Nepalese cyclists Biresh Prasad Dahal (right) and Babin Basnet ride past the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
A few epic cycling tours have wheeled their way through Phnom Penh in recent months, but certainly none have taken the alternative approach of Nepalese rider Biresh Prasad Dahal. The 27-year-old is pedalling his way across the globe “from the opposite side” in his quest to promote world peace and respect for cultural diversity, as well as setting a Guinness world record.
Perched precariously on the handlebars and pushing his heels down on the pedals, Dahal steers the bike backwards for his entire journey. “Everywhere, every time,” he told The Post yesterday when asked when he travels this way.
It’s a labourious method, one that would be made easier with eyes in the back of his head with his speed limited to around 25 kilometres per hour when loaded with baggage. “I get a stiff neck and redness in my eyes,” added Dahal.
Despite his obvious impairment, he claims not to have suffered a single crash. “God blesses me,” said Dahal, although he is also aided in no small part by his vigilant cycling companion Babin Basnet, a friend since childhood from their hometown of Triyuga municipality in the Udayapur district of Nepal.
Dahal takes the lead, while Basnet, 26, trails behind riding forwards and spotting potential hazards.
The idea to set off around the world on the back foot perhaps stemmed from his occupation as a comedic performer and singer in Nepal, with a strong sense of humour clearly a virtue. “I want my name remembered for something,” he said.
Dahal and Basnet began their adventure on March 26, 2004 from their hometown, and have since taken in countries such as India, Bhutan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Dubai, Oman and Yemen. Interruptions to their journey have only occurred when faced with either political problems, such as those encountered in Afghanistan and Yemen, and when their bikes were stolen in Bali.
Their latest leg has seen them arrive in Cambodia via India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. They plan to head to Laos before visiting Vietnam, China, Macau, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. Future legs through the Middle East, Europe and the Americas are also slated with their goal of notching up 100 national stamps in their passports set to keep them busy until 2017.
A week ago, the pair were presented with brand new mountain bikes from Andre Gurung, a Nepalese businessman based in Bangkok. Dahal noted he was struggling with the “compatibility” of his new ride, but said it was getting easier by the day.
Both men are keen on attracting private and corporate sponsors to help fund their trip, with advertising opportunities welcomed. “We will wear clothing or display signs,” said Basnet, adding that more details can be found on their website, www.cyclistbiresh.net.ms, and they can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Dahal said his time in the Kingdom, which included a ride through the Angkor Wat complex, has been rewarding with fond experiences of “happy and helpful” folk on the roadside. “Many hold up their hands and say ‘How are you?’ I like Cambodia,” he added.
Currently the only record set in backwards cycling found on the Guinness World Records website was that of the longest distance in 24 hours, set by Darl Bonnema of the United States who cycled 180.177 kilometres at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, Florida from November 19-20, 2004.