Independence Day ride for greener, healthier tomorrow

Celebrating country’s 75th Independence Day in a ‘greener way’, the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (Hastpa), along with the Shimla Cycling Association, on Saturday announced to organize a 30-km cycling ride from St. Bede’s, one of India’s oldest women’s colleges here, to Daak Bangla village, where the riders will plant around 100 saplings.

Hastpa President Mohit Sood told IANS the aim for organizing this event is to give the youth a sense of purpose and channelize their energies in the right direction for a better future, in fact healthier tomorrow.

The ride route will be Nav Bahar, Sanjaulli, Dhalli, Mashobara, Talai and finally Daak Bangla, near Kufri.

Approximately 50 cyclists have registered their name for the ride and the organization aims to plant more than 100 saplings.

“We are at Hastpa have been working for the last 16 years to promote the culture of cycling and mountain biking for a better tomorrow and this is part of our aim to make Himachal Pradesh clean and green and one of the most sought-after destinations for cycling,” he said.

He said the hill state has the best natural ecosystem to promote the mountain biking sport and also activities for tourism sports and fitness and with this idea we aim to put cycling as a core activity in and around Shimla.

Hastpa is the local club that has been organising the acclaimed Hero MTB Himalaya, Asia’s biggest off-road cycling event, every September-October with the participation from across the globe since 2005. The 15th in series and the last one was held in 2019. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not held in 2020.

“Since this year again we are not holding the MTB Himalaya, we have decided to hold its local version to keep the mountain biking enthusiasm alive,” he said.

Sood said normally bikers prefer to ride on off-road mountain trails such as single-track, back-country roads, wider bike park trails, fire roads, and some advanced trails that are designed with jumps, berms, and drop-offs to add excitement to the trail.

“Because the riders are often far from civilization, there is a strong element of self-reliance in the sport. Riders learn to repair broken bikes and flat tires to avoid being stranded. Many riders carry a backpack, including water, food, tools for trailside repairs, and a first-aid kit in case of injury. Group rides are common, especially on longer treks. Mountain bike orienteering adds the skill of map navigation to mountain biking,” he said.

On the question of why to invest in adventure sports and mountain biking, Sood said: “We are doing this to create a sustainable eco-tourism model with the involvement of the local communities where they engage actively in promotion of the activity and attracting domestic and international tourists.”

“The objective is to attract top international and professional athletes to the state. This in turn brings an opportunity for the local community to get involved in the activities of the event, thus providing them with economic and financial stability.”

According to Sood, cycling-based tourism has made many countries start an economic revolution of their own and some of the biggest cities in the world have effectively merged the transport infrastructure with cycling.

The mountain biking and trekking trail network in Himachal Pradesh is Immense. There are multiple locations that offer the basic essential requirements to develop these trails.

The idea is to identify the most cost-effective and attractive places and then turn them around into successful circuits.