Mountain biking does not have to be a sport restricted to just professional racers. It can be fun for anyone keen to take it up.
The only case of caution to be made for newbies is to make sure you have the right equipment before you get started. And the most important piece of equipment in downhill or cross-country mountain biking is the bicycle itself.
The Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), which organises the annual MTB Himalaya mountain biking race, recommends a bike with full suspension; or at the very least, a front suspension bike.
The Shimla-based association has a list of nine MTB bikes that work best in the Himalayan mountains based on how they have fared during the MTB Himalaya race. Here are their bike suggestions ahead of MTB Himalaya 2019.
#1: BH Ultimate 29”
Antonio Ortiz emerged as the second runner-up of the 13th Hero MTB Himalaya on the BH Ultimate bike. He soared through the climbs and stretches, but the bike shone to help him win the 5th stage of the race when he made good time over crossings of two Himalayan rivers — Beas and Sutlej. This is the best bike for river crossings.
#2: Kona Hei Hei
Cory Wallace is arguably the most experienced MTB racer in the Himalayas. He has brought his Kona Hei Hei when competing at MTB Himalaya. This beast of a bike has helped him dominate stages with single tracks.
#3: KTM Prestige 27.5
Over the last few years, manufacturers have started creating bikes with a shorter reach, more upright position and lower stander to suit the gait of female riders. Catherine Williamson is the most successful female rider at MTB Himalaya. She has ridden the KTM Prestige 27.5, with Mitas Scylla tires, Fox 32 Fork and Shimano xtr di2 shifters, to victory in several stages
#4: Jamis D29
Riding in the Himalayas can get technical and difficult. Thomas Turner, a USA-based bike shop owner, enjoys these technical stretches and has an 8.6kg Jamis D29 just for such stages. This bike is great for technical stages and for hike-and-bike situations.
#5: UT Edge ETX
David Kumar is one of the shining forces in India’s MTB community. He has ridden the UT Edge ETX to dominate the Indian field, and even stay relevant among international competitors. This India-made bike was also used by Scandinavian rider Thomas Engelsgjerd in 2017 after he smashed his own bike beyond repair.
#6: Trek Procaliber 9.9
Wim Tollonaire has been one of the best performers in the Master’s solo category at MTB Himalaya. He has ridden the Trek Procaliber 9.9 with Fox Factory 32 Float front suspension. The bike has helped him stay steady on climbs and has generally broken down less often than other bikes on the Himalayan trails.
#7: BMC HT
Micael Isidoro is a seasoned road cyclist who has picked the BMC Hardtail when competing in the Himalayas. While he expected to struggle through the terrain, he has reported that he was actually quite comfortable on the bike, equipped with Prototype wheels and a Rockshox suspension.
#8: Scott Scale RC
Adria Noguera has been King of the Himalayas while competing on the Scott Scale RC. He used the factory fittings on the bike with tweaked Syncros carbon wheels and Maxxis tyres to emerge as the best in the race.
#9: Trek Top Fuel 9.9
This is a bike favoured by Pedro Campos, a veteran MTB rider who has participated in MTB Himalaya repeatedly. He used the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 Full Suspension, tailor-made under Project 1 when riding in the Himalayan mountains.
About HASTPA and MTB Himalaya
HASTPA organises the Hero MTB Himalaya cross-country mountain biking race between September and October every year. The race has been consistently ranked amongst the toughest MTB stage races in the world and is widely considered to be Asia’s largest MTB race.
The 2019 edition of the race will take riders over a gruelling course from Shimla to Bir Billing, over seven days and seven stages of off-road biking action.
The course consists of scenic single tracks, river crossings, gravel, jeep tracks and broken tarmac sections.