Nineteen years of age, hailing from a small village in the shadow of the great Mount Everest and having more than humble beginnings, a rising Downhill rider from Nepal with the knack for winning the races he competes in. The story of how he got behind bars and began shredding is both fascinating and inspiring. From local hand me down bicycles, to riding self-wielded supermarket bike frames to a rider for Himalayan Rides Nepal Banshee.
We have a few words with the boy, err...Man himself.Rajesh, can you introduce yourself to the readers?
Hello PB readers. My name is Rajesh Magar. I am a downhill Mountain Bike rider from Kathmandu, Nepal. When I’m not racing, I work as a mountain bike guide for a tour company called Himalayan Rides. I am 19 years old and I also go by my nickname, RJ. Can you tell me something about your achievements till date?
I have been racing mountain bikes for the past 2 years. Most recently, I won the Himachal DH Trophy last month in Manali, India. Last year, I won the Nepalese National Championships, the Dharan Showdown races, and finished second in the Palpa Urban DH, Himalayan Outdoor Festival and Himalayan Mountain Bike Championships.What kind of rider are you?
First and foremost, I am a bicycle rider. I enjoy riding my bike regardless of the kind of bike. I love DH riding, but I also ride a lot of BMX, DJ and XC. They help me hone my skills and stay fit. My work, where I am guiding mountain bike tours, consists mostly of all-mountain riding, so I do a fair bit of that as well. Whenever I have spare time, I go out with my friends to a field near my house in Kathmandu and build jumps and mess around on our bikes. When we heard your story, we were awestruck, why don’t you share that with our readers as well?
My family is originally from Solukhumbu district in the Everest region of East Nepal. Like most other people in our village, we moved to Kathmandu to look for better opportunities as there aren’t any jobs in our village. My parents have worked as labourers, doing construction and household work for the last 15 years and have been receiving minimum daily wages. I used to go to a local government school during the day, and worked as a household worker after that. My primary responsibility was to clean the house that I worked in, look after the garden, and take care of their two dogs. I would do this mainly before going to school in the morning and after returning home from school. When I was 16, I started working for a printing press which I continued to do before I got my current job, which is riding mountain bikes.
As for mountain biking, I didn't own a bicycle when I was growing up, so I only learnt how to ride a bike when I was 13 years old. There was a bike lying around in the house where my mother worked as a maid, and the owner said that it was ok for her to take it home and give it to me. I learned to ride the bike all by myself, and also started riding bikes with the kids in my neighborhood. There were some adult mountain bikers who lived in my neighborhood, and I would see them going out on rides every day and doing manuals and bunny hops on their bikes. I started to follow these riders and began going out on rides on my own.
Then I heard about the Nepalese National DH Championship in 2013, and my friends and I decided to compete. We watched Youtube videos to see what proper mountain bikes were like and wielded our supermarket metal bikes to make them "look" like downhill bikes. I met some senior riders at the race and one of them let me use their spare bikes for the race. I finished 6th on that race on a bike I had never ridden before. An actual mountain bike.
A few months later, at another race near Kathmandu, I ran into Mandil Dai (of Himalayan Rides) and he offered me his Banshee Rune to ride. I finished 4th in that race with a broken chain right off the start gate. A few days after the race, he asked me if I wanted to train as a mountain bike guide in his company and ride for him, and that’s it! What bike are you riding currently?
I currently ride a 2015 Banshee Rune, with a Fox 36 Talas (180mm) on the front, and Cane Creek DB Air on the rear.It has a RaceFace SixC cockpit and Sram RSC stoppers. I use this bike for competing in races as well as to guide the tours I go on. So it is mostly my do-it-all machine. On a perfect day, what would you be doing apart from riding bikes?
A day without bikes isn’t really a perfect day. Haha. I spend most of my time riding bikes, or maintaining the bikes in our company. Sometimes I have to go drop mail and visit the banks for office work, but that also includes riding my bike. Favorite Tunes?
I listen to a lot of Nepali rock music. I also enjoy some Bollywood and Western tunes, but they are mostly limited to the Top 40 hits.Favorite Grub?
There is a saying in Nepali - "Dal Bhat power, 24 hour". Dal bhat is Nepal’s traditional meal consisting of rice, lentil soup and different curries. That is definitely my favorite. Favorite Trail?
My favorite trail is the Lubra Trail in the Mustang Region of Nepal. It's one of the trails we ride regularly on our tours and it starts at 4,100 meters and drops into the valley floor at 2,800 meters. It’s got a great mix flowy and technical sections, with a breathtaking view of the Dhaulagiri Mountain, the 7th highest peak in the world!So, what are your plans for the season?
I will do regular training rides for the next few weeks, and in October we will start our tour season. Our tour season is generally short, which is about 10 weeks long. I look forward to riding with regular and professional riders from all around the world. Once the tour season is over, I have a race in Tansen, Western Nepal in December that I am looking forward to.Do you have any long term plans?
My long term plan is to ride the World Cups. It is my ultimate dream, and I hope to fulfill it someday. In the short term, I am aiming to race the Asian Championships next summer. I missed it this year due to unavoidable circumstances, but I am positive that I will be able to participate next year. You had a 34 second lead in the pouring rain during the recent Himachal Downhill Trophy where the slush was playing havoc with the other riders. How did you do that? What went through your mind before the start? Do you have a particular routine before you drop in?
I don’t know really, my priority was to go as fast as possible without crashing. It had been raining the last few days leading up to the race, so I had practiced the course in the wet before and hence I had a good idea of what to expect. I had a couple of close calls in the beginning of my run, but then I reassured myself that every other rider would be struggling as well. The conditions were really challenging and the trail was very slippery, and it got worse with each passing minute.Are there any “words of wisdom” you would like to share with the other young aspiring riders out there?
Keep at it. And good things will happen to people who work hard. Who is your Idol?
Aaron Gwin and Sam Hill. Both of them are unbeatable in their ways. Whom would you like to thank for where you are today?
I would like to thank some of our senior local riders who have encouraged me throughout my short career - Shyam Limbu, Shajjan Rajbanshi, Parmeshwor Pokharel, Nirakar Yakthumba and Mandil Pradhan. My good friends Suman Tamang and Nishant Shah who I go riding with every day help me stay motivated and we push each other to ride harder every day.Tell us a little more about Himalayan Rides and the riding in Nepal itself.
Himalayan Rides is a tour company that operates mountain bike tours mainly in the Mustang Region of Nepal. We specialize in organizing advance and intermediate level tours mostly on singletracks and technically challenging trails. I have worked here as a trainee guide since 2013, and I love my job. I feel very lucky to be able to ride my bike as my work everyday and also for the opportunity to ride with and meet people from all around the world.
Nepal is definitely one of the best places for mountain biking in the world, nestled in the lap of the high Himalayas and there are obviously some very long descents. Most of the trails we ride on are natural trails, narrow and technical with the perfect blend of flow and riding these is great fun and a challenge in itself. Unfortunately, we don't have any bike parks or bike specific trails, but I hope to ride them when I travel across the world in the near future. We wish you all the best Rajesh, and hope to see you waving the Nepalese flag on Podiums worldwide soon!! Ride Hard. Stay strong!"Keep at it. And good things will happen to people who work hard."