Mark West is a local mountain biker, and this is his MTB story.
"My first attempt at riding a bike, 45 years ago, ended in a rosebush, I'm told," Mark says.
"I'm not blessed with great balance. But I stuck at it, and joined the kids riding to school on Raleigh 20s, choppers and 10-speeds churned out by New Zealand factories. Those were the days.
"Or were they? Physical education classes weren't particularly progressive – traditional sports and regimented exercises. I was unfit and unco-ordinated, chosen last for teams, trailing in every cross-country…and set for a lifetime of inactivity."
However, a love of nature inherited from his dad hovered in the background.
"By my second year at Massey University I'd grown tired of seeing blobby looking back at me in shop windows," he continues.
"It took a new pair of running shoes and six months for the transformation. I moved to Canterbury University and discovered tramping. It was an instant conversion, from swearing never to wear a pack to happily lugging one for hours through the South Island's mountains.
"Postgrad biochemistry took me further south to Dunedin in the late 80s. Mountain bikes were making an appearance and I had to have one. I rode the roads and loved the big, satisfying climbs out of the city. The richest moments were in that early morning aloneness, riding along the ridges, watching the daylight unfold over the moody landscape - joy, unplanned, as always."
Work took him overseas.
"That meant cycling through three English winters, a scorching Chilean summer in Santiago, five years of Mexico City's mayhem and smog, and a year and a half of Ecuador's mad dogs and green mountains," Mark continues.
"Eventually elderly parents, the irresistible pull of home and reality brought me back. And a job offer in Rotorua. Sleepy provincial New Zealand after megacities? I took the plunge."
In 2008 he started work at Scion, "with not much more than bike, car and bank account. Riding a hardtail on tarseal, exploring the lakes and the farmland out south, blissfully ignorant of the trail goldmine right next to me until nasty drivers compelled me to add forestry roads to the mix".
"I noticed the trail signs, but single track still wasn't for me, until a chance ride on Dipper started the downward spiral of addiction. Grade 2s followed, then 3s. Farewell road, hello Whakarewarewa forest.
"Wallabies, rabbits and loose gravel aside, it was safer. And full of interesting characters.
"Like Erik '3100 km in 19 days' Westra, and Mike AKA the Moa, who can talk for as long as Erik can ride. These two were running the first Rotorua Trails Trust working bee I turned up to.
"We headed out to Pondy New, the trail I'd recently adopted, and hacked pungas and cleared drains. Two or three bees later they realised they were stuck with me. It's added another dimension to riding – a very satisfying one.
"And so has the move, finally, to a full suspension bike. Buckets of fun, happy delusions imagining you're a Crankworx pro as you fly (slightly) through the air, and no more hammering the old body to bits on rutted downhill runs. See you out there, in Rotorua's green playground."
The next working bee is Sunday June 2 – see Rotorua Trails Trust page on Facebook for details.