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      Climbing is the epitome for most cyclists. When epiphany hits and you completely imbibe the spirit of the humble bicycle.

      Nobody forgets their First Ever Climb. And here Luchinglen describes the joy of climbing on his bicycle for the very first time.

      Lunchinglen Chungkham, originally from Manipur, is born and lived in Delhi. As such, the 25-year-old had no exposure to hills. Here’s how he described his ride to the high mountains…

      In the lap of the mountains…

      My main passion which gives me wings and makes me feel alive is cycling.

      I remember, as a 7 year old, my father bought me my first cycle, which didn’t have side support wheels. First time I showed my father my liking for it was by riding my friend’s cycle without support wheels. Which made him believe that I can ride properly on 2 wheels.

      Since then, cycling has been my soul enlightening activity.

      When I was in Class 10, I went for 2 long rides. First, Delhi to Murthal and back to Delhi (same day) and second, Delhi to Meerut and back to Delhi (same day).

      I always had this dream to ride uphill on mountains and finally this year I made my dream into reality. My plan was to ride from Manali to Koksar and back to Manali by crossing Atal Tunnel.

      I left from Delhi on 9th May evening and reached Manali on 10th morning. I rented an MTB, a Merida Big 9 from “Hippie in Hills” shop in old Manali.

      Empty roads are bliss…

      After that I met a person who is a pro-rider in Manali, whom I got in touch with through Instagram. He told me that local pro-riders in Manali can do this ride (up & down) in 5 to 6 hrs. I calculated with extra 2 hrs, therefore summing up my whole riding hrs to 8hrs.

      Next day on 11th May 2022, I woke up early morning at 5:30 and I was ready by 6:15. I waited for 15 more mins to get some more sunlight and started at 6:30.

      Since I started from Old Manali I was enjoying the downhill from old Manali to Manali but after that comes the uphill climbs which lasted for the next 2 hrs.

      I don’t know how and why but I did not take a single break till Atal Tunnel which is 22.83 km from Manali.

      I proudly and happily finished Manali to Atal Tunnel in 1hr 37mins 52secs.

      Bicycles give you a case of the smileys!

      On Strava for this segment (Manali to Atal Tunnel) I ranked 4th fastest rider. Since the main climb is from Manali to Atal Tunnel, I was pleased to ride slowly after crossing the Atal Tunnel to enjoy the pleasing visuals.

      One thing I must add is that since the Atal Tunnel is quite long which takes a good cyclist at least 23 mins to cross. The pollution inside the tunnel due to diesel vehicles is quite a challenge for cardio activities like cycling or running. May be that day the exhaust system was not working in its full potential. But it must be a concern for anyone riding through a long tunnel.

      After crossing the tunnel I had 2 choices. Take left and go towards Sissu (6 km from tunnel) or take right and go towards Koksar (7 km from tunnel). I took the second option and rode towards Koksar. To be honest, I have never seen such an aesthetic and beautiful landscape while riding towards Koksar.

      There is Lahaul Valley mountains on your left when riding towards Koksar from the tunnel. The mountains were totally of different shape, colour and size. Such a diversity in the mountains after crossing 9 km.

      In India, not only food and culture changes every 50 km, even mountains have variations after 10 km. Lower Himalayas (Shivaliks), Upper Himalayas (Trans Himalayas),  Zanskar ranges etc., all are different in colour, size, nature and flora & fauna. But still they exist together for their flora and fauna.

      The perfect breakfast!

      This is what we humans must also follow. Existing together with the differences among us for the betterment of the whole. While coming back from Koksar I stopped in between for breakfast. There I asked a local to take some pictures of me and my rented bike.

      That person was polite and humble, he even told me how to pose and which place is good for beautiful picture with a pleasing background of the huge mountains.

      After breakfast I rode towards Atal Tunnel and crossed the tunnel with the diesel fumes inside!

      After crossing the tunnel it was all downhill towards Manali and for the first time attained the speed of 54 km/h due to crazy downhills.

      It was my first adrenaline rush on this ride as the downhill was steep and the braking coordination was totally new for me on steep downhill.

      Since it was all downhill to Manali, it took me less than half the time I took to reach Atal Tunnel from Manali.

      After reaching Manali I went to the shop from where I rented the bike and the owner was surprised that I actually completed the ride quite fast. After that I had my tastiest ever lunch of Rajma Chawal with lassi.

      This was my riding story on mountains for the first time, hope you liked it and now it’s your turn to pedal uphill and enjoy the downhill.

      Text & Photos: Lunchinglen Chungkham

      Read about the Cycling Culture in Manipur by Vim. Also read, Chaitra’s first experience of riding a brevet and Jibin’s experience of attending online classes while cycling around India!

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