YouTube of this ride can be found here
This blog has been published courtesy of stealing WiFi from my good friend Jayne Williams, thanks bird x
Most of our trekking group took a chopper out of Everest basecamp, this resulted in us being back in Kathmandu five days early. Even Cassi and Nicole, that walked out of EBC, arrived in Kathmandu one day earlier than expected. Arriving earlier than expected meant either moving your flight or paying for accommodation. It was cheaper for me to pay for accommodation than buy another flight, which was a bit tiresome, as I was totally out of money, especially cash, which you need to do anything in Nepal. And I felt particularly mean as everyone expects a bloody tip, which is difficult without cash!
I was happy to just chill and rest for the five days, but thought I should really take the opportunity to sample the mountain biking around Kathmandu, if it wasn’t too expensive.
I found Himalayan Single Track online, and arranged a day with them in the Nagarkot trails for $150. Nagarkot held the latest round of the Asian enduro championship a week or so beforehand, so I knew it would be good. As it turned out, HST couldn’t accept a credit card payment, which was a real pain having to use cash, but I knew if I didn’t ride, I’d seriously regret it. So the budget crept yet again.
HST picked me up at 8am, they usually set off at 7am but I didn’t fancy that! They arrived in a Mahindra pickup truck, the driver and two guides. I opted to ride in the back of the truck with Anish, the manager/guide, and the three Giant bikes.
It was a really long ride from the hotel to the hill top, the first half hour was in the dust and pollution of Kathmandu city, then out into the country side. I think the ride was longer than usual because half way up the mountain the road was impassable, so Sankey, the driver had to divert and find another route.
The sights, the mayhem, the randomness of the journey up the mountain provided a thousand photo opportunities, alas in the back of a truck on the rough roads there’s no chance of getting a stable shot! Just to ride up in the truck is interesting enough, it really is, you just can’t express in words or film what you’re actually experiencing!
The Nagarkot hills really are alive, with small villages, bustling towns, crops growing on every spare patch of terraced mountainside, mopeds,motorbikes, Nepali army troops training, army barracks and even goats on motorbikes! There’s also a geological survey campus and an observatory. Plus many hotels, even a bus station. Why this is astounding is that getting up the mostly un-surfaced mountain road to the top of the near 2200 metre mountain is no mean feat in itself!
It’s very dusty and I’m regretting not wearing my dust mask now! Not only are the roads mostly not surfaced, there is a lot of building going on, or I should say rebuilding, still, after the earthquake a couple of years ago. It seems that women do most of the heavy building work too, I wonder if this is cultural and expected of them or if they’re pissed off with waiting for the procrastinating men to do it!!??
We passed through Nagarkot town, and continued on for some time further and arrived at the hill top, where there are all sorts of small shops and food stalls. I understand the area is popular for the Nepalis to picnic. It’s a shame they don’t take their rubbish away with them, the surrounding area is quite littered, but I guess litter is the least of their problems!
In between the stalls is a flight of stairs up to the Nagakot View Tower, we took a look up there. It’s a paved clearing at the top of the hill, with an iron tower that you can climb up to get a better view. The day we went, the distant views were shrouded in fog, although we could see across the immediate valley to the next mountain, most of the time. Apparently after the rainy season, visiting in October/November will give you fine views of the Himalayas, including Everest.
A quick cup of tea from a stall then onto the riding. I believe we was all riding Giant Trance bikes, custom builds from a frame by the HST team. Kiran, the super talented young gun was the lead guide, with Anish coming up behind, to make sure I didn’t disappear! And pick me up when I’d rolled into a ball!
With hind-sight what we should have done is start on an easy flow trail, so I could get used to the bike. I hadn’t ridden for nearly four weeks, and had only ridden Stumpy or Desmond ever. The front geometry felt quite alien, compared to my Stumpjumper, with little feel from the front wheel. This was just something I’d get used to quite easily, but the fact the front brake was on the left and rear on the right, took a bit more thought to get over! I nearly went over the handlebars a few times in a rear brake panic, pulling on the front instead!
Anyway the first trail we did was far too difficult for me to get down the tekky parts not on my arse! But I’m a big girl, if I can’t ride down it, I will get down it, and that’s how I always approach trails. I think because I struggled, only with the tekky parts, on the first trail, I think Kiran thought it was too difficult for me and on the next two trails, he went a lot slower, which was a too slow. I could seem to get it across that even if I struggle on the tekky parts, I wanted to go fast on the non-tek sections. Still both trails were a good ride.
The last trail, the longest we did that day, Kiran speeded up, which was much more fun. I’ll post a YouTube of this run, when I get some WiFi!
Poor Anish had to second guess my sudden stops, which I often do for no reason! I think it's lack of concentration! And he also had to preempt when I was going to fall next, and not run me over. Well done Anish, you must be psychic!
I’d had at least three falls that day, the first one just a low side on the first trail, then I rode quite hard into a tree on a steep section on the second trail, just out of control type of thing. I think I managed not to fall on the third one. On the last run, on a steep and rough downhill part, I must have been too far over the back, as I believe I went right over the back, on the rear wheel up-side-down type of thing. I’ve never done this on Stumpy, although I have on my Demo8.
Really I think I was just out of control, and I didn’t care because it was such fun.
What I really loved about these trails is that there wasn’t any gnarly rocks to fall on, so I didn’t care if I fell. We are talking proper loam here! I’d only recently ridden in Australia, where it’s really rugged and rocky, and also in Hawaii, where the rocks are even sharper. I’ve come away from Nagakot with more scratches and bruises than in my past five months of riding on the two other continents, put together!
The terrain was pine forest or Nepali jungle, mostly downhill with a few short pedally bits. And the trails were all proper singletrack. It was dry the day I rode, I would imagine it could get quite slippery and fun in the wet. Most of the steep parts were short chutes, that had become rutted in places, and had small drops, which made them interesting! I’d love to have done all the trails again another day, as I think I could have ridden most of the tekky bits that I chickened out of, and ridden better and faster the ones I did do.
Riding behind someone as good as Kiran really helped my riding. And what I noticed watching him, apart from him being a billion times more skilled than me, is that he can stand fully on the bike, which is something I can’t really do, not sure why, so I’m gonna investigate if perhaps I need a large frame or perhaps my posture isn’t right. Anyway that’s something for the future.
Just watching him was really good for me, and if it taught me nothing else, that is not to go so fucking slow, and just bang down the rough stuff!
We finished the day with the ride back to my hotel in the Mahindra, driven by Sankey Shrestha.
He’d done a fab job, locating us at the bottom of each trail and shuttling us back to the top again. His driving wasn’t crazy, so it wasn’t scary in the back of the truck, although I am amazed that I haven’t seen one accident, at all, in the midst of the motoring mayhem on the Kathmandu roads!
Himalayan Single Track link
Wear a dust mask when in the truck! I’m still coughing nearly a week later, just from the road dust.