Chinese- and Indian-made bikes are available from streetside vendors for Rs100–200 per day. Superficially, they look the part – some even have suspension – but they’re heavy and often uncomfortable, components are flimsy, maintenance may be poor, and they rarely come with a helmet. If you find such a bike in a fairly new condition, you could get away with a day-trip or overnight loop but they’re not really fit for rough roads. Don’t ride this kind of bike further than you’re prepared to walk back with it.
For hard or long-distance riding you’ll need a real mountain bike, which can be rented from specialist bike shops/tour operators in Kathmandu and Pokhara (but nowhere else). A helmet and basic tool kit should come with the bike. Chinese-made bikes with V-brakes go for around Rs500 a day, but if you’re doing anything more than pootling about it’s worth paying for a Western bike. Prices range from around Rs1000 for an older hard-tail bike to around Rs2000 for a newer one with dual suspension. You’ll be expected to leave a passport or something of value as security. You’ll generally have to pay for damage or above-normal wear and tear. Be sure to reserve these bikes as far ahead as possible, especially during busy times; choice is definitely limited in the peak season.
Whichever kind of bike you rent, it’s your responsibility to check it over before setting off. Check brakes and pads, test spoke tension (they should all be taut), ensure that tyres have sufficient tread and are properly inflated (check inflation while sitting on the bike), test the chain for tautness, and work the bike through its gears to see that the derailleurs function smoothly. Check that there’s a bell – you’ll be using it a lot.
You may be able to buy a decent used bike from a departing traveller, especially towards the end of the autumn or spring seasons – check mountain-bike shop notice boards in Kathmandu or Pokhara or their websites. Alternatively, you could buy new and sell on yourself: good-quality bikes from manufacturers such as Trek or Commencal can be bought in Kathmandu and Pokhara, at prices similar to home.