11th Firefox MTB Shimla 2024: An Unforgettable Journey Through The Shivalik Range

  • May 26, 2024
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Here’s what we saw at one of India’s most challenging mountain bike events

MTB Shimla 2024

We at ZigWheels had a chance to witness the 11th edition of the Firefox MTB Shimla mountain bike race. We got to see some extreme feats of endurance by the riders traversing a 70km trail and also got to experience what India’s mountain biking culture is all about.

The Sport & The Bikes

Mountain bike racing or MTB is a cycling sport where riders take specially built off-road bicycles and race through rough terrain. The race track usually consists of mountain trails, hill trails, and other challenging off-road terrain obstacles.

For this race, we saw participants bringing all sorts of MTB bikes from brands like Firefox, Trek and Rockrider. The MTBs all looked quite rugged and ready to take on the challenges that MTB Shimla had to offer.

How It Begun

Race flag off

Mountain biking and trail riding are not sports that one would associate with India and today its popularity is limited to a very small but dedicated set of enthusiasts. But over the years there has been a steady growth in organizations that are running MTB racing events and the number of people who are partaking in the sport as a whole.

MTB Shimla and MTB Himalaya are two such events organized by the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA). We had a chance to talk to Mr. Ashish Sood, one of the directors of HASTPA and Head of Brand at Hero Cycles. He has been active in the MTB scene since 2005 and over the years he has seen the changes that have been taking place first hand. 

Ashish Sood Hero Cycles

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During our brief interaction, he recollected the starting days of HASTPA and the first race they organized in 2005 which was the MTB Himalaya. The idea behind the race was to showcase Himachal as a top destination for mountain biking. 

Reminiscing about the first race he said, “The first race in 2005, there were 30 participants, out of which 11 were international. There were only probably 30-40 people in the country who even had a bike that could take this. But now you see, you go out, 12-year-old, 11-year-old kids are dying to come and race”.

Now with the passage of time and the steady growth in popularity that MTB racing has managed to gain in India, a lot has changed. According to Mr Sood, there have been a lot of changes, “…from the quality of route, the quality of riders, the quality of our own organization, the kind of brands that have started associating now, I think it's definitely all moving in the right direction.” 

The Race And The Racers

MTB Shimla Mountain Bike Race

MTB Shimla 2024 included 2 races spanning 2 days, the first dubbed ‘The Pheasants Flight’ and the second called ‘The Potters Halo’. We got to witness the first race and it was quite the experience.

The Pheasants Flight took riders through a 70km trail, including many obstacles, from sharp descents to steep inclines and 2 enduro trails. Enduro trails are narrow passes that can only fit one rider. Riders who raced also had to deal with an elevation gain of 1,650m and a rapid elevation drop of 1800m. Making the whole thing harder was the low temperature thanks to heavy rains during the race.

This year we saw 140 participants from 45 cities across India and 5 countries taking part, many joining from the ‘Road to Himalaya’ qualifying race series which was held in 11 cities. The interesting thing about this race was that we got to see racers who were as young as 12 to senior racers as old as 65 taking part.

MTB Shimla Participants

Anil Kapila, a 56-year-old from Chandigarh was one of the racers participating in the event. He got into cycling in 2016 after buying a cycle for his 12-year-old son for his birthday. From there he started to go on rides and that got him hooked on the sport. 

According to him “..this race was much more difficult than the last 3 races I had taken part in…”. 

He further stated “...this isn’t about going fast and moving ahead, you have an idea of how well you can perform, you just move at your pace and don’t worry about who’s behind you or who’s ahead. It’s all about doing your best.”

The younger riders have a very different approach to the competition, for them the challenges that the race presented or the dangers present weren’t an issue. Before the first race, there was a bit of heavy rain but the younger racers were unfazed. When asked how their strategy would change if it rained during the race, Kaustav Singh a 12-year-old had this to say “I’ll wear my jacket”. 

This doesn’t come as a surprise as the younger racers were thrill seekers who were looking to have some fun. Anirudh, another 12-year-old said this was his second time racing at Shimla and got into racing because “…I like races and the thrills…”. When asked about his strategy for the races, he said “...just want to win and rest is in the hands of God…”

The Experience

Getting to see MTB racing first-hand and also interacting with the community was quite an interesting experience. Aside from the scenic trails and the beautiful sights the Shivaliks had to offer, we got to see a burgeoning sport finding its footing.

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