A deep dive into New Zealand mountain biking history

A deep dive into New Zealand mountain biking history


The history of New Zealand mountain biking could arguably start sometime pre-WW2, when races like Round the Gorges were almost completely ridden on gravel. Mountain biking as we know it today got started in the 80s. When Nzo opened in 1998, it was already a popular sport among a small number of early adopters, and some exceptionally talented people were figuring out what was possible. One such gang was Geoff Cox and a loose team of riders he called the Free Flight Mission Crew.

Coxy would gather a few of his crew, go out to an event, or create one himself. The happenings were recorded as well as could be with the technology of the day, and he would then whittle the footage down into a tight little package with some graphics and music, and pass the resulting clips on to a contact at Sky TV. The FreeFlight clips became popular fillers between segments of sports broadcasts.

Geoff recently uploaded a selection of clips from the late 90s to a YouTube channel called MTB NZ Archive. As a snapshot of the literally bleeding edge of mountain biking at the time, these clips are absolute gold.

Check out the Mount Downhill, an event that defined New Zealand downhill racing at the time. Have a look at what the riders are wearing, to give yourself some idea why we started Nzo in the first place. See the carnage at water tank corner, and be glad you were not one of the spectators that got taken out by an errant biker.

Have a look at Nathans Queenstown: our son moved to Queenstown at the same time as we moved to Rotorua to start the Nzo project. He embarked on his own project, in some vacant land over his back fence at his first QT rental. Since then he has shaped a lot of the trails down that way, and his piece de resistance, Gorge Road Jump Park got it's DNA from that start in the backyard patch.

Dig in, have a look. These things are a time capsule of a time in New Zealand mountain biking that we won't get to have again.

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