Riding High with Mandil Pradhan
February 26, 2016
Nepal is more commonly known to be explored by foot or while clipped onto a fixed line at 7,000 + meters, but in recent years mountain bike tourism has been on the rise. The challenging terrain and the unique cultural experience are part of the appeal, and then there’s the fact that bikes get you to interesting places much faster than by foot.
The GHT caught up with mountain biker and entrepreneur Mandil Pradhan to find out what attracts him to riding on the Great Himalaya Trails , and of course, to get some intel on thrilling rides to add to your cycling itinerary this year.
GHT: What is special about riding in Nepal?
Mandil: Mountain bikers love big mountains, and we have a fair share of them. The idea of riding bikes next to the world’s highest peaks is pretty much on every mountain biker’s bucket list. I don’t think there is any comparison, simply because nowhere else in the world would you be able to find the same rugged terrain and the amazing mountain culture. There are a lot of amazing places in the world to ride, but everything just feels a lot more epic here.
GHT: What’s your relationship with mountain biking?
Mandil: I first mountain biked in 1998 when one of my school teachers took us mountain biking in Bungamati Lalitpur. We used to ride local ‘mountain bikes’ to school, and he thought we’d enjoy riding them on trails. During high school, I mountain biked regularly but took a break once I went to college. I resumed riding in 2008, mainly as a way to stay fit, but it took over my life. In 2010, I sold my event management company and started Himalayan Rides, a mountain bike travel company.
GHT: Take us back to your best mountain biking experience
Mandil: It was a few years ago when a friend and I hiked up to Kyanjin Valley in the Langtang region, carrying our bikes on our backs for 4 days. The days were long and extremely tiring. Thankfully, we had hired some porters to carry our kit. When we finally reached Kyanjin, the weather was gloomy and it started to snow. We just stared at each other and thought that we would be stuck there for days. However, the next morning was crystal clear with the sun shining down on us and perfect trail conditions under the tires. We shredded down the Langtang trail over the next day and a half. Working so hard to be able to access that trail and then having it work out beautifully well in the end made it absolutely epic and very special.
GHT: If you had to pick 3 epic rides, what would they be?
1. Lubra Trail – a loose, wide trail that starts in Lubra Pass at 4,000 meters near Muktinath in the Mustang region and ends in Panda River Valley at 2,800 meters.
2. Helipad Trail – a tight, technical trail that starts on the edge of Shivapuri National Park and follows a ridge all the way to Kopan Monastery in the northern part of Kathmandu.
3. Langtang – a very technical, rocky descent following the Langtang Valley all the way from Kyanjin to Syafru Besi. It’s pretty much 24 kilometers of rock gardens, tight switchbacks and big mountain exposure.
GHT: Those sound incredible! Would you discourage beginners from joining mountain bike trips in Nepal?
Mandil: Our trips are mainly in the high Himalayan trails which are technical and cater to intermediate and advanced riders. However, there are plenty of areas in lower elevations that would suit novice riders.
GHT: How should riders prepare for mountain bike trips to Nepal?
Mandil: Get as much fitness as possible; one can never be too fit for Nepal. Get your bike in perfect condition and try to learn a few basic mechanical tips so that you and your bike are fairly self-sufficient. Ride some of the more challenging trails in your local hills or trail center, and increase your technical skills as much as possible.
GHT: What can riders expect from a trip with Himalayan Rides?
Mandil: The trips that we operate in Mustang are catered generally to intermediate and advanced level riders with at least 5 years of regular riding experience. Our trips are typically 10 to 14 days long with up to 7 hours of riding every day. The group size is usually 10 to 12 riders from all around the world. Most of the descents on our trips are on flowy single tracks with a mix of technical sections. We generally have a ratio of 1 guide per 4 riders and all of our guides are trained professionals with wilderness first aid certifications. All of our rides are fully supported, which means that riders will only have to ride with a small backpack carrying essentials like water, snacks and basic spares.
Having ridden in places like Utah, the French Alps and British Columbia, I can say with certainty that Nepal is right up there among the world’s best places to ride. Riders can expect an amazing blend of epic single track riding in the shadows of the world’s highest mountains combined with cross-cultural interaction where we explore the lives of the locals and their history, culture and cuisine.
Not sure about you, but we’ve just added another thing to our bucket list.
If you’re already out there kicking up dust on the Great Himalaya Trails be sure to tell us about it by sharing your experience on social media with the official GHT hashtag: #MyGHT!Back to MyGHT
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