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Ride Rotorua like a local

Mountain biking the trails in Whakarewarewa Forest can be one of the best days out on your bike you’ll ever have.

Mountain biking the trails in Whakarewarewa Forest can be one of the best days out on your bike you’ll ever have.

That’s what visitors tell us when they’ve tagged along with a couple locals for a ride in the woods.

It’s OK to ask for directions

So how do you ride the redwoods like a local? Start with a map! Get one at a bike shop, one of two i-SITEs, or the Waipa mountain bike carpark.

Get your head around the lay of the land. The Rotorua forest has a high, curving spine along its eastern side. The main entrance at Waipa, off SH5 just south of town, is at the base of a sloping bowl that leads to that spine, 400 metres above. A slew of trails occupy the flat part of the bowl; roads or trails climb the sides; and trails drop back down from various points along the top edge.

There are also entrances to the forest at Long Mile Road, easily accessed via trails from town, and at Forest Hub 2, currently under development on Tarawera Road, on the far side of the spine from Waipa.

Most rides will mean a decent climb to get a good downhill run. A mid-level rider with a bit of fitness can get to a highpoint in half an hour or so, and can easily do it a couple of times in a ride.

What kind of rider are you?

So, now we need to figure out which local you want to ride like.

Let’s take a casual sort of rider, looking for a ride on grade 2 and 3 trails. Starting at Waipa, pedal out on to Tahi. Follow that to Creek, then decide whether to pedal to the top or take a shuttle. Dawdling up the Wash, Direct Road, and Frontal Lobotomy under pedal power will take a bit longer than riding Mad If You Don’t and then taking Hill Road to the shuttle stop, and the bus to the top.

Corners back to the bottom is a great run. Eagle vs Shark is a fast-flow trail to the far side of the forest. From there riders can turn right towards Lake Tikitapu, and take The Feeder to Tangaroamihi and on around the south side of the forest to finish down the cycleway Te Ara Ahi back to Waipa. Or they can turn left after EvS and head back along Black House Loop to Apumoana. At the top of that cruisey climb they can ride forestry roads to the lower half of Corners, and home.

A bit more ambitious? Ride Yellow Brick Road, up Sandy Skid Road, and head up to Pondy Elevator. There’s no easy way up here, but grin and bear it. Take Moerangi Road and TimeWarp, to the best view in Rotorua, and the long, long downhill of Split Enz, Pondy New, RollerCoaster, and on to more trails home.

Pressed for time? Start at Long Mile Road, take Katore Road, back down Tokorangi, Turkish Delight, and Challenge Trail.

Reckon you know what you are about? Get yourself to the top, up the road past the shuttle stop. Take on the natural splendour of Tuhoto Ariki, or Tihi-O-Tawa. Pedal up to Kung Fu Walrus or Te Ahi Manawa, and return via Taura. Back at the top you could drop down the first part of Eagle, link over to Whaki, climb Apumoana and descend Hot X Buns.

You really want Grade 5 and 6? Take the route to Split Enz, but turn down Frankn’Furter, and beyond to RiffRaff and Rocky Horror. Or climb to the top and descend Te Rua.

The options are endless. When you know how to stitch together three decent loops, we unofficially dub you a local!

*Story supplied by local mountain bike legend Gary “Gaz” Sullivan of NZO, and photo by Nick Lambert.

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