Itinerary builder

Meet Gaz, just Gaz

“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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Gaz, an icon of New Zealand mountain biking and one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Photo: Derek Morrison

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The workshop at the Nzo/Ride Central bike shop on Amohau Street, Rotorua. Photo: Derek Morrison

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The Nzo/Ride Central bike shop on Amohau Street, Rotorua, is more like a clubhouse. Photo: Derek Morrison

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.

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Gaz stretches his legs on the Great Lake Trail with friends. Photo: Derek Morrison

Explore Gaz's Backyard

  • Riders meet their transport – the Chris Jolly Outdoors water shuttle on the Waihora section of the Great Lake Trail, Taupo. Photo: DGLT
    The Great Lake Trail is a scenic 71km Grade 3 trail that follows the northeastern shoreline of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. The all-weather, all-season trail traverses through native forest providing stunning views across Lake Taupo to the majestic volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. With three distinct sections, the trail has something to suit all fitness levels. 
  • 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 150km 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. 
  • 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. 
  • The lads relax alongside the Pakihi River at the end of the Motu Trail, Eastland, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
    Motu Trails provides a trilogy of contrasting trails that can be ridden in a loop totalling 93km. The three links offer a range of all-terrain riding, which includes stunning beaches, spectacular native forest and family friendly rest stops. This cycle trail can be ridden all year as a full loop, or can be split into the three shorter sections. As a popular 1-3 day ride, it offers options for all ages, abilities, fitness levels and preferences.