THE ROTORUA MOUNTAIN BIKE CLUB WAS FORMALLY ESTABLISHED IN 1993 AND HAS HAD SEVEN PRESIDENTS IN THIS TIME.
The current president Clair Scott is the first woman Mountain Bike Club president in Rotorua.
2021 onwards: Clair Scott
2015 - 2020: Mat Hunt
2009 - 2015: Gregg Brown
2007 - 2009: Grant Kilby
2005 - 2007: Jeff Carter
2004 - 2005: Mike Lee
1995 - 2003: Dave Donaldson
1993 - 1995: Denley Tarplett
Founder: Fred Christensen
CURRENT AND FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT: CLAIR SCOTT
Date started: September 2020
Why I took on the role:
I had been on the committee for a couple of years and I could see there were remarkable things happening, however the local community didn’t know about it. I saw an opportunity to tell the stories of the First Response Unit, the Rider Development and Junior Race Programmes, the Low Key events, 2W events and the Share the Ride programme. I was determined to raise awareness and perception of the Club, so I cornered Mat Hunt at the pub one day and said “Would you mind if I stole your crown?” The rest is history!
Thoughts so far:
I’m pretty stoked to see my main objective of increasing the Club’s visibility having a direct impact on membership. We’ve had an increase from 600 members (2020) to 1500 members (Jan-Jul, 2021 so far). Telling the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club story has also been rewarding to see happen through media with a Live Cross on the TVNZ Breakfast Show, a range of Rotorua Daily Post articles, a Spoke Magazine feature and increase in social media following.
Milestones/achievements so far:
It takes a village, and we are so lucky to have a very passionate committee and membership base - the below milestones and achievements are a collective effort:
- 2021 funding for the First Response Unit of $140,000 achieved
- Five major sponsors for the First Response Unit onboard: The Phillip Verry Charitable Foundation, McDonald's Rotorua, Trevelyan's Pack and Cool Ltd, First National Real Estate
- Grassroots Trusts became a major funder for the FRU
- The merging of Rotorua Mountain Bike Club & Descend Downhill Club
- 2W Gravity Enduro Series sold out, making it the largest Enduro in the world
- Launch of the Whaka Watt Event (the first eBike Specific Enduro)
- Launch of Low Key XC
- Thursday Night Ladies Social Rides introduced
- RMTBC Merchandise created and for sale
- Collaboration with Cyclezone & MBR to grow Ladies Summer Shuttles
How you can help:
We’d really appreciate the help of more volunteers - if you’re keen to run some social rides or help out at events, please get in touch. Also, if there is something you think the Club should be doing, we would love to hear from you to discuss how we could collaboratively bring your vision to life!
Born and bred in Rotorua, I grew up living on the lakes but didn’t really take notice of the forest and mountain biking until I returned from my OE in 2012.
I work in Forestry and from earIy 2013 I was based out at Red Stag Timber where I was literally on the doorstep of the #WhakaTrails. At lunchtimes I would go for a run and was blown away by the beauty of the Puarenga Stream and surrounding areas. One of my favourite circuits was actually Puarenga Trail into Yellow Brick Road - I got told off by many cyclists for running these trails but #NoRegrets because I think it was because of the beauty of these trails that I decided to give Mountain Biking a crack.
2015 - 2020
I grew up in Lynmore opposite the present location of the wattles dual slalom track and my evenings after school and weekends were spent building sketchy jumps and ramps in the wattles area and riding in the forest on the trails developed by the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. I started racing Enduro and Downhill in 2012 and was spending more and more time out on the trails. I joined the club shortly after competing in the EWS at the first year of Crankworx in Rotorua mainly because I loved the trails and trail building and wanted to get more involved in this side of the sport.
Hand up for the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club (RMTBC) presidency
At my first RMTBC committee meeting I became the club secretary. Two meetings later the Rotorua Trails Trust was formed to manage the construction and maintenance of the trail network and several members of the committee resigned to focus on the development of the Trust. The Club found itself in need of a president and I put my hand up.
A change in Club focus
At that point in time the club had become so focused on trail development (and rightly so as the network is the core of what makes Rotorua the premier destination that it is) that there was no time left over for the other things that a club is expected to do (races, events, social activities etc.). The establishment of the Trust freed up the club to focus on the things that had fallen off the radar over the years.
Establishing the First Response Unit
The first thing the newly formed RMTBC committee focussed on was the establishment of the First Response Unit. A vehicle and first aid equipment was purchased and the service was staffed by the team at Mountain Bike Rotorua for the first two years. The establishment of the service was driven by Erin Eggleston and Barbara Jenks. It’s need was highlighted by a particularly nasty accident and drawn out extraction process that had occurred in 2015. Ultimately the First Response Unit has become one of the clubs core raison d’etre. The unit requires over $140,000 per year to function and sourcing funding from ACC and other supporting organisations has been an ongoing mission for the club.
Races and Club events resurrected
My background as a racer meant it was a priority for me to resurrect the Triple Crown which had been dormant for the 2014 season. The positive reception from club members gave us the confidence to forge ahead with Low Key Super D events over the summer of 2015/2016. This was the brainchild of club member and all round good character Nick Crocker. The final Low Key race for the season had some big names attending (Steve Peat, Rat Boy, Loosedog Lewis and Mark Scott from Santa Cruz Bicycles). The Club supported social rides too which also returned to the scene.
Thanks to some persuasive emails and an offer too good to refuse, a sponsorship deal was arranged with DB breweries and the outcome was the 2017 Double Brown Triple Crown Enduro.
Hosting national level mountain bike racing
The 2016/2017 season also saw the return of the club hosting National level mountain bike racing. Lifetime member, Paul McDowell led the charge for the club and we successfully hosted a round of the National XC series in January 2018.
Ownership of Giant 2W Gravity Enduro Event
2017 was a busy year and also saw the club take on ownership of the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro, the event was acquired on the condition that a memorial scholarship be established in the name of Mark Dunlop, who was a good friend and previous flatmate of mine. The club worked with Ariki Tibble and the crew behind Crankworx to put the event together. It was a resounding success at the time and set the foundation for the continued success of the event.
Rider Development programme launched
2018 saw the club begin its Rider Development Programme, with the aim being to improve the abilities of local riders. A skills session for junior riders was held, which formed the beginning of the Programme. This eventually evolved into skills coaching sessions that were subsidised by the club and taught by suitably trained Club members and a Club Race Team.
The period from 2015-2020 was an extremely challenging, exciting and rewarding time to be involved in the club. We increased diversity in the committee with the number of women and younger people on the committee growing. It was awesome to be able to hand over the reigns to the first Woman President, Clair Scott.
GREGG BROWN (Rotorua Trails Trust trustee)
2009 - 2015
A historically significant time for the forest
The 2009 Central North Island (CNI) Forests Iwi Collective Settlement is unique in Aotearoa as the largest Treaty of Waitangi settlement in New Zealand history. 176,000 hectares of Central North Island forest land was transferred from Crown to Iwi ownership including Whakarewarewa and Tokorangi Forest where a majority of Rotorua’s mountain biking is based.
What the transfer of ownership meant for RMTBC
The beginning of my time as president was about regaining momentum for the Club after a period when trail building was not permitted in the forest. The halt had occurred as a result of the CNI settlement. The RMTBC relationship with Timberlands was also at a low ebb at the time after protests over the felling of 100 year old Douglas Fir trees that formed the backdrop of Lake Tikitapu. Without trail building the Club struggled for purpose. Rebuilding the relationship with Timberlands and establishing a working relationship with Rotorua Lakes Council and CNI iwi landowners was a very clear priority.
New developments: pump track & jump park land lease
While this was going on, it was decided to put in a pump track behind Pak N Save in 2010. The Club also leased some land from SCION in 2011 with a view to creating a jump park which eventually became Dodzy’s Skills Park.
Relationships and new trail building authorisation
In 2009 clear felling of the trees in the Be Rude Not To block (which destroyed the trail) became a real test of how the mountain bike community would react to such operations. While there were plenty of grumbles, fortunately none of them hit the media. This gave the forest managers some confidence in allowing new trails to be considered. For safety reasons, the first trail we were authorised to build was a new line in Creek Trail. This extension offered an easier option for riders in keeping with the grade of the trail.
This reopened the floodgates.
During this period, funding and rebuilding trails was a massive part of the workload for RMTBC. Rebuilds included:
- Be Rude Not To
- Gunna Gotta,
- parts of A Trail
- The Wash
- Split Enz
- Challenge network
- Exit Trail
- Bunny Jugs.
Trail Development Plan created
A trail development plan was created in consultation with the riding community and offered to the landowners for approval. The key focus of the plan was to create a network where connections and loops made sense. We were also keenly aware that we wanted to improve the network for all skill levels of the riding public, at the same time avoiding a generic trail build.
The following trails were funded and built by RMTBC between 2009 and 2015:
- Corners Extension
- Verry Safe Trail
- Eagle vs Shark
- Kung Fu Walrus
- Split Enz extension
- Te Ruru
- Road Side Challenge
- Challenge Climb
- Down the Guts
- Te Huinga
- Mokopuna Trail
- Arepa Loop
- Te Tihi o Tawa
- Yellow Brick Extension
- Te Rua
- Rocky Horror
- Dammit Janet
- Riff Raff
- In 2014, Lisa Horlor drove a Give a Little Campaign, raising $15,040 for the Club to go towards the building of Eagle vs Shark
Rotorua Lakes Council Funding trail infrastructure
The Club did a lot of advocacy work in getting Rotorua Lakes Council to understand the importance of mountain biking to Rotorua. In 2011 the club received $20,000 from Council and in 2012 made a successful submission to Rotorua District Council’s Long Term Plan, receiving $20,000 per year for three years. This was matched by Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust. This funding was tagged for trail infrastructure and development. The Club strongly supported the developments at Waipa and the president had to get a bit grumpy to get the toilet block put in sooner than was originally planned. Kudos to the Councillors of the time – they agreed to all of our requests.
Mountain Bikers Ball launched
2013 saw the first Mountain Bikers Ball held at the Holiday Inn, with all proceeds going to the James Dodds Memorial Fund. This fund has in excess of $50,000, proceeds of which are made available for the upkeep of Dodzy’s Skills Park. The Ball was a complete sell out and a huge success, continuing annually afterwards.
Upgrade of all trail network signage
The Club completed a review and upgrade of all of the trail network signage in 2013. New signs were put at each trail exit. These signs included a map location and emergency call instructions. Improving emergency response was a key project for Mike Gray (supported by RLC) with seemingly endless meetings with St Johns. Who knew there were a number of GPS codes – not us!
The hard work recognised
The RMTBC earned runner-up in the 2014 Rotorua Community Awards for Sports and Leisure, acknowledging all the dedicated work and relationship building the Club had been doing.
Rotorua Mountain Bike Club sets up Rotorua Trails Trust
In 2015 the committee recognised that Club was very heavily dominated by the needs of trail building and maintenance, which meant there wasn’t time left to operate as a typical Club. As a result, the committee set up a new entity to manage the trails and the Rotorua Trails Trust was formed. This period was a heavy burden on the committee to not only set up the new entity and decide who would drive the Trails Trust but also work out an exit strategy for the majority of the committee. We had a real drive to ensure the Club did not tip over. All of this on top of managing a huge trail network. Without Rob Smail taking most of the load, it just would not have worked.
Rotorua was uniquely placed to benefit from mountain biking and recreational use of the forest. The combination of soil type, location and topography, next to a tourist town is quite unique in the southern hemisphere. It was brilliant to harness the passion of the community and aim it at something so positive. I am blessed to have made so many good friendships along the way. Tuhourangi and Ngati Whakaue, as the landowners, deserve our eternal gratitude.
Gregg owns and operates The Pig & Whistle and Capers in downtown Rotorua, He remained a trustee of Rotorua Trails Trust until 2019 at which time he retired to create Tipu Waiariki, a new trust focussed on planting native trees and restoring local waterways.
2007 - 2009
To quote part of Dickens… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
The best of times and worst of times
The age of change post the 2006 UCI World Champs in Rotorua was upon us. Mountain biking was growing exponentially as was the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club… the best of times.
However, the mountain bike community was nervous about continued access to the forest and we needed solid evidence and support from all parties to continue to enjoy both recreation and events in the Whaka forest. Rumours were rife, there were many meetings to discuss strategy of approach to the forest managers and owners and iwi… there was potential for it to be the worst of times.
The age of wisdom: A way for a working forest and mountain biking to co-exist
The economic impact assessment I commissioned APR to produce in my role as economic development manager for the Council in 2007 was overwhelming in support of mountain biking as an economic gold mine for the city. However, it still faced challenges convincing the forest managers to work with the community and the RMTBC. We wanted to ensure the working forest could happily co-exist with recreational and event managers, wanting to conduct races in the forest. We felt a way forward was in the making… it was the age of wisdom.
Could have been the age of foolishness: becoming RMTBC president
The shoulder tap from Gregg Brown in late 2006, was as usual, blunt and to the point…”get on the saddle Kilbs”, I was in a quandary of sorts, push from behind as economic development GM or pull from the front as club president. I knew the ride as club president wasn’t going to be a Grade 2 glide and braced for the death-grip downhill that the club and the wider community were about to go through… could have been the age of foolishness.
It was truly the epoch of incredulity, the season of light, the season of darkness
The epoch of belief was upon us. The Forest Managers and Mill were on the whole really supportive of the club and our endeavours in track development and event running. Thankfully we were completely transparent from the start and were afforded unofficial guardian status in the forest. We had our fair share of track mavericks who bush-crashed tracks and ‘we were bummed at vandalism of signs, theft of gear. Our working bees were needed to maintain and develop the growing network… it was truly the epoch of incredulity.
The club were given presentations and had notice of impending and major forest block harvesting in the core track network as well as some major work to fell some Douglas Fir on Lake Tikitapu. We were gaining momentum with discussions with Forest managers and felt we had a way forward from here…The season of light.
We had to at the time prepare for disruption to trails and even the complete destruction of some of the core network, something we were not that happy about… The season of Darkness.
On the light side: helping the community
On the light side, we agreed as a committee to engage the community and we believed as a result, the reward of funding would follow. We launched the campaign of Recycle Your Cycle in 2009. We collected old bikes and through the generosity of free labour and materials covered by More FM, Kiwi Bikes, Bike Fix, Rotorua Cycle Centre, Bike Vegas, Cycle Zone, Bike Culture and the Outdoorsman HQ, we managed to repurpose around 100 bikes that were then given back to the community through nominations.
Tony Holden, vice president of the RMTBC and I had the pleasure of dropping off the bikes pre-Xmas to worthy families, many of which couldn’t afford bikes. I remember coming back with Tony and we were both a bit choked up over one of the family’s whose young one thought we were stealing his broken bike a couple of weeks earlier, to then be given a near new one for Christmas. The campaign won the RMTBC, The Spirit of Community Hospitality Award in NZ the following year.
Recognising the volunteers
That being said and done, I loved my time as committee member, then President of the club. I’d like to recognise the scores of volunteers over the years on working bees with gumboots, spades and calloused hands from raking the trails. Track volunteers would man the warning whistles as riders bombed to the bottom. The volunteers made mountain biking in Rotorua what it is today… world class and most definitely world famous.
Grant is now a Resort GM based in Hahei Beach Coromandel. He still rides his beloved GT IDrive 5 around the Resort. He has a mate who has spent a few months building a 2 km downhill track on his block in Hahei, something Grant’s keen on getting back in the saddle to ride. He’s had a hiatus from the trails after block clearing and building their home in Hahei.
2005 - 2007
When I arrived in Rotorua the trail map was just the core network of The Dipper, Challenge and other trails. There were a few random ‘outback’ trails like Rollercoaster and Sidewinder, that you had to be shown to find. There was one massive berm on Dipper trail that was so much fun to rail around, it provided the inspiration for the creation of thousands more.
Joining the Rotorua Mountain bike Club
I worked at Dobbie Engineers with RMTBC president Mike Lee - he encouraged me to join the RMTBC committee and to start developing the Whakarewarewa trail network. I wrote a trail development plan and had it signed off by forest managers Timberlands, then started applying for funds.
Raising money to build trails
Over the next few years we raised several hundred thousand dollars and funded the construction of:
- Lion Trail
- Rollercoaster extension
- Billy T
- Frontal Lobotomy
- Tuhoto Ariki
- Spring Roll
- Sweet and Sour
- Split Enz
- Pondy New
- Dragons Trail
- Fools Gold
- 24 Carat
- Little Red Riding Huck
Doubling the number of trails in the forest - a renowned riding destination
I remember one cold wet winter’s night out marking trails with head lamps with Mike Lee on Rollercoaster trail, trying to keep ahead of James Dodd’s trail crew while also holding down our day jobs! This effort rapidly doubled the number of trails in the forest and propelled Rotorua forward as an awesome place to live and ride, as well as a national and international destination.
Running events and record club membership
During the same period, we assigned event roles to all the committee members and gave people the ability to get on with it and make positive impacts.
- Mati Thomasevich was running National Champs and XC events
- We started the Triple Crown Enduro Event with Stefan Bennett
- A series of Downhill events – the Spring Fling, the mid-winter Mudbuster and a round of the North Island DH series, were run by Dave Hamilton and Nigel Robinson
To enter the events you had to be a club member, and so club membership swelled to over 600 members, the most the club had ever had.
This was an exciting time to be part of the Rotorua riding community and I’m stoked to still be a part of the growing culture. I’m one of many small business owners that have found a way to make a living from providing services to mountain biking.
Jeff operated Whakarewarewa Forest's first bus uplift service Southstar Shuttles from 2006 to 2019 – providing uplifts to Mountain Bikers and all RMTBC gravity events. Southstar Trails – designing and building trails around NZ including contributing 50% of construction costs to Eagle Vs Shark, Jumps Track & Corners Track. Trailmapps Rotorua – the phone app that show your location amongst the vast Rotorua trail network. Southstar continues to support Club activities, the Rotorua Bike Festival hosting the Chainless on Corners (2017/18) and Eagle Unchained (2019) events, as well as contributing to new trails with the Rotorua Trails Trust (Arepa, Mini DH, Te Huinga Old Exit).
2004 - 2005
Background and becoming president
We started the Club as we know it in 1992 when Shane Collet and myself initiated what could be described as a takeover. Shane was the manager of Rotorua Cycles at the time and left shortly after to manage a bike shop in Wellington. We kept things going until the first official AGM, where Denley Tarpett was voted in as our first elected president. During the initial life of the Club I purposely stayed away from the president's role, instead undertaking a stint at most of the elected positions but eventually taking on the role in 2004.
The early days - Club activities
The early days of the Club were all about 'Club activities' and getting riders out of the forest to experience the great wilderness rides located nearby. These included:
- 42 crossing annual trip - the most notable of the activities - we hired buses and took up to 70 riders on the mission.
- Whirinaki Valley ride - we negotiated with DOC for an annual Club ride of the Whirinaki Track, from Plateau Road down to the River Rd end point at Minginui. It became so popular, even with DOC, that in the end they took over organising it as a prelude to developing MTB Trails in the Whirinaki Forest themselves, including the super expensive one over Moerangi for the 25 year anniversary of the Whirinaki State Forest where British botanist and broadcaster David Bellamy attended.
Running high quality events
The Club earned a reputation for running high quality XC & DH races, to the point that the NZ Mountain Bike Association looked to the Club to host a round of the nationals and finals. At the time there was a real focus on DH and XC racing and we would attract the biggest fields of any of the races in NZ.
A new committee
As a Club we had moved away from 'Club activities' and did little else, other than host races. This lead to a pivotal point in the Club’s history as it burnt out the core committee members. At the 2005 AGM, essentially the whole committee declined re-election. This forced a complete new committee to stand, which was what the Club needed. Getting new members on board was a breath of fresh air, moving the Club forward to the one we know today.
It’s been a hell of a ride. In the early pre-Club days you knew all the people who were riding mountain bikes and there were no trails, just roads and connecting skid tracks, along with poaching the occasional walking track. Now, try and think of a block that doesn’t at least have one trail within it. I feel privileged to have worked with so many great people and look forward to the future and the legacy we all have left.
Been riding mountain bikes since 1986 when Carl Young invited me for my first ride through the Okataina walkway, cementing a lifetime of riding and racing mountain bikes.
1995 - 2003
Background and becoming RMTBC president
The Club re-formed from an out of the back of a bike shop (PIN’s Cycles) operation at a somewhat rowdy meeting in the Longmile Visitor Centre in mid 1993. I was a cop and just getting into the sport and the first Club President was a Police Dog Handler named Denley Tarplett. Denley is still around and just getting back into it on an e-bike. My wife Shreeve was on the first committee and another Police Dog Handler, Mark Mitchell (now a National MP) was secretary. When Mark left mid way through the year I was co-opted by Shreeve to replace him.
An events focus - NZMBA Nationals
Being competitive, my main interest was events, and in 1995 I was the local organiser for the NZMBA Nationals Finals here.
The XC (in those days a 3 hour winning time was optimal - Jon Hume won in 2h 59m) was based at the Hill Rd gate car park and the Downhill was on the ‘Dead Dog Downhill Course’ up behind the Waiotapu Tavern where speeds of over 85kph were clocked on a farm track.
The National Series prizegiving function after the DH was memorable for the biggest food fight in NZMBA history, plus an unfortunate incident with a busload of Chinese Tourists. This resulted in a couple of riders being disqualified from competition in 1996 plus me eating humble pie with the Hotel Management.
THE FIRST PRESIDENT: DENLEY TARPLET
1993 - 1995
Background and the first trails
It all started in the late 1980's. I was a Police Dog Handler and I began riding a mountain bike because my son Andre was into it. There was the beginnings of a mountain bike club, run by Fred Christensen. Fred had great foresight and had arranged for guys on PD (periodic detention) to help with trail building. He supervised where the trails were to go and the trail base was then in place. The early trails were where Arepa is now. They also built Diamond Back which is now Dipper and many other unnamed tracks. Every Wednesday in the late afternoon there were time trials around Arepa circuit. This trail had around 64 corners in it and little pinch climbs.
Rotorua Mountain Bike Club created - becoming the first president
Early in 1993 it was decided to formalise the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and the first AGM was held, where I was elected President. I was lucky to have a good sized team on the committee which certainly reduced the workload for me. We first set out to get members signed up and this happened pretty quickly.
The first club events
- It wasn't long before we had regular Club group rides on Sunday mornings leaving from Longmile Road/Nursery Hill.
- We then started holding cross country races, catering for kids up to open class and even elite class. Everything was done manually, no computers or electronic timing.
- Lakefront Volcanic Playground fundraiser events DH & XC: We ran a downhill event on the Saturday and a cross country race on the Sunday with 450 riders entered. The fundraising organiser had arranged an amazing spot prize, a trip to Hawaii to ride the volcanic trails there. It was won by a guy from Kawerau.
- Our first ever downhill was at Tumunui on a farm. The early days of downhill racing were simply great. Everyone pushed their bikes up to the start, time keeping was with two way radios and a stopwatch. The bikes were rigid frame cross country bikes.
- Dead Dog Downhill - we managed to get onto a farm at Waiotapu which had a natural track. The farmer was very obliging; in fact he couldn't do enough for us. We held a downhill event there called the Dead Dog Downhill. The farmer buried his farm dogs up there not far from where the race start line was, hence the name.
- National XC and DH events
- The events took off and we started doing a lot more events covering a weekend. Downhill was held on the Saturday and Cross Country on the Sunday.
The club was very successful holding events, including riders from as far away as the USA. Many were sponsored riders from Diamond Back Bikes. Many of our Club members went on to compete and do very well travelling the country competing.
The first donation
The club was getting quite financial and we decided to donate $2,000 to the Rescue Helicopter Trust.
The bikes back then - hello front suspension!
Front suspension was now starting to show up with a massive 50mm of travel and then out to 100mm, most were elastomer or springs (pogo) sticks.
So here we are today and WOW, the Club has come a long way. It’s great to be able to still ride and enjoy the facilities and they're getting better.
As for me, well I'm 68 years old now and I'm out there regularly on my eBike, riding over 5,000 kms in the last year and nearly all of that here in Rotorua. I ride with the Rotorua Wrinkly Riders, competing in the 2W and the Club Winter night races and the Low Key Super D. What fun. Luckily I have only had a couple of mishaps, a dislocated finger and a broken little finger. Maybe it’s time to slow down a little.
It’s been a wonderful experience being a part of the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club.
Have fun and enjoy.