Leisa Tocknell moved to Rotorua from Australia with her husband, Matt in 2014, "simply because of the mountain biking."

It was a big risk to take with a lot of unexpected hurdles.

"But it's so worth it…as long as the heater stays on a setting of 30 degrees," says Leisa with a chuckle.

She is the St John territory manager for Lakes covering Rotorua to Turangi and Omori through Murupara, Reporoa and Taupō.


"I have 22 years of service in paramedicine, 18 years with the Queensland Ambulance Service and 4 with St John in New Zealand," she continues.

"As the manager of such a large territory the hours are long and unpredictable hours with fast-paced decisions that affects the health of others. Yeah, it is quite high pressured."

Leisa and Matt also manufacture and distribute Ride Mechanic NZ chain lubes.

"My life is incredibly full and if I allow it, I can become overwhelmed, so I ride my bike for relaxation," she says.

"When do, I feel amazingly young without a care in the world. Mountain biking is the fountain of youth for me.

"Riding through the Whakarewarewa Forest I get a sense of magic and spirituality. Despite being a commercial forest, there's a powerful calmness to it. It's like the forest has the ability to strip away the pressures of work. Mountain biking gives me an exercise-induced euphoria."

Leisa also finds the local mountain biking community unique.

"It has no prejudice and is very inclusive," she says. "It doesn't matter what your background is. Complete strangers offer their time to ride with you. Those that don't share this ethos are missing out on something truly wonderful."

Leisa is part of Revolve Rotorua who over the past few years have been giving confidence to beginner to intermediate women riders through skills courses and weekly rides.

"To see the growth of a complete beginner rider who didn't know how to change gears on their first ride to a rider who now leaves me for dust on grade 4 trails fills me with immense pride. My whole body feels like it's about to burst with pride."

Leisa rides a Santa Cruz HighBall C.

"Yep, I'm a cross country rider bouncing through the forest on a hardtail. I'm one of 'those people" who want more uphill single track."

As for favourite trails, "it changes monthly. Ask me next month and it will be something completely different. That's why I love this forest." Find out more about Ride Mechanic NZ and their range of lubes: www.ridemechanic.com.au And support St John – they do magnificent work in our community: www.stjohn.org.nz

• The summer mountain bike event season is well under way.

The first XCO Republic is on Sunday February 24. This is a world class race for cross country riders and a zero profit event. Any proceeds will be donated to assist U19 riders selected to represent New Zealand at the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships 2019. Enter now: www.xcorepublic.co.nz

On March 16-17 Rotorua will host the Altherm Window Systems Mountain Bike National Championships with the local Mountain Bike Club organising the cross-country and Descend Rotorua, the downhill.

There's more information and registration here: mountain-bike-nationals.cyclingnewzealand.nz