Mountain Biking

Nepal's diverse terrain is a mountain biker's dream adventure come true. Mountain biking offers an environmentally sound way of exploring this magnificent country, its landscape and living heritage. Because this is a spartan, laborious mode of travel, it is also considered the way to travel by the so-called "purists".

There are plenty of dirt roads and trails in Nepal to meet every mountain biker's wildest fantasy. Mountain biking is specially recommended if you wish to explore urban centers of Nepal such as Pokhara and Kathmandu as well as countryside in the outskirts. Imagine, if you will, a ride through lush green rice fields, through hamlets, up and down the hillside, along the river bank, around temples, past the street-roaming cattle, along the suspension bridge, along the highway, you name it. Through snow, Monsoon downpour, wonderful light effects, or fierce headwinds, depending on place and season. The adventurous souls may plan extended trips to such exotic locales as Tibet, Namche Bazaar, and western Nepal. You could even do the entire length of Nepal across the plains. What you can or cannot do on mountain bike is limited only by your imagination.

The 15 to 18 gear all-terrain mountain bikes are recommended if you wish to go up the hills, mountain lookouts or hilltop shrines. If you're going to be doing the exploring within the city perimeter itself, observing the hustle and bustle, going shopping, etc, one speed Indian bicycles will do nicely. Mountain bikes are available for rent by the day or longer in many of the bicycle rental outlets in and around the city. If you wish to be enlightened about the culture, rhythm of village life, cool spots to visit, perhaps guided trips should be undertaken.

It was in the mid-1980s that biking activity really took off in Kathmandu. Enthusiasts flew with their bikes from Hong Kong to Tibet to answer the call of the wild steppes. The two-week journey from there over the passes (17,000 ft) to Nepal is what sparked it all off. Even today Kathmandu is a mecca for mountain bicyclists, as it draws thousands of enthusiasts from all corners of the world.

Some of the regular routes that cover the valley are

1. Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan: Historically, the Kathmandu Valley was comprised of three Malla principalities, later conquered and united by the Gorkhali army of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who set the Shah dynasty chain in motion, which continues to this day.

Day 1: Kathmandu (24 km/3-4 hours): Start from the nerve center of old Kathmandu, and wind your way up to holy Swayambhu, otherwise known as the monkey temple. And then ride up and over the valley perimeter, reentering Thamel from the northwest corner through terraced farmland and hamlets forgotten by time.

Day 2: Bhaktapur (30 km/4-5 hours): Begin at Thimi or the restored capital of Bhaktapur, and head up the winding road to Changu Narayan Temple and return via farming villages. Then head down to Pashupati along the bank of the Bagmati river, arguably the most famous temple in Nepal, and finish up at Boudhanath stupa.

Day 3: Patan (51 km/8-9 hours): Start in Patan, winding your way through the labyrinth of lanes with painstakingly-carved windows, taking in historical sites such as the Golden Temple, Krishna Temple and Patan Durbar Square. Then head southeast over the Valley circumference to Panauti along a difficult off-road trail. Then return to Kathmandu via a paved road. A word of caution: this route is demanding and should only be undertaken by physically fit and experienced bikers.

Other outlying places popular with mountain bike enthusiasts are Nagarjun, Nage Gompa, Tokha, Ichangu Narayan, Gomcha, Bungamati, Kakani, Dhulikhel and Nagarkot.

Other relatively longer mountain bike trips are those extending from:

  1. Dhulikhel to Kodari (82 km), near the Tibetan border;
  2. Naubise to Royal Chitwan Park along the Rajpath through such as scenic places as the Palung Valley, Daman, and the not-so-scenic industrial town of Hetauda in the plains;
  3. Hetauda to Mugling by way of Narayanghat;
  4. Lakeside Pokhara up and along the ridge to Sarangkot Point, and continuing on to Naudanda from where you could take in the breathtaking close-up view of the Himalayas and the Pokhara valley;
  5. Naudanda to Pokhara through Lumle, Beni and Birethanti, or Naudanda to Pokhara (32 km) either via Sarangkot trail described in d) or the highway track, which starts with a twisting 6 km descent into Modi Khola valley.

There are many more if you are willing to take the time to find out and blaze your own trails.

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