Yesterday marked the 20th Anniversary of Nzo opening its doors.
The story of Nzo is entwined with our story of mountain biking, and living in Rotorua. One thing caused the others, but we are not sure which one started it all.
We started coming to Rotorua to ride mountain bikes as soon as there were any mountain bikes. A long time before there were any actual trails, there were kilometres of old logging roads snaking through the towering stands of trees in Whakarewarewa forest. I didn’t know anybody else with a mountain bike, so my solo missions blundering around in the woods was a monthly exercise in survival I looked forward to while I sat in Auckland traffic and schemed about some way of making a life around this new sport.
Fast forward about five years and several trails designed for bikes had been created. Challenge and Dipper were worth the drive from the smoke to the steam. The old roads were still there, but trails with berms and jumps - that was truly mind-expanding.
By the time we took the decision to move to RotoVegas and start Nzo the network had been extended to include what is now Tahi, and Creek.
We were several years into the business by the time RockDrop and Rosebank opened. I was amazed by a day I spent riding every purpose built trail in the forest in a complex loop, and totting up 32kms on my primitive cycle computer (which lasted about three rides before the wire got torn off). I felt like the luckiest man alive, making a living in a sport I loved, with a partner I love, in a place with several hours of singletrack right next door!
Time flies when you are 1/ having fun or 2/ flat out or 3/ both.
What got me thinking about all this was a ride I took the other night: a loop I used to ride way back when. Trees have been mowed down and trails have been reformed, trees have grown back and the rebuilt trails have matured. It is like that old bike that’s had two warranty frames and three new drivetrains - the same but different.
It is still a loop of singletrack that removed me from normal life for a couple of hours. It still stays within 2kms from the car as the crow flies, except nowadays it’s magpies. It still contains nearly every reason I need to make me hoist a leg over a mountain bike.
With so much trail spreading to the far corners of the forest - and the rest of the country - and probably the world - we might not revisit the places that first fired us up very often.
This year is the most exciting for Nzo since - not sure, but it’s pretty exciting. Like riding a trail that hits the sweet spot, we can’t wait for what comes next.