You know Rotorua is a real deal mountain bike town when a 'niche' business such as The Suspension Lab arrives… and is booked solid.

The man behind the Lab, Jono Church recently celebrated a very successful first year.

"Suspension is my obsession," he says.

"It plays such a big part in how a bike handles that it pays to give it attention. I always read every book and website I could find on the topic, so I was learning and testing things on my bike, and at the same time listening to feedback from all different kinds of riders who were often struggling to feel good on their own bike."


We can all spend months or years feeling uncomfortable and lacking confidence in our expensive bikes, and he knew how much suspension played a part in that.

"A regular bike shop doesn't have the time or resources to thoroughly analyse all the little details, but I knew if I had a workshop that just focussed on suspension I could really start to quantify what made bikes feel a certain way and problem solve how to fix it - 'Making Bikes Better' became my motto."

Customer feedback is important.

"I've been hugely encouraged by the amount I get," he continues.

"Riders are more comfortable on the bike and much more confident than they were before. It's an area that doesn't usually get this level of attention so I think some riders can be sceptical and while I was confident starting the business, I still wasn't sure how many people would be on board.

"So I'm stoked when they come back saying what a night and day difference they feel from even relatively minor work. I try not to tell people what to run or what they should feel too much, rather, I listen to what they'd like the bike to do and try my best to make that happen."

The 33-year-old from Christchurch got his first mountain bike in 1996, riding with his Dad at Bottle Lake Forest.

"From my general curiosity of how things work, I'd always pull my toys apart to see what was inside them so naturally had to do the same with my bike," he says.


"I was constantly wearing things out but couldn't afford to take it back to the shop all the time.

"Working on my own bike was always my first introduction which was good because I wasn't ruining anyone else's."

His first job was at Penny Sports Cycles in his home town building up their 2003 range.

"I finished high school and went straight into the shop, thrown in the deep end as the only fulltime mechanic, so I pretty quickly gained experience in servicing forks, building wheels, bleeding brakes and working in a workshop."

In 2009, Wide Open Distributors in Rotorua were looking for someone to run their workshop. He applied and the rest is history.

Jono tuned my Zerode Taniwha and rebuilt the rear wheel over the winter - a great bike got greater.

The plushness, balance and interaction between fork and shock are remarkable.

They are "talking" to each other in a way I've never experienced before.

Highly recommended and a brilliant Christmas present for your favourite mountain biker:

For the full interview with Jono, his favourite trails and the set-up of his own Zerode Taniwha Enduro: