Meet Vinay Menon: a pioneer of Freeride Mountain Biking in India
This photographer/ downhill racer/ product innovator/writer talks to us about living on the edge
Practising most sports professionally is a painful task in India. More so when it’s an extreme one which is less than four decades old; like mountain biking.
One of the early proponents of the off-road style in India, Vinay Menon had to carve out a scene for himself in downhill racing, and especially the niche style called freeride mountain biking, since he started out in the late 1990s.
“Without many riders to look up to, I learned progressive riding skills from watching famed figures like Josh Bender on a VCR and even contacting him via e-mail. I would then take my bike to the hills near my house,” says Pune-based Vinay.
Exposed to the international circles since winning Ultimate Summer of Freeride competition—when he got to visit arenas like Whistler and Silverstar Bike Parks in Canada—he has competed in festivals like The Crankworx (Canada) and Asia Pacific DH Challenge (Indonesia).
Embracing a lifestyle
Besides spending time getting high on steep cliffs, Vinay has engaged with every aspect of the sport—from photography to releasing an online magazine.
“Most of the things I do were born out of sheer necessity. Without anyone to record our moves, we started photographing each other and Freerider Mag materialised to keep track of riders and product innovations in India, Nepal, and Bhutan,” says the 34-year-old.
Difficulty to find affordable garage solutions also led him to co-found Psynyde Bikes, India’s first performance mountain bicycle manufacturing firm.
“The Indian landscape, especially that of Leh and Spiti, offer adventurous trails for all kinds of mountain biking including cross-country events,” says the biker, who is part of the organising team behind the challenging Himalayan Mountain Bike Festival.
Hailing from Irinjalakuda, the rider believes the horizons of the activity are expanding as many more young local riders are now out exploring their home terrain.
“There are a great many routes in Munnar and Kuttikkanam that bikers can shred on,” says the adrenaline junkie, who has studied the possibilities of Indian landscapes by cycling from Agra to Kanyakumari; twice.