WHY RIDE?

Australian Mountain Bike - - Editorial - WORDS: MIKE BLEWITT PHOTO: BAD SELFIE

I’m sit­ting and writ­ing this ed­i­to­rial piece fresh off a plane from Sri Lanka, feel­ing pretty raw about an in­ci­dent where a fel­low moun­tain biker lost their life in a freak ac­ci­dent.

In the mid­dle of June I vis­ited Sri Lanka to race Rum­ble in the Jun­gle, an ad­ven­tur­ous 5-day moun­tain bike stage race held pri­mar­ily in the stun­ning moun­tain­ous re­gion of the trop­i­cal is­land. Mix­ing travel, meet­ing new friends and old, good food, beau­ti­ful scenery, chal­leng­ing ter­rain, vir­gin trails and a glimpse of another na­tion’s cul­ture and his­tory, this was just the sort of trip I en­joy and one of the rea­sons I love moun­tain bik­ing. Moun­tain bikes are a ve­hi­cle to so much more than just rid­ing trails, they are a great way to see the world and meet new peo­ple.

There’s some­thing about moun­tain bik­ing that is a lev­eller. As our sport grows the peo­ple who take part are far more di­verse. You can be rid­ing or rac­ing with a CEO, a stu­dent, a brick­layer, a full­time pro or an ath­lete from a de­vel­op­ing na­tion. On the bike, we’re all con­nected. You’re en­joy­ing your sur­round­ings, shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence and rev­el­ling in the chal­lenges and beauty of our sport. And you never ex­pect some­one to die while you’re do­ing that.

On 13th June, Narayan Gopal Ma­har­jan was swept off a river cause­way while in the fi­nal 25km of a bike race, where the strength of his ride would have seen him move into 2nd on gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion by the fin­ish of that stage. Narayan would have over­taken me to claim that spot, and the race he was hav­ing to make up from a bro­ken wheel on stage one was pure class. But he never made it to the fin­ish.

The moun­tain bike com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially those that travel, ride and com­pete are all poorer for the loss of Narayan, or any other MTBer. He was a cham­pion rider who put his whole self into what he did. And those are the mem­o­ries I will keep. I have been re­minded, too, of the rich ex­pe­ri­ence this sport pro­vides all of us, the friend­ships formed, and the mem­o­ries cre­ated.

So while I will mourn Narayan, and other friends and rid­ers lost too soon, I will also cherise new friend­ships and mem­o­ries that moun­tain bik­ing is yet to present.

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