Motosports in Nepal has only recently started gaining popularity. But at a time when a large portion of the society still considers them to be nothing more than hooligans, how did these four riders beat the odds and make a name for themselves in the field of motorsports?
Dipesh Shrestha is a sort of pioneer within the biking community. This biking veteran, who has been involved in motorsports for around 13 years, still shows no sign of stopping. In fact, he seems determined to make a future in motorsports for himself and for other riders in Nepal.
Dipesh started riding pretty young. He was in grade 7 when he first started learning how to bike. By grade 10, before he even got his license, he could already race.
This self-taught rider faced a lot of difficulties when he first started stunt riding. Back when he started, there was no one really involved in stunt riding in Nepal. But it was his passion and Dipesh knew he wanted to continue, so he persevered. He would watch stunts in movies and try to replicate them the best he could.
“I remember watching bike stunts in movies and on TV and thinking “Hey, maybe I can do that too.” I’d try to replicate those stunts on my bike without any success. Then one day I tried to do them on a YBX bike and it lifted off just a little bit. It felt like such a great achievement at the time.” Dipesh admits he continued practicing the move over and over again till he mastered it.
Back when he started stunt riding, there was no material or guidance for riders in Nepal. There was no one to teach riders how to do stunts and Youtube and tutorial videos didn’t exist. So the only recourse Dipesh had was to learn through trial and error.
“It was very difficult in those days. Internet and cyber cafes were just starting to crop up around Kathmandu. Video tutorials were not available back then as they are now. We didn’t even know we could turn to international riders for advice and guidance. You had to teach yourself as there was no one to learn from. Learning just one stunt could take months.”
Fortunately for Dipesh, he was not alone. “Back then, we had an online biking community called merobike.com where bikers would organize meet ups. We’d go on trips and try stunts.”
When he first started out in moto-sports, Dipesh had no support from his family, nor did he really expect there to be. After all, stunt riding was not something a regular middle class family would encourage. But Dipesh did not give up and eventually ended up winning their support.
“Since it was such a risky sport, I used to sneak away with friends to show off my stunts. There was no support from family or friends. But I had a vision of developing motorsports in a systematic way within Nepal. Motorsports was what I was interested in and I started planning accordingly. I started organizing events, performing at different shows and when I felt I was doing quite well, I invited my mom to my show. When she saw how confidently I rode and the praise I received from the audience, she started supporting me as well.”
These days, Dipesh is still fully engaged in the development of motorsports in Nepal. He is not only performing stunts but also guiding a whole new generation of stunt riders in Nepal. He trains new riders interested in stunt riding and also organizes racing and stunt events all across Nepal.
Dipesh seems to have a very strong vision for the future of stunt riding and racing in Nepal and he is determined to help shape a positive future for the sport.
Shane Wilson Moktan
Shane Wilson Moktan is not only an avid racer, he is also the three times back to back winner of Racemandu, the first and only annual bike race held in Nepal. Shane started out riding pretty early in his life. “Initially I got into motorcycling because of my dais. They were pretty wild with motorcycles and I was inspired by them. Once I was of age, I bought myself a bike, started riding and discovering what I liked.”
And what he discovered was that he loved the thrill of racing. “Everyone wants something different from a bike. For me, what attracted me was the thrill of it. When you’re on the road to Chovar going on 80 or 90 and your knee is about to touch the ground and you see the road coming at you, it gives you this rush. That rush was what attracted me.”
“Nobody says it, but the closer you get to the limit, the more exciting it is. It’s like bungy jumping. You feel like you’re going to die but you have fun. And to get that thrill, I kept pushing the envelope and improving my skills on the road.” In 2013, when Racemandu 1 was held, he decided to compete and test his acquired riding skills. “I went into Racemandu, not with the hope of racing and winning but with the hope of learning and seeing what other riders are capable of. And as it turns out, I’m pretty good.”
Although Shane only won 2nd position in Racemandu 1, he was pretty confident about winning in Racemandu 2. “There was only one guy in front of me and I had already beaten him in the qualifying rounds. And I felt like if I train well and take this seriously, I can probably win over these guys. And that’s what I did.”
Shane then went on to win Racemandu 3 and Racemandu 4, held in 2015 and 2016 respectively. However, those races came with their own set of problems. Shane, who rode KTM bikes in Racemandu 1 and 2, came up with some problems with the brand during Racemandu 3. “It turns out my terms did not go well with the brand. They thought that their bike was doing all the hard work and I was just a guy doing the riding. I told them that it was not true and I’ll ride another bike and I’ll try to win.”
And that’s what he did. In Racemandu 3 and Racemandu 4, he rode a bike called Crossfire and went on to win both the races. Despite currently being one of the best riders in Nepal, Shane is far from complacent. “You can give your 100% and do something fantastic and then realize that that’s not your 100% and there is still much more you can do.”
When asked about how people feel about riders in Nepal, Shane does not seem too bothered. “I’d say around 70% people see us as hooligans. But you can’t explain your side of the story to everyone. You do what you like to do and you keep doing it.”
Fortunately, Shane’s parents were not among the 70% people he was talking about and are completely supportive of him. “My mom was the one who showed me the advertisement for Racemandu 1 and asked me if I wanted to compete.”
Not only that, they even encourage him to try out in international races. But he does not seem interested. “I don’t think there is point in going because you go and you come last, and you come last and you might as well not go. You’re just spending money on a hobby that you have no future in.”
But even though Shane has no plans to pursue racing as a career, he will not stop racing either. “I’ve been coming first and I’d say I’m currently the best. So, if I stop racing, what will the 2nd and 3rd do? If I stop doing this because I think I don’t have a future, I’ll be de-motivating other riders and stunting the growth of moto-sports in Nepal.”
Despite his cynical views on the current status of racing in Nepal, Shane is very hopeful for the future. “Once we have a racetrack, which is being built in Dhulikhel, we can start training over here and we can start competing, first with India and then with other countries. And that’s when everything will start to get serious.”
Being the first lady stunt rider in Nepal is a big mantle to bear. But Shuvani Thapa, who has been involved in motorsports for over five years, has been handling that responsibility rather admirably.
Shuvani has been interested in motorbikes since as far back as she can remember.
“I have always been interested in bikes. I remember sitting in front of my father on his bike when I was little and pretending that I was the one driving,” she says.
But she did not learn about motosports until a friend of hers invited her to watch his friends from Riders Unified practice at Malpokhari.
“It was all boys when I first started going to their practices. And when they started doing wheelies and other stunts I was completely amazed. I had never seen bikes being used in that way.” The riders explained what the stunts were and encouraged her to try as well. And Shuvani, who had recently bought a scooter, thought why not? “I first tried a landscape and I was amazed when I did it. I got motivated from there on. When I started there were no girls doing stunts. And I felt even more encouraged because I felt like even though I was a girl, I still had great control over bikes. Then when I started watching international lady stunt riders I felt even more optimistic,” informs Shuvani.
Despite being the first lady stunt rider of Nepal, Shuvani does not seem to have experienced too much trouble in a male dominated field. “I never felt any real awkwardness because of my gender because the people around me were so encouraging. For instance, Dipesh Dai, the president of my group, Riders Unified kept on motivating me from the very beginning. In fact, at the beginning, being the only woman, I felt more encouraged. Now, there are many female riders, even in my group who have achieved so much.”
One of the most memorable incidents she has had throughout her journey was during the Lalitpur Mahotsav a few years ago. “I was the only woman in a crowd of male riders performing stunts during the festival and one lady just came up to me and hugged me and cried because she couldn’t believe a woman had done this. She told me to keep going and that she would also teach her daughter to do what I did and that really motivated me.”
Being the first lady stunt rider of Nepal, Shuvani has inspired a lot of other women to follow in her footsteps. “Other riders in my group used to tell me that I have made history and I would be like “Oh my God!! Really??” I’ve had other lady riders tell me that I have inspired them, that they saw me doing stunts and they started as well.” But despite the embarrassment she feels at these compliments, she still believes she has a lot more to do and learn.
Although she receives overwhelming encouragement from the biking community, her family is not completely supportive “They brag about me a lot in front of others. But when it’s just me and them they have expressed their concern because it’s a risky sport and have asked me to stop. I just agree with them for the time being but then I go on and do what I have to do,” she explains.
Still quite young, Thapa has no plans of leaving this field anytime soon. “When you’re on a bike, it’s a different experience. It feels like you’re in a completely different world. So I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon. As long as my body allows me, I’ll keep doing stunts.” Shuvani concludes.
Dikshya Shrestha’s journey into racing started pretty late. In 2013, just a happy-go lucky girl who loved to ride her scooter, Dikshya came across Honda Diva Cup while browsing through her Facebook newsfeed. She decided to participate and consequently discovered a whole new world.
“Initially, I went into racing without knowing much. I’ve always been adventurous but I didn’t really know much about racing. It was only in 2013 when I competed in Honda Diva Cup that I got to know about this sport. And as I started competing, I also started watching other riders riding in real life and online. I learnt of new opportunities here in Nepal and I have not stopped since,” she says.
Her journey into racing started with the Honda Diva Cup of 2013. “When I went in for the first time, there were a lot of women competing - 37 in total.” But she still decided to go through with it and ultimately won the competition. In 2014, she decided to participate in Racemandu 2, which again she won. And finally, this year, she participated in RaceNari, the first women’s national bike championship and won again.
Dikshya is not only involved in racing, but is also a stunt rider. And as someone who was always interested in adventurous endeavors, racing and riding seems likes the perfect opportunity to bring out her bolder side. Dikshya admits that she had a bit of trouble convincing her parents about her interest in riding. But that did not last long: “When my mom first saw me racing and stunt riding, she would get worried and tell me to stop. But, perhaps because of the competitions I’ve won, I have an easier time garnering support from my
But even with family support, Dikshya admits that being a lady rider is not easy. “I don’t really listen, but you do have to hear a lot from people who don’t completely understand what you’re doing. My mom’s friends have told me to drive slow and not involve myself in racing. But they don’t understand that this is also a sport with its own set of skills and techniques.”
However Dikshya is determined to change their point of view and has been successful in making many people understand. ”These days I get a lot of praise from my community for making a name for myself and for Dhulikhel, making my parents proud. You can’t let what people say stop you from doing what you want to do,” she adds.
Dikshya seems very hopeful about the future of racing in Nepal. “We have a lot of opportunities here in Nepal right now. And it is us who have to create a future in biking for the next generation.” Dikshya has no plans to give up racing or stunt riding anytime soon. “It’s my passion and my profession. As long as I have an interest in bikes I’ll continue,” she exudes.