Itinerary builder

How Rotorua charmed the boss of Crankworx

It was the passion of the community for mountain biking and the quality of the trails that convinced Crankworx general manager Darren Kinnaird to bring his beloved festival to Rotorua, New Zealand.


Darren Kinnaird, general manager of Crankworx in his element in Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison

“I love this. There is a big crowd out there and they are really enthusiastic,” says Darren Kinnaird with a big grin as he surveys the panorama of activity on the lower slopes of Mt Ngongotaha beneath the Skyline Rotorua gondola.

I heard that Rotorua had its first major traffic jam since 2000 last night, so I am ecstatic!

Darren Kinnaird, general manager Crankworx Share

Gallery: Crankworx 2015

Darren should be ecstatic. Crankworx has become the biggest mountain bike, music and ride culture festival on the planet. But it’s more than a financial investment for him. It’s personal. He invests as much in preserving the essence of the sport as he does in capturing the festival spirit. Everyone is here for a good time.

“People are so into it here and we knew that coming here – the passion for mountain biking in this community is second to none.”

Darren hails from a town called Squamish in British Columbia, Canada. It’s half an hour south of Whistler where Crankworx first sparked to life. This is the first time the festival has headed into the Southern Hemisphere and the look in Darren’s eye suggests he’s landed on his feet.

“The funniest quote of the week I heard was, ‘wow, this place looks like Jurassic Park’." He laughs as he casts his mind to the region’s native bush trails. In fact, it was on a far slope of Whakarewarewa Forest, Darren fell in love.

“I had the chance to scope out some of the Enduro trails in the forest and I had the chance to ride what may be my favourite trail in the whole world: Corners. That trail is insane – I love it,” he says, beaming like a kid who's discovered a new toy.

“We’re fortunate enough to be sticking around for a few days after the event is wrapped up and I’m eyeing up a couple more rides up there.”

Above us the gondola rattles across the jockey wheels and riders finish practice runs across an over-sized tabletop. Music fills the air and everywhere small children, teenagers, couples, riders and families are beaming with excitement. Darren takes it all in and smiles.

Watch: Crankworx Rotorua highlights reel

Want to visit Crankworx Rotorua, March 9-13, 2016? Here's a few teasers to get you excited ...

  • With mostly downhill trails ranging from Grade 2- 5 there is something for everyone at Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park, Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
    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. 
  • Lake-Taupo-Opener-3000px.jpg
    The town of Taupo sits on the eastern edge of New Zealand's largest lake – Lake Taupo. It's a premier adventure hotspot with skydiving, kayaking, jetboating, bungy jumping and fishing within easy reach of the township. The mountain biking and cycling trails here have been recognised as being among the best in the world. It is no wonder Taupo has earned itself the tag as Nature's Ultimate Playground. 
  • Gabby Molloy (left) and Justin Leov chase each other down the Grade 2 Simple Jack trail at the Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park. Photo: Nick Lambert
    Skyline Rotorua is home to the world's first year-round Gondola-assisted bike park, Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park. The gravity park accesses the world-class downhill mountain biking trails on the flanks of Mt Ngongotaha. The 8.5km trail network has a variety of trails with something to suit most skill levels. There are six mostly downhill trails emerging from the top of the gondola, ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 5. Home to Crankworx and UCI World MTB events, Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Park, has become a must-do highlight on any traveller's itinerary. 
  • 20120925_CorridorW_GM_0002.jpg
    Whakarewarewa Forest is one of the most established mountain bike networks in New Zealand and has earned a worldwide reputation as one of the best. Also known as the Redwoods, there are more than 180km of trails in the forest that cater for all levels of rider, from beginners, through to family groups and expert riders looking for an extra challenge. From buff flowing trails to fun jump lines and rooty technical singletrack, there is something here for everyone to enjoy. This is the forest that put Rotorua on the world mountain biking map ... come and explore it for yourself. 

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    “The only thing I miss about Auckland, is going to Rotorua for the weekend”. That's the world according to Gaz, who caught up with mountain bike writer Graeme Simpson. Drop that name into a conversation with a lot of New Zealand (and Australian) mountain bikers and you will get a knowing nod in return. Gaz, or Gary Sullivan as his mother called him, is a life-long biker. He was a New Zealand representative on the track back in the 1970s … best known for his fierce riding skills and a mountain bike clothing business called Nzo. 
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