Do you like riding up hills on your cycle? Think carefully before you answer this one, because this week, we aren’t going to ride 8 km up Sinhagad, 25 km to Coonoor, or 40 km to Kasuali … we’re going to ride 73 km, up to Tiger Hill, from Siliguri. That’s right, seventy three kilometres of almost constant, unrelenting climbing, gaining 3500 meters of elevation, for a total ride distance of 150 km, with 10 hours in the saddle – is this week’s epic by Anirban Sutradhar.
An epic ride requires epic company – on this ride, Anirban was joined by Anunay, Tenzin and Rajat. Anirban and Anunay, also known as, “The Scott Brothers”, around these parts, completed the Tiger Hill ride, while Tenzin and Rajat rode about half way up. To give you an idea of how difficult this ride is, Anirban, already a seasoned mountain biker, practised for eight months before this attempt. We’ll be following along from his perspective.
Anirban started his day at 4 AM, and got back at 7 PM; here is how his day panned out, in the words of the man himself! BTW, if you’re wondering how his clothes and bikes are changing en route, it’s because we’ve taken some pictures from his other rides, to give you the best possible visuals along the entire route. For those interested in actually following along, here’s his GPX file from the ride. If you’re just here for the stunning pictures and the vids, jump to the end for the gallery!
Quick note: This route may not be suitable road bikes, so if you’re a roadie, we’ll discuss some alternatives at the end.
Sukna Railway Station
From here, in the next 300 meters, the climb begins. The first challenge was the climb to Rongtong.
Rongtong Railway Station
Just beside the steam roller, there is a tea shop. I’m a regular customer there. Before I reach there, my masala black tea stays prepared. After tea, the ride continues till Chunbhatti.
This is a British-era steam roller that Anirban has made famous on Instagram, thanks to his killer Yoga poses.
Here water refilling is necessary. From here till Tindharia very few shops are found. So it’s suggested to carry a hydration pack filled fully, rather than carrying bottles.
After reaching Tindharia, momo is necessary, but since climbing is even more important, momo was skipped.
Beautiful view from the road. The altitude could be felt.
It’s kind of a small town, and a village hut is found in the morning on the roadside. Stays crowded.
‘The Land of White Orchids’. The city is beautiful. Must click pictures there for beautiful cityscape and hill-scape at the same time. The iconic Kurseong tower stays above the clouds.
We’re now done with the harder part of the climb. After crossing Kurseong, the roads smoothen out and the gradient is comparatively low. Having rest in Kurseong is necessary because it’s going through be cold after this.
Climbing till Sonada is like riding on plains, it’s easy, so race your heart and pedal fast on this section.
After reaching Sonada another rest session for 15 minutes is advised. From here to next stop Ghoom, is gonna get even colder.
After reaching Ghoom the visibility will be too low due to clouds and fog. Get refilled again and probably get some light food. The Tiger Hill climb begins now.
Taking the right, the board welcoming you to Tiger Hill is seen. Starting climbing, and after every 100-200 meters of climbing, you’ll be exhausted, but don’t let your body cool down. Ride in high cadence, ultra slow, but stay consistent. It’s not a race, but the journey to one of your biggest achievements.
Tiger Hill Sign Board
So after so many stops through the beautiful pine jungle and off-road climbing, finally you’ll get to see the tiger hill board. Another 1.5 km to go!
Suddenly after a turn you’ll see the under-construction observatory, and the road ends there. You won’t even realise what it is, because you’ll be too tired to observe that you have reached the top of the Tiger Hill!
Get off your bike, let that sink in, roam around a bit. And then finally do the yaaaaaaayyyyy thing. It’s fun.
Well, now that we’ve reached Tiger Hill, here comes the reward – the descent … you can relive a slice of this experience on video!
If you have the right machine, there are a couple of trails that you can catch on the way down too, first, there’s the Gidda Pahar trail, which feeds into the Jogmaya trail. From there you can climb to Tindharia back, or just move on to reach Shivkhola … from where you can come to Rongtong. Anirban chose Gidda Pahar on the way down.
General Notes from Anirban
- Hydration is very important for a ride like this. On this ride, Anirban consumed about 10 litres of water, and just under a litre of glucose and sugarcane juice each. That’s 12 litres of fluids!
- If you’re stopping for lunch at Sonada, he recommends you try Chicken Koka!
- This route is not recommended for road bikes, but if you’re very skilled, you could manage it. Gravel tyres will make it possible for the less skilled roadie too. Be warned though, that this route goes fully off-road in bits and regardless of your skill, it won’t be comfortable on a road bike. If you’re a newbie roadie, with 23c or 25c tyres, please use the Rohini road instead, like on like on this activity – crowded, but more suited to your bike.
- There a innumerable times when the toy train rail like goes across your way. The train is not signalled, but the issue is riding your bike over the tracks, which is very tricky on a road bike. On his roadie, Anirban has skid a few times, and a friend of his broke his jaw after getting his hybrid tyre stuck in the middle of the track. Much safer on an MTB though, and you won’t even feel anything on a Fatbike.
- When you pedal hard and push through the climbs the local kids will be your best motivators. They will shout, “hiii hello” and wave and jump in excitement seeing you Cycling all the way up. They give you an immense positive vibe which will make you forget about the pain of the climb you’ve been feeling.
You can split this into a two-day event, like so:
If you stay in Siliguri, and start by 4 in the morning, by noon you’ll reach Darjeeling – if you have a moderate level of fitness. As a beginner, you’ll still manage to do it by 7 PM. So stay the night at Darjeeling, and enjoy the scene there. Next morning. Start at 3.30 am from Darjeeling, 7 KM uphill to Ghoom, and then 9 km uphill to Tiger Hill. And you’ll be amazed to see the view there in the morning. This is what works best for tourists.
Carry your bike to Kurseong via car, and ride from there till Ghoom – a 29 km ride. If you’re new to climbs, you may be too tired, or not warmed up enough to attempt Tiger Hill.
About the Rider
Climbing short and steep climbs defines Anirban’s riding style the best. A mountain biker by heart, and a roadie for the thrill of speed, he loves to photograph nature, bikes, landscapes and animals he meets during his rides. Anirban is a postgraduate scholar, having completed his masters in English literature, with a specialization in American literature. He’s planning to become an English professor in the next 2-3 years … and will then have the peace of mind to ride bikes to his heart’s content.
Be sure to follow him on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more!
If you’d like to be updated when the next, “epic ride” article is released, please subscribe to this site, and do share this article with your friends. If you’re looking for more cycling routes in India, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel, The Indian Cyclist. If you just want to catch up with other riders across India, consider joining the Cyclop discord community. Finally, if you’ve got an epic ride you’d like to share with everyone, drop me an email!