Mountain Biking in Sikkim Darjeeling Himalaya
Mountain Biking in Eastern Himalaya, especially Darjeeling - Sikkim sector has gained popularity in the recent past due to increasing concern about environment on the one hand and increased health consciousness on the other. The freedom of being able to travel at your own pace and to stop and start whenever and wherever you feel like, is also enticing to many.
Even today biking activity is mostly confined to international tourists. But it is fast gaining popularity among the domestic tourists, specially the youth.
Sikkim Mountain Biking
The entire state of Sikkim is ideal for Mountain Biking activity. You can also combine your trip with Darjeeling hills which is in the adjacent area. Sikkim is divided into 4 districts. The West, South and East districts offer lower to medium altitude experiences whereas North district offers high altitude destinations.
Mountain Biking is arguably the best adventure tourism activity in Sikkim. The land is rugged and road condition is not always the best. With a bike, you can reach places where your vehicle would not go. It is also one of the least risky adventure sports. naturebeyond introduced Mountain Biking in Sikkim about a decade back. Since then it has gained popularity and is today one of the most popular activity among international tourists. Many companies organise biking tours to Sikkim, though we have been able to maintain our leadership position due to best imported equipment and highly trained guides that we have. A typical program may cover destinations such as Gangtok, Ravangla, Pelling and Yuksom on a 5 / 7 days tour. Most guests prefer to combine Mountain Biking in Darjeeling with Sikkim thus increasing the duration by another 4 to 5 days. North Sikkim tour is organised only with experienced bikers.
Darjeeling Mountain Biking
The Kalimpong and Darjeeling hills provide lower altitude biking options. Typically tourists start biking from Siliguri / Kurseong or Mirik which are within an hour and a half drive from Bagdogra Airport. In 5 to 6 days the popular destinations of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Lava, Loleygaon is covered. Although there are no typical biking trails in the region, there are a numerous less trodden roads which are ideal for biking. Our biking programs cover these routes instead of the highways. You may combine Sikkim or Dooars along a biking trip to Darjeeling. Occasionally people prefer to combine both, the entire region can be covered in a trip of 15 to 18 days.
Mountain Biking tours demand good physical fitness. Previous experience is a big advantage, but fresher are also welcome. If this is your first such tour, we would strongly recommend that you bike daily a minimum of 20 kms for one month before you start the trip. Freshers are also recommended to start their biking tours in the plains or low altitude destinations. Dooars can be a good start.
For the more experienced, we organise Biking experience to heights of 12 to 14 thousand feet in North Sikkim (Yumthang Valley), Arunachal Pradesh (Tawang) and Leh and Ladakh area in the Western Himalaya.
Typical groups consist of 6 to 20 members though we have experience in organising trips of 2 heads as well as large groups of 40 members. Travelling in smaller groups makes your tour more expensive as the cost of support services such as backup vehicle, trained guide etc is divided among fewer people. Larger groups are more difficult to manage and are normally slower in movement unless team members are experienced bikers.
Safety and security of our bikers are of utmost importance to us. We follow best possible safety practices during these tours. All our tours are accompanied by back up vehicle for fast evacuation in case of emergency. The tour leaders and guides are not only trained in Biking but also in first aid and other related hazards. In this respect we follow the guidelines provided by the Department of Tourism and other authorities. More about this can be found in the Safety norms page.
naturebeyond is among the first adventure tour organisers to start mountain biking in Eastern Himalaya. We organised our first Biking trip during 2004 in Sikkim Darjeeling area and since then have organised several biking tours in the entire Eastern Himalaya including Leh and Ladakh.
We have collaborated with a number of major biking organisations from all over the world to organise trips to Eastern Himalaya. We have acquired international standard biking infrastructure including best bikes and well trained team leaders.
Biking Gear we use
We started mountain biking back in 2004. We used Indian mountain bikes during our first tours. We were arguably one of the first companies to start mountain biking in the North East India. Since then, naturebeyond has come a long way in managing mountain biking tours.
Today we use state of the art imported mountain bikes. The Trek™ bikes we use proud themselves of producing “the best bikes in the world”. Today we are proud owners of probably the largest fleet of mountain bikes for any travel organisation in North East India. We keep on adding more bikes to our inventory as the group size keeps on growing each year.
Our mountain bikes has been taken to altitude of 15000 ft and above especially in North Sikkim. During downhill drives the bikes may reach substantially high speed. For a safe ride, the high performance bikes require high performance parts. The brakes, Wheels, handlebar, forks, saddles and other accessories are all matched to perform under stress. We use the best international accessories produced by renowned international companies which is considered to be the safest.
We organise programs for both hard core mountain bikers as well as for leisure tourists who want to include some soft adventure into a leisure tour. A typical mountain biking program may last between 7 to 15 days, whereas a soft adventure biking experience can be a half day affair.
In our tour ideas section you may find a number of hand crafted tour packages developed based on our past experience. However we do not believe in one size fits all policy. Most of our Biking programs are totally customised according to your specific requirement. The packages given in this site may work as an indicator of common biking trips to the region.
Basic safety guideline for mountain biking
o Keep younger riders in the middle of the pack and take frequent rest stops with kids.
o Ride single file with the flow of traffic.
o Obey all traffic signals and road signs.
o Follow the instructions of biking team leader.
o Ride defensively and never assume that drivers will see you.
o Never venture out alone without informing the team leader.
o Do not drive behind the support vehicle provided by naturebeyond. The support vehicle carrying spares and medicine should always be the last.
Adventure Tourism Activities in general do have certain element of risk associate with it. The risk adds to the charm of these activities. However safety and security of the participants in such activities must remain paramount. The government of India has laid down guidelines for minimum acceptable standards for adventure tourism activity in terms of equipment and human resources. However no specific guideline is available for Mountain Biking activity. There are certain internationally acceptable guidelines for safe biking. We at naturebeyond try to follow the best national and international practices in mountain biking.
1. Danger Awareness – Our Mountain Biking activities vary from soft adventure to hardcore long duration biking tours. Although every precaution is taken to ensure the safety and security, it is important that as a participant you understand that you are primarily responsible for your safety. The Biking activity involves substantial stress and the fellow bikers, even with the best of intentions, may not always be able to come to your help. The participant must be physically fit and be confident to take the challenge of biking on his / her own. The skill level would vary according to the tour you participate. If you are not confident about your fitness or biking skills in comparison to the requirement of the tour, you should avoid participating in the program or choose a program that is less straining.
2. Guide Expertise – The team leaders and guides accompanying your tour are always highly experienced and skilled. There is no proper training facility available for mountain biking in India. Our guides have learned the skills based on practice, self learning and experience. We also conduct internal camps to continuously freshen up the skills of our guides who are some of the best in the region and are also qualified in first aid.
3. Evacuation Assistance – All long duration biking tours are accompanied by backup vehicle. The vehicle carries the first aid kit and also helps evacuate the biker in case of any medical emergency.
4. Trip Information – Information about the daily travel distance, road condition, inclination etc are given with each tour. You must go through the details before you join a tour. This information helps prepare the tour participants be ready for the challenges ahead.
5. Tools – The standard tools to ensure safe biking are used by our team. These equipment would include Walkie Talkie, First Aid Kit, Cell phones, Bike maintenance equipment etc.
Is this tour for me?
If you love adventure, Mountain Biking is definitely for you. Not all mountain bikers are of similar interest and fitness. We organise mountain biking by expert bikers who bring their own bikes and spend two weeks in the mountains. On the other hand we also organise leisure tours where the guests may spend half a day cycling at a hill station. Whether you are a hard core adventure person or a leisure tourist looking for soft adventure sports, mountain biking may be equally interesting for both.
Where do you organise these Biking tours?
Most of our long duration mountain biking programs are organised in the Darjeeling - Sikkim hills. They are also organised in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Dooars area. Soft biking trips are organised in places where mountain biking inventory is available.
How many people are on each tour?
Half biking tours can be organised for small groups of people as there is no big logistics involved. If you are going for a longer duration biking tour, you should ideally be in a group. We have organised Biking tour even for a couple, but the cost in such cases increases slightly.
Do I have to carry my own luggage?
We always have back up vehicles accompanying the mountain bikes. For larger group we may provide two vehicles as backup; One for carrying the guests and the other for carrying the bikes. So all your luggage will be carried by the accompanying vehicle and you will be free to bike.
Do you supply meals and drinks?
All the food requirements of our Mountain Biking guests are taken care of by our team. This includes the three major meals as well as light food during the biking breaks. The Breakfast and Dinner is organised at the overnight accommodation whereas the lunch in provided on the way.
What distance do we travel?
The distance covered depends entirely on the terrain. We take our guests from the plains as well as to the hills. In the mountain you can be reaching as high as 16,000 to 18,000 ft (5500 mtr). At lower altitude you may travel as much as 70 to 80 km specially when you are travelling downhill. On higher altitude and uphill drives the daily biking may be restricted to 20 kms or less.
What happens if I can't complete the days riding?
You always have a backup vehicle to take care of any exigency. You may simply put your bike in the vehicle and ride it to your next destination. Almost all the places where we bike the roads are motorable and the accompanying vehicle would mostly be following the same route. In exceptional cases you might be travelling through a route different from the route followed by the vehicle. In such cases your tour guide will assist you in case you have any difficulty.
Do you provide insurance?
The travel insurance is to be arranged by the biker directly. We do not provide travel insurance currently. However it is a pre condition of our tour that you should be adequately covered by insurance. The insurance must cover mountain biking and the risk related to a mountain biking holiday.
Do you offer group booking discounts?
All our Mountain Biking tours are customised to your specific requirement. We will quote you a tariff that is unique for your tour. As the group size increases the cost of the tour naturally gets reduced.
Do I need to be fit to go on a rafting trip?
If you are going for a biking trip of several days duration, you will need to have good physical fitness. Some experience will definitely be helpful. If you are a fresher, we recommend that you take biking trips in your own country before going for a biking trip with us. If you are looking for a short biking trip of half or one day duration, you will need to have reasonable physical fitness.
What kind of food will I be served?
We mostly serve continental food along with some local food during our biking trips. The food requirement can also be customised as per your requirement.
Is the water safe for me to drink?
You will be provided with packages drinking water during the tour. This is absolutely safe for your to drink.
What wheel size do you use?
Our mountain bikes are all standard 26 inch wheel size. Although 29 inch and 650B wheels are also used by some bikers, the majority of our bikers prefer the 26 inch standard.
Do you provide Women specific bikes?
All our mountain bikes are of standard size which can be used with ease by both genders. You may bring your personal woman bicycle seat which often make a difference in the ride quality. This is also not difficult to carry during long distance travel.
What if I want to bring my own bike?
We welcome guests who want to use their own bikes. We will take care of your bike like our own while you are travelling with us. The avid bikers often bring their own customised bikes and we completely understand your preference.
What tyre pressure would I be using?
The tyre pressure varies widely depending upon the rider and the terrain. You will be accompanies during the tour by our tour leader as well as full set of equipment. You can adjust the tyre pressure with help from our tour leader as per your requirement. Typically the tyre pressure varies between 20 to 35 psi.