Leave it to the wifey to bring in something new to our home.
We were quietly having dinner one fine day, when she comes up with her version of the Eureka moment.
‘I cannot just sit here and just trek. I need to do something different. I know! Let’s buy a cycle!’
My first reaction to that was utter silence. In my entire life, I had never cycled more than a couple of months, and that too after continuous coaxing from my parents (WHAT ARE YOU DOING SITTING AT HOME PLAYING COUNTER STRIKE! GO OUT! HERE IS A CYCLE!). The cycle, somehow, kept losing air after a few weeks (Most probably because of my lack of usage, but that is a topic for another day!), and then I just lost interest in the activity itself, leaving the cycle to rust.
For me to go back to that ‘cycle’ mode would take more than just a casual conversation from the wifey. I knew that this was something that was NOT going to happen!
And just like that, I found myself at Decathlon buying a cycle. I totally, completely underestimated the power of the wife. All you bachelors out there, especially those with girlfriends, be rest assured, your life will completely change after marriage.
Before the wifey could go into the ‘Oh let’s enjoy our trips together and get 2 cycles now itself!’ mode, I quickly went to the cash counter and paid for the 1 cycle (‘Oh dear, already bought one! Let’s wait for an ROI on this’ said the typical management me).
And thus, started my cycling journey!
I started off doing cycling loops around from Matunga to Sion and back (and by loops, I mean a single loop). It was an achievement for me just to get my backside out of home and going out! We used to take turns jogging and cycling, and the days I did not cycle, I took the option of NOT jogging (the smart me, as always, wanting that extra amount of sleep!)
My first longish ride was from Matunga to Bhandup. My in-laws stayed there, and we had this brilliant idea of cycling instead of taking a cab or public transport. I thought at that time that it was a good idea, but only when actually cycling did I realize that maybe I was better off taking the train! It was about a 25 KM ride, but boy, was it tiring!
We had a friend in Badlapur, who would call us for rides. We would go and rent cycles over at a place near the station, and do a good 50 KM ride during the weekend. We also tried the famed matheran climb, though I had to walk through half the climb, it was just amazing that the wifey and our friend just went through it as though there was no hill!
Slowly and steadily, having gone through the internet and understood what minor modifications to your seat (its called get a bike fit), it made the cycling experience more enjoyable! That is, until the day I took the round trip through Andheri – Ghatkopar. That was the day I fell ill with Dengue, and had to take rest for about 3 weeks.
All of the effort put into getting myself interested and continuing cycling, down the drain.
Though I recovered by November, it was not until January that I started cycling again. The wife, not to be stopped by the lack of cycling, did her own rides and treks and what not, to keep herself fit (I have no idea how she manages to keep doing it!). She also did quite a bit of research on cycling groups in Mumbai, and came across a group called Ghatkopar Cyclists Club, a club of fellow cycling enthusiasts mainly based out of Ghatkopar.
One fine republic day of 2017, I took the plunge and decided I would join one of their rides. They were going to Yeoor hills (a beautiful hill station in Thane), and were starting at 5.30 AM from Ghatkopar. Having started at 4.45 from my place (Is that even a time to wake up to cycle?!?!?!), I huffed and puffed and somehow reached Ghatkopar just in time for the group to move ahead. And once the group started, they were just gliding ahead. My face went ‘WTF! :O’, but I still pedaled (It’s not like I had any other choice! I was already too far away from home!). After a long, strenuous 30 KM one-way journey, I found out that we had reached only the base of the hill, and that the hill climb was only starting now. My thoughts went back to that day at Matheran! I dreaded at the prospect of even looking at the road, and said I would stay back.
With this experience (the way back was excruciating to say the least!), I realized that I wanted to do more. More rides meant more exercise! But getting up so early in the morning was such a pain! There had to be another way out!
Fortunately, there were a few riders from around the area I stay who also shared the same timing cycle and enthusiasm to cycle as I did. I also came across another cycling group based out of people in my area, Chalo Cycling, and that was the Launchpad I needed to take my continuous cycling journey to the next level. I now had the option of choosing which rides I wanted to go on, and at what time as well! Things were looking great! There was just one thing though…… we were 2 people at home, and we had only 1 cycle! We were missing out on each other’s company during the rides (not that there was much to miss, whenever we did go, we always ended up fighting! Everyone kind of knew that we were married, just because of that.). It was time to go for another cycle! We ended up buying a second cycle (this time a hybrid), and now enjoy riding together!
From the start of my riding experience, I have learnt the following things about cycling, riding in general, and about myself. I am sharing this as I feel this could help anyone who wants to start cycling.
- The beginning is tough. Very tough. There are times when you will feel ‘Why am I even doing this??!?!?!?!’. All this will make you want to stop and just go back to bed. You have got to just fight it back. Once you cross that wall/ barrier, cycling becomes a very enjoyable experience!
- You will be able to feel even the slightest elevation and slope while cycling, especially once you are tired.
- For those wanting to reduce weight, try pedalling as fast as you can (a high cadence, in technical lingo) at as high a gear as possible. It may feel difficult at first, but the next time it will become that much easier, as your body would have developed that much to make it easier to cycle at that level. I keep pushing myself that much harder every time, and it has had a profound effect on my body. Please note, you WILL get tired! It is not easy trying to continuously push yourself hard for so long.
- Having your saddle at the right height is very important, as it could help give you the right posture to achieve the best efficiency while cycling. Getting a ‘bike fit’ is very important.
- Keep essentials with you always (spare tube, puncture kit, spanners, tube changing kit, Identity card). Getting a puncture is the worst thing that can happen to you, so you need to be fully prepared for such eventualities, every time you cycle.
- Summer time (especially in a place like Mumbai), can get very hot (and is very humid) very early! Make sure you are very hydrated before, and during your activity! I try to reach back home by 7 AM when I cycle, as by then I can reach before the heat starts, and also before the traffic starts!
- Talking about traffic, it is really bad, at least in Mumbai where I do cycle. The city needs infrastructure to support cycling, however in the absence of this, it is up to us cycling to be very aware of traffic and our surroundings, you never know when a vehicle would just come in front of you!
- Finally, it is all about you! You need to keep yourself motivated to continue to do what you want to do. Do not wait for the encouragement of others, it may never come! It takes a threshold amount of time (I put it at 21 days, or 3 weeks), to make something a part of your life. It also takes something as small as just ‘wanting to enjoy to cool morning sea breeze’ to keep you going. But it has to come from within. Intrinsic motivation is a much more powerful tool than extrinsic motivation.