Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua

My breathing is ragged and my legs are burning from the climb to the top of Moerangi Road when I lean my bike against the trig and drink in the best view of Rotorua. The sun glints off Green Lake and I can just make out Mount Ruapehu in the far distance.

I have ridden trails all over the world, from the birthplace of mountain biking in Marin county, California, to obscure trails in the jungles of Thailand. But nothing surpasses the trail network in the Whakarewarewa Forest, where there are over 150km of trails that riders of all abilities can enjoy.

I remember the first time I rode the trails here in Rotorua 15 years ago. At the time, I was blown away by their variety and quality. The call of the forest grew with each trip and five years ago I moved from Auckland to Rotorua so I could ride the trails whenever I wanted to. I am still finding hidden gems in Whakarewarewa Forest and no matter where I ride, I end up with a smile on my face.

As soon as he could sit up, I would take my son riding on a kiddie seat on the front of my bike. Then, riding behind his runner bike on the kids loop and now, I watch him grin as he takes on more challenging trails like 'Mad If You Don’t' and 'Be rude not 2'.

As I catch my breath and take in the view, I contemplate which trail I want to take. There is Split Enz, a mellow, flowing style of trail that Rotorua is famous for, or the more challenging Rocky Horror trail, which even professional riders find challenging.

I take a sip of water, clip into my pedals, drop my seat and roll into Rocky Horror. The trail gets steeper and more technical the further down I go. About half way through, there are some some big, rough, rooty sections and a few drop-offs that take all my concentration to navigate. I make it down the last section, which is the most challenging, with only a few dabs from mistiming a pedal stroke or two. I pop out at the bottom of the trail to join Rollercoaster, a rolling, mostly downhill trail, with flowing corners.

I finally make it back to my car, energised and with a big smile.

Reported by Mead Norton for our AA Directions Winter 2019 issue

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