Fed up with 12-year-old Karma Sherpa playing video games all day long, his aunt took him for a biking trip to Chobar four years ago.
That is all it took to get the young lad hooked to mountain biking. Now 16, Sherpa and his bicycle are inseparable, and besides winning many national races, in December he came second in the under-18 International Chiang Mai Enduro.
“I believe I was a pretty notorious kid,” he admits with a shy smile. “I didn’t like doing homework, so I was out and about in the mountains around Kathmandu in my bike every chance I got.”
The Chiang Mai race was a morale booster for the Nepali teenager, who realised he could compete with the best in the world, and was also inspired by meeting the big names in downhill biking.
“The competition was five days after my final exams in Kathmandu, so I could not practice much but the race went well,” Sherpa said, hinting that he could have even come first if he had enough training time.
The boy’s first race was the Kathmandu Mountain Bike Festival, when he was 13. Despite being nervous he finished seventh, then built on the experience winning three of his next six races.
Sherpa credits his trainer and mentor, Shyam Limbu of Grand Himalayan Enduro. “He is my biggest inspiration,” says the racer, explaining how Limbu is a holistic trainer, monitoring his technique, mental maturity, concentration and nutrition.
“He also tells me to be less shy and talk to people more. It is good advice and has allowed me to make many international friends,” adds Sherpa, who also looks up to Nepali bikers Rajesh Magar and Suman Tamang.
Sherpa’s foster parents are very supportive, and took him to Switzerland for bike training. He has been told his performance is much improved after that, thanks also to better gear.
Downhill racing is dangerous, and even at 13 Karma was already battle-scarred. He broke his collar bone while training in Switzerland and proudly shows us an x-ray of his shoulder on the cracked screen of his smart phone.
“I have broken my collar bone in the exact same place twice. I also broke this mobile screen in one practice,” he adds smiling.
The teen biker’s ultimate goal is to participate in and win the Red Bull Hardline, one of the toughest downhill mountain bike races in the world. He says: “One victory is not enough, I need to win more.”