Twenty-five years ago Fredrick Christensen had a dream to create Rotorua's own "Disneyland of trails".

He knew he was on to a winning idea.

A background in motocross brought the then-Auckland-based Christensen to Rotorua, where he took a mountain bike for a spin.

He was blown away by the ground in Whakarewarewa Forest - a perfect blend of soil, clay and pumice - and upon his return, told his wife they were moving.

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The years to come saw Christensen create a "user-defined" mountain bike track with help from people completing community work.

Parts of Whakarewarewa Forest are known as the Fredwoods after Christensen, but he said he hadn't done it for the accolades.

"I enjoy finding the flow of the tracks. It wasn't done with the intention of leaving a mark."

Christensen stepped out of the Rotorua mountain bike scene in 2000, but loved seeing how it had unfolded.

"If you go out on a Sunday morning and hear the kids whooping in the forest, it's joy," he said.

"This is a small town that has proven that if you build it, they will come.

"Mountain biking has been making its own history and I got to be a part of that."

Red (Malcolm) McHale has worked supervising those building mountain bike tracks for two decades. Photo / Stephen Parker
Red (Malcolm) McHale has worked supervising those building mountain bike tracks for two decades. Photo / Stephen Parker

Red (Malcolm) McHale was also a player in the early days of Rotorua's trail building.

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In the 1990s McHale was working as a community service supervisor.

When the Department of Corrections first started sending McHale to supervise work on the trails, he hadn't even heard of mountain biking.

Two decades later McHale still supervises workers and never gets sick of working in the forest.

In the early days there would be a sense of excitement whenever the workers spotted a mountain bike.

"That place is alive with bikes now," he said.

"I could have retired when I was 65. The reason I don't is it's just an awesome place to work."

The UCI World Champs in 2006 saw riders compete where OGO Rotorua is now located. Photo / Supplied
The UCI World Champs in 2006 saw riders compete where OGO Rotorua is now located. Photo / Supplied

The Trails Trust, set up in 2014, ensured the Mountain Bike Club was able to focus on biking.

Chairman Grant Utteridge said the trust did repairs and maintenance and was helped hugely by volunteers.

In particular, 70 have adopted a track of their own to do regular maintenance. Regular working bees are also held.

"I've got a special attachment to the forest. It's a fantastic asset. I don't think most Rotorua people realise how lucky we are.

"Mountain biking is an incredible sport that gets you out into the open air. You see lots of things, test your skills and everyone can do it."

Barbara Jenks, the Mountain Bike Club secretary, helped set up the First Response Unit in the Redwoods in 2016.

"There was a need for people with knowledge of the forest to be able to get to people quickly," Jenks said.

Barbara Jenks is the current secretary of Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. Photo / Ben Fraser
Barbara Jenks is the current secretary of Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. Photo / Ben Fraser

The professional First Response Unit operates at peak times while the club's unit operates at other times.

Jenks estimates the unit goes to at least two people per day, on a quiet day.

She said she loved the mountain biking culture.

"It's something generations can do together. That to me is one of the key things."

A history:
1993 – The first mountain bike trails were built by local mountain bike enthusiast Fredrick Christensen and community service workers.
1994 – Rotorua Mountain Bike Club started.
1998 – Management of The Redwoods transferred from Forestry Corporation to the Rotorua District Council.
2006 – UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships held in August.
2008 – Treaty settlement gives recreational access to Whakarewarewa Forest for duration of Crown Industry's time there.
2010 – Working group set up to focus on recreational management.
2012 – Inaugural Rotorua Bike Festival held.
2013 – Council creates Mountain Biking Strategy.
2014 – Trails Trust established to maintain existing trails and create new ones.
2014 – New facilities at Waipa including toilet and shower open.
2015 - International Mountain Bike Association awards Rotorua the prestigious gold-level ride centre status, one of only six places in the world.
2015 – The Crankworx World Tour expands to include Rotorua.
2016 – GPS mapped markers installed in the forest to help emergency services locate and reach patients more efficiently.
2016 – First response unit pilot starts, funded by ACC. An all-terrain vehicle with responders will attend accidents and provide initial care.
2018 - More than 150km of trails in the forest, and growing. A tourism hub is expected to be opened at Waipa.