A Mountain Bike Blast at the Crankworx Festival

Welcome to Rotorua, New Zealand’s smelliest city! It seems like the smell of sulfur hasn’t left our nostrils since we walked around the crater of a volcano yesterday, and that’s because we are now in a city built on a geothermal hotbed. But all smells aside, Rotorua has heaps going for the city. We can’t wait for a week of Maori cultural experiences, geothermal parks and adrenaline activities! But there’s one more thing that Rotorua is internationally renowned for and that’s hosting the Crankworx Festival every year! And, oh look, we have just happened to arrive for the very last day of the mountain biking festival!

It’s all kicking off at the Skyline Gondola, where the gondola serves heaps of downhill mountain bike trails through the redwood forests. The bottom of the gondola is awash with tents and huge dirt mounds turned into big air ramps and kickers. Let’s get stuck in!

After the ease of parking (can’t there always be festival parking attendants in all car parks?), we grab our tickets, get our stamps, and walk into Crankworx.

Mountain Bike Expo

Getting to any event means negotiating with an influx of expo tents. The biggest brands in mountain biking and outdoors adventures display their products in the midst of vibrant colours and branding. Of course, mountain bikes are hung, stacked and lined up in all ways possible, as well as accessories galore. There’s everything from performance-enhancing chains to casual apparel to make you look the part for when you’re not mountain biking.

We're finally in Rotorua! Or Rotovegas?! We're finally in Rotorua! Or Rotovegas?!
Also sorts of bits and pieces for sale at the expo Also sorts of bits and pieces for sale at the expo
Checking out bikes we could never afford Checking out bikes we could never afford
Kiwi kids can ride bikes a million times better than we can Kiwi kids can ride bikes a million times better than we can

Demos, tech and real fruit ice cream

As we go up some steps to a more elevated section of the festival, we walk into a section for demo bikes (we wouldn’t even know how to test them if we tried). There are some pros signing autographs at one stand and tech experts tinkering at festival-goers’ bikes. We also scout the real fruit ice cream stand for later…

The pump track challenge

Now we start seeing some events, but we can’t help but notice how much people are talking about yesterday’s events! Apparently, the place was “crankin'” with the Slopestyle event where riders catch the biggest air and do the meanest tricks. Probably a lot more crazy than the “Kidsworx Pump Track Challenge” that we just sat down to. Saying that, the skills of these tiny people are pretty freakin’ impressive! They do jumps and hug the sloped corners of the pump track no problem. In fact, with some speed! Kiwi kids are something else. We remember our childhoods consist of falling off scooters, bikes, skateboards, our own feet… We still have the scars!

Rising high above Crankworx

Going up the gondola

When the challenge comes to an end and the hosts of the speakers replace their hyperactive voices with a pumping version of Awolnation’s “Sail”, we still have quite a bit of time to kill before today’s big event. Well, we had planned to go up the gondola later in our stay in Rotorua, but while we’re here…

Luge, anyone?

Rising above the festival is a pretty spectacular sight! We wish we could just go up and down a few times purely for the views of the tents and the tracks. As we ascend higher, we then get an awesome perspective of the city and Lake Rotorua! We take in more of these view from the top of the gondola at the cafe, like civilised human beings. Then, the allure of the Luge takes over. We remember how much simple yet hilarious fun we had at the Queenstown Luge. One ride cannot hurt…

There are plenty of bikes here There are plenty of bikes here
A cheeky Luge session A cheeky Luge session
The ending kicker! The ending kicker!

Downhill blasts for dummies

We might not be able to mountain bike, but man we can Luge! Helmets on, we get through the queue to take on our one and only Luge ride (knowing that we will be back later in the week). Once the member of staff is satisfied that we can control the downhill go-karts, he gives us the smiley-face stamp of approval and we’re off!

We twist, turn and squeeze through the redwood and native forest, trying and failing to catch some air at the sudden drops. (That’s when you wish you had more turns, so you can nail it next time). It’s a close race right until the end where Robin takes the lead leaving Laura behind to even be over-taken by kids! Damn you, children!

“Shall we get back to the festival now?!” we shout to each other from opposite chairlifts because Robin jumped on a chairlift without Laura while she wasn’t looking… Just to add insult to injury on Laura’s miserable loss.

The big event!

Back at the festival, we get to the “Crankworx Rotorua Air DH”, a downhill mountain biking race where competitors tackle one of the tracks from the top of the gondola in as speedy a manner as possible! With each rider blasting down the hill we find a new kicker or obstacle to sit alongside to get some different action, starting from the outside the woods at the very last kicker to sharp turns and vertical boardwalks inside the woods.

The events wrap up at 3.30pm, leaving us with wowed by these mountain bike tracks being used to their full potential. We head back to our accommodation, Planet Backpackers, for an evening of reminiscing on the days’ events!

Tomorrow, we have an action-filled day ahead of us at Agroventures followed by a session at the Polynesian Spa. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Watching the epic downhill MTB racing in the forest
Watching the epic downhill MTB racing in the forest Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read yesterday’s post? How about these articles?

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See you tomorrow!

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