, is home to some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. It is also home to the Himalayan Mountain Bike Festival. Riding mountain bikes is more than just going fast, more than just winning, it's about having a great time with your buddies and enjoying every second on that bike. Not saying winning doesn't matter. But in the end what counts is the fun we've had, the trails we've ridden. The views and the drops that took our breath away. The Himalayan Mountain Bike Festival is one such week where all the riders from across the Indian subcontinent come to Ride, Race, Party, Repeat.
This year, we saw a lot of action on the Trails N Dust XC race as well as the most anticipated Himachal DH trophy. The riders had a blast and so did the we. Pinkbike was there to cover the action. Manali, is a small hill station in the state of Himachal in India ans during these four-five days, it turns into the place where all the riders from the country flock to. It's not just a race, here we have XC,DH and Enduro riders coming in and having a good time together. The races are just an added bonus because there's no fun without a little serious competition. Mountain biking is about pushing limits and having fun. This year however, the monsoons were in full swing in an attempt to dampen the spirits of the rider, little did the rain God's know that mountain bikers love getting loose and dirty. The sport is still at a nascent stage in the country , but the scene is growing exponentially. The level of riding is progressing and the whole industry is growing.
The riders began rolling into Manali on the 15th and once the rides were assembled, they began hitting their respective trails. The routing was that the respective XC and DH riders go to their respective trails and train. Some riding the same lines time and again to shave a couple seconds and others just having a good time getting loose and shredding bikes, however they pleased. At the end of the day we would all get together and discuss the rides and other experiences over beers and dinner. The bikebar, the place to assemble if you're planning to be a part of the Festival.The clouds shrouding the trails in mystery.
The Trails N Dust saw one of the most challenging and technically demanding Cross Country Courses India has seen. The guys at Himalayan Mountain Bike Network had scouted out this beautiful technical haven and plan to Up the game every year.
The DH course was pure fun with slushy steeps on the top, to gnarly rock gardens and sketchy stump drops and jumps. No matter what the discipline, the trails just scream fun.
The gondolas were only open to the DH riders for qualification day and final runs. Otherwise it was 'take a hike' . Nobody seemed to mind.
Mandil Pradhan, rider/owner at Himalayan Rides Nepal (Banshee Bikes/Raceface) drove down all the way to Manali from Kathmandu in Nepal. he made the epic drive along with Rajesh Magar, his team rider and his trustworthy Nissan Navara. He was headed to the altitudes of Leh straight after the festival. Props to him.
After all the riders were in town, it was time for the real action to begin.
This year we saw a total of around 40 riders come in from all over India and Nepal. There were riders from the U.K., Ireland, and B.C. as well. Fun Times!
Trails N Dust XC Race.
Beers, some more beers.
The Xc race saw the country's elite to 14 year old kids who got remarkable timings too. The podium was dominated by the Hero Action Team Full Story on the Trails N Dust XC race.
Himachal Downhill Trophy
After the Xc race was over, it was the time for the big bikes to take some air and shred some gnar. The rains had turned the tables for everyone. The slush made it a struggle to be on the bike and only the best bike handlers could keep it between their legs at all times. Rajesh Magar from Nepal showed everyone who's boss on the track which he rode twice before qualifying first and in the end winning with a lead of a whopping 32 seconds.
The qualifying runs saw a slush covered track but no rain. Last night's downpour was enough to give the riders zero traction. Rajesh slipped right out of the start gate during the qualies and still qualified first. After all the riders took their chances at taming the Solang Valley Course, by the time the top three qualifiers were to drop, it began pouring and Rajesh rode away to the finish line with a 34 second lead.
Only the rider knows what goes on through his mind on the way up to the start.
Gautam Taode, (Giant India) was the first man on the track for qualies. Aiming for glory.
The clouds kept things moist. Let's just put it that way.
Indian Veteran freerider, Vinay Menon, bombing down the hill.
Gautam Taode getting loose.
Rajesh, Navigating through rocks like nobody's business
Some sections were just about holding on to the bike. Being fast was secondary.
Scott India rider, Piyush Chavan was the defending champ from last year.
Crashes. Inevitable Crashes.
Nishma Shrestha, The only female DH rider in the Scene showing us what Nepal is capable of.
Good views of the Solang Valley are a major distraction sometimes.
Time to go up again. For one last run.
Suman Tamang from Nepal. Ready to Rumble.
Sliding into the course, because slush is so we can slide with grace.
Piyush, forgetting he has brakes on his bikes. But wait, the brakes were redundant anyway. Full Speed Ahead!
Irish rider, Matthew Cosgrave pinned.
Vinay Menon. Flying into 7th place.
Shyam Limbu. sliding down on feet after losing control.
James frampton. Killing it on his hardtail Ramones. He rode into fourth place.
Rajesh's Banshee Rune. Waiting for the rain, and to slay the trail.
The Nepalese are fast. Shyam flying down at full speed.
Crossing the finish line.
Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all for the top three qualifiers.
Suman, Sliding and Charging into 2nd place through the rocks.
Rajesh Magar. Flying towards victory in pouring rain. A 34 Second lead! This guy has talent and a very interesting story. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with this amazing and talented Nepalese rider.
The rains would not let up and hence the amateur category had their race cancelled. It was quite a bummer as the riders were given positions on their seeding run results. The elite riders however had a ball of a time.
It's all about having fun!! Getting dirty!!
He might be modest, but nobody can control the excitement of winning and that too against all odds with a 32 second lead.
How slow was I today?
1st- Rajesh Magar (Himalayan Rides Banshee) Nepal - 00:06:01
2nd- Suman Tamang (Gnarly Nepal) Nepal - 00:06:35
3rd- Ajay Padval (Team Freerider MTB Mag) - 00:06:45
Full results and story on the DH race.
Post Race Festival Party. Good Food. Good friends. Good riders. Good Times.
Yes, we found out what went into his mind on his way up. Rajesh Magar in selfie mode.
This year the festival was a blast. And we are promised with a larger one next year. I for one, will miss the riding around Manali. And will hopefully compete myself too. Life is an unexplored trail. Sometimes you just have to charge ahead and make things happen.
For more information on the Himalayan Mountain Bike Network
Indian Mountain Biking is Rising, just like the Himalayan Fold Ranges are. Slow but continuous.
All Photos: Shivam Roy