Rotorua's Nick Chater remembers when mountain biking was socially unacceptable, now he's made a career out of it.

Chater, 48, has been riding for more than 30 years. His passion for the sport led to him becoming an adventure tourism tutor at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

When he first started mountain biking, there weren't tracks around so he and friends would ride the walking tracks.

"It was socially unacceptable, the Department of Conservation didn't like us, walkers didn't like us, we were ruining the tracks.


"That's changed now ... The sport has morphed.

"We were riding on ridges and walking tracks and what we could find. Now everything has progressed."

He first noticed the city was getting a reputation for its trails in the mid-2000s when he was overseas and heard someone immediately associate Rotorua with mountain biking.

Chater previously ran a bike hire business and competed, before taking on his current job.

"I don't race anymore but riding reconnects me. I get busy in the office but I can leave and be in the forest in two minutes," Chater said.

"It makes me physically fit but also mentally well."

Chater said the rise in e-bikes had been positive and he encouraged everyone to give mountain biking a go.

"Anything that gets people off the couch and into the bush, I'm all about it.


"A lot of people are scared. The reality is we have everything. You can be a novice or a downhill extremist."

Chater said mountain biking should be celebrated "because of where it came from and where it is now".

"That's a legacy that's incredible."

Chater is not the only person to make a career from the sport. Jeff Carter can also put his day job down to the success of mountain biking in Rotorua.

The Tikitere resident owns and operates South Star Trails, building tracks around the country.

It started when he helped the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club develop trails, adding 40km to the trail network in three years.

"That really catapulted Rotorua to becoming a national destination," Carter said.

In 2009, he co-founded New Zealand Trail Solutions. Carter estimates the company built 800km of trails in eight international locations, within four years.

He said the key to a good trail was having difficulties and features consistently matching a grade.

"It's an amazing feeling to imagine a trail as you're walking through the bush ... Then to come back and ride the trail is rewarding."