A Project of Passion

You don’t earn a reputation like Empire of Dirt’s without an artistic flair and a keen eye for detail.

A Project of Passion From Backyard to Big Time with Empire of Dirt

When I was a young lad, I loved to take my toy cars into my mother’s veggie garden and create tracks for them to race around.

I would build jumps and tunnels, replace plants with sweeping dirt corners—whatever my imagination could conjure up, often to my mother’s dismay. Never in my wildest dreams did I think there could be a legitimate career path in this act.

For Adam King and Chris Martin, it’s a different story. The duo are founders and owners of Empire of Dirt, a New Zealand-based trail-building company that crafts the highest-quality tracks at the most elite levels of the sport. But what is now a global operation began out of necessity in the hills outside of Rotorua, years before an “empire” was even a spark in their imaginations.

For mountain bikers in Rotorua during the early 1990s, if you wanted to ride something, you had to make it yourself. It was this necessary DIY ethos that inspired a preteen King to begin building with the local riding community. As a young grommet, King was influenced by trail-builder Fred Christiansen, a pioneer who created the first trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest.

It was about this time Martin also picked up a shovel and took his first crack at building. Martin’s start, however, wasn’t quite as rosy: He built one feature, rode it once, and went headfirst into the landing. He wouldn’t touch a shovel again until the late 2000s.

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The minds behind the Empire. Founders and owners Adam King (left) and Chris Martin (right), mid-build on the pumptrack course for the 2018 Crankworx Rotorua. Handling such an event is professionally impressive, but for the two Rotorua locals it’s also a chance to give back to their community.