“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.
In the late 1990s Gaz and his partner, Glen Anderson, gave up high-flying jobs in graphic design and the fashion industry in Auckland to pursue their vision to design and manufacture mountain bike gear they wanted to wear.
Like many others, they moved to Rotorua to chase the other side of the dream – a lifestyle and nearby trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest to test that clothing on.
“We love the proximity of things, here. We can get into an uncrowded and incredibly varied landscape in 10 minutes," Gaz explains.
"The forest is one of the best places anywhere I know to go mountain biking and it is right there on our doorstep. If we want to drive for between 15 minutes and an hour, there are more places to go and ride than most people have time for, from mellow trails to full-on backcountry adventures requiring every trick in the book to survive.”
Establishing the business was a challenge, taking on the might of massive international brands with deep, deep pockets. However, Nzo has punched above its weight since the early 2000s. Gaz and Glen’s vision has survived and thrived. They started as Nzone, with a shop in town, before moving to Internet sales.
Over the past 15 years, they’ve sponsored a lot of events, including Nduros, the Moonride and singlespeed races (often more for the love of the sport rather than commercial reality). Gaz also puts his legs and lungs where his money is by riding those events.
Recently, Nzo went retail, again. They teamed up with an existing bike shop in town to become Nzo|Ride Central. The new shop on Amohau Street is welcoming and very stylish. It never feels like a bike shop, more like a clubhouse.
“The road cycling is also fabulous around Rotorua. Mixed terrain on a road bike? I can do 50km out my front door and only be sharing my path with traffic for about three of those. We love the lakes – can’t even think exactly how many there are, but we regularly get out on five of them," he laughs
It’s not just Rotorua that spins his wheels. Taupo’s Great Lake Trail and the Timber Trail in the Pureora Forest are regular destinations for the Nzo caravan.
Gaz designed the websites and branding for the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships, Ride Rotorua, the Rotorua Bike Festival and the Single Speed World Championships, bringing a sense of wit and genius to all this work.
He is the only president the Rotorua Singlespeed Society has ever had.
And he’s the only person to be president of both the Society and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club.
Legend? Icon? You bet.
“We love the fact that the cost of living is somewhere near where it should be," Gaz smiles. "Housing in particular takes a sensible fraction of our income to cover, and the pace of life and ease of things like traffic, parking, and infrastructure means we don’t spend precious time and energy fighting to do things.”
Gaz. He’s like Beyoncé or Batman. Only one name required.