Mountain Biking is an Expensive Sport

  18 min 14 sec to read
Mountain Biking is an Expensive Sport

Kilian Bron is a French professional enduro mountain bike rider. Born in Annecy in the French Alps, he embarked on his biking journey 19 years ago. Over the years, he has explored various countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Peru, Indonesia, Chile, China, and Norway, among others. Kilian has actively participated in renowned races such as Mountain of Hell and Megavalanche. He was recently in Nepal, where he triumphed in the Himalayan Enigma, known as the Trail of the Gods, in Dolakha district. Kilian shared insights into his mountain biking career and highlighted Nepal as a prime destination for mountain bike enthusiasts in an interview with Madan Lamsal of New Business Age. Excerpts:

You were recently in Dolpa. What is so exciting about Nepal?

Nepal, for me, was like a goal. For a long time, I have been spending a lot of time in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Then I started travelling. I had the opportunity to visit Peru in South America, and it was amazing. I was really curious to travel to the Himalayas, with all these highest summits, far from everything in many remote areas. But I did not want to do it too early. I wanted to take my time by travelling to many other destinations to prepare myself. That is the reason why I am in Nepal only now. What I had in mind before leaving was true, and even more so in the Dolpo region. We chose to travel to Dolpo because, for me, it's less famous. I wanted to experience something authentic, where I can feel the nature, the culture, and meet genuine people. That is why we chose to film and spend time in Dolpa.

I was really curious to travel to the Himalayas, with all these highest summits, far from everything in many remote areas. But I did not want to do it too early. I wanted to take my time by travelling to many other destinations to prepare myself.

Please tell us about the Himalayan Enigma and your association with the event.

All mountain bikers must start the race from the highest point of the track all together; then, they will have to follow the track, and the first to reach the bottom wins. The concept is pretty easy. But this one is the first in Nepal, even more so it is the first race like this in Asia. Such races are already quite famous in France and Europe. I was so happy and proud to be part of this race.

How can this event be included on the mountain biking world map?

I think we can approach it in different ways. The first thing, I believe, is to support the local riders. The local riders should get support from the federation or the government because there are some really good riders. It is maybe my goal too. I am here to prepare a documentary, to communicate on my social media platforms, and to share this same message. We have to keep working in the same direction. The logistics, the organisation, the concept, the people—everything was good this year. Everybody understood what happened here in Nepal. For me, this is just the first step of a beautiful story. I hope next year a second edition will be done. We will take things forward step by step. But we have to keep in mind it's not only about focusing on the race; it's about focusing on the entire bubble—the riders, the organisers, and the shops. The government and related agencies can promote mountain biking first in the country and then spread the message to the world.

What significance does this event hold for the local riders and the global biking community?

It holds significance in both directions. For local riders, I am confident they take pride in riding alongside me. It helps them understand what it is like outside their country and how I experience Nepal and navigate the challenges of the terrain. This exposure is crucial for them. The overall spirit of the riders, the organisation, the public—the entire event was executed well. Everyone involved did a commendable job, and there's a genuine reason to be proud of the success of this event.

You have biked across various regions of the world. Which cycling trip do you cherish the most?

When I travel to a new country, first I enjoy the destinations and the landscapes. I appreciate the quality of the trails, and savour the beauty of the mountains. As I spend more time in a country, I start forming connections with the people. We ride together, share experiences, and a unique connection develops. When there is something different, it stays in my mind, and I feel compelled to return. This is precisely what happened in Nepal. I initially visited at the beginning of the year, and now I am back. I have made friends, and the experiences are becoming more intriguing.

When I travel to a new country, first I enjoy the destinations and the landscapes. I appreciate the quality of the trails, and savour the beauty of the mountains.

Currently, the country that stands out in my mind is Peru. I have visited Peru six times. The first time was about discovering the landscape; the second time, I started building friendships. By the third visit, I was reuniting with friends, and the happiness was palpable. I see a similar trajectory unfolding in Nepal, and that is the most important part of each trip. It is not just about the landscape or the destination; it's about the moments shared with the people you meet and what they have to offer. Nepal is just the beginning of a beautiful story. For instance, reaching a pass in Dolpo takes 13 days, a stark contrast to France where you can conquer every summit and pass in a single day. Nepal offers weeks of exploration in places where there's nothing but the beauty of remote and unspoiled landscapes. It is typical of Nepal.

Please tell us more about your experiences with the bike.

I am really fortunate to travel because of my bike. My bike has been a key factor in my travels. During the initial years, I enjoyed it for personal fulfilment, to understand what life was like in other countries, and to appreciate how lucky I am to live in France. It is a beautiful country. After many years, I began to introspect and asked myself: why am I doing this? Initially, it was for my own enjoyment, to share experiences with friends, and to document my journeys through videos for a wider audience. I pondered on what more I could do to assist the people I encounter during my travels.

It all started in Peru where I connected with an association to help children. I felt a strong connection with them due to their unfiltered and barrier-free reactions. I enjoyed spending meaningful moments with them. When I travelled to Nepal in April, I met some kids and it shaped my trip. Back home, I resolved to revisit Nepal and decided to build bikes and other products for them. It was just the beginning because, in Kathmandu, I delved into understanding their daily lives. I interviewed their parents, visited their homes, and sought to comprehend their actual needs.

This is an expensive sport. It is not like playing football. It poses a real financial barrier, and try strive to generate ideas to overcome this challenge. This is why working with federations, clubs, and finding solutions becomes essential.

Towards the end of this experience, I discovered that a kid named Arun was not attending school. This realisation became the foundation. While providing bikes and other products was good, if I wanted to contribute to their future, I needed to support their education. Hence, I decided to give my prize money to Arun, providing him with the opportunity to go to school. I hope he understands. My intention is not just to contribute to global foundations or associations; I want to live in the moment, understand their needs. This is just the first step.

What do you think is the right time for individuals to start participating in pro races, and what equipment and physical abilities does somebody have to develop to become a pro rider like you?

This is an expensive sport. It is not like playing football. It poses a real financial barrier. One should and try strive to generate ideas to overcome this challenge. This is why working with federations, clubs, and finding solutions becomes essential. Bikes are expensive, but it's not mandatory to start with a bike like mine. The prototype I am currently riding costs approximately $8,000. It took me around 10 years of training with about 200 or 250 rides per year. When I'm not riding, I engage in trail running or skiing. I participate in some 320 sport activities per year. I take a one-month rest but participate in activities every day for the remaining 11 months.

You are one of the top riders in the world. You are doing great financially, aren't you?

I am fortunate to make a lot of money, and I am happy about it. However, I have to keep in mind that it will not last forever. I try my best to invest wisely, for example, by buying houses and renting them. I always keep in mind the need to build a business because my career in mountain biking can end in no time. So, I try to understand what my future will be. That is why I invest a lot. I am currently 31, and if I am intelligent, motivated, and passionate, I can enjoy this profession until I am 40. Maybe by then, I will be building a family. I have to adapt to my season, adjust my projects, and it is something I constantly keep in mind.

In the morning, I focus on training, which I enjoy doing in beautiful places. I spend my evenings exploring new routes using GPS maps. My morning rides usually last around three hours.

Which biking trail in Nepal are you excited to ride on now?

I am really curious to discover Mustang.

What differences did you find in biking trails, communities, and gears used here compared to other parts of the world?

Honestly, it was pretty similar. Many riders use the same bike as I do - Commencal. It is an international brand and is available in Nepal. Rupesh owns Epic Mountain Bike, which is the distributor of Commencal in Nepal. So, there is not much difference.

How are high altitude races different from other cycling events?

In France, when you start at an elevation of more than 3,000 metres, you're always starting on snow. In France, we have snow at 3,500 metres all year long, and in winter, we have snow from 1,500 metres. I have no choice but to be a good rider on the snow. When starting on snow, you have to consider the quality of the snow, which is closely linked to temperature. When the sky is clear at night, it means the snow will be cold. We start a race early in the morning at approximately nine because we wait for the moment when the snow starts melting. However, just five minutes after it starts melting, we need to start the race; otherwise, the trail becomes soft and slippery, making it impossible to ride. We have a window of just 15 minutes.

Can you share some of your experiences of riding in Nepal?

I was under pressure. In fact, I am always under pressure when I am riding because I want to do well. I like to be under pressure because it helps me stay focused on what I have to do. Before the start, I spend the evening watching my videos, reviewing the practices, trying to break down my race into different parts, and memorising everything. I feel more pressure in Nepal because it's not my country; I am a tourist here. In France, I know my house is there, I know my friends, and I feel at home. But here, I am with locals, and I have to find my place. It is always different but in a good way.

You have garnered a massive fan following worldwide. Are there any other specific initiatives you are excited about?

We organised a dummy race and filmed it. We did it because one of the reasons for my visit was to create a short action video. I have been sharing beautiful images in different countries with unique and creative concepts. This is always the foundation of each documentary we work on. For the Nepal project, this action video captures the essence of Nepal, featuring beautiful images of the Himalayas, traditional cultures, monasteries, riders, mass starts, Dolpo, and Kathmandu. Every local rider will be integrated into our video.

How do clips of your videos posted on social media influence the biking community, especially in Nepal?

I always appreciate open-minded people. In France, for example, some riders are sometimes too focused on racing competitors. I like to share with these individuals that mountain biking is also about travelling and meeting people. It is not just about training in isolation and competing to beat your rivals. For me, my bike shapes me. It helps me grow, and that is what I aim for. I enjoy communicating this perspective. If I have to choose my best social media posts, I recall a project in the Dolomites, Italy, five years ago. The Dolomites posts generated millions of views, affirming my vision of biking. It showcased impressive riding on trails close to cliffs in remote mountains with breathtaking scenery. This experience solidified my mountain biking vision and allowed me to convey my message.

What specific strategies or training routines do you believe contribute most to your achievements in these challenging races?

You have to be highly motivated. Winning is rewarding and beautiful, but sometimes you lose, and you have to accept it. Behind the scenes, I engage in various activities. I train extensively, and it is not always enjoyable. However, I always keep in mind how fortunate I am to live my passion. I am lucky to ride my bike every day because I chose this life, I can organise my calendar as I want, and it is amazing. It is my job, and I always remember that. Regarding my training, I do a lot of running, road biking, climbing and skiing. All these are integral parts of my training. In events like these, it is both mental and physical. You may be physically strong, but you also need mental strength. You have to train a lot, not just physically but also mentally. Building confidence, believing in yourself and your training process is crucial. Sharing your feelings with friends and family, understanding why you feel good on one day and not on another, and accepting it are essential. Ultimately, it is the question of character and personality. I believe the mental aspect in my sport is as important as the physical part.

A few weeks before the race, I participate in three or four training sessions with intervals. For instance, I ride at full speed for five minutes, then rest for five minutes, followed by uphill riding for another five minutes and a subsequent rest period. Sometimes, it involves 10 seconds at full speed and 10 seconds of rest, and so on. I have a calendar, and I know that if I stick to it, I will be ready on the day of the race. You have to believe in the process.

How do you perceive the role of mountain biking events in promoting sustainable tourism and development?

The foundation of the environmental aspect for me is education. Growing up, I was fortunate to have a good family that taught me to take care of nature. In France, we have different trash bins for different types of waste. It is all about education. In the end, it is conveying the same message as how to develop mountain biking in Nepal. I travel extensively, and I acknowledge that my CO2 emissions are high. However, I am fortunate to understand what happens in other countries. I always wonder how I can contribute. Currently, I focus on helping kids and educating them. I plan to contribute to environmental causes and establish connections with associations or foundations working in this sector. But the foundation of this is a matter of education, teaching at school and at home when you are a child. I believe it's even more crucial today because we are aware.

What drives your passion for mountain biking? How has your personal journey in this sport evolved over the years?

I am truly addicted to spending time outdoors in the mountains. As a child, I was lucky to live in the mountains, surrounded by them. I was curious to explore and discover what lay beyond. For me, the bike was the best tool for exploration. It allowed me to cover distances quickly. I began alone and eventually made friends.

The adrenaline rush when riding a bike became something I enjoyed. I love training, feeling alive. When I am training, I feel well. I do not see mountain biking merely as a sport; it is my passion, a way of life. My connection with the people intensified my involvement in the sport. I trained alone for the first few years. Then I met someone who influenced my path. I chose to follow this person and it changed my way of living. It helped me find balance in life.

The summer of 2011 was the first step in my career. Winning a photography contest allowed me to share a trip with a professional team, and I integrated with them. In 2015, I joined my first world team for global competitions. Three years later, in 2018, I created my own team of racers. It went amazing for three-four years. Subsequently, in 2020 or 2021, I formed my own media team.

How do you sum up your cycling and blogging journey so far?

In the morning, I focus on training, which I enjoy doing in beautiful places. I spend my evenings exploring new routes using GPS maps. My morning rides usually last around three hours. I have cycled in approximately 50 countries, and I am eager to explore Japan as it's a destination I have yet to visit. Next year, I am considering exploring the Middle East.

What do you think about Nepal's top riders?

Rajesh Magar aka RJ Ripper is the top rider I have met in Nepal, and he is the strongest one. I admire his character. He goes beyond being a competitor; he is genuinely passionate about mountain biking. I appreciate the connections we have shared, and I look forward to seeing him in France. I would like to bring him to France to ride the Megavalanche or Mountain of Hell. He is a really good ambassador for Nepal.

What is your advice to aspiring mountain bikers in Nepal?

Keep riding to enjoy it, not just to race.

What's next for you?

In December, it is a good season in France to celebrate Christmas with family and recharge batteries. After a crazy season, I need time to spend with my girlfriend, friends, and family to recharge physically and mentally. Professionally, I aim to share my documentaries with a broader audience. Over the last few years, we have shared many videos about the core mountain biking scene. I want to capture the attention of a wider audience interested in the outdoors, adventures, and travels. My goal is to continue working in this direction by sharing our documentaries, possibly on platforms like Netflix or Amazon. 

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