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Wellington brothers accepted into US cycling hall of fame

Wellington’s cycling Kennett brothers – Paul, Simon and Jonathan – have become the first New Zealanders to be accepted into the Marin Mountain Biking Hall of Fame in the United States.

The Kennett brothers on the Bridge to Nowhere

Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is regarded the birthplace of mountain biking.

Their nomination says the Kennetts, who have competed at the top of the sport, winning national championships and participating in events around the world, have completely transformed off-road riding in New Zealand over the last 30 years.

“The brothers’ enduring contribution of ground-breaking events, best-selling publications and sustainable trail development has earned them a reputation as true pioneers of the sport, and played a key role in making mountain biking one of the most popular outdoors pursuits in New Zealand,” the nomination says.

Their latest accomplishment is one of the world’s biggest bike-packing events – the 500-rider, 3000km-long, Tour Aotearoa.

“Wellington is one of the best places in the country for mountain biking and it’s in large part thanks to the massive efforts of the Kennetts,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

“Thousands of Wellingtonians can enjoy our parks on their bikes and the Kennetts’ conservation work has pioneered the model for how parks are built.”

Wellington City Councillor Andy Foster who has worked on projects with the Kennetts for many years, says he is delighted with the brothers’ recognition,a nd that Wellington is fortunate to have them.

“Mountain biking is a booming sport for all ages in New Zealand and globally. Paul, Simon and Jonathan were the pioneers in New Zealand,” says Cr Foster.

“They’ve contributed massively to events, founding the Karapoti Classic in 1986, organising stage races and mountain bike festivals, and directing the 1997 UCI XC World Cup race in Wellington.”

The Kennetts have been involved in creating route alignments for many tracks around the city, including Makara Peak, Skyline, Wright Hill (Salvation), Crofton Downs (Silversky), Polhill (Highbury Fling and Transient) and Mt Victoria.

“They became the development managers when we set up the award-winning Makara Peak in 1998, and right from the get-go this was an environmental project too – with sustained pest control and at least one tree being planted for every metre of track built.” says Cr Foster.

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park has become a model for volunteer trail development combined with forest restoration.

From 1988 to 1991, Paul Kennett self-published ten issues of New Zealand Mountain Bike Newsletter, and in 1991 the brothers teamed up with Patrick Morgan to write the best-seller Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.

They have since published many cycling titles, including RIDE – the Story of Cycling in New Zealand, Spinning the Globe (about Louise Sutherland, the first person to ride the Trans-Amazonian ‘highway’), The Muddy Olympians (about six New Zealand mountain bikers who made it to the Olympics) and the guidebook Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails, which is their best-selling book to date

Other achievements include Jonathan’s contribution to the success of the Nga Haerenga trails, and Simon’s design and layout of skills courses for the national Kids Bike Jam series from 2002 to 2004. This led to the building of New Zealand’s first permanent mountain bike skills track for children by the Kennett Brothers in a central Wellington park in 2009, and Jonathan took those design ideas around the country in support of the innovative Bikes in Schools programme, which builds tracks at schools.