In our constant endeavour to connect cyclists from every corner of the country, we bring to you this article about cycling in Manipur. Vim, from Imphal, writes about the budding cycling scene in Manipur, the opportunities there and the challenges the riders face.
Manipur is a tiny state in north eastern India, with the city of Imphal as its capital. The capital lies surrounded by hills. Manipur with its 22,327sq km area consist of 90% hills and 10% valley. This tiny state is also nicknamed ‘power house of sports in India’, as it has produced impressive medallist on the big stage – National Games, Commonwealth, Asian, Olympic, some of the finest footballers and boxers to mention a few.
Being a hilly place, Manipur is perfect for Mountain Biking. The number of recreational cyclist have increased tremendously over the past few years but the general awareness about this brilliant athletic sports is still behind. The UCI world champ, Cape Epic are events which few are aware of. Though this discipline is competed in the Olympics. On the bright side, cycling clubs and association have been steadily growing in the state.
General public are more aware about Track Cycling as it is one of the recognized discipline. Facilities for the same are available at State Sports Stadium and the state has produced good riders at National events such as Laitonjam Ronaldo, Yanglem Rojit Singh and James Singh to name a few.
There are some roadblocks when it comes to uplifting riders from recreational cyclists to professional aspirants in Manipur. Some of the main reasons can be highlighted categorically for road cycling and MTB.
Road Cycling in Manipur
Road conditions in the state has improved in comparison to past years. But there is still not a lot of road options when it comes to long distance ride of 100-200 km. As the road network is still being developed, it is one of the main factors in the state. One must also mention the poor driving and traffic etiquettes, which are cause of accidents on the small roads in Manipur.
Mountain Biking in Manipur
Manipur is blessed with beautiful natural trails. Which are not just fun but offer a scenic treat to the riders.
Majority of the recreational cyclist also prefer MTB as it suits the terrain and poor roads. Manipur has won a few medals at the National Championship. Thomas Sharma, Victor Kabrabam, Bicky Naorem, Avi Touthang and Ronel Khundrakpam are some of the names that have done well at the national level.
Holistically, cycling being an expensive sport not many people can take up cycling (in comparison to football, hockey etc.) due to the poor socio-economic situation in the state. The number of cycle stores for purchasing above average equipment and accessories is also limited.
Spare parts are a pain to get and we almost entirely rely on online purchases.
Secondly, there are no cycling races in Manipur (the last race was held in 2018). Hence, less awareness and competition. Professional aspirants have to go to other states to participate in cycling events, which is another big additional expense.
Despite these challenges and difficulties, Manipur will not shy away from producing amazing riders in the future as it has done in other sports discipline. The numbers of recreational riders who have the genuine desire to be serious aspirants are increasing. They have the right physical attributes and mental robustness to face all odds and be successful when opportunity arises.
More cycling events will definitely enhance cycling awareness and scout potential riders too.
Touring Cycling in Manipur
October to April is the best season for bicycle tourers planning to visit Manipur. Gravel bikes are more suitable. Considering the quality of the roads. December and January is slightly foggy for riding early morning and evening. But the temperatures are comfortable for physical activity in the valley region.
The National Highway No. 2 will lead to Imphal through Guwahati-Dimapur-Kohima-Mao-Senapati-Imphal. The elevation will start gaining gradually after passing Dimapur and comes down again gradually from Senapati District. The roads aren’t big as in TIER-I National Highways.
The greenery and gentle winds should be good company along the ride.
Post Imphal, the NH-2 further leads to Kongjom-Pallel-Moreh. Moreh is the border between India and Myanmar. Riders with the desire for international long tour will have to pass through Moreh Border Gate to enter Myanmar. Which goes on to Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos. Many foreign touring cyclists also come through this route and go to other South east Asian countries.
Places to Ride in Manipur
For cycle travellers who want to spend time and explore Manipur. Imphal – Bishnupur to Loktak Lake can be covered comfortably. The round trip should cover about 95 km approximately.
For someone with a knack for elevation, Imphal – Bishnupur – Laimaton Peak (Laimaton Peak was the most strategic vantage point for the Japanese during World War II) is a good scenic ride.
Imphal – Keithelmanbi – Noney is another similar ride with decent elevation (Noney is the district where the World’s tallest railway pier bridge stands).
Imphal – Yaingangpokpi – Litan – Ukhrul is another good track with lots of climbing compared to the above routes. The roads are slightly inferior too currently.
Shirui Kashung Peak: it’s a popular tourist spot located at Ukhrul district of Manipur lying at an altitude of 2835m above sea level. The peak is famous for two main reasons 1) Most of the major rivers flowing across Ukhrul originate from the slopes and crevices of the peak 2) It is the place where the famous Shirui Lillies grow, the flower blooms during the period of May and June. Shirui Lilly has also been declared as the state flower of Manipur.
Tourist attractions in Manipur
1. Kangla Fort: It’s a place of Regal Heritage as it is one of the most important historic and archaeological site located at the heart of Imphal.
2. Ima Keithel: An all women’s market and it’s the largest all women’s market in Asia.
3. Loktak Lake: The largest fresh water lake in India.
4. Keibul Lamjao National Park:. It’s home for brown-antlered deer which is also known as Sangai. Its one of the most endangered deer in the world. Sangai is the state animal of Manipur.
5. Dzuko Valley: it is one of the most popular places to visit in Manipur, with its soul satisfying view located at the border of Manipur and Nagaland.
6. WAHPS (Wild Life And Habitat Protection Society):. It is one of the best places for people who can live without electricity. And who like being surrounded by 300 acres of forest and nature.
7. Andro: An authentic Manipuri village with cultural heritage and artful creativeness of Manipuri Tribes.
8. Yangkhullen: The historical village on slope at Mao-Maram subdivision of Senapati District.
About the Author
28-year-old Nongthombam Vimchandra Singh, is from Imphal West District of Manipur.
He is an XC professional aspirant with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Manipur University. He had an appetite for outdoors sports from childhood and has played basketball for his school team and represented his school football team as Captain at CBSE National.
In college he tried Bodybuilding and won a medal at the state level competition. In 2015 he suffered couples of injuries and it guided him to take up cycling. There has been no turning back since…
2016 marked the beginning of his cycling journey on a more serious note. He participated at Green Pedal Challenge in Shillong, followed by MTB Nationals in Pune in 2017.
2018 was a favourable year- where Vim was the winner at Cross Country Manipur MTB Challenge, 4th at MTB Okhrey at Sikkim and winner at Shirui XCM 2018.
2019 was a quiet year, in 2020 he was 7th at Cycle Chalao Tawang until the pandemic brought everything to a grinding halt.
Snapshots from Manipur
Check out some more cycling pictures from Manipur…
Photos Courtesy: Vim Nongthombam