Anthill Films traveled to Nepal in the fall of 2011 to shoot a segment for Strength in Numbers, which premieres this April. In the May issue of Bike, photographer Sterling Lorence and writer Jonathan Schramm bring us their story of Nepal’s young and growing mountain bike culture:
I had come to Nepal with some of my collaborators at Anthill Films on a shoot for our new production, Strength in Numbers. During our two weeks there, met some of the people who are pushing mountain biking forward in Nepal. They led us—along with sponsored riders Andrew Shandro and René Wildhaber—to pristine singletrack all over the country, and it was humbling to see the efforts put forth to host us and treat us to the most amazing experiences.
Though Nepalese riders feel connected to the broader mountain-bike community despite their geographic isolation, their story is still largely one of developing awareness. And in recent years they have learned that they are blessed with a bounty of what core mountain bikers desire: flowing singletrack. Nepal is covered in singletrack because most people in the country get around on foot. Most Nepalese cannot afford vehicles, and there are few roads because the government cannot afford to build and maintain them.
“I could point to six trails from here that haven’t been ridden before and that is still here,” says Mads Mathiasen, a Danish expatriate who has lived in Nepal for 17 years and operates the Kathmandu-based Unique Trails. “If you are excited about exploring new trails, you can take a guide who is comfortable enough with the area. You still have so many more opportunities to go and find new trails.”
The lowlands in the south of Nepal have footpaths winding through vibrant green crops and lush vegetation to connect houses and fields. Higher in the mountains to the north, the trails are narrower and connect remote villages spread throughout the high-mountain valleys. But the common denominator of all the country’s trails is that they are foot-made—the best for riding.
Mountain bikes were first introduced to Nepal through expatriates who ran trekking and tour companies based in Kathmandu. They initially rode for fun in and around the city, but it eventually occurred to them that it would be possible to complete some of the popular Himalayan trekking routes on mountain bikes.
The veteran members of Nepal’s riding community were the first generation of riders who explored the classic Himalayan routes on mountain bikes. But as locals gain more exposure to what is happening outside the country, the perception of what international mountain bikers desire is shifting from routes simply to be completed to those trails sought out for their quality and flow.
Check out Strength in Numbers, and be sure to read the whole story in the May issue of Bike, which will hit the newsstands on April 3rd 2012 (meaning you’ll most likely see it in bike shops late March, and we will not see our copies until April 10th, or so). You can download issues of (or subscribe to) Bike magazine here on the Apple Newsstand.