Trail Runners - The Past, Present & Future of Mountain Biking in India

Four years ago, an excited 15-year-old Akash Sherpa rode his bike on the slopes around his home in Shoghi, a small town around 15 km from Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. He was preparing for the big day. Cycling is a way of life in the hills either while running chores or racing with friends. So, when the Hero MTB Shimla - a two-day bike race - came to town, it gave him and his mates a purpose to race.

There was just one catch: He didn’t have a bike to ride during the two-day event.

With little idea about the demands of mountain biking (MTB) - the boys were in it just for bragging rights - Akash made his way to the start line on a borrowed bike. He was confident of doing well; after all this was a terrain that he was familiar with. He would be pleasantly proved wrong. Miles away from the short stretches that he was used to riding on around home, the race took him through the unchartered territory of long winding roads high up in the mountains, opening up a whole new world of discovery and adventure.

What he did not expect, however, was that two days later he would find himself on the winner’s podium. And once the brief celebrations died out, the teen realised he was hooked on to the sport of mountain biking.

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It wasn’t like bicycles were new to the Sherpas. Akash’s father, S.D. Sherpa, had repaired bicycles for a living. Ashish, the younger sibling, was also part of Akash’s entourage that rode along Shoghi’s hills. The two brothers grew up pushing each other around on a bicycle lovingly made by their father. Never did they think, though, that professional racing would become an important part of the family.

About the Writer

Shail Desai is a Mumbai-based journalist. He finds his kicks and his peace when in the mountains, and awaits the next excuse to get there.