Cycling in Chennai

Those things that we love to do or those that we are obsessed over, generally, do more harm than good to us- physically, emotionally and mentally. Rarely do we love those things that are good to us.

But I seem to have found one….

Cycling!

I discovered cycling to be the perfect fitness activity for me.
I have tried gymming and yoga before for fitness. But they seem to go no where. The reasons, why those activities did not work for me are many: be it yoga or gym they are both indoor activities- which made them boring. Unlike those activities, cycling is an outdoor activity through which you can discover many great places in your city.  I have already visited many amazing places in Chennai on my cycle, and I am just getting started!

The second reason is the dozens of other people you encounter in gyms and yoga studios, which in India are over stuffed with people. You end up idling away a lot of time in waiting for your turn to get on the thread mill and in totally unnecessary-but-unavoidable small-talk. This makes these activities very inefficient. But when you allocate one hour to cycling, you end up burning calories for that one hour, nothing less. Even if you join a cycling club or find a cycling buddy, the chit chat is reserved for when you are off the track.

The third reason is that you are in total control when you are cycling. You don’t need the help of a gym instructor or a yoga guru to perform your activities. Many times you might find the guru/instructor incompatible with your personality or you may feel uncomfortable if you have issues with authority figures! Cycling on the other hand is very intuitive. You just need to learn the basics of cycling and you are good to ride. For any advanced knowledge there are a plethora of websites which provide awesome free content.

Lastly, I am somewhat of a solitary creature, I like to have some alone time with myself, every day. Cycling allows me to enjoy those crucial moments when i let my mind wander with random thoughts. This is helping me deal with emotional and mental stress. Also I would like to think that the free association thinking i indulge in improves my creative capabilities.

I discovered these benefits of cycling two months ago when I rode my neighbor’s bike, at my home, for a few days. I had not only felt better physically but also more emotionally balanced. So the first thing I did after getting my salary was to buy a cycle.

Buying Process

As I had decided that cycling is something that I would be doing for a long time to come, I wanted to buy a cycle that’s little more advanced than the basic ‘Hero’ and ‘Hercules’ cycles, but also something which stays with in my budget. After doing considerable research on various forums and Facebook cycling pages, I decided to buy either BSA’s iBike or Btwin’s myBike 7s. First I visited a BSA showroom in Pallavaram to try the iBike. It was a small shop and the owner did not allow me to test ride it, but the bike ‘looked’ good. Next I went to the Decalthon showroom which was 25kms from my place. Immediately after reach there, I fell in love with the Decalthon store house. It was a big warehouse like structure, with every sport related equipment and accessories available under one roof. There were a lot of athletes and kids with their parents, who were trying new equipment or cycling inside the warehouse. These was a small football court outside the place where a serious game was going on. The people who were working there were themselves sports persons and were very friendly and offered me genuine advice about cycling. I was allowed to test ride any bicycle I wanted, even the high end ones even though they knew i would not be buying them. It all felt more like a sports club than a commercial store. I was converted a life long fan of Decalthon brand in my first visit itself! Some body must make an MBA case study about the excellent customer service and joyful environment created in the store by Decalthon.

But ironically, I didn’t buy my bike from the store, though I decided to buy their bike. As any typical jugaady Indian, I searched the bike on olx and quickr to buy a second hand one. I was lucky to find an almost unused myBike 7s(10months old) whose store mrp was Rs 8000, for Rs 7000, plus it had Rs 1500 worth of accessories!

I succeeded in negotiating the price and got the bike for Rs 6.2k 😂, on 31st of last month, the day on which I received my pay check.

The second challenge was to ride that bike after buying, to my place which was 16 kms away, and it was already night time. My roommates thought that it was a crazy idea and I could not be able to do that. I was kind of amused about how little they know about me- the more crazy the idea, the more excited I get. Though I was riding a cycle after many years, I completed the journey in 1 hours 15 minutes! This gave me lots of confidence and encouraged me to try tougher challenges in quick time. Since then, in the past two weeks, I have already completed 250 kms on the bicycle. You could say that I have got to a flying start!
These are the pictures of my bike:

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Its a basic 1*7 gear cycle, with Shimano gears. It has a simple structure, with light weight and no unnecessary accessories. Btwin brand of cycles are made by Decalthon itself and today this French company is one of the leading producer of innovative and economical sports goods in the world. MyBike is just such a joy to ride, and i would recommend it as ytheir our first bike to anyone who want to start cycling as a hobby.

I have also been using an awesome fitness app called ‘Strava’ which records the speed, map location, elevation etc of our activity. More than that it also offers us challenges and tells us our performance when compared with others who have travelled on that ‘segment’. Its a great motivator and recorder of the activities. You could follow me on strava through my name or email id.

Cycle-Rain-Life

My most adventures ride was the one from my place in Pallavaram to Ambattur Industrial estate and back, a total distance of 50 kms. The motivation for the ride was actually some personal frustration. This happened at start of the last week. Like on any other previous occasion, I would have got a beer and a fag to drench my frustration. But then I had my bike this time and took my frustration on my cycle pedal and the poor road! I was like that guy in Mad Max fury who yells- “What a day!”, “What a lovely day!”

It was 7 o’clock in the night and I started the 25km on ward journey. Apart from the maddening Chennai traffic, the ride went smooth. Also because of the low weight of the cycle and its superior build, I could easily manoeuvre and lift it on to foot paths to dodge traffic. I could reach Ambattur by 9 o’clock and had dinner in Ambit food court and relaxed for a while and started my reverse journey. Meanwhile my phone battery died down, leaving me vulnerable to the kindness of the tamil-speaking Annas’ to guide me home. Of course most of them assumed I was cray-cray when I asked them directions to a place 20 kms away at that time of night. A well meaning Anna directed me towards the ‘bypass’ route through which there would be less traffic. But my cycle did not have a headlight nor a safety signal light. It was a bit terrifying and risky. I quickly changed in to by lanes and came back on to city roads.

Then happened the biggest twist- it started raining, not just any rain, it was a full on cyclone. Thankfully I found a bus shelter under which I took refuge for an hour and half till the downpour became a drizzle. Even though I was thirsty, sleepy and tired, I could not stop marvelling at that nature’s force which just destroyed anything and everything in its path, filling up the gaps on the roads, dancing with terrifying force on the roof of bus stand and it’s forceful gale punching my sweet new bike on to the ground. Only such an experience reminds us how small our worries and frustrations are. With this new found insight and with the rain finally slowing down i started back to home. But of course it rained again, this time an under construction metro station gave me shelter, under which i crouched for another hour. The rain was even more forceful this time. The wind was too chilling for my thin t-shirt. The water guessing down from the metro station formed an awesome little water fall and it was so strong that it made a little crack on the tarmac road by the end. Another insight I learned this time is the importance of patience when you embark on such unorganized adventures- which is how life is for most of us.

Finally, reached home at 1.30am, faced some nasty looks from my worried room mates, woke up in the morning and went to work as usual.

After that ride, I became more organized and am planning trips ahead with proper timings, water for hydration and full charge on mobile.

My next major adventure would be to travel to the great temple city of Kanchi which is about 60 kms from my place. So the entire time journey would be 120+ kms. I plan to take this journey in the first weekend of next month. Before that I have to prepare physically, mentally as well as financially- because I need to get some accessories for my bike for such long journeys. I should get a head light, a safety light, a good helmet, a water sipper, a small travel bag, a portable mobile charger etc. Will buy them in next month.

I hope to learn more through my bicycle adventures and as well share them on my blog, in coming months.

Happy riding 😂!

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