Before the madness of Crankworx Rotorua had truly begun, the Kona Gravity Team headed into the local Whakarewarewa Forest trail network to get a taste of some of the best trails this mountain biking Mecca has on offer. Jonny Mitchell, Kona’s brand manager for the New Zealand distributor, had organized two private Southstar Shuttle ex-army Land Rovers for a private three-hour tour of the forest. The Landrovers allow access to almost all of the massive forests trail network, and they are an insanely efficient way to cram a whole bunch of riding into a small window. Most trails have an elevation drop of around 1300ft so cutting out the climbs back up was a welcome relief.

Jonny Mitchell, Kona’s New Zealand brand manager, gets zesty on board his 30th Birthday Honzo ST.

Joining the crew was Southstar Shuttles owner (and shredder) Jeff Carter who would be guiding. Also jumping on board the seven-seater trucks were local rider Elliot Smith and a couple of NZ Kona Dealers who were lucky enough to get Jonny’s call.

The whole team doesn’t often get a chance to ride together, so dropping in blind in party chain elicited a whole bunch of hollering, on only their second run, the group found themselves at a popular sender, where Rhys, Caleb, Connor, and Elliot went to work. Feet came off, bikes and bodies were tweaked, and some casual heckling may have ensued.

Connor Fearon with a some text book relaxed steeze.
Rhys Verner lays out his brand new whip.
Canadian Caleb Holonko only came to NZ with an Operator and a Shonky, luckily Team Manager Mathieu Dupelle had his personal bike on hand to loan the young ripper.

But back to back runs is what the riders were here for and after a quick photo stop everyone was back into the swing of things and loaded up for the next run, and the next run and the one after that.

Connor finding flow in the dense regenerative forrest.
Miranda Miller, between a rock and a hard… Rock.
Shelly Flood needs no encouragement, her bike is just constantly popping of everything, dirt, roots, rocks you name it.
Beats climbing this hill six times!
Local 16-year-old Kona rider Elliot Smith had made the six-hour trip from the nation’s capital for the chance to ride with the team.
Miranda Miller eyes up that little landing for some extra pump and speed
Miranda Miller has a posse. (Connor Fearon missed the class photo as he was off taking part in the DH track walk).