The Rise Of Mountain Biking In Ladakh: Three Friends And a Dream

in Issue 3

Gyatso, Skaldan and Jampelenter their office in Chanspa Road everyday with one hope only: to keep their hearts of adventure alive and with that, to change the face of adventure sports in Ladakh.

“Had hard times? No. We are living the hard times now, at this age. But I know that we are meant to do this. We are born to do this.So there is no turning back now.”

With a bunch of at least 30 bikes, Unexplored Ladakh: A Quintessential Bike Studio, wishes to divert the tourist attention to pure mountain biking.

The effect on the environment of Ladakh due to emissions from vehicles have been huge over the years. The people of Ladakh have objected to the non-restriction in the number of motorcycles entering Ladakh through Manali and Srinagar from the rest of the country, but till date, no pro-environment development has taken place in the region.

Business through tourism is the only way Ladakh’s cash economy is increasing on this date. Life in Ladakh has forever focused on building up a self-sustainable livelihood in collaboration with nature and the resources that can be cultivated out in the region. The early 90s promoted tourism in Ladakh through the idea of motorcycling road trips. Tourism boomed, roads became better, shops popped on sides of roads every 10 kilometers, the main city became populous, things became overpriced and then came hotels and guesthouses. Today, it looks like it is ready for you to come and spend money. At every corner of every lane in the city of Leh, one can find a Royal Enfield or Avenger motorcycle studio wherefrom you rent your vehicle and go exploring. Skaldan has a different philosophy to adventure.

“I always believe sports are for people who are guided by the philosophy of healthy being. You can take physical risks when you are healthy and have confidence and control over your body. Mountain biking gives you a healthy adventure as well as a totally different experience.”

Unexplored Ladakh takes a limited number of adventurers biking across traditional trekking trails. We were taken a bit aback by the idea because there are trails where one cannot easily think of biking. How is that possible?

Gyatso says “There has been days when we were sitting together over cups after cups of tea to come up with something new and sensational, different from everyone else. Then we thought, we can definitely carry our bikes up and then try to ride down. We ascend by hiking and descend by biking.”

We ascend by hiking and descend by biking.

We turn to Jampel, a freelance journalist who, along with Unexplored Ladakh, aspires to found and run the first ever adventure sports magazine in Ladakh. He says “Mountain Biking is one of the most responsible adventure activities that you can do at mountain destinations. Another most important factor that we uphold is not making noise. Motorbikes make noise. A lot of noise. We don’t.”

Diving deep into the philosophy of adventure, we asked Skaldan how they handle adventurers when they are demotivated and exhausted on their trails. Skaldan and Gyatso look at each other and Skaldan says “That is the point when it becomes necessary for us to be present with our customers. You see, this is the problem with most ventures. Selling is the only thing they do. When you nurture your product like a being, it becomes better and better. Our product becomes better with our participation. We need to be there to encourage our people, to re-motivate them and help them complete their trail.”

Gyatso says “Which brings me to a very important statement. When you require help while you are completing an adventure, never hesitate to ask for it. It only shows how respectful you are to the treacherousness of nature and how you learn to adapt step by step. All of us learn. We don’t conquer nature. It conquers us. We just keep coming and going.”

With incredible energy in all three founders of Unexplored Ladakh, they wish to customize trails for individual, experienced adventurers and document their journeys to inspire and show way to more mountain bikers in future, thus leading to a tectonic shift in the adventure industry in Ladakh. 

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