Aid pledges are pouring in following the earthquake in Nepal, but a shortage of paved roads means that assistance often can’t reach remote regions where it’s needed most. However, Time reports that members of the national mountain biking team are putting their skills to use to get aid to isolated villages.
Soldiers from 246 Gurkha Signals Squadron, based at York's Imphal Barracks, took to the streets during the Tour de Yorkshire to raise £32,000 for relief efforts. However, it’s not just about raising money. The challenge is often to reach isolated communities when roads are blocked and this is where Nepal’s mountain bikers have come into their own.
The team was training in Chobar, near Kathmandu, when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on April 25. Team member Aayman Tamang described how “people were screaming and houses collapsed in thick dust, making it difficult to breathe.”
Soon afterwards, they realised that their mountain biking skills could help in relief efforts, allowing them to reach isolated upland communities. They have since named their efforts Nepal Cyclist Ride To Rescue, a fundraising initiative between the team and Himalayan Single Track, an extreme mountain biking company that operates tours in Nepal.
As the team knows the local area well, members know which tracks to take and they have been using bikes specially adapted to carry cargo, allowing them to deliver food and supplies. Caleb Spear, executive director at Portal Bikes, which constructs the bikes being used, points out that an additional advantage is that these vehicles don’t require petrol.
The team has also been heading further afield. The hill village of Shikharbesi lies at the southern tip of Langtang National Park, sixty miles to the north. Avalanches have blocked roads and so the riders have established a camp here, from which they distribute food, hygiene kits and medical supplies to those in surrounding areas.
Jenny Caunt, owner of Himalayan Single Track, described the challenge of getting to the village.
“We loaded our supplies on small trucks to get as close to the village as possible, but the last one and a half hours are on foot. Our team carried 800kg of supplies to the village and was only supported by locals who wanted to help. From here, small groups of cyclists venture out to see if we are needed anywhere else.”
“We’re getting off our bikes and into people’s lives,” says Tamang. “We use our passion for biking to help them get back on their feet.”