Emil Johansson’s 5 reasons you need to ride in New Zealand
Watch the mountain bike slopestyle wizard tear it up in his latest edit and read about why a visit to Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island should be on your bucket list.
Some things are worth the wait. Like getting to ride in and explore one of the most stunning and mountain bike-friendly countries in the world. It took MTB slopestyle high-flyer Emil Johansson three trips to the beautiful country of New Zealand before he could properly explore some of its finest riding locations and trails. Now completely hooked on the place, Johansson's eager to taste more after spending time in and around Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island.
Hit play and watch Johansson work his magic in Queenstown in the video above.
A trip to New Zealand is worth the trouble
Johansson travelled to New Zealand to take part in the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle competition in both 2017 and 2019, however differing circumstances on those trips put paid to him riding anything other than the Rotorua course.
In 2017 it was the then-17-year-old Johansson’s first time at Crankworx Rotorua, his second ever Crankworx Slopestyle competition, so his focus was only on the contest. In 2018, due to his much-publicised health problems, Johansson didn’t make it to New Zealand, while in 2019 he had a huge crash during practice in Rotorua, broke a couple of ribs and got concussion. He was due to go to Queenstown to film Ride with the Swedes with his compatriot Martin Söderström, but couldn’t actually ride, so he had to watch Söderström enjoy all the epic lines.
“It was so hard to just watch. I had such bike abstinence. I just had to come back and actually ride,” Johansson explains.
Finally in 2020, after winning the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle contest with what can only be described as a historic run, Johansson could head to New Zealand's South Island to taste some of Queenstown’s raddest runs.
You can relive that historic Crankworx run here:
Emil Johansson's winning slopestyle run – Rotorua
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Queenstown is the stuff of mountain bike dreams
There is, of course, an insane amount of riding spots all over the country, but for a first-time explorer, the Queenstown area was the perfect start, a place where the riding opportunities feel endless.
Queenstown has it all
Johansson explains: “Queenstown has it all. There's the downhill bike park, Skyline, with a gondola that takes you to the top and there's the BMX and Dirt jump paradise Gorge Road that's being looked after by local BMXers. I also went to visit Frew Farm, a dream destination that I’ve seen so many times in MTB movies. Then, of course, there's all the sick trail riding in the town’s surrounding hills. Basically, there's everything for everyone”.
You're never limited to just one bike
For the trip to New Zealand, Johansson brought a slopestyle and downhill bike from his bike sponsor, Trek, but wished he’d taken more with him to properly explore all the possibilities.
There are no limits to mountain biking, especially in Queenstown and New Zealand generally
“The fantastic thing about mountain biking is that you don’t have to 'lock yourself' into one specific genre,” explains Johansson. “If, for example, it rains one day and you can’t ride dirt jumps, there's no need to cry, just grab the downhill bike and shred trails all day instead. Or if it’s too windy to ride big jumps, just head into the woods and ride a technical steep single track. There are no limits to mountain biking, especially in Queenstown and New Zealand generally.”
It's so peaceful
There are obviously perks to riding in New Zealand that don’t just include all the sick trails – like the bike culture, the insane landscapes and the friendliness of the locals. One thing that especially stands out to Johansson is that you're not likely to encounter animals that are a danger to humans. To Swedes, whose scariest animal is a wasp, that feels very reassuring.
“There's something about New Zealand that reminds me of home. The big landscapes, the far in-between towns, the quietness. Of course Sweden isn’t as exotic, but, I don’t know what it is, it just reminds me somewhat of home,” says Johansson.
You can't leave without making your mark
Johansson's plan after Crankworx Rotorua was to film in New Zealand for a project that had been at an advanced stage in the planning, but then the world suddenly went into a shutdown and the project was cancelled, with restrictions on travel in place.
“I decided to make the most of the situation. I was excited about being able to ride outside for the first time in ages (due to the Swedish winter) so I was super-eager to create a riding edit of some kind.“
As Queenstown is full of riders and has a really cool bike community, Johansson quickly got in touch with two local filmers and got access to a privately owned riding trail. The trio set out to film for a couple of days and make the best of the strange situation. The result? A riding edit where Johansson gets to show off his talents and show that he's much more than a slopestyle rider.
“It’s a step I’ve wanted to take for a while. I love riding all kinds of MTB, especially my downhill bike, so it’s nice to able to have more than just the slopestyle bike in focus.”
So, if you haven’t yet, it’s time to hit play and watch Emil tear it up in his latest edit. Oh and visit New Zealand if you ever get the chance!