- 08 Nov, 2023
Pokhara Enduro race trails nestled within the arms of the Arba Hills greeted riders as the autumn tapestry unfolded its flaming hues, providing a test of mettle befitting the season’s spirit.
A group of mountain bikers gathered under the morning sun on a hilltop adjacent to Mahaprabhu Dham, an ancient shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Each rider was adorned in colourful riding gear, and their rigs were fully equipped to handle the rigours of the uneven terrain. Their excitement was palpable as they lined up to shred the newly built trails.
They set off, and soon, the sounds of the multiple bicycle hubs became a constant companion. With each turn of the crank, they propelled themselves deeper into the heart of the forest, their laughter and shouts of exhilaration echoing through the trees. In the end, they emerged from the wilderness, tired yet fulfilled, their bikes and bodies bearing the marks of a day well spent.
“This is truly a mountain biking paradise,” said Deepak Man Joshi, a proficient enduro rider who had flown in from Kathmandu for a trail audit in the Arba Hills ahead of the Pokhara Enduro race. “The care taken to maintain their natural shape sets these trails apart.“
Joshi, who has completed numerous adventurous mountain biking trips with fellow rider Sulochan Rajbhandary over the years, felt a profound connection with nature as they weaved through the woods, challenging their limits and finding solace in the rhythm of the ride.
Each of the six Pokhara Enduro Race trails, measuring under 1 km to 2 km in length, prepared for the Pokhara Enduro in the Arba Hills has been carefully designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. “All of them are beautifully crafted, but Pro Trail provides riders with a thrilling roller coaster experience,” said Joshi.
Pro Trail, or Special Stage SS5 – the event’s main feature – is a thrilling track specially developed for highly skilled riders. It presents challenging off-camber switchbacks and steep drops that demand nerves of steel and precise control. The trail also features rocky sections, constantly challenging the riders and pushing their braking and riding skills to the limit.
“Each trail presents its own special set of difficulties and pleasures,” said Rakesh Manandhar, another member of the audit team, who is a seasoned enduro rider.
“When following these paths, hikers must frequently adjust to the nuances of the landscape and learn to use its qualities to their advantage,” he added. “Every curve is a challenge to overcome, and even the smallest hill is a source of pride and satisfaction.”
These paths offer a remarkable feature that allows bikers of varying skill levels to enjoy them.
Experts seeking adrenaline-fueled thrills, like Joshi and Manandhar, embraced the challenging terrain, yet they are also welcoming to those honing their skills.
“Arba Hills’ trails feature something for everyone, providing a unique opportunity for riders to grow and progress in their mountain biking journey,” said Sulochan Rajbhandari, a more recent convert to enduro-style riding.
“It’s not only a ride but also an intimate interaction with the hills themselves,” Rajbhandari said, referring to the trail-building team’s careful approach. The designers and builders of these paths have tried to minimise environmental impact by preserving the natural contours and effectively managing water runoff.
The Pokhara Enduro organisers have been following the method widely practised in some of the top MTB parks in the world. It helps maintain the hills’ health, ensuring the trails’ long-term sustenance. Enduro trail building in the Arba Hills is a collaborative effort involving local authorities and avid mountain biking communities, according to Sunil Chandra Sharma, co-founder and race director of Pokhara Enduro.
As the audit team noticed, Every curve, turn, rock and root has been meticulously examined, chosen, and arranged to test the racers’ skills. Debris has been carefully cleared, creating features that seamlessly merge with the landscape. Rocks and roots have become integral parts of the path, challenging riders to navigate twists and turns skillfully.
“As an organiser of the race, our goal was to craft trails that would challenge the most seasoned riders while maintaining the integrity of the environment,” Sharma said.
He believes the sustainable development of these trails promotes responsible tourism and safeguards the natural and cultural heritage of the region.
Installations of signage at crucial trail junctions have further heightened the excitement. They provide clear directions and essential information to riders, offering a more welcoming and secure experience for those navigating the expansive network of trails.
“This has helped both experienced riders, who can now confidently explore more challenging paths, as well as newcomers who can now navigate the area with greater ease,” said Sujan Hamal, a rider from the area. The trails remain open to the public until 17 November 2023, when they will be closed for race preparations.
Word spread quickly in the riding community about these enduro trails, and soon, riders from near and far flocked to test their skills. They marvelled at how the trail integrated with the environment, offering a challenging and thrilling experience while leaving no trace of their passage.
While the organisers are paying attention to detail in preparations for the first international enduro event in Pokhara, they have a plan that goes beyond that. A commitment to regular trail maintenance ensures that the trails remain in good condition and minimises the risk of erosion and environmental damage.
“We’ve been in talks with the local authorities in this regard. While we’re doing our bit, we expect Pokhara Metropolis to extend its support for the long-term maintenance of the trails and the ecosystem,” said Chhimi Urken Gurung, managing director of Dawn Till Dawn, who is organising Pokhara Enduro.
Local stakeholders believe these biking trails are an exciting new opportunity for the village.
The Pokhara Metropolitan City Ward 13 Chairman, Kiran Baral, said: “The new mountain bike trail is an excellent addition to the many different outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in our city.
“This initiative has the potential to further the appeal of the Arba Hills as a premier destination for mountain bikers,” he said. “We expect such an event to contribute positively to the local economy and environment.”
In the end, the team of trail builders had achieved their dream. It became a symbol of what was possible when passion, respect for nature, and a love for enduro riding combined in perfect harmony.
Story: Suman Malla
Also, Read A tale from Arba’s thrilling trails – audit of Pokhara Enduro race Trails.