16 of the best mountain biking events in India
© Ben Joseph
Indian rider Shiven Aerohawk lists out the top professional and amateur MTB events that take place across the mountaineous landscapes of the country.
Mountain biking (MTB) is a sport which originated in USA in the 1970s and spread throughout the world quickly.
In mountain biking, athletes ride bicycles off-road on specially-designed bikes. These bikes have frames with superior strength and often come with front and rear suspensions which help improve off-road performance.
The sport has four main disciplines in which riders usually compete.
- Cross-country Olympic (XCO): Cross-country races are mass-start, multi-lap races held over undulating circuits of 4 to 6 km. Courses for this race are challenging with a lot of technical sections like rock gardens, jumps, drops, ramps, berms etc.
- Cross-country Marathon (XCM): These are held over a course of 60 to 160 km. A special feature of these races is that riders from all categories – enthusiasts to professionals – race together. The races are usually held in a mountainous region.
- Downhill (DH): Downhill is a race against the clock in which riders negotiate down fast, technical routes around obstacles like tree roots, banked sections, bumps, and jumps. Riders really need to have courage and good technical ability to take on downhill races.
- Enduro: Enduro events include a mix of liaison and timed stages. Participants are ranked based on the total time from all their timed stages. An enduro course comprises varied off-road terrain. Enduro racing requires athletes to use a combination of endurance, speed and technical skills.
Cycling events are governed by International Cycling Union (UCI). Every country has its own national federations affiliated to the international organization.
The Cycling Federation of India governs the sport in India, organises professional events, and selects the Indian contingent for international competitions like Asian Championships, South Asian Games etc.
Mountain biking events in India can be classified into two groups: 1) professional events conducted by the federation, and 2) private events conducted by companies/agencies/individuals.
Professional MTB events in India
You will need a valid UCI/CFI rider license to participate in professional MTB events in India. These licenses can be applied for at state units of the national federation. Details of professional MTB events are usually updated on the federation website or passed on personally through the state units.
1. MTB National Championships: This is definitely the most important race in the Indian MTB calendar. About 600 riders qualify to the national championships through district and state trials every year. They compete in Cross-country Olympic and downhill events in Youth (under-14), Sub-junior (under-16), Junior (under-18) and Elite in both men and women categories. The winners are declared the Indian National Champion in the respective categories.
2. MTB Kerala: It is India’s first-ever UCI Class 2 event. This event gets a lot of international participation from countries like Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Uzbekistan etc.
3. MTB Uttarakhand: An eight-day stage race through the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, this event attracts a lot of Asian riders from Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
4. Northquest Challenge Leh: It is a two-day stage race. Since it is conducted at an altitude of 3,300 metres above sea level, it is the highest cross-country marathon event in the world.
Private MTB events in India
There are a lot of community and private events around the country which are open to anyone for participation. All you need to do is register with the organisers, pay the registration fees and make your way to the starting line.
1. Bangalore Mountain Festival: This has one of the most technical courses in the country and is superbly organized. It is conducted on the outskirts of Bengaluru and features cross-country Olympic and downhill events.
2. Aravalli Trail Hunters: This race is conducted in the outskirts of Gurugram, on rocky trails of the Aravali Mountains amid dense keekar trees.
3. Riders of the Storm: These races conducted in Chandigarh are known for their challenging tracks and the lively crowd that supports the riders.
4. MTB Shimla: This is a two-day event organised around the hills of Shimla.
5. Bangalore Bicycle Championships: This is the oldest racing community in India. The championship is conducted throughout the calendar with regularly cross-country and downhill events.
6. Kohima Downhill Race: This downhill event in Kohima attracts riders from across the country.
7. MTB Himalaya: Kicking off from Shimla, this eight-day stage race is one of the toughest as it runs through the Himalayan Mountains, often across the state of Himachal Pradesh.
8. Temgarh MTB Challenge: Organised by Mumbai MTB Offroaders, the event hosts cross-country as well as downhill events at Temgarh.
9. Assam Downhill Championships: Organised by SpokeHub, this race in Guwahati attracts riders from all across the country.
10. Ladakh MTB Festival: This is an MTB festival conducted at Disko Valley Bike Park which includes a pump track challenge and a downhill race.
11. MTB Nainital: This is a two-day MTB race organised around Nainital.
12. Tenzing Norgay MTB Challenge: A one-day cross-country marathon race organised by Himalyan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling that features steep long climbs to test the best in you.