It's 20 years since graphic artist Gary Sullivan and his life partner and clothing designer, Glen Anderson, opened the Nzo MTB clothing store in Rotorua.

Mountain biking in the city was still in its infancy and it took vision and courage to make that kind of move. Two decades later the story of NzoLand continues.

"It's entwined with our story of mountain biking, and living in Rotorua. One thing caused the other, but we're not sure which one started it all," says Gary, aka Gaz.

"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 were monthly exercises in survival. I looked forward to them while I sat in Auckland traffic and schemed about some way of making a life around this new sport."

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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, well, that was truly mind-expanding," Gaz continues.

"When we decided to launch an apparel business aiming at mountain bikers, a move here made a lot of sense. When mountain biking became the popular activity we knew it would, we believed Rotorua would be at the heart of the sport in New Zealand."

By the time Nzo opened its doors the network had extended to include what is now Tahi and Creek.

"We were several years into the business before Rock Drop 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 32km on my primitive cycle computer [which lasted about three rides before the wire got torn off]. Hard to believe, the entire ride was on the Waipa side of Nursery Rd.

"Trees have been mowed down and trails have been reformed, trees have grown back and the rebuilt trails have matured. It's like that old bike that's had two warranty frames and three new drivetrains - the same, but different."

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Nowadays, the visitors to the trails, on an average weekend, number in the thousands.

"The trail system's expanded to the far reaches of the forest - and also to the far corners of the earth. Several trail building companies based here export the 'Rotorua style' to the world. Because of events, like the 2006 World Championships, the Singlespeed World Champs, and the incredible success of Crankworx, every year, Rotorua is one of the best-known riding spots on the planet.

"Numerous cities all over Australasia are throwing a lot of effort and funds at trying to emulate what a cast of hundreds, over several decades, has achieved here. That's great, and some will become great places to visit.

"After 20 years of living and riding and working in Rotorua, Glen and I wouldn't live anywhere else."

Gaz: inspiration and friend for 20 years. Past president of the Rotorua Mountain Bike club, president of the local Singlespeed Society and much more.
Check out the website: www.nzoactive.com