Photo Story: Riding in the Shadow of Everest with Rajesh 'RJ Ripper' Magar

Feb 27, 2024
by Yeti Cycles  
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RJ AT HOME
Words and Photos by Joey Schusler

Bikes have a wonderful way of bringing people together. Friendships are forged stronger, and memories are created instantly when a bike is involved. The feeling is infectious and keeps us all coming back for more time and time again. I can safely say that in my life spent on the bike, few people I have met portray that more than Rajesh Magar, better known amongst his friends and competitors as ‘RJ Ripper.’ 


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Five years prior to this trip, I had the absolute joy of making a short documentary with RJ, highlighting how he fell in love with riding on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, built his first mountain bike with an old broken frame and some junkyard scraps, and rose to be the fastest downhill and enduro racer in Nepal, and one of the fastest in all of the Asian continent. On top of that, he’s also an incredible bike guide for visitors to Nepal, working with H&I Adventures. When he isn’t competing at a race or training at home in Kathmandu, he spends his time leading many tours on the rugged trails of the Mustang Valley. I can guarantee anyone who has had the privilege to ride there with RJ will attest it’s a life highlight. 


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RJ is the kind of person that makes things happen with pure excitement, pure dedication, and pure passion. He’s shaped a life that involves riding bikes every single day and sharing that experience with many people. With post-pandemic travel, tours are back in full swing, and once again, he gets to share the mountains of his home country with those willing and eager to make the journey there. 


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On this particular trip, I meet RJ and his friend and fellow guide Arun on the side of a highway in eastern Nepal. I had just finished another film project in the region, and RJ and Arun had just finished up a long guiding season, where they were full gas six days a week for months on end. Their energy hasn’t waned at all, and the next morning we find ourselves awake at 3 am on a surprisingly bitter cold morning, pushing for the summit of Pikey Peak. Known in all of eastern Nepal as one of the better accessible mountains to take in the grand views of giant mountains, Pikey Peak has one of the best views of the roofs of the world. We pushed and rode and pushed and rode for several hours in the dark before light began to dance across the landscape. The summit was still a good way up. RJ and Arun kept morale high with constant laughter, and before we knew it, we were at the summit watching the sun peak out and reveal a stunning view of Mt. Everest. It feels surprisingly close but ever farther away once I realize the scale and ruggedness of everything around these parts. 


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We revel in the sun and enjoy a beautiful morning on the summit of Pikey Peak. We shoot a bike check with RJ’s new SB160 (this is its first-ever ride) with Everest views in the background and then set on down for a multi-hour mega descent. We are dropping the other side of the mountain and into the valley and region that RJ’s family is historically from. He still has some relatives living in their mountain village. The trail starts defined on the ridge, and as more sub-ridges present themselves, various trails branch off in many directions. This is an ancient network of trails, and some are now more maintained and in use than others. RJ and Arun guide us down off memory and intuition, and I’m blown away at how long we just keep descending, past countless mane walls and prayer flag outcroppings. The Himalayas are sure to be another game altogether. Finally, we reach the bottom and hit a cafe, it's time for some momos.


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The ride was an epic reunion, and RJ and I got into a long conversation about how life has been since we made the film together. Through the film tour, RJ was able to come to visit Colorado one summer, and he tells me of more dreams of traveling to Europe and New Zealand for some racing despite the incredibly challenging visa process he must undergo as a Nepali. Races are only just starting to fully kick back off in Asia, and I can tell he is super hungry to get back between the tape. A few weeks later, he wins his first race back, and I’m not surprised at all.


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We spent the rest of the week doing shuttle runs in Phaplu, under the towering peaks of the Sagarmatha National Park. I’ve done many shuttle runs in my day, but RJ claims that none of them have been quite like this. What was about to present itself was an incredible collection of steep and loamy trails that RJ and his large group of riding friends have tubed up and are now training on. I’m immediately blown away at how much better everyone has gotten at riding since I last visited five years ago. Before, it had seemed as if the sport was still in its infantry here, but that was definitely not the case now. The passion this crew held for riding was so infectious. We ended up shuttling from sun up to sun down for days on end, only stopping for photos when the light and moments were nice for it. 


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It’s been such a joy to watch RJ progress so much from when we first met and rode together five years ago. It’s these friendships forged on two wheels, both near and far that make the bike such an incredible tool for bringing joy to people and breaking down barriers between cultures. I can’t wait to keep up with RJ’s adventures and racing for many years to come. 


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You can ride with RJ and crew in the stunning Mustang Valley and beyond by signing up for a tour via H&I Adventures. If you wish to see the film we created, you can view it below. 

H+I Adventures Nepal



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Author Info:
yeticycles avatar

Member since Aug 22, 2000
78 articles

8 Comments
  • 5 0
 Phaplu is one of the best loam trail networks in Nepal, if not all of Asia. I rode there in early December 2023 (late autumn and early winter weather is the most stable and pretty much on-point for any kind of riding in this region)... and had an absolute blast. Can highly recommend!
  • 3 0
 Unreal photographs! I can only imagine what it's like riding at such high elevation.
  • 7 0
 Love to see Joey Schusler shooting stills again. Beautiful images as always.
  • 2 0
 What a great story! Loved the vemeo video. I hope to see RJ in the near future at an EWS race. I will certainly be rooting for him.
  • 2 0
 Looks amazing! GCN did a bikepacking video in Nepal, now I really want to visit one day.
  • 2 0
 Lovely photos and reportage...
We are organising a race on this spot in few weeks...
enduroratnange.com/
  • 2 0
 RJ was one of our guides back in 2018. Great guy and great rider.
  • 1 0
 Lungs baby, lungs.







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