THE BICYCLE DIARIES : EXAMINING THE TREND OF BICYCLES IN NEPAL

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THE BICYCLE DIARIES : EXAMINING THE TREND OF BICYCLES IN NEPAL

Cycling not only contributes to the physical, mental and social well-being of an individual, but it can also help curb pollution and reduce Nepal’s fuel import bills.

--By Tamish Giri

In 2015, the sale of bicycles in Nepal reached its apex. During that period, India’s economic blockade led to a fuel crisis in the country, hampering transportation. This development eventually skyrocketed the sale of bicycles. However, after the blockade, the demand subsided and roads in Nepal reverted to its sordid state, billowing dust and smoke. 

The history of bicycle business in Nepal dates back to 1925 when the late Asta Narayan Manandhar began the country’s first-ever bicycle shop at Kamalacchi, Ason in Kathmandu. Manandhar started the bicycle business by shipping in six British-made Hercules bicycles from Calcutta, India to Kathmandu. Today, Tirek Manandhar, grandson of Asta Narayan looks after the cycle business established by his grandfather. 

He informs that the bicycles imported by his grandfather during the Rana Regime arrived in their cycle store in Ason Kamalacchi via Birgunj – Hetauda – Bhimphedi - Kulekhani. “There were no roads back then, and porters had to carry the bicycles most of the way before they arrived at the bicycle store in Ason. My grandfather named the cycle store “Pancha Narayan Asta Narayan Cycle” in honour of his father, Pancha Narayan Manandhar. Today the shop is known as Pancha Asta Narayan Cycle, ‘PANC Bike’ in short”, he explains. 

PANC Bike, which is located in Kantipath, provides all bike-related services to its clients including sales of bicycles along with spare parts and accessories. 

“We sell, exchange, resell, recondition, rent, conduct fun rides during weekends as well as organise different cycling events to promote cycling and to promote cycling tourism. We also have package cycling tours; we have bicycle options to fit all budgets,” Tirek remarks. 

Currently, several modes of transportation are switching to the electric model and Panc, analysing the future of cycling, has followed this electric trend in their cycling business. “We are proud to say that we are the first store to introduce e-bikes and e-bike conversion kits in the Nepali market,” states Manandhar.

At Panc, city bikes are the most affordable, priced between Rs 8,000 to 20,000. Likewise, hybrid bikes are available from Rs 12,000 to 25,000. Meanwhile, the casual mountain bike is priced between Rs 25,000 to 40,000. Similarly, Cross country bikes can be procured from Rs 40,000 onwards. Trail bikes start at Rs 80,000 and Enduro bikes cost around Rs 1, 50,000 and above. Downhill bikes are the most expensive, available from Rs 4, 50,000.

Of late, bicycle entrepreneurs are worried about the declining demand of cycles in Nepal. They describe that the decline in the number of city and hybrid bike users has hampered demand. “After the blockade, most of the riders reverted to motorbikes, public transport and cars as their daily means of transportation,” Manandhar clarifies. However, the demand for mountain and cross country categories of bikes has increased over the years with the growing number of adventure cycling enthusiasts. 

Cycle entrepreneurs believe the use of such bicycles is not regular, and it has not been able to push the overall sales of bicycles in the Nepali context. “Sales of bicycles in Nepal will not pick up until people use bicycles as their daily means of commute like in Denmark or Netherlands,” remarks a local cycle entrepreneur from Jhamsikhel. 

Hari Kumar Silwal, a chartered accountant by profession, is an ardent rider. Silwal owns a series of bicycles and uses the Trinix mountain bike for regular rides. According to Silwal, cycling is a crucial part of his lifestyle, helping him to be fit and healthy. “Besides, it also helps me to test my resilience, socialise with people and advocate for the environment,” states Silwal. 

An ardent adventurer, Silwal regularly participates in cycling rallies and tournaments during his free time such as Tour de’ Lumbini, Heritage ride, Kathmandu Kora, ANMN bike ride in Minneapolis, USA and the Sydney - Wollongong Bike Rally. 

Silwal names safety, air pollution, road hazards and lack of bicycle lanes as some of the major points that discourage cycling culture in Nepal.

Similarly, Sameer Mani Dixit, a research scientist and television host for Good Morning Nepal, has been riding the Trek Merlin-7 series mountain bike for almost four years. He informs that he first started riding a bicycle in the alleys of Patan when he was nine years old. “Cycling gives me a sense of freedom, and it also contributes to my good health”, says Dixit.  

“I mostly ride around Kathmandu valley where dust pollution and dilapidated roads have been major challenges for riders. Additionally, traffic mismanagement is also a major reason for accidents. Bigger vehicles regularly try to cut off bicycles, especially privately run public vehicles. That being said, Nepal, apart from the highways, is a beautiful country for cycling,” he remarks.

Many cycle stores in the capital including PANC Bike have been organising rides every weekend to the outskirts of Kathmandu valley to promote cycling and to attract riders. Likewise, cycle entrepreneurs have been sponsoring and supporting cycling rallies and events including Kathmandu Kora Cycling Challenge, Yak Attack, Heritage ride and The Great Buddhist Trail to promote cycling culture in Nepal.

Manandhar suggests the government develop a cycling infrastructure which includes cycling lanes, cycling stands to promote cycling in Nepal. “The government and corporate houses should emphasise on promoting the use of bicycles by encouraging working individuals to use cycle once a week and organising cycling related activities,” he adds. 

Likewise, Dixit requests the government to make roads less hazardous for riders with regular road maintenance and to implement effective traffic rules in favour of pedestrians and cyclists. “Separate pavements should be allocated everywhere for walking and cycling. Additionally, cities should be clean and dust and pollution-free,” Dixit recommends. Similarly, Silwal recommends that corporate houses could sponsor bicycle repair training, organise theme rallies and cycling competitions as part of their corporate social responsibility activities. In addition, Dixit says promoting cycles as gifts to discourage the use of motorbikes and cars as well as bringing awareness to cycling programmes can also encourage cycling at the corporate level. “Companies can promote cycling by allocating soft loans for cycle purchase with a low-interest rate and support developing cycle lanes under their CSR activities,” he comments.Lalitpur Metropolitan City has recently started the construction of a cycling lane between Kupondole and Lagankhel.

The municipality office also has constructed cycling stands within the area and has said it will promote cycling within its working associates by requesting individuals to cycle every Friday. Manandhar suggests other government bodies and corporate houses all across the country to take a similar initiative. 

“Cycling can be crucial for controlling air pollution and decrease the use and import of petroleum supplies,” he opines. 

Types of bikes sold in Nepal

  • City bike: Mostly used inside city flat roads. Commonly used by bicycle commuter.
  • Hybrid bike: Used on the road and off-road and some altitude. Commonly used by the entry-level rider.
  • Casual MTB: Used to climb mountains. Commonly used by bicycle enthusiast.
  • Cross-country bike: Used to travel high in the mountains and come down quickly. Commonly used by pro-level riders.
  • Trail bike: Used for a trail ride and aggressive downhill. Commonly used by starting downhill rider.
  • Enduro bike:  Used for high-speed aggressive downhill rides. Commonly used by the pro-level downhill rider.
  • Downhill bike: Used for extreme downhill rides usually done by big jumps. Commonly used by extreme level riders.

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