Nothing kicks off a kiwi summer of biking quite like a trip to Rotorua for the annual pilgrimage to Crankworx, and this November may be the best one yet. After a challenging 2021 Crankworx, with Covid-19 making it a participant-only event, organisers are getting primed to make 2022 something extra special. Kicking off on November 5th, and running all the way through till November 13th, Crankworx Rotorua holds a special place on the Crankworx calendar, with this year being the final stop on the world tour. The Crankworx World Tour is a multi-stop series of mountain bike festivals, bringing together the best mountain bike athletes to compete in elite-level competitions in a variety of disciplines. Being the final stop for 2022 means all the titles are up for grabs and athletes will be giving it their all to secure their crowns for King and Queen of Crankworx.

In terms of riding, it’s one of the few events that is a big enough drawcard to bring the top tier of international riders to New Zealand, and with Covid-19 hopefully well behind us, we should see a full roster of internationals for one of the last big international events of the year. Plus, there is plenty of cash being splashed around to make it worth their while. The two top ranked riders (male and female) will each receive $20,000 CAD. Our own local talent is on fire right now too. Jenna Hastings will be feeling confident on the back of her incredible Junior World Champs DH victory. At the recent Mt St Anne UCI World Cup downhill in Canada, Sam Blenkinsop had a very credible 8th and came second in the AirDH in Whistler. He is also sitting 8th on the King of Crankworx leader board. Rotorua local, Tuhoto Ariki Pene, finished 11th at Mt St Anne and will be a force to be reckoned with on his home soil. Robin Goomes has had a breakout year participating in the Red Bull Formation freeride event and won both the Speed & Style event and the Official European Whip-Off Championships at Crankworx Innsbruck. She also bagged a very credible third place in the Speed & Style at Whistler. It’s safe to say, our own riders will be right up there, and this is probably the best event in New Zealand to see their skills up close. And to get them to sign your t-shirt, of course.

Returning once again to the Skyline event venue in Ngongataha, event organisers are also keen to signal that spectators will be in for a few surprises this year too, with track changes, an all-new pump track, and an even bigger whip-off on the cards. While they are keeping major changes close to their chest, organisers are excited about the way things are shaping up

Crankworx Rotorua took flight in March of 2015, becoming the first festival outside of North America and Europe. Aside from the events that are common to the various World Tour locations across the world, organisers and international riders alike have begun to see the unique event that is Crankworx Rotorua, even referring to the event as ‘the soul of Crankworx’, due to the unique way it endeavours to combine two seemingly unrelated concepts: world-class mountain biking, and the stories and culture of tangata whenua. It’s a unique challenge to be sure, and one they are always looking for new and creative ways to explore and deliver with a sense of genuineness and sensitivity. Starting from the powhiri riders and organisers receive, to the variety of cultural learning experiences they can have in the region, Māori culture is woven throughout the whole experience of coming to Rotorua, and organisers continue to try and weave Māori art and culture into the event. Some examples of this have been the way previous events have seen Māori wood carvings (whakairo rākau) on the tracks, and the king and queen of Crankworx presented with some beautiful carved ‘Tewhatewha’, two-handed weapons that are traditionally given to a Rangatira (chief ) as a symbol of mana or respect.

It’s also a massive week where the Rotorua community comes together to put the event on with many locals volunteering their time to make the event run smoothly. All these things mean that Crankworx Rotorua really seeks to create a mountain biking event that is genuinely unique to the place it is held. The event has even been given its own unique name — ‘Tere Panuku’. Māori is a metaphorical language so it’s hard to pin down a direct translation, but ‘Pa’ is a fortification. It also means to strike. ‘Nuku’ is a reference to shifting or moving. ‘Tere’ is a reference to speed. So in essence it means to rapidly push boundaries in a way that is underpinned by strategy.” A perfect description of what happens at Crankworx.

For most people, a trip to Crankworx is about more than just being a spectator, it’s a chance to get in some riding time as well. With a lot of the events taking place in the afternoon and evening, you can ride during the morning and spectate in the afternoon. With more than 200 kilometres of world-renowned mountain bike trails weaving through Whakarewarewa Forest, you can ride all week and never run out of new tracks to try. If you’re bringing your family with you and want a great family friendly ride be sure to check out the new Whakarewarewa Forest Loop, which has recently earned New Zealand Cycle Trail Great Ride status. The Loop is a 33km circular mountain biking trail located in Whakarewarewa Forest. Being mostly a Grade 2 track, with a couple of Grade 3 sections mixed in, the Loop is designed to be accessible for people of almost all ages, abilities and fitness levels. The trail takes most confident riders roughly 2.5 to 5 hours, depending on their pace. You’ll also want to factor in some time to stop and take in the sights at purpose-built points along the way that reveal stunning views. Back at the Crankworx village there is a great skills area for kids to learn to pump and roll on their own mini pump-track.

In the event village you’ll find lots of exhibitors with the latest and greatest in mountain bike tech on display, and lots of festival deals going too. A lot of exhibitors bring a fleet of demo bikes, and with Skyline trails right there it is a great chance to do some laps on a range of bikes back-to-back to really get a feel for how they all perform differently.

With crowds missing out last year, it means this year will be even bigger, so it’s worth getting your accommodation booked now. All in all it’s shaping up to be a massive event, and sure to get you and your family fully amped to get out and on to bikes over summer.




Words: Lance Pilbrow
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie