Mountain biking gaining attention in Kashmir
Post by Syeda Rafiyah on Sunday, November 6, 2022
Mountain biking is gaining attention of bikers and adventure seekers in Kashmir as the Himalayan region is the perfect setup for this extreme adventure that tests ones grit and gives you experiences of a lifetime.
It is a sport of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, usually using specially designed mountain bikes. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain, such as air or coil-sprung shocks used as suspension, larger and wider wheels and tires, stronger frame materials, and mechanically or hydraulically actuated disc brakes.
Although enjoyed by many, Mountain Biking at the same timeis extremely dangerous and needs professional guidance at every step. In Kashmir, many youth are making their way to mountain biking which was not before there and are setting a new trend.
Nine months ago, Mirza Mehdi, who runs a travel agency in Srinagar, was busy with his work and he met his friends and discussed with them to explore mountain biking and they started preparing for the same. Earlier before that, he was passionate for cycling and used it to burn calories and for recreation in morning and evening hours.
Downhill-mountain biking hit his mind after watching the videos of the late Fhzal Wani, a talented and young Mountain Terrain Biking (MTB) cycling star of Kashmir who died in 2020.
A resident of Aharbal Shalimar, Mehdi said a year ago, he along with his friend went to Shankar Acharia to explore the trial (often functions as viable corridor in mountain biking) which was already made by Fhzal Wani. They started training themselves on the same trail.
“We tried from there and used internet to learn about the mountain biking. We developed more interest in it and tried to explore it. We upgraded our cycles to full suspension and used shockers for the same. Mountain biking needs a full suspension bike which has strong shockers on front and center which can takeout hardest of the jumps,” he said.
The 30-year-old youth along with his friends started mountain biking at Shankar Achayria for a long time. Later, they also completed 12 kilometers downhill biking at Branwar Chadoora, then on Affarwat mountain Gulmarg, for the same which gave him confidence. Recently, they went to Kung Watan Aharbal where they also did downhill mountain biking.
Mehdi who is also a taekwondo player and an athlete said in Kashmir, mountain biking is new sport and no such training is given here that is also a reason why youth do not go for it. “We trained ourselves and learned the basics. Now we want to take this unique sport to other youth,” he said.
Mehdi also runs a YouTube channel on the name of MTB Riders Rule which is gaining much popularity on the internet and has more than 10,000 followers.
“We also started posting on Instagram and YouTube to show the world that a Kashmiris can also do what mountain bikers do internationally. Many youth send me messages after they watched my videos seeking to join me but honestly I do not take them along as they lack training and it is a difficult sport,” he said.
He said in India there are few treks for mountain biking that include at Pune and in Disco Valley in Ladakh where competitions are held and international players take part.
Recently, a hoodie brand approached him and his friend and did shooting for a video advertisement and they were also impressed by the mountain biker.
Manzoor Hussain Rather is another mountain cycler from Srinagar who has been doing the mountain cycling over the past eight months and has gone to many places for the same.
“I have been into basic cycling for a long time but mountain cycling which is quite different I started this year only,” said the 30-year-old, who runs a bicycle shop.
Rather said Kashmir has many benefits when it comes to mountain biking or cycling and there are countless downhill mountains which is essential for the mountain biking.
“But till date the mountain cycling has remained unexplored. In foreign countries there is a huge scope for this kind of sport and it could be easily developed here” he said.
Rather said he has not received any formal training however his friends, who also go for mountain cycling, have helped him to learn the basics and he applied the same.
Similarly, many youngsters have also developed interest in mountain biking. But they say due to the lack of training in the valley they train themselves and learn from friends.
Athar Ali Dar, 24, from Srinagar is another young mountain cycler who started doing it four months ago. He said he was frightened but when he started he found it very entertaining and enjoyed the sport. It has also given him pleasure and confidence.
A fourth semester student of Vishwa Bharati College of Education, Rainawari Srinagar said training is very important for any kind of sport but there is no such training in Kashmir.
“Cycle also matters a lot in this sport which is rare in Kashmir. Mountain cycling can’t be done on a normal cycle, mountain cycles are costlier,” he said.
Another mountain biker is Syed Abu Muhammad Hamdani who was interested in mountain biking since his childhood and used to watch videos on internet.
“I started doing it lonely a year ago. Then I introduced some of my friends for the same. I used to go to Shankar Acharya mountain where I got a lot of confidence,” he said.
The 20-year-old who is doing diploma in Civil Engineering at Kashmir Polytechnic Rajbagh is one of the youngest mountain bikers in Kashmir. “It has a very good scope but it needs a lot of skills. Today, all the mountain bikers learn by doing free ride and who so ever has done it is self-taught,” he said.
Muhammad Ameen aka Sheen Ameen,a resident of Ganderbal is another mountain biker from central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
In 2016, the 32-year-old participated in Asia’s Largest Mountain Race named Hero MTB Himalaya from Shimla to Dharamshala which lasted for six days for a distance of 650km.
The Hero MTB Himalaya is an annual mountain bike race held in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. It was started in 2005. In 2016, the route was changed from Shimla to Dharamshala and since then the race has been also called as ride to Land of Lamas.
When Ameen returned back to Kashmir after participating in the event, he started a travel agency-cum-company in 2017 and named it Mountain Terrain Biking (MTB) through which he provides cycles to the mountain biker enthusiasts especially non-locals who come to Kashmir.
“We have 20 mountain biking cycles. When non locals come here and want to go for mountain biking they directly contact us through our website,” he said.
The MTB has been organizing mountain biking events and has also been promoting adventure tourism. It has so far organized two mountain biking events which was participated by 150 mountain bikers.