Nepal Cycling: An interview with Shyam Gyan Limbu by Gravity Nepal and GNARLY

Image may contain: 1 person, mountain, selfie, outdoor, nature and closeupShyam Gyan Limbu is one of the coolest person I know and here you have a cool conversation about cycling in Nepal

Ilaria: Thinking of cycling three different aspects come to mind: racing, tourism and urban mobility. I see your project involves all them. Can you please introduce yourself and your activity at Gravity Nepal?
Shyam: My name is Shyam Gyan Limbu. I used to ride all over Kathmandu when I was a kid! I had a cheap BMX! I was more into football, basketball and taekwondo as a kid. I started MTB from 2010 and got hooked ever since! There has never been a dull moment! I am involved with Gravity Nepal which is a bike shop and GNARLY which is a tour company and an event management company. Gravity Nepal was established by Jigme dai and me. Jigme dai is a very passionate guy who loves MTB. 
Gnarly was established by Anuj Adhikary and me. We started the venture to organize MTB race events and also train young kids.
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As far as RACING: Cross country biking and racing existed since a long time. Nepal Cycling Association hosted the 15th National XC race in 2017! So, it has been around for quite some time now. Downhill biking and racing in Nepal started since 2010. I was very new to the sport. But it has a huge step for the MTB community of Nepal. It has gained huge popularity over the years. There are about 3 Downhill races every year (Which I think it's great!). Enduro: Nepal has the perfect terrain for Enduro style. Enduro is quite new to the MTB community (World wide actually) but it has gained popularity in Nepal over the years. Short steep climbs and gradual downhill is what we have in Nepal! It just fits right! I, along with my business partner, have hosted 2 ASIAN ENDURO SERIES in 2016-2017 through a company called GNARLY, which saw a huge turnout! There were about 40% participants who flew into Nepal for the race in the first year. It was overwhelming for us. In the second edition we had about 50% international participants that flew from 17 different countries.
Image may contain: bicycle and textNot just internatioal participants but we also had a lot of local participants of which almost 30% participants were junior, Under 17! This is what I have always wanted to do! I want to get the new generation into MTB.
As far as TOURISM: Mountain biking is gaining popularity over the years. People love it here! First of all, I believe it is the HOSPITATLITY that drags people to Nepal. I take pride to say this! There are numerous trails in Nepal, be it around Kathmandu valley or the high mountains ie. Mustang. People in Europe, UK, US and other Asian Countries have ridden perfectly made and maintained bike parks for years! I am not saying that there aren't any natural trails there but Nepal is rich with natural trails as well. Imagine yourself biking right below two of the highest Mountains of the world! Mt. Annapuran and Mt. Dhaulagiri. Both above 8,000 m above sea level! I believe MTB should florish domestically in order to florish internationally. Hence forth, I spend my time trying to train bike skills to kids who want to learn how to bike. I try to invlove their parents as much as possible. Mountain biking has a huge potential in Nepal not only with regards to tourism but also because we are gifted with amazing landscape! We live in Nepal and we're very lucky to have such trails around us. All we need to do is, get a bike and explore. You will fall in LOVE with it!
No automatic alt text available.Af far as URBAN MOBILITY: to be honest, I would not ask someone to ride a bike simply because it saves environment, reduces pollution or keeps you fit. It should be this way: "I do MTB coz its FUN"! No other reason! In order to understand this, you will have to hit the trails and get close to nature. Being on a cycle is already a good thing anyways! There are people in Nepal who use cycle as a means of transport and its great to see that. In the recent times, traffic in Kathmandu is bad! I think cycle would be a lot faster than any other transport! But again, it is not quite feasible for everyone to do that!
Ilaria: Talking about racing: what does it mean to be a mbk rider in Nepal? Are mbk races popular? and how involved Nepali youths are in racing?
Image may contain: 1 person, riding a bicycle and outdoorShyamThere are very few MTB races in the country and it is not a fixed race. So, it is quite difficult to sustain oneself as a racer in the country at the moment. But there are companies who have started providing sponsorship to good riders! To name a few: Gravity Nepal (Official Distributor of YT Industries and Rocky Mountain Bicycles) has sponsored two riders as official riders for the company. Suman Tamang 19 years (YT Capra AL Comp) Prachit Thapa Magar 17 years (Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 730 MSL) Prachit was awared this sponsorship as EDUCATION SPONSORSHIP. Gravity Nepal will take care of his education expenses for a year! We want to let all the other kids know that "Knowledge is power"Raon Tamang (Specialized, Sponsored by Jayendra Kakshapati and the team). Ajay Pandit Chhetri (Polygon, Gauravman Sherchan and team)
Image may contain: 1 person, riding a bicycle, bicycle, tree, outdoor and natureMountain biking is gaining popularity among the youth for sure! There are a lot of young kids who show up in the racing events these days.
Ilaria: Nepal is famous for mountaineering and trekking, but riding a mbk can be a great alternative for to visit it. Which areas are more suitable for this? Which aims would you suggest?
ShyamNepal has always been famous for its Himalayas! And why not! We have 8 of the highest Mountains of the world. I feel proud to say this. People Trek to see these mountains, some even climb this huge peak! I have biked over passes that is 5416 m above sea level. That is a great experience. The trails are amazing! I am an Enduro style lover! I have always loved biking in lower Mustang. It has great landscapes, flowy trails, rich culture and amazing landscapes. Imagine starting from 3800 m and dropping down to 1100 m! This is a great experience. Yes, it will also require fitness and skill. If you are a cross country guy, you should try Annapurna circuit. You will love it! Upper Mustang is also a great experience. It is not simply about biking but also about the whole experience. I am out of words for Lomanthang! Simply magical.
IlariaMobility is a big deal in all big cities, Kathmandu is not an exception and the motorised vehicles traffic added to the bad conditions of the roads is causing serious pollution problems in the Valley. For many people even a motobike remains a dream and long distance walking is the only option. Supporting the diffusion of urban cycling would be a good idea. What's your opinion?
ShyamYes, Kathmandu is not an exception at all. It is at its construction phase at the moment hence traffic jam and various other problems in the city. Nepal is a country where cconomic growth is not so good, Gross Domestic Product per capita in Nepal was last recorded at 682.20 US dollars in 2016! It will be quite difficult to afford a motor bike or a car for sure!! It would be great to support the idea of urban cycling. It would actually be great to have it done! I once thought of a bicycle project: The plan was to ask anyone and everyone to donate the unused bikes that they have it on their warehouse or store, kept unused! Would fix the bikes at my work shop and hand it over to the people in need! I had also started to identify places and people who needed it most. But I had to cancel my project as fund was one of the major issue. I will maybe start that again but now I'd like to try and donate to the different school kids. I would invest it on the kids rather because kids love cycling! Simple!! Maybe in the future, some of them would come out as a good rider and represent Nepal in an international event? You never know!
Ilaria: But cycling is also a life style, and a cool one! Can this play a role in attracting youths to a sport activity that's good both for their health and the city quality of life?
ShyamMountain biking is definitely a cool sport. To be honest, I also get attracted towards it because of the cool factor at the first phase not that I didn’t get into it to ride bikes! There are a lot of young kids who have started biking. On this note, I feel it is very important to lead the kids in the right direction. A simple example would be to not allow them to ride a bike without a helmet! It is not safe to teach a kid to bunny hop without a helmet! Attraction is one aspect to get young kids into biking but it is our responsibility to keep them safe and in the sport for a long time. The sport has to be interesting with events and also safe with proper instruction and guidance. 
For sure, Mountain biking will lead into good health as it is a great sport. Like I said earlier, I would not want to get someone into biking just to reduce weight or save the environment. It is more than that! Mountain biking is actually a fun activity! I have felt the same ever since I rode my bike the first time. It might not be the same with everyone but that’s my opinion. 
“I ride my bike because it’s FUN” – This is my tagline. “No Helmet, No ride “- This is my tagline.
And of course, Mountain biking is a lifestyle. It is quite expensive in comparison to various other sports and other activities that the current youth is involved in. No offence to smart phones or Iphone, these are great innovation by mankind but this is not quite good for the younger generation as we can see these days! 
Compare broken bones to your kid’s depression or addiction to video games. This has caused sleeping depression and god knows what else. We can fix the broken bone while they are young but it would be quite difficult to get them out of the addiction? By this I don’t mean all the kids should join mountain biking but any kind of outdoor sports like climbing, trail running or any other sport. My choice would be mountain biking because it’s a lot of FUN! 
Ilaria: Nepal just held its local poll after 20 years. What do you think about it and about Nepal's situation in general?
ShyamI am an optimist. The local poll after 20 years is a sign of positivity. It is a sign of hope. I believe in Nepal and the Nepali people. The question has always been about the Leadership of the country. I know it will be quite difficult for the existing leaders of the major political parties to give way to the younger generation right away but they feel the need. There are some younger politicians who have headed Ministries. So, this is quite possible! Politics will always remain this way. I don’t believe it is anything different in developed countries. We need to be positive. People of Nepal has to be positive about the government but also has to stage a protest if required after all they are civil servants! And this is exactly what we lack. The new generation is on its way!
Ilaria: Thank you very much! You really infected me with your enthusiasm! I think what you are doing is great and I'm looking forward to come and see it in real next time that I'm in Nepal.

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