Local Spotlight: Q&A with the “Son of Dragon”
Sonam Tshering (also known as “ST” or the “Son of the Dragon”) is one of Bhutan’s most reputable bikers. He has competed in (and won) Bhutan’s most challenging race, Tour of the Dragon, and has also placed highly in downhill mountain biking competitions internationally. We had a chance to sit down with ST to learn more about his life path that led him to these mountain trails.
1. When did you first get on a bike?
In the year 2010.
2. Were you a natural or did it take a lot of practice to master biking?
A bit of both. It was partly natural (passion) and partly training.
3. What was your inspiration behind biking?
His Majesty the 4th King of Bhutan Druk Gyelpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s passion for biking is what inspired me, and still does.
4. What kind of bikes do you train on and use during competitions?
For my trainings, I use a 3 series Trek V brake bike. For competitions, I use Commencal, a French brand.
5. What was your reaction to the Bhutan Olympic Committee’s introduction of the Tour of the Dragon?
It was a milestone for the cycling society of Bhutan, in particular, and to the world in general.
6. Your first go at the Tour of the Dragon ended 112 miles in. What inspired you to attempt the race again in 2011?
Having failed to complete the race, my passion was left unsatisfied but I looked at the brighter side of it and decided to train for the next race. When I could do 112 miles without any training, I was pretty confident I could do much more with proper training and better gear.
7. What has been the highlight of your biking career?
The two highlights of my biking career has to be bagging the 3rd place in 24 hours of MOAB in Utah (USA) and creating the youth biking club in Bhutan.
8. Was there anyone who helped kick start your biking career early on?
My family and friends have always stood by me and supported me all along.
9. You were given the title “Son of Dragon” - what does that mean? And how has that influenced your biking?
Crossing all 4 mountain passes first and winning the Tour of the Dragon is what gave me the name “Son of the Dragon” or “the Dragon Conqueror”. It just made me proud and made me hunger for more.
11. What are the challenges associated with mountain biking? Are there any specific to Bhutan?
Getting the spare parts for bike maintenance in the country is one of the biggest challenges. Other challenges would include not having a good biking coach/trainer, a cycling association or a national team.
12. Is biking popular in the country? Why?
Yes, it is. I think its because our 4th King is a very passionate biking enthusiast and people followed him. It could also be because of the good environment that Bhutan is gifted with or because of more and more people becoming health conscious.
13. Where do you see biking in the future?
I see Bhutanese riders representing Bhutan in the Olympics and many other major international races. And Bhutan could one day become one of the hotspots for biking in the world.
14. You build trails in Bhutan. How many have you built? What are the challenges to building trails in Bhutan?
I am not sure about the number of trails that I have built, but I would definitely like to build at least one trail each for every biking field. The main challenges in building biking trails are Government policy for environment conservation, lack of experts and equipment.
15. You have created a youth program where you teach them how to bike. Do you believe the next generation will be able to compete internationally? What is the future for this program?
We created a nonprofit biking club. It’s called SMBA-Bhutan (Single-track Mountain Biking Adventures-Bhutan). One of the riders from the club is a silver medallist in the National Mountain Biking Championship held in Nepal in the year 2015. I am very confident that our next generation will be competing internationally. And I want my club to be the one to produce the best riders in the country, both in terms of sports and self-discipline.
16. Why do you ride?
I ride because it takes me to places where nothing else can take me. I am relaxed when I ride, I make many new friends, and I get to visit many new places. I ride because it makes me happy.
INTERVIEW BY SARAH CAHLAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SONAM TSHERING’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL