According to Red Bull’s mountain biking web series On Track, when we "die and go to mountain bike heaven, there’s a good chance it will probably look a lot like Rotorua, New Zealand”. The riding in Rotorua varies from the extensive trail network in the Whakarewarewa Forest (the Redwoods) to the gravity park at Skyline Rotorua, fed by New Zealand's first year-round gondola-assisted bike lift. The trails here are so great that in August 2015 it became one of only six places in the world to be awarded Gold-level Ride Centre status by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Rotorua is also a hub for adventure tourism, New Zealand’s home of Maori culture, a geothermal utopia of other-worldly landscapes and boasts natural spas and hot pools for rejuvenating aching muscles after a hard day on the trails.
Rotorua, a haven of geysers and mud pools, the meeting place between tourism and Maoritanga. And trails built by mountain bikers with mountain bikers in mind. Trails in verdant shade that dip and weave and roll. Trails that sneak through trees in a way that make hard riders hoot with joy yet, at the same time, could coax a huge grin to the face of a 70-year-old grandma on her first ride...get down on your knees and kiss the mulchy earth of these trails because they are the true treasure here.Mike Ferrentino, BIKE Magazine editor in chief Share
The trails of Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest (aka Redwoods) were mostly built by a group of volunteers over the past 20 years. Their toil crafted something unique in the hills overlooking the town and its sparkling lake. The trail network expanded constantly and as it did it became more refined with buff trails so well built that they made everyone feel like a hero. They have since spawned numerous professional trail building teams and the network of more than 150km of trails is now considered to be among the best riding in the world. While the network is based in a working forest the forest owners and community contribute to its ongoing development.
The 150km of trails in Whakarewarewa Forest include something for everyone, from the gentle family friendly trails that meander along babbling streams to jump lines, steep descending trails and backcountry technical trails. There is even a shuttle service to take rides to the top of the hill. The carpark at the Waipa entrance to the forest is a bustling zone with a café, bike hire, bike repairs and information available and a toilet block that features a set of showers for those who like to clean up before heading out on the town. This forest is a must-do destination for any travelling mountain biker or cyclist.
In 2014 Skyline Rotorua opened its first set of trails beneath its gondola, making it the world's first year-round gondola accessed trail network. Skyline Rotorua Gravity MTB Park features mostly downhill trails that have something to appeal to everyone. Try the Grade 3 Day Walker trail to ease into it, or step up to Sprint Warrior (Grade 4) as you build your confidence. Elite riders will want to test their jumping skills on Hipster (Grade 4) or Moss Piglet (Grade 5). You'll soon discover why Crankworx boss Darren Kinnaird chose this as the location for his beloved mountain bike festival.
And Rotorua isn't shy on adventure rides either ... Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike – is one of the New Zealand Cycle Trails rides with a relaxed trail that weaves in and out of Rotorua's geothermal hotspots. You can even take a side trip up Rainbow Mountain and ride right to a natural spring to soak your bones midway through this unique journey.
Want to raise the adventure level a little further? Seek out the Doc-managed Moerangi Trail – like a journey back in time to the Jurassic era, or discover for yourself why the Motu Trail has featured in so many mountain biking films and magazine stories.
At the end of the day you can indulge in Rotorua's thriving restaurant, bar or night club scene. Start your search at Eat Streat and explore the culinary delights and treasures from there. Zippy's Cafe is a popular hangout and meeting place for cyclists and is probably the most bike-friendly cafe in the Southern Hemisphere. They do a great breakfast and lunch, too.
Because of its proximity in the centre of the other regions of the Central North Island, Rotorua is often used as a base or launching pad for riding adventures.
A mountain biking or cycling trip in Rotorua is like coming home. This town is so bike friendly that you'll instantly have 20,000 new best friends. What are you waiting for?