I’ve donned a lot of hats — and most of them have been knocked off while cycling around Mumbai. Here are the cycling trails you won’t find on maps that I’ve discovered over the years.

Aarey Milk Colony

090716_CyclingTrail-AareyAarey Milk Colony in Goregaon stretches till Powai, and offers many short but diverse trails. I go there when I’m looking for some clean air and want to to get a bit of exercise.

Monsoons are a great time to ride through because it’s less sunny and I find more green coverage. I’ve grown up riding here and still head here twice a week to train. I make sure I have a decent full suspension and some knee pads for the downhill section.

Getting There
Getting in and out of Aarey is simple, since many roads lead into it. Once you’re in, find a smaller dirt road to find good trails. Easy single tracks, a fast-flowing trail near the police checkpoint at the Aarey guest resort and a downhill section on the other side of the guest house are some highlights.

#LBBTip: Tabalas {milk production houses} on the way are an interesting sight for a first-timer. Aarey can be unsafe at night, so try to head out with experienced cycling groups, such as Bike Shark and Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts.

Vandri Lake

090716_CyclingTrail-VandriI reach Vandri Lake about an hour from the city, while driving past Vasai. We found this place by accident after we got a bit lost. We usually choose between two options — heading towards the right side of the lake to ride the tar and gravel road, or taking a left and explore the dirt trails along the left bank.

Getting There
Following the main NH8 highway is the only way to get there. Drive past Vasai, passing two toll gates to Varai. Head under the Varai Bridge and take a U-turn. Come down the road for about a kilometre and you will find the entrance to a town on your left. It’s the first turn after the bridge so you can’t miss it. Come all the way down that road for about 15 minutes till you reach a bunch of village houses. You know you’ve gone too far if you see a dam.

#LBBTip:
Be nice to the locals. Ask them to let you park at their houses since it’s safer. Ask for Virat around that area. He owns a little shop you’ll love, where you can also pick up small gifts for the nice locals who let you park in their homes.

Tungareshwar

090716_CyclingTrail-TungreshwarAbout 30 kilometres from Mumbai and just a stone’s throw away from Borivali, we find Tungareshwar. It’s a wide dirt road that moves through hours of green canopy. There’s a temple on top of the hill, after which we find isolated tracks to ride. There are a lot of climbs so we’re sweating buckets by the end.

Getting There
This place is pretty easy to find. While heading down NH8, head under the bridge that takes you to Vasai east and turn right on the Tungareshwar road. This road will lead straight up to the foot of the hill. You need stamina and skill both for this trip, and an amateur mistake will send you home with bruises.Bikes with disc brakes are a must.

#LBBTip:
This trail is also good for bird watching. Avoid the monsoons, when the area is teeming with people. Give Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts a call if you want to go with a group.

Lonavala

The Rajmachi Fort, the Lonavala Lake and Karla Caves, these forest trails have everything we could want. They also have some things we might not want in the second half, such as rock gardens, muddy tracks and forests filled with animals. We’ve shot an episode at this trail, which showcases the first half which anyone can ride.

We can handle these tracks because we’re not beginners. I would advise beginners to take it easy and not go too far with the rocky areas. I always have a full suspension for the rocky parts, as well as disc brakes. A puncture kit is essential. There are a lot of rocks that ca cut through my tyres.

Getting There
Head towards Rajmachi fort road. When you see the hill on your right, take the right and keep going up. Following the concrete road leading up to a temple will lead you into the rocky paths. When you get to Lonavala, ask anyone around for the way towards Rajmachi fort or just map it. The trail is really close, about a 15 minute drive from the main roads of Lonavala. It should take you just about 2 hours from Mumbai to get there.

#LBBTip:
If you manage to pass what the forests throw at you, Karla Caves can be explored at the end of the ride.

Kamshet

090716_CyclingTrail-KamshetThere’s a secret trail close to Kamshet city overlooking a small village called Chikhalse that has to be of the most fun and difficult trails we have ridden. It’s not very long but it will be the most fun ride you’ve ever had. The trail starts at the village below and heads all the way up to the temple on top of the hill. You could go on riding passed the temple through the forest but the fun bit is coming back down as fast as you can. Be warned, it’s pretty dangerous since you’re going to be sliding all over the place and the rocky sections sneak up on you.

This trail takes a person with pretty high skill level to ride. I would strongly advise anyone with the lack of riding experience to wait a few months and train a lot at different downhill trails before attempting this trail. Full suspension bikes are required. Carry a full face helmet, a first aid kit, knee and elbow pads, and a backpack with spine protection.

Getting There
It’s a bit hard locating this place but then again, it’s not a secret location if it’s easy to find. Drive down to Lonavala city. Head towards Pune and get on the old highway AH47. Keep heading down the road till a major intersection and take a right onto the Pavananagar-Kamshet Road. Follow that road all the way down till you reach a village and you might even see a trail zigzagging up the hill in the distance. This is where you ask around just to be sure you’re in the right place.
You will see the famous Tower Hill on your right while you drive down. You have to drive through the village to get to the foot of the hill. You can park anywhere and climb up.

#LBBTip:
The top of the hill overlooks two paragliding sites. It’s a pretty cool experience to ride downhill with paragliders overhead.


Photos and videos: Varun Das/The Trail Next Door