Biking in Nepal

Nepal is justifiably renowned for its great trekking. Many travelers to Nepal are also discovering that biking offers the same rewards as trekking, along with some unique experiences that can’t be found just by trekking in the mountains.

While it is called “mountain biking,” the typical biking itinerary in Nepal is more than an off-road experience. Roads in larger towns are mostly paved, but in small towns and villages, they’re usually gravel and packed dirt, sometimes resembling wide trails more than roads. So a mountain bike is the best way to cover lots of distance and all kinds of terrain in Nepal, but the overall experience is very much like road biking.

I’ve recently completed a couple of two-day bike “treks” in the Kathmandu Valley that were as exciting, challenging, and picturesque as any biking I’ve ever done in other parts of the world, and I recommend the experience to anyone with basic biking skills and fitness. It’s a wonderful extension to any Nepal trekking itinerary.

ItrekNepal is based in Bhaktapur at the Sanctuary Lodge, on a hillside overlooking Bhaktapur and the eastern stretch of the Kathmandu Valley. A relatively low mountain ridge arcs from the north up to a high point at Nagarkot at around 7000 feet (2200 meters) and over to Dhulikhel and Panauti from the Sanctuary Lodge grounds.

For the first trip, which can be completed in one day, we spent the night at a cliffside hotel with stunning views of high Himalayan peaks, including a glimpse of Mt. Everest. We had trucked our bikes (Trek hardtail suspension bikes in good condition) up to Nagarkot for the start of the trek, though cycling up from Bhaktapur would have taken no more than 3 hours at a leisurely pace.

I was accompanied by our guide (a competitive mountain bike racer in his spare time) and one of the local ITrekNepal staff. In the morning, we took off through the small town of Nagarkot and then descended a remarkably smooth, paved road. Winding for over a mile through a pristine mountain park, certainly one of the best-maintained parks in all of Nepal, we stopped occasionally to admire the panoramic views over the valley.

The road from there on was packed dirt with enough slope and ruts to offer a moderate challenge, including a brief, fairly steep uphill section halfway down the mountain. At lunchtime, we arrived at Changu Narayan, the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley, dating back to the 4th century!

The temple complex includes some of the finest examples of Nepali wood, stone, and metal craftsmanship, all well worth spending an hour touring before or after lunch at one of the small cafes near the temple.

From Changu Narayan the road descends quickly to the valley floor. The final few miles along the valley road back to Bhaktapur are smoothly paved, passing through several small villages before arriving at the “backside” of Bhaktapur. We navigated the streets and alleyways of Bhaktapur carefully to get back to the Sanctuary Lodge by mid-afternoon with our only regret that the trip hadn’t been longer.

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