southstar Shuttles latest conception, Eagle Vs Shark is an amazing intermediate graded trail, yet will give the fastest and slowest riders alike the real buzz. Bench cut single-track with small table tops, blind corners and small berms traverse all the way down the hillside, with the opportunity for the more advanced riders to take some “advanced enduro race lines” off the piste.
Overlooking the Southern Hemisphere’s largest commercial forest
Make a short trip out of the forest and the smorgasbord continues. If you’re passing and have an hour or two spare, just outside of Rotorua stands a real gem, a decent hour’s pedal and push up revealing a hilltop with a scenic view and sights of the surrounding caldera 40km in each direction. The descent is a trilogy of differing trails; steep drop offs over root gardens under cover of native bush turns into a bobsleigh run for bikes – perfectly placed trees and leaf litter make you feel like a hero pushing into the natural banking. At the bottom, flatter corners covered in a thick layer of dust and sediment, lined by giant ferns allows you some drifting practice and a soft crash pad when things go wrong.
Toblerone mountains centre caused by a volcano eruption causing shockwaves to run through the earth
So would we recommend riding in New Zealand? Absolutely! But make sure you don’t take the easy option of shuttles and bike parks. As backcountry skiers say “earn your turns,” and this certainly rings true here. Pedal, sweat, make it hurt and you’ll be rewarded by a ride you’ll never forget.
Dominating the Rotorua backcountry are these giant ferns…everywhere