Pedal power

Nirjala Tamrakar, 28, started bicycling out of necessity when she used to go to AVM School in her native Patan. Then, bicycling became a hobby. Now it is a passion.

Especially after she came a commendable second in the gruelling 405km Kanchenjunga Mountain Bike Expedition held in Sikkim last month, Tamrakar is determined to do better in international bicycling tournaments. Nepal’s most noted woman mountain biker has been taking part in championships since 2001 coming either first or second in most. “It was a great feeling, I became someone in place of no one,” says Nirjala, describing the moment when she received her prize in Sikkim. Despite her motivation, it hasn’t been easy for Nirjala. A proper mountain bike can cost up to Rs 300,000 and the bike suit can be expensive. A coach, specialised diet and lots of time to train are also needed.

“The male bikers are very supportive because I am the only woman,” says Nirjala, who has worked as a medical transcriptionist and even taught yoga to earn money.

Nirjala takes encouragement not just from her successes, but also her failures. She says coming last in the Annapurna Mountain Bike race in 2006 goaded her work harder. “It was snowing and the bike was 18kg and I just ran out of stamina,” she recalls, “but after that I decided I was going to practise and improve my endurance.”

She went on to complete the 1,150km Lhasa-Kathmandu Mountain Bike race in 17 days and hopes now to take part in international tournaments. Nirjala sometimes regrets not having time for studies, family and friends. Yet, she feels proud of being able to represent Nepal in many national and international races as the only female participant.

Nirjala’s other hobby is painting and she has won the first prize in the Mandala Art Competition two years in a row in 2003-4. She hopes to have a solo art exhibition soon.

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