Wheeling in the woods

A new trail opens in Kathmandu Valley for avid mountain bikers

Tejson Kunwar glides through the edge of a berm in the Bhanjyang Trail. All photos: LUJA MANANDHAR

In the small forest of Karyabinayak on the outskirts of Lalitpur, Tejson Kunwar quickly lands the jump and glides through the trail. He is so agile, his mountain bike seems to be an extension of his body.

The pine forest is a hub for migratory birds and bird-watchers in the morning. But these days, as the natural morning light hits the forest, the tyres hit the dirt. This newly completed mountain biking trail is the latest addition to the fleet of downhill and endure trails in and around Kathmandu Valley.

Kunwar with the help of Trail Builders Nepal, a group of individuals with background in tourism, biking and management, Tessellate Design Studios; an architectural design firm based in Kathmandu,Balkumari Samudayik Ban and Lalitpur Municipality ward 18, worked to establish the Bhanjyang trail which was completed earlier this year.

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Tejson Kunwar is the founder of Radrides and an instructor at The ZeroLevel Nepal.

“This trail is completely different. It is beginner friendly and is for mountain bikers who want to develop their skills. It is more of a bike park that is near the city," says Nishant Shah, one of the founders of Trail Builders Nepal.

The idea for building a sustainable trail in Bhaisepati came about five years ago when Tejson Kunwar with his friend Anup Khatri would go to the forest to practice. They would spend hours making small jumps and navigating the terrain. Since the forest was not actively in use, and given the landscape, Kunwar thought it would be a good place for the future generation of MTB riders to practice.

“I wanted to contribute to the development of the sport as well as the community in Nepal," says Kunwar.

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Kunwar makes a jump after the 100m long flow section in the Bhanjyang Trail.

The Bhanjyang trail is conceptualised as a beginner-oriented park with a trail system. Located in Bhaisepati, its closest landmark is the Manjushree Bridge. 

The trail system is unique in Nepal, it starts with a ramp that leads to a 100m long flow section: then to tabletops, which is a platform for riders to safely practice small jumps. There is a roller pump that helps riders to gain speed or jump and three switchbacks, or berms, for a 180° turn.

From local children with their beginner bicycles to professional mountain bikers, the team believes that it is the perfect spot for enthusiasts to hone mountain biking skills, all in the lap of nature.

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Kunwar with the help of the Trail Builders Nepal, Tessellate Design Studios and Radrides designed and built the Bhanjyang Trail.

Every day after school, Sakshyam Dongol makes his way to the trail. “I use the trail to practice my mountain biking skills, and it is fun to ride as the trail finishes in about 3 minutes," says Dongol, who learned about the trail from social media.

Kunwar is happy to see young and old faces make the most of the trail. He himself has been riding for eight years now and is a well-known face in the downhill and enduro races in Nepal. The Kathmandu MTB fest 2016 was his first-ever race, and his latest was the Okhaldhunga Urban Downhill Race 2023, which he participated in with Nischaya Shrestha.

The adrenaline-rush of launching off a ramp or going downhill might be too much to take for some, but for the 22-year-old, it is nothing short of thrilling. One thing he feels that is currently missing in the community is mentorship for younger athletes.

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Kunwar spray paints and designs his bike frame before going on a ride the next day. 

''My friend Nirav Shrestha and I would go on rides and learn from each other. We didn’t have a certain mentor who would train us for professional purposes. There still aren’t," says Kunwar. 

When he is not riding he works as a freelance photographer and videographer, and is an instructor at The ZeroLevel Nepal, a mountain biking school. He is also the founder of Radrides, an agency working with the local community and businesses to educate people about MTB and establish sustainable trails in Kathmandu. Through Radrides, he is also trying to mentor upcoming athletes and provide them with a platform.

With schools focused on mountain biking, a burgeoning community of riders and several trails being built in the outskirts of the valley, Kunwar is hopeful for the future of the sport and his role in it.

Says Kunwar, “I want to change, or help to change, the scenario for riders in Nepal by supporting or bringing more exposure to athletes through this platform."

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