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GNARLY ON A ROLL

AL-v-3-i-12-219A group of cyclists pedal their way up along the Trishuli Highway, a chilly winter morning does little to deter. They join no less than a couple of dozen cyclists hogging down aalu chana by a bonfire at Bhuwan Dai’s Khaja Pasal at Mudkhu’s popular biking checkpoint. Some twenty kilometers away, more than two hundred mountain bikers have convened in front of Shivapuri National Park’s gate at Mulpani, Budhanilkantha. They are protesting an overnight hundred-fold price hike in entry fees for cyclists (from Rs. 10 to Rs. 1,000). Likewise, a clan of commuters takes to the streets near Tudikhel at the Critical Mass rally to make with sheer numbers their presence felt and with their dazzling night lights, their presence seen by vehicles in urban streets. Meanwhile, clad in wind cheaters and multiple layers of thermals, tourists huff and puff against dry winds on arid trails of Manang, crossing the Thorung La Pass on their mountain bikes. These are but mere snapshots of the burgeoning cycling community in Nepal. And the evidence is clear: Mountain biking, as we know it, is transforming into a mainstream activity. To build on this momentum, two mountain bikers have brought forth the idea of harnessing leisure cycling, professional training, racing events and athlete management into what has manifested into Gnarly Biking.

GNARLY WHO?

Gnarly came into existence in October 2015 when Shyam Limbu and Anuj Adhikary, avid cyclists and outdoor bugs, came up with a simple idea – to nurture cycling through a comprehensive approach. It stems out of the budding cycling scene not merely for utility and recreation, but equally in competitive sport and tourism. “It always bewilders people when I tell them that I ride bicycles for a living,” says Shyam, a mountain biking guide. “Taking clients to the trails and showing them a good time on bikes is all I can dream of. Luckily, I get to do that for a living!” Anuj shares a similar story, “My grandfather still thinks that cycling is a phase, though it’s been well more than a decade since I’ve been bitten. The rest of my family and friends are no exceptions.” The duo draw from their prior experiences and what they specialize in – Shyam in product development, and Anuj in business strategy – to bring Gnarly to its operational form.

 

Lush-greenery-and-dramatic-skies-of-early-spring-in-Chitwan-National-Park,-on-what-Limbu-calls-'mountain-biking-safari'-rideBLENDING FUN AND KARMA

Firmly rooted in its modus operandi of merging social and business models, Gnarly uses cycling as a medium to make a positive mark in the society. “In our mission to create a thriving cycling community and bring about a social reform, we are committed to provide professional biking skills training to female cyclists and at-risk youth,” explains Anuj. Furthermore, internship and employment opportunities to deserving candidates at Gnarly and partnering companies further encourage trainees to pursue cycling seriously. “Through such incentives, we hope to prepare the trainees for this sector and help them pursue their passion, much like we have pursued ours.” Likewise, a certain portion of Gnarly’s returns is allocated for financing training programs for the beneficiaries.“We’re quite pleased to take the initiative to encourage cycling among women,” says Shyam. “In fact, we’re providing cycling workshops to ladies, focusing mainly on basic riding skills like shifting gear, braking and pedaling uphill. We want to ensure safety among newcomers.”Conducted by professional cyclists at Gnarly, such brief workshops are free for female riders who are interested in the sport. Among a handful of trainees preparing rigorously for their biking career are Nishma Shrestha, 18, Saria Sato, 16, homemaker Hama Shyam, 23, and Juria Bajracharya, 14. “They’re all doing quite well and we hope to have more ladies train with us.”

IMG_1570WHAT DOES GNARLY DO?

Well, we have four distinct products and programs: Events, Trips, Training and Athlete Management,” points out Anuj. “All these are aligned carefully to create a holistic approach to developing and promoting mountain biking.”

AL-v-3-i-12-221

Jumps-on-Hattiban's-downhill-trailsEvents

Team Gnarly has been a core part of several widely acclaimed races, including Lifecycle DH Race, Lamatar MTB Race and Palpa Urban DH Race – all of which also saw international participation. “We feel races are imperative to create a healthy competitive environment as well as to give aspiring cyclists an opportunity to get noticed,” states race organizer guru Shyam. “Therefore, we plan to organize several races each year focusing on different genres of mountain biking like cross-country, downhill, all-mountain, BMX, inter-school and even duathlons. In whatever we do, the safety of the participants gets the most priority.”

Gnarly’s upcoming event Showdown Dharan 2015’s preparation is going into full swing for downhill and cross-country action taking place in the gorgeous Eastern city. Save the date for a glamorous meet where professional and amateur riders alike are all set to blaze rough trails.

Mountain-biking-along-the-Annapurna-CircuitTrips

Nepal has fast gained its due reputation as a mountain biking mecca, and the rising influx of cycling tourists prove just that. So much so that there is now a supply deficit of qualified and professional mountain biking guides in the industry. Nonetheless, experienced guides from Gnarly lead day trips and overnight trips in the mountains as well as in Kathmandu valley. Whether long tours, reveling in spectacular views of the countryside or just an easy ride within the valley, visiting several interesting temples and villages – there are several trips Gnarly can design for cycling enthusiasts. The most popular destinations include Upper Mustang, Jomsom Muktinath and Annapurna Circuit, as well as other off-beat cycling routes like Hetauda, Palpa and Ilam.

XC-photo-17Training

Gnarly organizes training camps for schools, colleges, corporate houses and individuals, from beginners to advanced riders. Conducted by visiting professionals and developed in conjunction with mavericks like Seven Summit Women, these robust outdoors curriculum target school-level children and adults alike in cycling, trail running and climbing. Gnarly also plans to set up a training facility with basic cardio and weight equipment in Kathmandu, then eventually in higher altitudes for more rigorous training. Besides physical training, Gnarly also focuses on soft skills like languages, computer and public speaking. “We want to give the youth the opportunity to engage in adventure activities so that those who are interested in this field can take it up as profession,” says Shyam citing his own experiences as a biking guide.AL-v-3-i-12-223

Athlete Management

As heartbreaking as it is true, most of our elite athletes – cyclists no exception – have had to give up sports and emigrate for labor work. “This is a forgone talent and wasted potential of our nation,” says Anuj, who heads the athlete management front. So as to help athletes sustain themselves through sponsorships and endorsements, Gnarly mobilizes its resources and marketing channels to manage several downhill and cross-country cyclists as well as trail runners.” Developing and maintaining athletes’ websites and promotional collaterals; grooming them to handle sponsors and media queries; and escorting athletes in national and international races are some of the major tasks Gnarly is involved in.

Though launched very recently, Gnarly is already on a roll with a series of high-end races lined up for 2015. The robust programs are set to redefine and raise standards of mountain biking in Nepal while directly empowering female riders and underprivileged youth. Rest assured, Gnarly is on full throttle earning karma points and putting fun between the legs. After all, WE <3 MTB!

So gear up and hop aboard, folks! It’s time to hit the trails!

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