I still remember every word of my conversation with Sonia, a Spanish girl solo travelling across India sometime in February 2015. She had plans to buy a bicycle and ride across India for six months. I made fun of her for even thinking of doing something as insane as that. And here I am, two years hence, smitten by the same bug of long distance cycling.
While exploring Orchha, Madhya Pradesh in early 2015, I rode a bicycle for the first time in 20 years. It hurt my bums terribly but then the adrenaline rush that went through me while riding in the forest of Orchha made up for everything. It was sheer joy riding in the forest, taking in the fresh air and exploring the place at my own pace.
That right there was instant love for me. I got back home a few weeks later and bought my first single geared $100 bike. It was the best $100 ever spent by me.
I used to weigh 92 kilos and was never bothered about my fitness before cycling happened. I started riding 5 kms everyday and I continued cycling with the sheer idea of getting fitter. I realized that cycling was not only making me fitter physically but was also making me fit mentally. I started staying less stressed, had more positive attitude towards life and work and stayed happier in general.
I never rode beyond 5 kms until Cyclothon happened in Ranchi. It was January 2016 and I decided to participate in 21 kms category. I performed horribly but then I completed the 21 kms ride and also surpassed my best score. The feeling of completing my ride and the sense of personal achievement was priceless.
Ever since I completed my first 20 km ride early in January 2016, I got fascinated with the idea of long distance touring on bicycle. I even started planning a trip to Europe and ride from Munich to Budapest on Eurovelo Route 6 but sadly it never happened for hundred other reasons.
I didn’t stop here. A work trip to Bombay happened in June 2016 and I already had a plan brewing up in my head. The very next day in Bombay, I went to the Bike Shop to rent a bike and rode back to my cousin’s place where I was staying. She finally came to know about my plans and said a big no to it. I did sounded insanely crazy when I told her that I will be riding from Bombay to Lonavla and will ride back to Bombay on the next day. Lonavla was 105 kms from where I was staying and I had never been on a bike for more than 40 kms before that.
But then I was so determined that no one could have stopped me. I had a sleepless night but then I was ready at 4 AM to start my ride. I was certainly scared and skeptical about the idea of riding all the way to Lonavala, all alone, but then something kept pushing me. I wanted to experience the joy of cycling alone for hours after hours and test my endurance level.
The ride to Lonavla was interesting. It rained for most of the time but got sunny later when I had to climb the valley. Haha. The first 88 kms was easy but then my back screwed up in the next 2 kms. The thought of riding another 15 kms to Lonavla was certainly scary and it seemed impossible. The next 15 kms was steep climb and something I was not ready for.
I kept pushing myself and I would give up after every 10 mins. There were moments when I was give up completely and try to hitchhike with my bike. But no one came for help and I knew I had to ride all the way up to Lonavla. It took me over 2 hours to cover the 15 kms distance wherein I walked with my bike for 5-6 kms, slept on the sides of road and kept asking for a lift.
The joy of reaching Lonavla was certainly priceless. Something I have never experienced in past. I ordered Sangria, raised a toast and patted my own back. Smiled and told myself that many more such madness shall happen in days, months and years to come.
If Kanishka Poddar’s journey with cycling has inspired you to get your set of wheels, lets get you started already! If you are apprehensive about starting out solo, there are several riding groups across the country that you can join. Tell us about your cycling story here in the comments section or write to us at [email protected]