India has seen a mini revolution over the past decade. What people do in their free time has changed. From sitting in the confines of their homes and watching television, a whole segment of our office-going population has switched to incorporating fitness into their routines. This change has seen an escalation in the number of people picking up cycling as a hobby. It is one of the best ways to incorporate fitness into one’s life, because it happens to be a low impact sport, with little to no chances of injury.
Cycling culture has grown exponentially over the past few years, and is only growing bigger by the day. Almost every city has come up with local cycling clubs, events, racing teams and now with Ciclo Café in Gurugram, Hyderabad and Chennai, even food joints are promoting good food along with cycling for a healthy lifestyle. Cycling as a weekend activity is becoming popular, as a means to commute and even as a sport.
It’s a great idea to visit the local bike shop and learn about the city’s cycling culture. From experience, I know cycle shops to be very welcoming. They have grown into spots for social gatherings nowadays, with many hosting small biking events every now and then. Here are some important pointers to anybody who would like to foray into the world of cycling. These pointers are also applicable to those who have already begun to explore the joys of pedalling:
Buy your own pump
Nothing is as depressing as waking up at 6 am to find you’re low on tyre pressure with no bike shop open at that hour.
Wearing the right attire
You don’t want to be wearing baggy track pants that constantly get stuck in your chain. Neither do you want to be in denim shorts that rub up against your crotch. Invest in a decent pair of lycra. Get yourself a pair of padded cycling shorts, and your willingness to be out on the bike for long hours will shoot up!
Plan your rides
It’s great to learn from experience, but you don’t want to be replicating Arvind’s initial antics on the bike. The first time he went out on a long ride, he was having so much fun that he didn’t want to turn back and head home. He was 55km out when the fatigue kicked in, and he had no food, water or money on him.
If you’re going out on a long ride, carry enough food, water and cash. 600ml of water/electrolyte and one medium sized banana per one hour on the bike is how Arvind now plans his ride nutrition.
Hit the hills!
If you stay anywhere close to some good climbs/ghats, consider yourself privileged. I know a lot of cyclists who would kill to have terrain like that close to their homes. Cycling on the hills is a superb way to build strength in the legs and the lungs. Make sure you have a geared cycle and are on a low gear while climbing!
Let’s say you feel like riding your bike to a friend’s place to catch up over a beer (or a milkshake). The worst thing is to not carry a change of clothes. It’s unhygienic to sit around in lycra (and smelly, too). At Ciclo Academy we make it a point to change out of our cycling tights within five minutes of coming in from a ride. You should, too.
Ride a smaller gear!
The first thing I would make sure a beginner does right is learn how to use the right gears for varying terrain. It’s important to learn how to spin your pedals efficiently, as opposed to putting your chain in a big gear and toiling away to maintain momentum. Most beginners are not taught the efficient way of pedalling. It’s very common to see someone grinding a heavy gear throughout their ride. The pros tend to spin at 90-95 revolutions per minute. For a beginner though, we suggest 80rpm is a good start.
It’s been ten years in the sport for me, and yet, each day I am fascinated by a new bit of knowledge that I gain. It’s a never-ending learning process. There is so much to learn about bicycling. For a beginner, we advise you to look up topics involving optimal seat height and how to repair a puncture.
Buy a cyclo-computer, maybe
Most riders ride with a speedometer nowadays. A basic one will give you speed, time and average speed. A slightly advanced one can give you more details such as cadence (pedalling speed) and heart rate. A top of the line meter, the stuff used by the professionals, can even display your power output! So you can quantitatively see how much power your legs are dishing out on the pedals while you ride your bike.
Manage your diet
60 minutes of intense exercise can burn 500-800 calories at max. A single large slice of pizza or a medium sized samosa adds 400 calories. So if you ever plan on eating badly because you can ‘burn it off’, don’t. You can’t out-train a bad diet, it doesn’t work that way. It’s important to give our body the good, nutritious food that it deserves for it to function well.
There’s a reason why the Tour de France is the world’s second most viewed sporting event after the football World Cup; it’s because the people of our world love riding and racing their bicycles. The trend is not as popular in India yet, but it has gained immense popularity in a short period of time, and is extending its reach to more and more of our nation’s public.
And why shouldn’t it? Cycling is one of the most fun ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle!
THE BIKE BUYER’S CHECKLIST
❂ Are you lean, mean and looking to tear the road apart with your speed? A road bike is the answer.
❂ Are you adventurous and keen to go off the road looking for new experiences? A mountain bike will be your best friend.
❂ Are you looking to make commuting on bicycle a part of your daily lifestyle? A hybrid will best suit your needs.
❂ Are you interested in popping wheelies, stopples, 360’s and other random stunts? You might want to look into a BMX!
❂ Do you live by the beach where you can go out for sandy seaside rides? A Fat Bike (beach bike) is the toy that you want, with its massive tires being built for traction over sandy and snowy surfaces.
TEXT NAVEEN JOHN ❖ PHOTOS ANJUM CHISTI ❖ HAIR & MAKE-UP SALMAN ❖ ASSISTED BY RAUNAK MODEL JEET PAWRIYA ❖ CYCLE COURTESY FANTOM BIKES ❖ LOCATION GURUGRAM, HARYANA