ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 3, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Fun on wheels

It's all about power and adventure

By Tahnee Hopman

The feeling of the wind on your face as you make it to the top of a mountain and see the whole world at your feet is almost indescribable. Unfortunately, there is one problem. The top of a mountain is not exactly the most accessible place, particularly for someone living in the city where the only mountains around are the buildings. Taking this into consideration, The National Mountain Biking Association has brought mountain biking within city limits – to its latest track at The Water's Edge.

The National Biking Association was established in 2000 with the Colombo Super Cross organized by the Sri Lanka Army. Having started off with a mere 30 to 40 participants, the next event held at The Tree of Life, Kandy, had around 400 to 500 participants.

"We were extremely lucky to have got so much publicity so soon after getting started," recalled Mr. Amal Suriyage, the president of the National Mountain Biking Association. "We were soon called upon by the Aitken Spence group to organize a string of similar events which we organized in Kandalama, the Tea Factory and a couple of hotels in the South. In 2001, we organized about eight major events."

Scores of people, from fields and backgrounds have, over the past seven years got their taste of the mountain biking experience, whether they were high up in Nuwara Eliya or in basking in the sun in Tissamaharama. Much of the youth that has benefited from what the association has to offer, is extremely talented, and yet has had no access to professional training or good equipment. With the facilities they have, they make full use of the ramps, slopes and bends that make up a great cycling experience.

Considering the scope that Sri Lankan mountain biking enthusiasts seem to have, another aim of the Association is to popularise the sport by introducing it to schools.

"Although this has been popular, there is still room for change and improvement, because in the case of some institutions, we need to see a change in the attitudes people have towards mountain biking," explained Mr. Suriyage. "For a long time, mountain biking was not given due prestige despite the fact that it is an Olympic sport and one that is quite popular in many countries", he said, hoping that the authorities will soon realize the potential Sri Lanka has for developing the mountain biking scene – "being that the geography of the country is ideal for mountain biking, it is one of the easiest sports to promote."

It has also been noticed that Sri Lanka is quite a long way ahead of the South-Asian countries, but unable to compete with countries of the West due to lack of infrastructure and equipment.

However, Mr. Suriyage is confident that Sri Lanka is gearing up for a change. Apart from building new tracks and starting up programmes in schools, the association hopes to, within the next three years, identify the most promising bikers for the provincial and national pools, and hopefully, with the help of the government and sponsors, enable them to compete internationally.

The new track at Water's Edge, however, is more for the purpose of pure fun and recreation. Five acres of land adjoining the golf green will soon be opened for the public. While biking will be one of the many activities on offer for the active and adventurous, there is also plenty to do for the more laid back– a lazy stroll around the park or relaxing by the oya.

"That is one thing that we always take into consideration," says Mr. Suriyage. "We ensure that there is something for the whole family, because one of our goals is also to promote mountain biking as a family sport, as it's a sport that a whole family can enjoy together."

The new recreational park is set to open on March 29, with the Red Bull Mountain Biking Cyclo Cross 2008. It promises to be a perfect unwinding zone for the whole family, within the city limits. " I'm sure people will really enjoy it," he says enthusiastically. Simply standing there and enjoying the breeze by the oya is a great experience." For both adrenaline drive and pure and simple chilling out, the new recreational park beckons invitingly to all those who are just a short drive away from a great experience ahead of them.

For further details please contact 0112691505 or 0777-881650, write to The National Mountain Biking Association, No. 24, Maradana Road, Colombo 10, or email

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