February 15, 2019 09:28 AM NPT
By: URZA ACHARYA
Bike racing is a sport that is believed to have a lot of scope in Nepal. It’s considered an epitome of adventurous sports with its history dating back to the 1890s. However, it’s only in the recent years that mountain biking has come into the spotlight for Nepali youths. Moreover, there are only a handful of female bikers in Nepal as of now. But 23-year-old Nishma Shrestha, a mountain bike racer, is creating waves on the mountain biking front, winning international accolades. She won the 2018 Asian Enduro series and has also participated in various national competitions.
Shrestha started mountain biking in 2010 but her mountain bike racing journey started only after four years of getting into mountain biking, i.e. in 2014. She reveals that it was her father and uncle who introduced her to mountain biking. “As I started getting into it, I got the chance to learn from more experienced riders and thus could further improve my riding skills,” she says.
According to Shrestha, her love for mountain biking stems from the sense of freedom and happiness she gets when she pedals away on her bike. “I get this wonderful, lively feeling as I breeze through forests and open roads on my bike,” she says adding that her confidence level increases significantly with each and every bike ride she goes on. Shrestha loves nature and feels connected to the wilderness the most when she is on a two-wheeler pedaling through soft soils near a pond or following a heavy mountain track.
Similarly, the mountain biking community of Nepal has been quite welcoming ever since she first took up the extreme sport. “My fellow riders are helpful and friendly and constantly push me to further master my craft,” she says adding that they help you from the beginning, be it learning how to ride or master a certain advanced skill. Another thing she admires about the biking community is the support they provide when a rider is in trouble. “Their devotion and care are evident when in case of an obstacle. They put you first and get you to safety before tending to themselves,” she explains.
Shrestha has taken up mountain bike racing as profession rather than just an interest. Alongside bike racing, she also works as a guide and is a student of tourism management. She sees a lot of scope in mountain bike racing in Nepal, considering how Nepal is blessed with a lot of mountains. She also highlights the fact that the mountain biking community lacks Nepali athletes ready to challenge themselves and truly make full use of the opportunities in Nepal. “If we train students on mountain biking from a young age, they can not only be recognized at a national level but also represent Nepal internationally as well,” she says.
However, she explains that mountain biking is certainly not an easy task. The paths and roads are challenging and a person needs to be really strong willed and truly passionate about what he/she is doing to be able to pull it off. The other thing Shrestha reveals is how expensive mountain biking can be. From buying the bike to its gears, the expenses can really pile up. It’s an investment and a commitment you have to be ready for.
Also, not everyone can afford a good quality bike as they are not made in Nepal and have to be imported from other countries. The cycling community, however small, does try to support a good rider, especially female, by lending them bikes or taking them for a ride which, Shrestha reveals, has given opportunities to people with limited means to still engage in their passion for mountain biking.
Shrestha has so far biked to places like Namche, Manag, Mustang – place that can be considered arduous just for walking but with a bike in tow it can become even bigger a challenge. Apparently, some places are too steep and bikers actually have to carry their bikes on their shoulders and make the climb. But Shrestha says these are only small hurdles and that they can’t deter her from taking up even more challenging routes in the future.
Her future plans also include further honing her skills and, in the process, discovering hidden trails as well. With her participation in various programs relating to mountain bike racing, she wishes to encourage more women to take up mountain biking and those who have already done so to further refine their skills. She also hopes to train women younger to her in order for them to improve their skills and embark on their own journey like Shrestha herself did about nine years ago. “My life has taken a more beautiful and fulfilling turn ever since I got my hands on my first mountain bike. Once you experience the adrenaline rush of riding a bike there is no turning back,” she concludes.