For the aam admi cycling has always been a part of their daily routine. But now there is a sudden increase in the numbers of people who want to be on two wheels. From movie stars to politicians to professional athletes — all are obsessed with pedalling away their blues.
Recently, actor Salman Khan, known for flaunting his love for bicycles, was seen promoting adventure cycling in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh along with minister Kiran Rijiju. Actor Siddharth Malhotra was also spotted cycling in the verdant hills of Kerala.
More and more people are taking to adventure biking to stay fit, be close to nature, stay calm and get away from the chaos of the city. From wilderness treks to weekends following local coastal paths, adventure cycling combines cycle touring, mountain biking and camping to open up new and exciting possibilities for the two-wheeled explorer. Enthusiasts can be spotted in the wee hours, pedalling away furiously along the highways.
Senior IPS officer, Akun Sabharwal, who rode a bicycle from Delhi to Mumbai along with para-cyclist Aditya Mehta, took up biking in 2009. Following that, he signed up for multiple events, even though he regularly goes cycling in and around Hyderabad. But he prefers long distance biking as it involves cycling for extended periods of time through trails.
“I go on long distance rides once a week. While it doesn’t usually involve extreme obstacles like other forms of mountain biking, it does require great endurance. I have been cycling for the last nine years,” says Akun.
Hyderabad-based Prajwal Poorna Pingali prefers mountain biking because it helps him to stay fit while being close to nature. Prajwal, Telangana U18 champion, sixth in XCO at the Mountain Bike Nationals at Pune this year, says, “I have been riding MTB for around a year and a half. The challenges are many such as controlling a bike on unpaved, dangerous terrain but I have learned to overcome challenges without panic.”
Cycling also allows enthusiasts the time to see so much more than other forms of transport, believes Jalandhar-based wildlife photographer, Randeep Singh, who has been riding since 2009 in the mountains. There is something just right about the speed of a bike. It allows you to cover so much more ground than walking, and one can see more than from a car. “As an adventure enthusiast, I wanted something which could coexist with my job. The tough challenge is when you ride uphill, you really need good biking practice, stamina and also you need technical knowledge to repair your mountain bike if required,” says Randeep.
Prajwal, whose favourite competition is Mountain Biking Himalaya, feels his own foray into cycling has helped him navigate through the challenges in his work life. “Cycling helps me to manage stressful and tough situations without completely shutting down,” says Prajwal.
Pradyumna, another adventure enthusiast from Hyderabad, says, “Hyderabad doesn’t really have any proper trails with any level of difficulty, near where I live, so it’s hard to find places to ride. That means either going far out of the city-for which one needs to shuttle there by car or trying to build on what already exists. I’ve been riding since 2009, and had an interest in MTBing since then, but only got a ‘serious’ mountain-bike at the beginning of this year.”
Nothing on two wheels is ever risk-free, especially in India’s unpredictable and hazardous traffic conditions. There is always the danger of being hit by fast moving vehicles on city roads.
“Getting out of the city, navigating through the traffic can be frustrating. There is no separate bicycle lane, vehicles ride very close to you and it gets risky. Though once you are out of the city it feels great. What I do is take long distance rides to places like Shamirpet, Vikarabad and Narsapur. So it’s more to do with riding on the highways and away from the chaos of the city. I usually ride a distance of 50 km twice a week. And plan long distance rides once in two or three months. These rides can be 100-300 km,” says Jamila Kapasi, interior designer and adventure enthusiast.
Randeep is well aware of the risks involved but he says the challenging nature of the sport has kept him hooked to the pedals. “It is a high-risk activity testing your endurance and technical handling skills, but I would say that the risk is worth the experience. Preparations are required to practice biking in cities first. One should try to ride regularly for at least 20-30 kms everyday if you really want to ride in the mountains.”