Must Watch: Wyn Masters & Cody Kelley Ride Bhutan's Madman Trails

Mar 11, 2020
by Scott Secco  

Madman Trails of Bhutan – A Visual Narrative

As the plane glides over the Eastern Himalayan ranges and starts its descent through the clouds, entering Paro airport, the team on board sense that the adventure has already begun. The plane then makes an exhilarating entry onto the runway flanked by lush paddy fields.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

At the invitation of His Royal Highness, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, founder of Bhutan Philanthropy Ventures Private Limited (BPV), a commercially operating social enterprise founded to sustain the philanthropic activities of the Tarayana Foundation, organized a visit for Wyn Masters, Cody Kelley, Florent Poilane and filmmaker Scott Secco. The four travelled from three different continents to test some of the hitherto uncharted routes that the BPV intends to offer as part of a phenomenal mountain biking tour package under the Prince’s direction.

As they ride their way from the capital city of Thimphu towards the Madman Trails in Punakha, a panoramic view of some of the tallest mountains in the country opens up at the Dochula mountain pass (3100m ASL).

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

The crew then drop down the misty rhododendron forest following local pinner, Tandin “Junior” Wang, to reach the subtropical valley of Punakha.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

This is one for the memory book. Without any warning or warm-up, “Junior” two-wheel drifts his way around the very first berm of the 10km descent.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Wyn, Cody, and Florent realize at this point that it would not be the chill exploration ride they were expecting. It’s game on! Inside-lines, foot-out offcamber, big hucks over roots and rocks, loam flying around, “Junior” does it all on his beaten-up 26” bike.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

After shuttling to Limbukha, the Madman Trail of Punakha is up next. At an elevation drop of over 1000m, this is a network of both natural and hand-carved trails running through a mix of pine and oak forests. It is here that Bhutan will host its first Asian Enduro Series from 5th to 6th of December 2020.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

From Limbukha, the filming team along with what looks like the whole Bhutanese enduro scene drop into a series of high-speed berms and jumps on grounds carpeted with oak leaves, along progressively changing terrain.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

After winding around endless switchbacks, the trail straightens up while the gradient decreases. It gives way to natural gullies, rock-slab chutes, and a final traverse into paddy fields.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Ride over the longest suspended bridge in Bhutan, chill by the river next to the stunning Punakha Dzong enjoying local delicacies like the Ema Datshi or Phaksha Paa and it’s time to hop back in the truck for another lap!

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

After a couple of days of pure riding, the team decides that the glacial valley of Phobjikha is the next stopover, winter home to the endangered Black-necked cranes. In fact, with more than 70 percent of Bhutan’s land area forested, the nation is among the top ten biodiversity hotspots in the world.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

After driving to Lawa-La Pass before dawn, the crew hikes up to a vantage point making sure not to disturb the herd of Yaks grazing around in the dark. The sunrise with the sea of clouds slowly dissipating and exposing the valley rewards their effort.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

The visiting riders get a sense of the traditional reverence that locals have for the natural environment, organically co-existing with pristine green forests, turquoise glacial rivers, farm fields, and both domesticated and wild animals.

On the way back to the capital city, the team rides a small segment of the 160-mile Tour of the Dragon course, the world’s toughest one-day mountain biking race.

In Thimphu, the riders visit popular sightseeing spots but they do it on their bikes—rolling off the steps of the biggest Buddha statue in the world, wheelieing down the steep descent from the Bhutan Broadcasting Station towers into town and exhibiting wheelies, bunny hops, drops, jumps, endos, and other manoeuvres.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Back in Paro, where the trip started, the local crew had kept cards up their sleeves. Wyn, Cody and Florent are not quite done yet… time to descend 1200m into and out of alpine forests on both sides of the valley, riding consecutively through the Jela and Kila Goenpa trails—two world-class and completely natural single-track trails.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

The riders’ giggles and shouts of joy and excitement still resound through the valley. Everyone is left with a feel that 7 days is barely enough to scratch the surface of the mountain biking potential in Bhutan.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Last up is an encounter with the Tiger’s Nest or Taktsang as locals call it. While legends say that Guru Rinpoche flew from this cliffside on the back of a tigress, our riders climbed their way up the steep trail to reach the sacred monastery, perched precariously on a cliff face at 3120 meters.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

The perfect moment and perfect place for them to meditate and reflect on the adventure they had just lived - an experience which can only be realized through the seamless travel arrangement and meticulous coordination between the Bhutan Philanthropy Ventures and the Bhutan Olympic Committee which spearheads the foundation for sustainable network of Enduro (MTB) development in Bhutan.

For the visiting team of riders, the sacred land of Bhutan is one of the world’s last frontiers. With myths, legends, and spirituality all at once ever-present and still integral to the psyche of local communities, it seems to illustrate the delicate balance between old-world tradition and 21st century modernity and its associated hyper-consumerism. Certainly, with its philosophy of GNH Bhutan is striving to find the right balance.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

As the team heads back to their own homeland, they do so with the conviction that the best way to discover the Kingdom of Bhutan is by riding into its alluring wilderness. Having encountered a place that is as stunning as it is welcoming and hospitable, the team got stoked in the right spot—the heart—which is what Bhutan does best.

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.

For more information about the Madman Trails of Bhutan, the inaugural Asian Enduro series in Bhutan taking place in December 5th to 6th 2020 and MTB tour packages, please contact Mr. Karma Dorji, email: karma@bpvbhutan.com or visit www.madmantrails.com / www.bpvbhutan.com/mtb

Riding the Madman Trails of Bhutan.



Riders: Wyn Masters, Cody Kelley, Florent Poilane
Video: Scott Secco
Photos: Scott Secco & Zach Heath
Story: Florent Poilane


58 Comments

  • 57 0
 Awesome video.

On behalf of those of us that will never likely make it there to ride, I appreciated all of it. The riding, the scenery, the people. All of it.

Also, unrelated note, both of them are on my fantasy EWS team Big Grin .
  • 57 16
 Damn, they must have the coronavirus because that was sick!
  • 4 3
 Dad joke much? Big Grin
  • 28 0
 Wow, talk about a Must Watch video!

It's pretty cool that the country of Bhutan supports mountain biking: definitely a dream destination for me, it looks so beautiful!
  • 3 0
 I went in 2007 and it was a truly amazing place. We spent a day hiking up and having tea in a hut looking towards the Tiger's Nest, its a very neat country with a rich traditional history. On various hikes we went on all I could think about was wishing I had my bike with me, fair warning that elevation is much more of a factor over there Smile Also give betel nut a try and see how you handle that...
  • 11 0
 Bhutan measures success in GDH (gross domestic happiness). A destination for spirit, mind and biking!
  • 10 0
 Quite possibly the most mellow and captivating mtb video I’ve ever watch. Nice work delivering the goods.
  • 5 5
 @lovetoridebikes: ask the Lhotshampa refugees about their GDH, spirit and mind.
  • 14 0
 That was beautiful
  • 12 0
 Well done beautiful video, great camera work and editing!!
  • 11 1
 Its nice that even Prince of Bhutan knows, that mtb trails is good for pesants Smile
  • 8 0
 Absolutely stunning work Secco!
  • 7 0
 It looks like where Christian bale became batman , awesome
  • 4 0
 Mtb is such a spiritual sport we haven't realized yet.... Defenetly looking to visit butan on my bike when this network ready...
  • 4 0
 I'd say it's ready and in prime condition. The beauty of the riding in Bhutan is in its natural state. It will and should not become another bike park. The madman trails network in Punakha are 50% handmade and is pretty much done now. For the rest, it's a variety of ancient alpine trails connecting valleys with average 1000m elevation drop that have been fixed and improved for the mountainbikes by local clubs and guides.
  • 1 0
 @FlorentVN: that's exactly what I am looking for.
Where I lived in Ainsa Zona Zero they did exactly the same, I am referring to this kind of trail network.
  • 2 0
 @PauRexs: that's exactly what you'll find there but with a lot of elevation drop. I have great memories from EWS Ainsa. That's the type of trails i enjoy riding.
  • 2 0
 @FlorentVN: yesss well in fact any human mtb rider with a soul should enjoy over expectations the fact of riding pure natural pristine trails sorrounded by great culture and people.
  • 6 0
 Raised the bar there.
  • 6 0
 A visual treat...
  • 4 0
 Loved the paralell drawn between the twisting river/bermed trail as shot from above. sick
  • 2 1
 Okay so the thing about Bhutan is that it's cool and all, but they have some... interesting artwork. Like everywhere. Check out Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" from there (NSFW). It's honestly impressive how they keep it out of all the photos. I think Casey Brown and Cam McCaul were there recently, as well.




spoiler: giant dicks
  • 4 0
 Another Secco classic, beautiful shots, great flow, and everything just perfect.
  • 4 0
 Beautiful Video, CINE STYLE! Well done Scott! Makes you wanna travel and ride, just what it was meant for.
  • 1 0
 Just wonderful,rhe richness they have in simple things,enjoy while you can ,I still think when I ride near my home (nothing comparable in terms of the Single tracks going down,but in the way up It might be much easier :-)) )that I’m blessed cause I can forget everything and still have my sacred place ,ride on people just ride on ,have fun no matter how little it is
  • 3 0
 It's like the Rick Steves of mtb. Love seeing a new spot and riding culture.
  • 4 0
 Wow! What an incredible destination. Bucketlist book is getting too full!
  • 4 0
 Gorgeous... well, except maybe the hot tub part. Awesome cinematography.
  • 4 0
 Two of my favorite riders, awesome!
  • 1 1
 Beautiful video and I’m all for mountain biking and trails being a tool to elevate communities, but maybe the Prince of Bhutan should be focused on their refugee problem? It’s kinda skeevy that it seems like this project was basically backed by the Bhutanese government, as opposed to just a local trail org. Maybe I’m wrong? Bhutan has a pretty serious dark side attached to all the great press it has been getting lately. I was a social worker in the Massachusetts public school system, and at one point, about 10% of my caseload was comprised of Bhutanese kids who came to the US after living in refugee camps in Nepal. Maybe some of ‘em will have a chance to learn to ride here in the US. Frown

If you are curious, google “Bhutanese Refugees” for more info.
  • 4 0
 Only complaint is that it was too short.
  • 3 0
 Note how he starts on a white Alhemy, but ends with a white Spec Wink
  • 10 0
 haha, don't overthink it, no photoshop, sponsor issue there. The Specialized Enduro is mine, the 3rd rider of the team...
  • 1 0
 @FlorentVN:
suspension links are white instead of black. Custom touch, or different color option for Asia?
  • 3 0
 @uberstein: that frame is an early r&d version with the test lab paint. It's not sold like that.
  • 7 5
 That Kelley girl sure looks fast. Would love to see her on the podium this year!
  • 3 0
 This video gave me goose-bumps . . amazing.
  • 3 0
 Amazing on so many levels.
  • 2 0
 Cody can't jump straight, can he? Smile And he makes it looks sooo stylish and easy!
  • 2 0
 Great work! Definitely inspiring! I want to see some footage of "Junior" and the local crew!
  • 3 0
 damn...that was epic. never thought about Bhutan until now.
  • 2 0
 One of the best videos ever - so glad there wasn't an obnoxious sound track.
  • 1 0
 Nice video. Captures the country well. I've been running guided trips there since 2004. Check out www.blackpeaktravel.com if you want the full run down.
  • 2 0
 Absolutely amazing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the music just makes it even better what a journey Cheers
  • 2 0
 well that was a treat too watch!
  • 2 1
 We have a hot tub.Awww sweet lets go.....well shit...
  • 2 0
 That was propane!
  • 1 3
 Great video. Looks like an adventure. However, why to they have a race a such a difficult place to get to? Probably several days of just travel for western countries to get there.
  • 2 0
 Stunning!
  • 2 0
 This was awesome!
  • 2 0
 So well done!
  • 2 0
 Rad
  • 3 2
 Quarantine those motherfuggers!
  • 1 0
 Bhutang clan getting rad!
  • 1 0
 Sound track should've been something by Nirvana.
  • 2 2
 30 sec of ripping trail in a 3min + video ...for f*ck sake !!!!!
  • 1 0
 amazing!!
  • 1 3
 Wow, they can manual like it's their job or something.

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