© Dan Griffiths
Blog: The Road to Rotorua with Kaos Seagrave
My name is Kaos Seagrave. I'm a UK-born, 23-year-old freeride mountain biker riding for the Canyon CLLCTV.
As a freerider, I focus on finding the biggest, gnarliest lines and riding them in the most impressive way possible. The bigger the wow factor, the better I'm doing my job. But it hasn't always been this way.
During the early years of my career, my focus was on downhill racing. Following in the footsteps of my sister, Tahnée, as soon as I got a taste for downhill, I couldn't wait to get on the World Cup circuit. I spent a few years travelling with the family race team - FMD Racing - watching from the sidelines, and as soon as I was old enough, I finally achieved my dream in Lourdes, France.
Learning to manage the pressures between the tape and the unpredictable nature of racing on some of the world's most challenging downhill courses has played a significant role in developing the rider I am today. But if you ask anybody who knows me, it's never been racing that I'm known best for. As much as I love going fast, the feeling of going big, with as much style as possible, has always had my heart.
As of now, my journey with freeride begins...
My time on the World Cup scene gave me some of the best years of my life. I got to travel all over the world and meet incredible people, some of whom I still call my best friends today. But, after six years of racing focus, putting what I considered my true calling second, I decided it was finally time to make a change.
From the time I'd first swung my leg over a bike, travelling with my family was all I'd known, so the idea of leaving the race team and going solo in an entirely different direction was a daunting prospect. Still, something was telling me I was making the right decision, and towards the end of 2022, I began to finalise plans for the next chapter.
And so, as of now, my journey with freeride begins...
I'll be blogging my epic road trip across New Zealand to Crankworx Rotorua – live on Red Bull TV from March 19-26 – and beyond. Make sure you keep this page bookmarked for updates!
Chapter 1: Queenstown
Skydiving, heli-biking and iconic freeride spots...
As of 2023, I'm now a full-time freerider, and it's already shaping up to be a sick year.
Before the fun could start, I spent some time destroying myself on a road bike in Lanzarote, as I worked on getting fit and ready for a big year ahead. Then it was over to Utah, USA, for a project with Canyon, where I built my own line on some of the most iconic freeride terrains.
Straight off the back of Utah I continued west to New Zealand for the most exciting trip yet. Having competed at Crankworx in '18, '19, and '20, I'm no stranger to this part of the world. However, with previous trips being limited to Rotorua, this time around, I've decided to explore more of this insane country with longtime friend and photographer Dan Griffiths, aka Moonhead.
Queenstown has always been on my bucket list
Our first stop is Queenstown, which is easily the MTB mecca of the southern hemisphere. With its incredible scenery, huge mountain bike culture, and endless riding potential, Queenstown has always been on my bucket list. Growing up, I would watch my MTB heroes living the dream out here and knew I had to experience it for myself.
Over the years, the growth of mountain bike culture in Queenstown has been insane. With over 130km of trails and iconic destinations like Skyline Bike Park, Coronet Peak, and Gorge Road dirt jumps, the town offers no shortage of riding opportunities. Couple this with touring companies like HeliBike NZ offering helicopter shuttles to some of the most remote backcountry trails and bike shops like Bikeaholic making mountain biking so accessible, and it's no surprise that Queenstown has developed into the place it is today.
After a long, 18-hour trip over the Pacific, I was excited to arrive and see the familiar face of British rider Jim Monro, an amazing downhiller, and part of the dig crew at Red Bull Hardline. Jim picked me up from the airport and drove me to 'Gobblers Lodge'; my home for the next two weeks. The lodge is set right at the base of Coronet Peak, where you will find some of the best riding in Queenstown. From the living room, we're treated to an insane view of The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu - a sight that's yet to grow old.
I stayed with a mix of Kiwi lads, who all crush it on a bike and share my vision of mountain biking - pushing the boundaries of the sport and having as much fun as possible doing so. They've been an essential source of local knowledge since I arrived here, keeping me in the know and pointing me to all the best riding. I felt at home immediately, and I'm already planning how to spend next winter out here!
The first few days were spent acclimatising and working through the inevitable jetlag, but I couldn't sit around doing nothing. I built my dirt jump bike and headed to the iconic Gorge Road dirt jumps for an evening session.
Seeing the mass of perfectly crafted lips blew my mind, and the endless lines were shaped to perfection. Sessions at Gorge Road would become a daily occurrence, but that only scraped the surface of things left to tick off the list - even those I wasn't so stoked about.
I spent the entire time trying not to think about what I was about to do
Early into our trip, Moon, knowing I am PETRIFIED of heights, came up with the brilliant idea of going skydiving to remedy our jet lag. After days of convincing, he finally dragged me down to NZONE Skydive, where I was to be kitted up, flown to 15,000ft, and thrown out of a plane. Although terrified, I reluctantly agreed, and before I knew it, I was peering out of the window, looking down on Queenstown, which appeared like a model village.
The 20-minute flight to altitude was nerve-racking, and I spent the entire time trying not to think about what I was about to do. I don't think jumping out of a plane will ever feel normal but, fortunately, there wasn't too much time to contemplate it all and, before I knew it, tandem-master Jason was loading me into the open door...
A quick countdown and we were in freefall. We fell for over a minute, and I forgot how scared I was for a moment, but I couldn't have been happier to feel the parachute's drag, knowing it had deployed. As scary as it was, skydiving is one of the most incredible things I've ever done, and although I won't be volunteering to jump out of a plane again anytime soon, it sure felt good to tick that one off the list!
The week following saw some of the best riding of my life, from party laps at Skyline and Coronet Peak to endless airtime at Gorge Road. We have some incredible riding back home, but nothing compares to spending time in a place like Queenstown, where you can make massive progress on the bike, all while having the time of your life.
As I gear up for Crankworx later this month, Queenstown has proven to be the perfect base
As I gear up for Crankworx later this month, Queenstown has proven to be the perfect base to spend some solid time on my bike and relax before the madness begins. It seems like everybody from the mountain bike world has had the same idea, too, meaning not only have I had one of the best times of my life on a bike, but I've got to do it with some of my best mates too - what more could you ask for!
After the most insane time in Queenstown, we had to wrap it up in style. Seeing the look on my face as I went skydiving, Moon had one more trick to keep me on my toes as he announced we were going heli-biking.
Pulling up to the hangar, I was equally nervous and excited. The thought of going up in a helicopter sent shivers down my spine, but riding one of the most inaccessible trails in Queenstown was such a massive hook, I couldn't turn it down. My sister Tahnée and Kade, equally as scared, would be joining us for this trip, so at least I wouldn't be alone.
I spent most of my time praying the helicopter wouldn't fall out of the sky
My memories of the ride up to Bowen Peak are foggy, as I spent most of my time praying the helicopter wouldn't fall out of the sky! Still, it was a surreal experience that was over far too quickly. What would have been a three-hour pedal on a bike was over in a mere five minutes, and before we knew it, we were sat at the trailhead, greeted by some of the best views we'd seen since our arrival.
Fraser, our guide, took us down the long, winding route back to Queenstown, which linked backcountry and bike park trails with a tonne of tech. As it turned out, it was some of the best stuff we rode during our time here, and we couldn't have asked for a better way to end our visit - so a big thanks to HeliBike NZ for such an unforgettable experience!
Before we could leave my newfound heaven, though, there was one more thing to do in order to continue our adventure. It perhaps wouldn't be the wisest investment we'd ever made, but it would undoubtedly be one of the most interesting...
Find out what happens next in Chapter 2 of Kaos's Road to Rotorua.
Chapter 2: The Road to Rotorua(ish)
Waving goodbye to Queenstown wasn't easy, but it was time to embark on the second chapter of our Kiwi adventure.
With the open road awaiting, we began the search for a campervan to buy to take us up North. Starting with a handful of potential options, we began to narrow things down, using a calculated method of "whichever looks the coolest" before landing the jackpot.
We have a couple of days left in Queenstown to get to know our new four-wheeled home
Van identified, we met the owner for a viewing, where we checked around it and looked under the bonnet, doing our best to appear as if we knew what we were looking for. A quick test drive around town later and, as it hasn't blown up, it's a deal.
We have a couple of days left in Queenstown to get to know our new four-wheeled home, which proves more than enough for problems to arise.
"Surely a 2.8-litre turbo should have more power than this?" we asked ourselves as it struggled up the hills. "Is it supposed to make that much black smoke?" we wondered as it trawled along, sounding anything but healthy.
Moon came inside to announce that the engine bay was on fire
In the mornings, it would take forever to start, and if we didn't give it constant throttle on the drives, it would often turn itself off entirely. We later discovered that the fuel gauge was out of line, and where we thought we had over a quarter tank of fuel, we had, in fact, been running on empty.
As it turns out, diesel vans run better with diesel in their system - who would have thought?
We were beginning to wonder if we'd made a mistake but remained naively optimistic that we were overthinking things... until one fine evening when our suspicions were confirmed.
Alone at the lodge, I heard the familiar straining of the van's engine as it dragged itself up the mountainside. Suddenly, Moon burst inside to announce that the engine bay was on fire. Somewhere on the long climb home the heat shield had caught alight, and the van was now in the car park, smouldering away.
Truthfully, I don't know much about the details of our bodged recovery mission, but a quick call to a local mechanic suggested a leaking EGR valve caused the issue. Apparently, the solution was to seal it off entirely, and that's what we did, hoping that all our mechanical problems would be sealed away with it.
Finally, it was time to hit the road. The route ahead would be winding, taking us from Queenstown, at the foot of the south island, to the north-west coast, then to Christchurch on the easterly coast. From there, we'd fly to the north island and Rotorua.
But – first things first – as we piled our stuff into the van, we quickly realised we needed to reassess our packing strategy. On the way out of town, we made a final stop at the charity shop and stocked up on essentials - much of which we would realise we had forgotten once dinnertime came around.
Catch all the action from Crankworx Rotorua live on Red Bull TV. For the best possible viewing experience, download the app to your TV or device. Available for iOS and Android.
We were already running two days behind schedule, and with Crankworx fast approaching – but still roughly 900 miles and 20 hours' drive away – we needed to get a move on. Our plan was to drive the five hours to Fox Glacier on the first night. And all of this in a car which had very recently been on fire. It was tense.
We passed Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea the first night and appreciated a large chunk of the Haast Pass under daylight. The views were incredible, and we resisted the temptation to stop at every turn. We knew we needed to make up lost time and pushed on before eventually arriving in Haast - a remote little town which didn't even receive cellphone reception until 2018.
It was dark when we called in at the Hard Antler in Haast for food - to our luck, the kitchen had closed, but the kind staff cooked us chicken nuggets and fries - athlete fuel if I've ever seen it. By the time we finished, it was already 10pm and, with Fox Glacier still two hours away, we knew we had a long night ahead.
As tempting as it was to call it a night by the roadside, the idea of being woken early by a park warden didn't sound too appealing, so we pushed on, eventually arriving in Fox Glacier way after midnight, eager for the long unpacking process which would reveal our bed for the night.
Who said road-tripping was glamorous?
The following morning, we returned quickly to the road. With riding (hopefully) awaiting us in the village of Arthur's Pass, the plan was to head there, but only after a quick stop in Greymouth where we'd heard word of a sweet skate bowl.
Arriving at Greymouth, we were happy to find our intel was correct. We stopped for a play on the jump bike and met some local kids, who all had a persistent curiosity for whether or not I was sponsored and if I could backflip – these are the questions I'm always asked when I ride at a spot.
Next, it was onwards to Arthur's Pass, but not before a quick oil top-up, which we hoped would turn off the warning light. Spoiler alert - it didn't. We'd been lucky with the weather throughout our time in New Zealand, but as we left Greymouth and entered the pass, we were greeted by heavy rain and wind, which, as we would come to discover, was here to stick around.
As we pulled into our second campsite, we were greeted with a beautiful view over a lake, with the mountains towering behind. There was grace in the bad weather as we made dinner on the stove and relaxed by the water before catching an early night ahead of a big day in the mountains.
We packed our things early the following morning and headed further into the pass. From the road, we soon spotted some scree on the hillside, which appeared only a short climb away - perfect. Out of the van, we were quickly met by a river, separating us from the potential riding that awaited, rendering it more inaccessible than we'd hoped.
We hadn't shot any riding since we'd left Queenstown, but we were determined to make something happen. We persevered, shoes and socks in hand, and were treated to twenty minutes of uninterrupted riding before the weather came, at which point it was back to the van again for shelter.
We spent some time on the roadside, hoping the weather would clear. However, with Crankworx still fast approaching, we eventually accepted our fate and decided to carry on to Christchurch, where we knew good riding and, hopefully, better weather awaited.
Despite the adversity, we were pleasantly surprised the van had made it this far, and for the first time, we were optimistic about it seeing out the trip.
We were pleasantly surprised the van had made it this far
As it turned out, our time in Christchurch was bittersweet.
On the first night, we met with our good friend Mark Ducat and set up camp next to the bike park in anticipation of riding the following day. If this road trip had taught us anything, though, it was that things don't always go as planned. As we made our way to bed, we couldn't quite believe our eyes as the van's sliding door fell off its rails, throwing yet another curveball at us on our journey to Rotorua.
The following morning, despite our best efforts and a lot of bodging, we were forced to accept defeat. With no chance of any help until after the weekend, we abandoned the van in the hands of a local mechanic in hopes of returning a week later to a fixed door and a manageable repair bill.
As a result, we spent most of our final day in Christchurch managing our repair options, arranging last-minute travel plans, and squeezing much of our belongings into Mark's already over-stuffed van. Just when we thought our riding chances were over, though, slopestyle and general legend Phil McLean came to save the day, inviting us for an evening session on his private dirt jumps.
Hidden away in the woods, you'd never expect to find such a perfectly crafted set of jumps, and they rode even better than they looked. After all the turmoil, some airtime on the jump bike helped to make it all feel worth it. We couldn't have asked for a better ending to our time on the road.
The following morning, we packed the bikes and headed down to Christchurch airport, our final hope of getting to Rotorua on time. A few hours later, we were there.
Find out how Kaos does at Crankworx live on Red Bull TV.
Chapter 3: Crankworx Rotorua
On landing in Rotorua, our nostrils were greeted with the distinct smell of sulphur. The scent hangs in the air, and is the naturally-occuring result of geothermal activity in this volcanic territory.
I spent the first couple of days chilling out and regenerating before the action kicked off
As well as its odour, 'Sulphur City' is not just a hotspot for volcanoes –it's also famed for its Maori culture, and as a mountain biking paradise. It is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, forests, and mountains, making it the perfect host for one of the most popular stops on the Crankworx World Tour.
On Wednesday, my mechanic Owen built up my Torque for Whip Off - my favourite event of the week. There's no better feeling than throwing it sideways with your best mates, but having taken the win at Whip Off twice already in Innsbruck, there are always high expectations, and I certainly feel the weight of them.
The fans love seeing the whips pushing 180 degrees, and going that big is always scary. For the most part, things are controlled, but eventually, I tend to say, "screw it", and see how far I can push it. Often, this pays off, but sometimes things can go the other way, and whip crashes always suck.
In past years, I've only managed second place in Rotorua, and it's always dope to make the podium, but there's nothing quite like the top step. I gave it my all this time and had the sickest session with the boys, but it wasn't quite enough for P1.
This year it was another second place finish for me, but I was stoked to hear the name of my CLLCTV teammate Edgar Briole get called up for first. The kid shares the same vision I do for riding, so it was a dream to throw some whips and share the podium with him and Kade.
Its was a dream to throw some whips and share the podium with Edgar and Kade
Next was Speed & Style, which is always a fun event in its own right, and battling it out right alongside the boys rarely disappoints. Balancing speed with tricks is a fine art, and things can get sketchy, especially when you're upside down, inches away from the other rider.
I couldn't find the comfort to throw the big tricks, so I kept things safe and stuck to the basics. I had an unreal time battling through the rounds, and I managed to make my way into the live feed and bag a 7th, so I definitely can't complain.
Speed & Style – Rotorua
Check out all the action from Speed & Style at Rotorua, the opening round of the Crankworx World Tour 2023.
If you haven't already, you can watch me on the replay above as I bottle it on the flat turns - brilliant, haha. I was gutted to crash out, but it's made me hungry to go home and get my tricks dialled, so I can come back stronger next time and give Kade, who ended up in second, a run for his money!
Between events, I found myself a new occupation - the 'Dad Cam'. My teammate Tomas Lemoine takes his with him everywhere, and I figured it was time to have a shot behind the lens. Whenever I wasn't riding, I'd pick up the camera and follow my mates from the CLLCTV fam, which wasn't just fun but also productive, as I managed to bag myself a media bib for the Slopestyle event - so watch out, media types, there's a new squid in town.
Hanging out with the CLLCTV crew was a recurring theme, and we have an incredible team nowadays. Tomas Lemoine, Tim Bringer and Edgar Briole - aka, the French.
Catching up with my French teammates is always nice
Growing up in Morzine, French is essentially my first language, so catching up with those boys is always nice. We spent the entire week together and had a hell of a time on the bikes, reminding myself how lucky I am to do what I do!
Sunday was the last day of events, and it was a special one, as I got to watch my sister Tahnee battle it out in the Dual Slalom. It's been a tough year after her concussion, so watching her enjoying riding again was amazing, and I can't wait to see her back at the World Cups.
Dual Slalom – Rotorua
Check out all the action from the Dual Slalom at Rotorua, the opening round of the Crankworx World Tour 2023.
The day was wrapped up at the Slopestyle on Dad Cam duties, and those boys sure know how to put on a show. The level of riding at the moment is next level, so big up to them for throwing it down and bringing the heat.
Wrapping up Crankworx, we headed to Burger Fuel for a big feed before heading to the after-party to celebrate an insane week on the bikes with my mates. The following morning, it was back to the airport and onwards to Christchurch, where we would reunite with our beloved van and its hopefully working side door to finish our New Zealand adventure.
Chapter 4 of Kaos's Road to Rotorua will be added to this page in April. Check back then!