There’s nothing quite like seeing Nepal from the seat of a mountain bike. A bicycle brings you onto trails and into remote villages that are inaccessible to motorized vehicles. Biking is (usually) faster and more fun than walking, and mountain bikes inevitably draw the interest of local people and provide a great way to ‘break the ice’ and connect with rural communities.
A lot of visitors to Nepal might be intimidated by the idea of planning a multi-day mountain bike trip, but with the right planning, you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime. I’ve been on a few multi-day rides in different parts of Nepal, and this is what I’ve learned.
Be comfortable with your bike
You will be depending on your bike for the whole trip, so it is important to have a bike you feel comfortable on. For routes that are mainly on jeep track, a hardtail bike or short travel full suspension would be most appropriate. On the more technical singletrack trails you will be more comfortable and have more fun on an all-mountain style full suspension bike.
If you have your own bike, great! If you are renting, it’s a good idea to test the bike out for a day-trip first to make sure it feels good.
Prepare your bike
Make sure your bike is in good working order before you set out. Most bike rental shops will do this before they give you a bike, but it’s always a good idea to check it yourself as well. Here’s a basic pre-ride bike inspection checklist:
- Quick-release levers on the wheels are tight
- Wheels are aligned properly and don’t wiggle side-to-side
- Tire pressure is within recommended range (pressure range is usually written on the side of the tire)
- Brakes are both working properly and brake pads are not too worn
- Shifting is smooth through full range of gears
- Fork and shock pressure is appropriate (remember to set it for the weight of you plus your backpack)
- Seat is at the right height and doesn’t twist at all
- Cranks (the arms that the pedals are attached to) are tight and don’t wiggle side-to-side
Learn some basic bike maintenance
Before you even leave for the trip, it’s a good idea to learn how to fix your bike if something goes wrong. Here are some basic skills that you should be comfortable with:
- Changing a flat and patching a puncture
- Adjusting your derailleurs
- Fixing a broken chain
- Adjusting your suspension pressure
Never underestimate the terrain
If your bike trip is taking you anywhere into Nepal’s hill or mountain regions, you will spend a lot of your time riding uphill. If you’re used to riding on flatter terrain, you’ll need to readjust your expectations for how much distance you’ll be able to cover each day. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete the whole trip and have a couple of options for places to stay each night, in case you don’t make it as far as you want.
On the bike trips I’ve done in Nepal, my entire luggage consisted of just a small backpack (about 25 liters). Depending on where you go, you’ll pass through a few villages each day and stay at a village or guesthouse every night. This means that you don’t really need to bring much sleeping equipment, and also don’t need to carry food with you.
Take care of your bike
Make sure you take good care of your bike to reduce the chance of having bigger maintenance issues to deal with later on. You should clean and lubricate your chain at the end of each day, and wipe any mud or grime off of the gears and the derailleur jockey wheels. Also make sure to lock your bike and store it in a safe place every night.
Article and photos by Jocelyn Powelson.