Freewheeling with Shiven Aerohawk, MTB National Champion

In Conversation with Shiven, MTB National Champion, about Gadag and gives a lot of useful advice for youngsters who want to race… has started a new series, Freewheeling. This series is held on our Instagram platform every Saturday. In this we will talk to a variety of Indian cyclists about many different things.

This first episode of Freewheeling sees us chat to Shiven, MTB National Champion, on 24th April. In this episode he spoke about his title winning run in Gadag, Karnataka in February 2021. He also gives useful advice for young mountain bikers in India, who would like to pursue this sport seriously.

Below is the transcript of our conversation with Shiven, with many questions raised by members of the CyclingMonks Community.

Here’s what the winner of the Men’s Elite and Under-23 XCO Mass Start races had to say to us:

Shiven, MTB National Champion

The conversation was in three parts, the first part dealt with Shiven’s experience of Gadag, the second part with his advice for young mountain bikers and the third is questions from the community.

shiven mtb national champion
Leading the pack in the Mass Start race: Photo: Taming The Tiger


How are you Shiven?

Good. Luckily Covid has not effected Himachal in a very bad way as it has effected a lot of other states. We can still go out and ride, most importantly. That’s a good thing for us. It snowed here yesterday, which was quite surprising. It’s a beautiful sunny day today and it is always good to be training in Manali, in the mountains.

What was the level of competition in Gadag this year?

The competition level at the national championships is almost every year similar.

We know what it takes to win at the national championships. It is just that your own training level changes at different times. Sometimes the other riders are not at the same level. It can play a big difference in how the race plays out.

Luckily for me I trained well last year. Despite the lockdown and Covid. I was able to train, staying here in Manali. I knew my level was good and was confident going into the Nationals. That’s how it turned out to be.

And who was your biggest competition from the Nationals this year?

The strongest rider in national championships this year was definitely Kamlesh Rana, other than me. I knew last year, in 2020 Feb, he had 3 minute gaps over me, when I finished second. And then I had a 3 minute gap to the third rider. That 3 minutes is pretty huge.

I knew that with the training that I had, I would win the nationals. Somewhere in my head, I had won the national championships months before actually being present in Gadag.

I had that confidence in my training and planning, that I will win with ease. Army team is always the most challenging. The one team that gives you the biggest challenge in terms of racing.

What was the winning gap this year?

This year the plan was to have a dominating performance. But plans derail because of two reasons.

One, they decided to introduce Under-23 in the National Championships for the first time. So that changed my plan from racing 2 events in three days, to 3 events in 3 days.

Second, was that the Time Trial was supposed to be on first day, then the Under-23 mass start and last day would be the elite mass start.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, they had to postpone the men elite individual time trial to the second day. That meant that I had two races on the second day. And the day after that was the main mass start event for the Elite.

That was a big mental challenge for me. I had gone in with the idea of winning 3 gold medals. Someohow I just managed to win 2 gold medals and 1 silver.

What was the race and recovery strategy for the race weekend?

Instead of going all out and dominating the races, I was a little more conservative, looking out to see how my body would feel for the next race. Keeping in mind that I have a race in the next 6 hours and then the next day also. That was in the back of my head. So I was controlling how much effort I put.

The gap was not much. I think 40-50 seconds in the Under-23. In the ITT I lost the gold by 50 seconds. And then in the men’s elite mass start I again won by 50 seconds.

But I knew from the start, that I have this under control. So the only objective then was to win the gold.

The total idea was to focus on recovery. I knew that I have trained harder than others and I know my level. That gave me the confidence that this can be done. It is possible.

Race 1 was just trying to control the race, staying at the front. Not wasting extra energy during the race. Straight after the race cleaning the bike, focussing on recovery for the evening race, doing a bit of foam rolling, eating.

All in all, the focus was totally on recovery and keeping the bike ready for the next event.

Do you have a team to help you with your bike, recovery, food and nutrition?

I don’t have a team, but I have a few good friends who helped me through that. Sandeep Madaan from Chandigarh, Vijay Prakash from Himachal, Devender was there. So I had supportive friends around me who helped me do that. They also had other jobs, so they tried to help me as much as they can.

How technical was the XC course this year?

The course at MTB nationals has been improving since the past 4-5 years. This was a pretty good course. Given the COVID conditions, that we even had a national championship is a big deal. So no complaints about the course.

Definitely it was in a good direction ahead. A little short, but you can’t complain.

Did you find anything of the course challenging or stood out?

I am used to riding courses that are tougher than this. So it was pretty normal for me.

Any mistakes you made, which you wouldn’t want to repeat?

There were no mistakes I feel. There were areas which I think I could have improved upon.

For example, there were a lot of technical sections in which I think I could have improved my timing by a few seconds. Which I didn’t go as fast as I should have.

In the descents, I was trying to control the speed, so that I don’t crash. I could have gone 5-8 seconds faster in those downhill sections.

That’s the only thing, which I feel I could have improved upon. But yes, no mistakes.

So you would want to go harder on the technical sections?

It is always a question of risk vs reward when you’re pushing hard. There is a risk of crashing out and losing the whole race trying to chase those 5-7 seconds. You always have to find a balance in between those.

What are your personal cycling goals in the near future?

The goal this year is to finish top 10 at the Asian Championships, which are scheduled to be held in October in Myanmar. Not sure if that is going to happen, because of the current political situation. That’s our goal for now.

shiven mtb national champion
The face when you are giving it your everything! Photo: Taming The Tiger

Advice for Aspiring Champions

In Gadag, did you see any youngsters who caught your eye?

Unfortunately, I was not able to see a lot of racing because of my own busy schedule. I kept a tab on the results (Note: You can check out the full results here). And there were a lot of young guys who were doing good, which was visible in the results. I could see that these guys have potential.

And all these guys have been selected by the CFI for the national MTB Academy that’s been started. These guys are there already, Adonis from Mysore, Charith Gowda and few other guys. These guys have won their own respective races and are pretty good.

Another thing about the potential of young riders is that. A lot of riders show promise and potential. They win a lot of medals at this stage. But it is about who stays persistent with the sport. That’s also very important.

Life throws different kinds of challenges to every athlete. And how to cope up with them, that’s everyone’s own struggle.

So only time will tell.

Can you tell us more about the MTB National Academy?

CFI has started a mountain bike academy, where they are selecting top national athletes from mountain biking, based on the results of MTB nationals. Right now they have selected 10 athletes, based on last year’s nationals results. Based on the current year’s results, they will be adding 15 more.

They will be providing equipment, training, nutrition, everything that an athlete needs to grow and to take the sport to the next level. And win medals for the country. They are going to be helping with that.

If anyone wants to be in this support structure, have a bike, represent India, your best shot is to get yourself a medal at nationals, and that is the way forward.

Is this open for boys and girls?

Right now it is just for boys. I think the reason for that is that they have a lack of female coaches. That again pertains to the lack of female athletes who were in the sport. Right now it is just for guys. But I am sure pretty soon it will be expanded to female riders as well.

What does a 15-year-old do today to be national champion 8 years down the line?

Just enjoy your sport first. That is the best thing. Fall in love with the sport if you can. There’s nothing like it. Try to win your state championships in your age category and then the national championships.

Progress through the ranks. If you’re 15 right now, then try winning the national sub-junior championships and then so forth.

By the time you reach elite, you will have learnt a ton of things. 8 years from now, not just the nationals, you might also be winning the world championships, you never know. 8 years is a long time if you start in the right direction.

All you need to do is find the right training program for you. You need to start training with a coach. That is the best way forward.

How old were you when you started racing?

I started in 2012, when I was 14 years old. But we didn’t have access to internet back then like today. We didn’t have smart phones, where we could interact with top guys in the sport and ask them questions.

There wasn’t as much information available. It took a lot of time, for me to know how to push this thing forward. I have been riding since I was 14, but I only found the way to progress in the sport at 19. It took me a long time with trial and error,  shooting arrows in the dark trying to figure out.

First tell us about the bike you used in your first race.

My first race, I raced on a Hercules Rodeo. It was a 3×10 gear combination.

The only thing is that you love riding the bikes. That is all that matters. If you have the passion for racing, if you really have the lifestyle for racing, it will develop over time. Bikes will come, support will come. You just don’t quit. That is the most important thing.

How important is equipment in the junior classes?

There was a time back in the national championships when there were like 3-4 carbon bikes in the elite category. Probably just 2-3 guys wearing cleats. I have seen that time as well. But there was this raw power amongst the athletes, which propelled them to podiums, even on most basic bikes.

You can’t deny the importance of good equipment. Nowadays I see there are carbon bikes even in the sub-junior and under-14 category. The thing is, if you train enough, you can beat them even with basic bikes. That’s the simple answer.

It is about your legs, not your bike. You are the engine.

Training, recovery, nutrition. What should a youngster follow in these three things.

These three things are the most important training principles. These are things which make training complete and you a complete athlete.

Training. Find a good coach. Start training with a heart rate monitor, or a power meter if you can. Get a coach who can guide you well.

Second is nutrition. Having a good diet, will help you grow. Will help you recover faster. As you train hard, you need to recover harder. It is important to include healthy meals.

The last one is recovery. In recovery, you can do foam rolling, you can do massages once a week. But the most important recovery tool is sleep. It is important to have 8-9 hours of sleep every night if you are training. So that you can adapt to the training.

I have seen, how much proper sleep can do to your training.

One of the most important principles I would like to share with you is that. It is not the hard training which makes you stronger. It is the recovery after training, that makes you stronger. If you are recovered well, then you will definitely improve.

If you are not recovering well, then you are just smashing your body. Then you are just going to be over training or you are going to destroy your body.

It is important to take care of yourself, if you want to win races.

What about stretching?

Stretching is part of recovery. Stretching, yoga, foam rolling. It is always good to include this in your regular training schedule.

Having a protein rich diet after the ride towards the evening is going to help you to recover faster.

How does an athlete get sponsored?

Luckily all my sponsorships have come through the people I have met in my journey.

If anyone of you wants to get sponsored, don’t think of sponsors first. Think about what’s your goal in the sport. It is about your story. Where you want to go in the sport. That reflects around you.

The people who want to sponsor you, they see that story. And they see your goals and they see how serious you are about it. How well you are working towards it. Everything counts, if you want to get a sponsor.

Either that, or you be a really great marketing influencer. You can have 50-60000 followers on social media, that’s gonna help for sure. You can go either way.

One important thing is that, when you participate in races, when you meet new people. How you present yourself that is very important.

If you want to get sponsorships, try shooting at the brands. See what they want, only after interacting with them, you will get to learn more once you start asking them questions.

Brands will look at the athlete, how will the athlete help them. It is through creating brand value for yourself, that is very important to get a sponsor. That can be helping the brand at marketing in events or social media. And at various races you participate you represent your brand.

Qs from the Community

zoobieedoobiee: Where and how did you start cycling?

My father used to live in the mountains. I used to get jealous looking at other kids riding bicycles in the neighbourhood. Since I was living near Delhi, I couldn’t bring my bicycle for vacations when I visited my dad.

That was the thing that was in my mind. I wanted to try riding a bicycle on the downhill slopes. Just feel the speed. I bought a mountain bike and got to know that there is a sport called mountain biking. There were events happening in India. And got to know about MTB Himalaya.

Then I got to know about MTB Shimla. And that was how it was my first event. I just got hooked to that racing experience.

Dheeraj277: How do keep yourself motivated for training everyday?

For the past 3.5 years I have been training consistently. Working with a coach, professionally. Since I have been out of college. My goals are the only thing which keep me motivated everyday. I can’t stop thinking about it, where I want to be.

That is what keeps me motivated.

As an Indian community, we are way behind the Europeans and world champions and Olympics. It is very distant for now. But it is only after consistent hard work, that we are going to be getting there.

raunakthiroti: What was your family’s opinion about your career?

They have been very supportive from the first race. They would accompany me and take me to the races. My parents are my strong pillars of support. It wouldn’t have been possible without them. They help me as much as they can.

senbawla: Any thoughts on Olympics?

2021 is definitely not possible for any Indian athlete. 2024 can be possible. But it is still a very long shot and very bleak chances of getting to the line at 2024. But I am going to try my best and hopefully make it to the start line in 2024.

zoobieedoobiee: Were you a member of hero action team?

Luckily in 2014, HASTPA was setting up a team with Hero Cycles and that is how Hero Action Team was born. And I was lucky enough to be a part of the team back then. It was a great support system. That is what any kid would dream of. You have a team around you, you are getting bikes, you are sponsored. It was a dream come true.

I was in the team from 2014-17. After that I moved to Cannondale. I won the junior national championships with the 2015 team. I went to Churdhar, we did some really amazing stuff then.

The only one 007: Can we train with power, cadence and heart rate monitor?

Yes definitely. I myself use a powermeter while training. And a heart rate monitor. The powermeter has an inbuilt cadence sensor, so it shows my cadence as well. These three matrix are useful. Most importantly power and heart rate data.

Francismanuelw: Which bike do you race on?

My current bike is a Cannondale Scalpel HiMod Limited Edition. It is a black colour bike you can check it out on my profile.

What is your FTP?

Right now it is 4.9-5 WpK. I am 61-62 kg, so you can go calculate that. I will not serve you everything on a platter!

How did you find the difference in competition between the Under-23 and elite?

There is definitely some difference in the field in under-23 and elite. In under-23, it is a little easier to win. The same guys in the elite were giving a tough fight.

Rajat Pandey won Bronze in under-23 and elite. Similarly, Ashish Sherpa won 4th in both categories. So the competition is there. There is not a big difference, just a sight difference.

Daksh Bhatia: Which is your dream bike?

I have been eyeing the Cannondale System Six road bike. The bike looks really fast. That’s like a dream bike for me right now. Maybe it will be with me soon. You’ll see.

Anonymous Question: Are you single?

Yes I am single!

Photos Courtesy: Shiven Aerohawk
Photographer: taming_the_tiger

If you liked our first conversation with Shiven, MTB National Champion, then we hope you will be there for our Second Instagram Live Session on 1st May with Mohit Raj Kapoor. Ace Tourer! Join in for that…

Also read the full rider profile of Shiven Aerohawk and rising MTB star, Adonis Tangpu.

2 Replies to “Freewheeling with Shiven Aerohawk, MTB National Champion”

  1. Amazing article. Shiven is in the lead for the Indian MTB team. Given him the substantial support, he will surely bring laurels for INDIA in the Asians 2021 and Olympics 2024. Wishing Shiven all the best of Luck, “Our best wishes are with you”. The efforts of Cyclingmonks are equally appreciated. Keep writing to motivate the riders. Cheers!!!

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