Getting to Know Tuhoto Ariki, New Zealand's Next Rising DH Star

Aug 25, 2021
by Matt Beer  
2021 UCI MTB World Cup Leogang Austria

Hailing from the north island of New Zealand, Tuhoto Ariki made big waves in the downhill scene as a junior privateer in 2019 with a bronze medal at the World Championships, held in Mont-Saint-Anne, Canada. Fast forward to 2021, in his first year racing in elite at the World Cup level, when he scored 22nd at the recent Maribor, Slovenia round. The young Maori shredder also stole the show at the second round of the 2021 iXS European Cup, smoking the 2020 World Cup Champion, Matt Walker, by almost four seconds.

Tuhoto has a strong BMX racing background, speaks two languages, and mixes his time at home with a lot of non-bike activities. His family has been dedicated to his bike racing career and he is very thankful for their support.

Keep an eye out for Tuhoto at the upcoming World Champs in Val di Sol, where he has also claimed a gold medal in the junior category in 2019 as well.


Who is Tuhoto Ariki?

Kia Ora. I'm a 20-year-old fluent Maori speaker who races downhill at a world class level.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I'm a young Maori from Te Arawa and I live in Rotorua, New Zealand.

How did you get into mountain biking?

I started off racing BMX at a young age. I did my first Nationals at the age of three and continued that throughout my younger years. I claimed a lot of national titles along the way in that sport. Then my dad (slim) started driving the shuttle busses at the Whakarewarewa Forest. My big brother, my cousin, and I would cut lap after lap on our GT Chucker hardtails. From there we slowly transferred our skills from BMX to downhill mountain biking and at a young age we were ripping hard.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day at home would be to wake up early, work all day until 4 or 5pm, then head to the gym after, or go riding. Or you'll catch me at the sea or a lake. I love adventures, so I'm always out doing fun stuff.


Do you have any sponsors?

I have amazing sponsors - the first main sponsors would be my family! The sacrifices they have made, not just for me, but for all my siblings, is unbelievable. We don't come from much at all. But they always figure something out, so mad love to them.

I'm part of The Union team, forged by Steel City Media. It's such a sick team. We all get along tight. My riding sponsors all help so much in their own way, so I'm really grateful for them. They would include: Santa Cruz Bicycles, Deity Components, Bike Morzine, Maxxis Bike, Peaty's, Trp Cycling, Shredder MTB Morzine, Crankbrothers, HKT Products, Reserve Wheels, Fox Racing New Zealand, Ride Fox MTB, Kaitiaki Adventures, Mountain Bike Rotorua, Wide Open NZ, Blue Shark, Ear Shots, VHS MTB, and Marleens LTD.

What bikes are you riding right now?

My current race bike is a Santa Cruz V10 29. I also have a Santa Cruz Megatower for a trail bike.

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene keen to show Val Di Sole was no fluke hit the podium again just 1.2 short of the win for 3rd place.
Out nowhere the winner of the Junior Men s race would be Tuhoto -Ariki Pene from New Zealand

What is your favourite place to ride?

I love riding at home in Rotorua, but Morzine would probably be my next choice. Queenstown is sick too.

What are your strengths?

My strengths are that I kept my flow from BMX and that I have transferred it to DH - smooth and fast. I can also adapt to other conditions really well.

What are your weaknesses?

My weaknesses would probably be organising some stuff behind the scenes. I'm good at organizing stuff right in front of me, but still have a lot to learn.

Have you had any big crashes?

No doubt everyone has had some huge crashes. But I remember one when I was doing a nac-nac and did a fat face plant, which has caused scarring on my face forever, but all good times haha.

Who is your favourite rider?

Greg Minnaar and Loic Bruni. No matter what, they always stop to talk. They are big time pros, but they make time for everyone. And they both have a sick racing style; calm and effortless.

Who or what inspires you?

What inspires me is seeing the lifestyle the pro racers live. I can see myself doing that, but the joy of riding overpowers everything. When I'm home, I feel like I'm still eight years old ripping with my older brother like we used to and that brings back good memories.

Do you have a favourite motto or saying?

"Kaua e mate Wheke, Me mate Ururoa ke," which means, "Don't die like an octopus, but die like a hammerhead shark." An octopus will give up easily, but a hammerhead shark will fight to the end.


What hobbies do you have outside of biking?

I love swimming, so I also enjoy surfing, diving, and fishing in the sea. I play hockey too and enjoy hunting, exploring, and having good times with the bros.

How did it feel to place 3rd in Junior Men at the 2019 World Championships?

It felt really good, but I had learned valuable lessons. You need to be as fit as possible to race downhill. I lost a few seconds at the bottom - a good lesson alright. And it made me think I may actually be able to make a path for myself in this sport.

You recently placed 22nd at the Maribor WC. Can you describe the race run and the track conditions?

I came into the race feeling chilled out and relaxed, but also excited. The heat was a killer though. The track was high speed and dusty with big holes.

I knew my head had to be strong and focused because it was a technical track from top to bottom. But I felt smooth and strong the whole way down. I made a few mistakes up top, but can't complain because I finished the run pretty strong. So, all in all, I'm super happy to come away with that result and backing up my 16th place from qualifying.

What are/were you goals for the 2021 season?

My goals for the New Zealand 2021 season were to race and change some things by trial and error. I wanted to improve my riding skills and my bike setup, so when I went overseas I could come out firing.

What does the future hold for Tuhoto Ariki?

I'm working hard to join a factory team because racing in Europe season after season can be draining, financially and mentally. My racing puts some pressure on my family at home. They support me, but I want to show them that they didn't sacrifice everything for nothing. But I continue to learn and focus, finding my path on this track to the top one day.


Riding photos courtesy of Sven Martin, unless otherwise noted.

Author Info:
mattbeer avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2001
353 articles

  • 37 0
 hadn't heard of this guy til seeing him on the live feed in Maribor. Seems like a class act, and he looked super smooth in his race run (not unlike the favorite riders he mentioned)—I hope someone picks him up and gives him a shot at the big time
  • 35 0
 Let's get the racing rumors season started early, Tuhoto on the Syndicate in 2022...?
  • 6 1
 @darlos-finest-son: It wouldn't surprise me if that happened. He's really genuine in his racing but also as a human towards others.
  • 2 0
 @darlos-finest-son: Some Young Talent right here for sure.
  • 29 1
 Yewwww Get the Dog ! Big ups my bro
  • 21 0
 Definitely a young gun to watch out for! The whole Union crew are next level!
  • 2 0
 With his skills and his good looks, sponsorship is not gonna be a problem for this kid.
  • 21 0
 Kia kaha!
  • 14 0
 He always seems so stoked and so humble, awesome personality on top of crazy talent. Following.
  • 11 0
 Aotearoa world domination - check out the women riding the Audi 9s as well! And he is on TV here selling breakfast cereal! When was the last time you saw a mountain biker (especially a DH machine) hit mainstream TV.....
  • 7 1
 My kids scoff Weet-bix Bites after seeing him on the ads! Makes a change from the All Black's...
  • 13 0
 The weetbix kid !!!! Gettem tama
  • 10 0
 Go Tuhoto!! Always pinned and always friendly. I’m a big fan! Can’t wait to see what he can continue to do racing bikes!!
  • 6 0
 Saw his race run and then his interview on Wyn TV after Maribor, definitely a new rider to root for. Dude has the stoke for sure.
  • 5 0
 Watching Maribor Wc I said to myself
"Who is this guy??" After watching his race run I said to myself
"This kid has the "it factor" you can see it in his riding.
Gonna be a star
  • 8 0
 Tu meke Tuhoto!
  • 4 0
 Got the pleasure of sharing a room for a week in Whistler during crankworx with Tuhoto... absolute shredder and the humblest guy. Keep it up mate, all the way to the top!
  • 2 0
 He's been good for while I remember him (5-6 yeas ago) from some race report at PB. He smashed that track in NZ on such an oldschool DH bike.
Last NZ nationals:
  • 5 0
 Yes brown sugar, lets goo!!!
  • 4 0
 Tahuto "shits yeah" Ariki. He always seems so stoked everytime he has an interview with WynTV.
  • 1 0
 Best ad on NZ TV right now
  • 1 0
 Very cool to see a native Maorian rider. Maori are like the Hawaiians of NZL. I've not seen any Maori riders, much less racers on mtbs. Watching him race he's smooth, not aggressive or out of control like some other racers. He's got much future potential on the World Cup.
  • 3 0
 Seems like a super cool guy, interesting to hear why Greg and Loic are his favourite riders too.
  • 4 1
 Whats also fascinating is that Tuhoto has the same traits he described about Greg and Loic. Super nice and incredibly humble, will stop and chat to anyone. Doesn't matter where you come from.
  • 3 0
 This guys name never moved from the top of the leaderboard for laps this season. Ludicrous laps!
  • 4 0
 Would make a good fit for the syndicate.... just sayin Wink
  • 2 0
 Insta Fan here! stoked for Maori powah! humble fast smooth and friendly whats not to like?!?! Future Factory ridah fo sho
  • 3 0
 Yeeeeeeeeaahhhhh boy!!!! Rip it!
  • 1 0
 I’ve been wanting to know more about this guy, always stoked with a crazy dialect. Keep killing it and good luck on getting factory sponsorship!
  • 2 1
 Nice article. Though I think an interview like this would be better in a video format.
  • 3 0
 do us proud big shaq
  • 3 0
 Yeah nah good shit bro
  • 1 0
 Does anyone else think this guy sounds exactly like Taika Waititi, aka Korg, from the MCU?
  • 3 0
 hardly surprising, they're both from the same region
  • 3 0
 Ah shit yeah
  • 3 0
 I like octopus!
  • 2 0
 Tutto bene? Nah! Tuhoto Pene.
  • 1 0
 First thing I noticed about this guy was his huge smile and general excellent attitude.
  • 1 0
 Mad respect bro, keep up the hard work and best of luck for Worlds this weekend!
  • 1 0
 Chur Brown Sugar, keep the flow brother!!
  • 2 0
 Choice bro
  • 2 0
 mean Maori mean!!!
  • 2 0
 Kapai! Go gettem!
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Chur budda!
  • 2 1
 get the dogs
  • 1 0
 Matt Damon TAWP
  • 1 0
 Nice riding dude!
  • 1 2
 Definitely read his name as totoro the first time
  • 1 2
 Pink bike need to put more the russian rider on the inter webs

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