Mountain Biking Diaries of a Heritage Expert

Features Issue 211 Jun, 2019

You may have seen him examining the seven World Heritage Site monument zones around the Kathmandu Valley with a friendly smile on his face. While his work as UNESCO representative to Nepal is definitely his main concern, today we are going to get a quick look into his second passion, mountain biking! Read on as Mr. Christian Manhart unveils his personal cycling genesis.

When did you first start mountain biking?

I started city biking in 2005 when I was living in Paris. Before that I did everything by car, but driving became more and more difficult with increasing traffic. Luckily, one day I saw a discount promotion on city bikes and decided to give it a try. From the first minute of peddling this bike, I had a smile on my lips, and I couldn’t stop since. The bike in Paris endowed me with incredible freedom, flexibility, and speed to move around the city at will. When I moved to Nepal in 2014, I bought a mountain bike and started to explore the trails around Kathmandu. In the beginning it was a challenge to find good tracks. But, fortunately, I joined the Critical Mass group, where I met very friendly Nepali mountain bikers who showed me some trails. From there, I got connected to other mountain biking enthusiasts, with whom I did the 75-km Kora several times and some outdoor festival races.

What are your favorite trails?

I often bike in the south of Kathmandu, and very much enjoy the ride on the small trails towards the large suspension bridge over the Nakhu River south of Chapagaun. There are also great small single trails in the southern hills of the valley. My favorite one, however, is in the Annapurna area, biking up to Muktinath. The reward for this long uphill is the mythic downhill Lupra free-ride to Eklebati, and from there to Jomson, Dhumba Lake, and Marpha. From all points of these trails, you have ever-changing, majestic up-close views of the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri-Nilgiri range. This experience of a lifetime was so addictive that I repeated it three times!

Do you have any suggestion for preparing a mountain biking checklist?

After having suffered on a hard trail during my first Annapurna area ride, I decided on using a fully-suspended bike on the Nepali trails, which are quite bumpy.

Tell us about one of your most thrilling mountain biking adventures.

There are almost no prepared trails in Nepal, therefore I very much enjoy the Hattiban Outdoor Festival cross-country trail, which is excellently arranged and renewed every year by the organizers. For their 2018 race, for the first time I trained and practiced, and was rewarded with the first place in my age group.

How do you blend your work with your passion?

It is a challenge to find time to combine work with my passion. Thankfully, on the occasion of World Heritage Day on April 18, 2015, we co-organized the first Heritage Ride to the seven Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site monument zones with Tour de Lumbini. This was a big success, with over three hundred riders, who visited these sites exactly one week before the earthquake, which destroyed so much of them. Since then, UNESCO supports the Heritage Ride every year.

What is mountain biking for you?

Before my posting here, I had never been in Nepal, and mountain biking became one of the keys to discovering this country in depth, through meeting wonderful people in the biker community with whom I became close friends, discovering beautiful landscapes, and learning about how the people live in remote villages. In addition, cycling is a very pleasant and efficient endurance sport that helps to keep my body fit and provides me many moments of joy and success. These are the reasons why mountain biking quickly became a passion for me.