Balance, on two wheels, a feeling of being in sync with reality and the subconscious at once. Add the spice of dirt and speed and you have an exhilarating blend of pure mountain biking.
I found my fix in my early teens. The two wheeled machine simply fascinated me. Pictures of pro riders in old, hand down, frayed pages of mountain bike magazines of the 90s, TV telecast on motocross, mountain biking, BMX in the mid-late 90s kept me imagining about the sport all day. By the time I was in college, I’d bunk lectures and attend the hill’s vibrant class room instead.
Riding and breaking simpler Cross-Country hardtails on steep and tech terrain, my buddies and I used to fidget with making bike frames and parts, as importing appropriate equipment in those days was expensive. Post college, thanks to my family, I managed to buy a used downhill bike with the help of my buddy who was living in the US at the time. Having the right tool for the job, my dirty deeds off big cliffs got fueled further.
To be specific, I follow the “Freeride” genre of mountain biking. Freedom to ride your bike on a mountain, the way you’d want to ride! No time keepers and rules like racing. Like an artist, it’s the simple interpretation of style and creativity of a rider on his/her bike down the mountain. It involves steep lines, big cliff drops, big airs and even tech freestyle tricks these days.
In India, where downhill mountain bike racing has practically been non-existent (our small community of enthusiasts across a few cities organizes events now with limited resources!), the growth of aggressive mountain biking has been extremely slow. For me, freeriding was what I could understand and relate to in the early 2000s. Riding alone, finding random mountains to test my skills, all just for the fun of it, without any chase for medals and glory! Yes, with one dream of being able to ride along with my idols someday, whom I followed in the freeride videos and magazines. That dream became a reality later in time.
Right from digging dirt and building a jump, to riding it off clean, it’s a fun process. Surprising myself riding an unridden line, a natural cliff drop, a steep chute or something that I’m a little scared of initially; is what kicks it on for me. Before hitting a big line with serious consequences, I mentally prepare myself leading into the day of action. There have been times, days when I’m nervous before a big feature that I’m eyeing. That feeling, sweaty palms and faster heart rate while you are preparing for a gnarly line and knowing that you will and are going to do it, that feeling is meditative! That’s the rush I dig.
Eighteen years ago not many in India would’ve considered mountain biking as their way of life. Today, with the surge of internet content, there’s an answer to every doubt, every question an athlete may have. With international bicycle brands coming to India and supporting young athletes; all genres of mountain biking are set to grow rapidly in the next few years.
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