Riding hard up a steep
Himalayan road is sure
to make your heart thump
against your rib cage; make
your legs feel like jelly and
leave you panting and red-faced. But
what makes it all worthwhile is
being able to ride your bike at a relaxed
pace once you get to the top. You
aren't crawling at a snail's pace, but you
aren't zipping by like you would in a car
"You might only be cycling at 18-20
kph but that's the ideal speed at which
you can take in the beautiful landscape,"
says Milind Bhide, a mountain biker
who runs Countryside Adventure
Holidays, a Mumbai-based adventure
The Himalayan region parts of
Ladakh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh,
and Uttarakhand offers some of the
best biking trails in India. The road
from Manali to Leh is legendary for its
mountain biking trails.
Another popular bicycling route is
from Manali to Shimla. This has also
been the preferred route for the MTB
Himachal, a high-altitude mountain
bicycling challenge, for the last six years.
"Mountain biking is the best way to get
close to nature in an eco-friendly way.
The pleasure of riding through pristine
forests cannot be compared to anything
else," says Mohit Sood, president of
What makes mountain biking
extremely adventurous are the
challenging conditions in which the bikers
have to ride. Some stretches of
mountain roads are often very steep,
making them impossible to ride on. The
bikers have no other option but to carry
their bikes over the rough terrain. "Then
there are the downhills, which are steep,
curvy roads you take to ride down a
hill," says Sood. "These are very difficult
to master since it's so easy to lose
control as your bike hurtles down a
slope. One wrong turn and you could
end up in the valley below."
"The mountainous regions of India
are full of long downhills and gruelling
uphills that are highly demanding for
bikers," says Arun Joshi, founder of
Delhi-based Peak Adventure Tours.
"The straight stretches, sections of
hike and bike and sections of fastpaced
gravel roads contribute
to a great mountain biking
experience. There is a little bit of everything
for riders of all initiations, besides
just dirt roads and single tracks."
Trails or off road tracks bring a different
set of challenges to the table.
"One of the thrills of mountain biking
is being able to ride on off road tracks
as it lets me thoroughly enjoy the beauty
of my surroundings and indulge in
some photography," says Rohan
Dhawan, an avid mountain biker and a
member of Pedal Yatri, a mountain bikers'
group in Gurgaon.
If you're a newbie, the best way to hone
your mountain biking skills is by riding
your cycle as much as you can on
an everyday basis. Building stamina
and endurance along with muscle
strength is key. "You can boost your fitness
level by going to the gym regularly,
but there's no substitute for spending
time on the saddle," says Saminder
Singh Saluja, a four-time participant in
the MTB Himachal. "Ride your bike for
as long as you can everyday. That's the
best training really."
Cycling for long distances on flat
roads is a good way to start. "As you
pick up more skills and your endurance
improves, you could start exploring hilly
roads," says Dhawan, who started by
cycling in and around Gurgaon and now
goes mountain biking in Himachal
Pradesh with fellow members of Pedal
Yatri. A daily cycling routine of 35-40
km keeps him in top shape.
But be careful before taking on steep
mountain roads and off road trails as
a novice, advises Dhawan. "Never go
on an off road trail when you are alone.
When you are exploring a different terrain
for the first time, it's always good
to be in a group," he says.
Customised mountain biking
The safest way to start mountain biking
is by signing up with an adventure
sports company that will customise a
tour to suit your requirements. You can
choose routes, distances and the duration
of your trip. All equipment, including
ATB (all terrain bikes), back-up
vehicles, repair kits and even a mechanic
are provided by the organisers.
"If there's a stretch that's too tough
for you to handle, you can put your bike
in the back-up vehicle and drive down
that distance and start riding the bike
again after some time," says Bhide.
Peak Adventure Tours organises
mountain biking tours in Himachal
Pradesh, Ladakh and Sikkim. Contact
Arun Joshi on +91-9811636814.
Countryside Adventure Holidays
organises customised mountain biking
trips for groups of five or more. Contact
Milind Bhide on +91-22-2444 1513.
Pedal Yatri is a Gurgaon-based group
that organises rides to the Aravali Hills
and Himachal Pradesh. For details,
Bikers use all-terrain bikes for the
mountains. Pick from brands like Atlas,
Cannondale, Firefox, and Hercules.
Knee and elbow pads help to minimise
scrapes and bruises.
Basic puncture patch kit and bike
At least two big bottles of water.
First aid kit.
High-energy snacks like dry fruit,
Swiss Army knife for safety and utility.