Chain reaction

Features Issue 116 Jun, 2011
Text by Niraj Karki

We are walkers - our natural means of travel is to put one foot in front of the other. The bicycle seduces our basic nature by making walking exciting. It lets us take 10-foot strides at 160 paces a minute. That’s 20 miles an hour, instead of 4 or 5... It is not only how fast you go --- cars are faster and jet planes faster still. But jet-plane travel is frustrating boredom - at least the car gives the pictorial illusion of travel. Cycling does it all - you have the complete satisfaction of arriving because your mind has chosen the path and steered you over it, your eyes have seen it, your muscles have felt it, your breathing, circulatory and digestive systems have all done their natural functions better than ever, and every part of your being knows you have traveled and arrived. - John Forester, Effective Cycling

There are plenty of dirt roads and trails in Nepal to meet every mountain biker’s wildest fantasy – all set in the backdrop of majestic mountains. From day trips to weeks of cycling – there’s everything even the Yak Attack – the worlds highest mountain bike race on earth crossing the Thorung La Pass at 5416m.
Cycling holidays vary from day rides to weeks for example the around the Annapurna which lasts for 15 days. Riders can explore rims and ridges of Kathmandu and Pokhara through off routes that weave in and out of the cities along which food and accommodation are easily available.

Cycles can easily be hired from cycle shops in Thamel in Kathmandu and in Lakeside in Pokhara. Prices start at around Rs. 500 per day. Many cycling holidays booked from travel agencies will include the cost of bike hire but some won’t so that’s always worth checking.
In Kathmandu day cycling trips to any of the surrounding hill stations is a great idea. Drive up to Nagarkot, Jamacho, Godavari and then cycle back downhill 20-45 km back to Kathmandu. You can also cycle up the hill and back down again usually after an overnight stay at the hilltop of Nagarkot, Chisapani, Dhulikhel and Namobuddha.

Or try a combined route over 5 days that takes you to the best hilltops in Kathmandu for stunning views of the mountains.
Day 01: Kathmandu to Lakuri Bhanjyang via Chobar - Mixed 34 km
Day 02: Lakuri Bhanjyang to Dhulikhel via Namobuddha - Mixed 39 km
Day 03: Dhulikhel to Nagarkot via Nala - Moslty Uphill 22 km
Day 04:
Nagarkot to Chisapani - Flat and Uphill 42 km
Day 05:
Chisapani to Kathmandu via Sundari Jal - Downhill 23 km
21 to 27 gear bicycles are recommended for most biking in Nepal since the terrain is often very rough. While every season has its own appeal for cycling, monsoon which runs from mid June to late September will offer little views of mountains and lots of rain instead. Ideal riding conditions are in winter from October to end of January with clear views of mountains and dry tracks. From February to May which is spring/summer riding is pleasant but tends to get very hot towards the end with possibility of showers.

Better together
Cycling in groups with a minimum of 2 and maximum 16 people makes for safer travel as well as cheaper.
For those into serious biking here are a couple of challenging biking route guides in Nepal.


  Muktinath to Pokhara Round Annapurna
Duration 10 Days 15 Days (includes rest day for acclimatization)
Best Season February-April, September to November March-May, September-November
Altitude Range 3710m Max 5416m at Thorong la Pass
Difficulty Tough Extreme (possibility of AMS)
Group Size Min. 2 Min. 4 person
Average Daily Distance 25-30 approx. 35km
Support Porter, Guide-cum-Mechanic Guide-cum-mechanic and Porters

Fly to Jomsom, and then bike via spectacular places
such as Kagbeni, Muktinath, Marpha, Tatopani and
Sarankot finally ending up in Pokhara.

Cost $1300-$1500 (depending on group size
includes Pokhara to Jomsom flight and permits)
Experience required, consists of some areas where
bikes will have to be carried.

Cycle through Besi Sahar, Taal, Chame, Manang,

Thorong Phedi, Kagbeni, Tatopani, Beni and end up in Pokhara.

There’s extreme cycling and there’s extreme
cycling – crossing the magnificient Thorong La Pass at
5416m will leave you breathless, literally!
Cost $1800-$1900