Sunday, February 28, 2010

On cycling

I bought a cycle recently. On Feb 14th actually and no, it wasn’t a gift of love to myself. Not that I don’t love myself, but well, another approach was required to The Fight Against Fat (because the earlier approach of donating an annual amount to a gymnasium kept failing). I thought I’ll try it out and so I bought it. The tweets of @iphonefresh and his gang of fitness freaks (@Mehulved and @girishmallya) were instrumental towards my decision. These guys are whackos. They run marathons, cycle like hundreds of kms everyday (or a few fifties I guess, but you know what I mean). That, and the obvious curiosity of getting back to cycling after almost twenty years. And maybe this recurring dream I used to have many years ago that featured me cycling to my earlier office in Nariman Point (ok, strike out this reason for sheer bizarre value).

I didn’t know where to buy a cycle so I did what I always do. Tweet. Amit asked me to check out some stores in Santacruz. Later I would discover that there was a better shop in Bandra but, well, irrational exuberance over buying a cycle does tend to shroud the initial effort of asking oneself “Where in Bandra can I buy a cycle?”. Irrational exuberance also took me over when I saw the range of cycles there. Immediately I wanted to buy some thingamajig that sold at Rs9,000. To which the fine young lads tweeted, recommending me that I go for a basic, no-frills cycle. No point going for something so expensive if my passion for cycling didn’t last beyond the day I bought it. Made sense. I settled for a Hercules Matrix for Rs3,551 (note the 2% extra “for credit card”).

I cycled back home and boy, was it fun. But that fun lasted only for that day because the next time I rode that cycle was a week later on Feb 21st for the Mumbai Cyclothon. Now this was a super-fun experience. Waking up at 6am on a Sunday was fully worth it because the experience of standing amidst hundreds of cyclers was really amazing. Buzz and excitement were in the air and the anticipation at the “Start” line was really super. After the “Start” line was a different story. In a few seconds I was overtaken by these pro cyclers, eating dirt as they whizzed past me. I swear they were over the speed limit. But I did finish the 12km stretch and while the organizers refused to give me a certificate I could be proud of, they did give me a banana and water as refreshments after the race.

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It’s now two weeks since I bought the cycle and I did go twice to Carter Road for a ride. Once in the evening, which was a nightmare, and once in the morning (much better). As you’d expect, it isn’t fun cycling in Bombay. Least of all in the evening, at a popular racing track, which is what Carter Road becomes after 8pm. Then there’s the pollution to deal with. With assorted cars, rickshaws and buses zipping by, you’re left in their jetstream taking in all they have to offer. Pedestrians aren’t better. They walk in random patterns all over the road rather than the beautiful, adjacent promenade next to it. The mornings are safer (except for this one nut-job who was, I kid you not, walking in the middle of the road), cleaner and emptier. Hell, I can even listen to music while cycling.

I’d recommend cycling to anyone. If an overweight, under-enthu guy like me can do it, anyone can. I find it more fun than the treadmills and cross-trainers at a gym (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And I also respect cyclists a whole lot more now than before. They’re taking care of their health and our environment. They aren’t asking for much, aren’t breaking any rules, causing traffic jams, or hogging road space. We need more of them. And I’d give him/her the right of way next time I encounter one on the road. You should too.