Life of a pro MTB athlete in India

Shiven recently got selected to participate in Asian Championship which is going to happen in Thailand where he will be representing India in the elite category. He was 7th in U-23 last year and Shiven says he is excited and training hard for it. It's the time of the year when I can gauge how much improvement I have made in the sport as compared to the level of top Asian riders. Born and brought up in Lahul, Spiti, he has graduated from NIT Kurukshetra in Mechanical Engineering in 2018. He is a professional Cyclist, focusing on the discipline of MTB XCO.


He is currently attending national camp after his battle with chickenpox for one week, where all the team selected for Asian are training. In his busy schedule, he spared some time to talk to Inspire Crew.

Bangalore Mountain Festival 2019. Pic credit: Ben Joseph
“He showed up at first event in 2012, sponsored since 2014".

What made to seek adventure with your bicycle?

I love mountains and the thought of riding a bicycle down a slope when it would accelerate on its own intrigued me to get a geared bicycle. I searched more about it online and showed up to an event in Shimla, where I got to know about the sport of MTB, and the scenario in India.


What element of riding challenges you, or excites you most?

The sport of MTB Cross country has both challenging climbs and descents, there are hardly a few portions on the track that are not challenging. I like climbing as when you complete it you have a sense of accomplishment. Downhill sections, on the other hand, are exhilarating and that moment of adrenaline feels very exciting.


Are you a full-time MTB athlete or you have to combine it with some kind of job? 

I'm a full-time MTB athlete for the past couple of years, before that, I was a student-athlete.

“Cycling is one of the most expensive sports, luckily for me I am sponsored by some top international brands, Cannondale who help me with a world class bike, Full Speed Ahead (FSA) with high quality components and Powermeters, Track and Trail who have helped me with equipment and spares, SteadFast Nutrition helps me with my nutritional requirements".

Other than that currently I invest a lot in my training and the good results are the returns of that investment. Prize money is the source of income and gets invested again in training, travel and other finances.

Pic credit: Gitesh Gupta

When you have an “off day” on the bike, what are some ways you try to enjoy your day?

Usually, the off days are spent cleaning the bike or doing some maintenance work, but occasionally these off days are the days when I can spend some time with my family.


What does it take to explore areas for MTB?

Just a heart with a quest for adventure. I remember how I and my friends used to do a lot of exploring and trail hunting before I got serious about training and sticking to a schedule.


Outside the Himalayan trails, what is one of your favorite places to ride?

The Alps. The Alps have endless trails specifically purpose-built for mountain biking and coupled with spectacular landscapes all around, it takes the top spot of my list.

Pic credit: Utkarsh Mittal

Can you give us an overview of what your training looks like? How many kilometers do you cycle with the racing bike/mountain bike? How often do you do strength training and how much time do you invest in recovery? What sacrifices do you feel you have to make to fulfill your training?

My training week usually includes 1 rest day, 2 hard interval days, 3 Endurance days and 1 easy recovery day. I rode 13500kms in 2019 in about 560 hours. The usual week looks like about 17-18hours of riding.

Strength training for legs is usually in a phase when the goal event is more than 12-16 weeks away. But core training is a regular activity.


Recovery is a super important aspect of training, and I tend to spend about 3-4 hours weekly on stretching/foam rolling and I try to have at least 8 hours of sleep every night as sleep in one of the most important aspects of recovery.

"The sacrifices that I have to make are usually that I need to stick in one place so that I can train properly and other variables can be reduced to a minimum. When the sole focus and aim for everyday is to get the day's workout done, rather to smash it, everything else takes a backseat".
Pic credit: MTB Mysuru Media Team

Recently you have been chosen for Asian Championship, 2020 which is going to happen in Thailand. How excited you are?

I'm very honored to be representing India again in 2020 at Asian Championships. I was 7th in U-23 last year, and it will be my first Elite appearance. I'm excited and training hard for it. It's the time of the year when I can gauge how much improvement I have made in the sport as compared to the level of top Asian riders.


In general, whenever you participate, is there any pressure to perform a certain level. How big is the competitive pressure for Asians?

The pressure can only be so huge as an athlete let it be in his head. The pressure is always high when you wear the Tricolor on your kit, but having a calm mindset helps to perform better. We Indians currently are still growing in the sport, so we are always hoping to perform better than what we were in the last Asian Championships.

Winning moment. Source: Shiven Instagram

If you recall 2019, what moments strike your mind? And what are your goals for 2020 apart from Asians?

2019 was the year when I started focusing completely on training, and I raced 4 international events. I represented India at the Asian Championships in Lebanon and South Asian Games in Nepal.

Getting India's first-ever UCI podium at MTB Kerala was definitely the highlight of 2019 for me.

Goals for 2020 include the National Championships in late Feb and then participating in more races across Asia gaining exposure and trying to find new pathways for the sport in the country.

Pic credit: Mohit Sharma

Of all the competitions you have played, which competition was the toughest and whom do you think gives you the toughest time on track.

South Asian Games race in Nepal was one of the toughest races I raced in recent times. The atmosphere was electric with the Nepalese fans. The Nepalese surely gave us a hard time on their home ground and showed us where we lacked. I finished 4th behind the top 3 Nepalese riders, exhausted from the effort. The pressure of an international medal slipping through hand and a super technical course made it a mentally challenging race, not to mention the physical toll it took.


If we talk about Indian athletes, I have always enjoyed a healthy competition from Devender Thakur (Scott Athlete), K Kiran Kumar Raju(Trek Athlete) and the Indian Army Adventure wing team.


Apart from MTB what other hobbies do you have?

I love photography and like to spend some time whenever I can.

Pic credit: Riders of Storm

Also, read Death of a mountaineer leaves the community with mixed feelings


If you know any Indian person who is breaking barriers in extreme and adventure sports, then write to us. We would love to let people know about them and inspire others.

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