Meet mountain bike rider Vinay Menon, a daredevil who jumps off cliffs
At the age of 14, most kids might watch cartoons. But Vinay Menon (now 33), would see mountain biking shows on TV all day long. Bikers jumping 30ft from cliffs and crashing their helmets excited him enough to try it out on the hills of Vishrantwadi, Pune (where he resides) with the cycle he took to school. Soon, he’d be missing school to be at the hills. “The adrenaline rush was unparalleled. The joy of knowing that you could do whatever you want with a bike, and that the whole mountain is yours, was incomparable,” says Menon.
Mountain biking grew on him and there wasn’t a single day he’d come home without soiled clothes and bruises. Once, while doing a 3ft drop from a hill, he was badly bruised, with a swollen eye and a black-and-blue forehead. “I was disoriented, but still had to cycle 4km to reach home. The moment I did, I passed out,” he says. His family — always worried while he was growing up — is used to it now. “You only learn when you hurt yourself,” says Menon. He even teaches the sport to kids in his locality, who fondly call him Venom.
He always dreamt of riding the hills with the guys he’d grown up watching on TV. In 2010, winning the Ultimate Summer of Freeride, an international contest by Mountain Biking BC (a non-profit organisation to promote the sport in British Columbia, Canada), got him that opportunity. “It was such a big moment; it pushed me to work harder towards my sport.” He’s taken part in national and international biking events like the Himalayan DH MTB Trophy 2014 (Manali, Himachal Pradesh), Asia Pacific DH Champ 2014 (Bali, Indonesia), and the Asian Enduro Series 2016 (Nepal).
Menon does freeride (includes freestyle cliff jumps, aerial stunts) and downhill (time-based, racing down the hill) mountain biking. To avoid accidents, Menon says it’s important to wear a helmet, shin and knee pads, and gloves. Carrying a bottle to keep yourself hydrated at all times, and a toolkit in case your bike crashes, are essential too. “Keeping a clear head so you can think of the next move, and putting aside your fear goes a long way,” he adds. Body flexibility is key, and a protein-rich diet helps you stay fit. He practises twice a week: “I’m always hunting for new trails and mountains to ride.”