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Cycle capital

Jhandewalan Market: The country’s largest cycle bazaar offers much more than wheeled delights at good prices, reports Amitava Sanyal.

delhi Updated: Feb 13, 2010 01:00 IST
Amitava Sanyal

Tucked behind grey offices, across the road from a garbage dump, right in the middle of an area with dodgy drainage is a gem. It’s a market that came up in 1975 when most of the 150-odd shops in ‘Asia’s largest cycle market’ in Chandni Chowk were asked to move out. Much has changed since then. It’s no longer just the largest cycle market in the country — it’s also India’s largest market for health equipment such as treadmills and exercise bikes, and the largest retail space for wheeled toys.

Here you can get a full-size bicycle for as little as Rs 1,700 or as much as Rs 2,40,000. You may haggle to bring down the cheap local brands by a bundle of 10-rupee notes. But the Trek Equinox 9.8 SSL bicycles, designed in the US and made in China and Taiwan, are on the six-figure ‘fixed price’. Naveen Chawla, the grumpy keeper of the Firefox shop (number 11) that sells the sleek, 21-gear bikes, informs that you have to pay half the amount in advance.

Despite the bewildering range of cycles in front and decades of history behind the market, it’s not yet fully geared for retail trade. Customers have to meander through patchily-lit lanes crammed with equipment. Amarjit Singh, 61, head of the market’s welfare committee and owner of shop 53, says, “The shopkeepers didn’t have the concept of showrooms a decade back. They are learning. We still have flooding in the basements during rains and equipment worth lakhs are lost.”

But it’s not for experiential retail that people throng the market — they come for the deals. Expect at least 10 per cent to be shaved off the regular market price of a full-size bike here, says Ramesh Arora of Zamindar Cycle House (shops 60A & B).

You can also strike a bargain on treadmills, which start from Rs 20,000. Or on some other out-of-the-ordinary stuff as well. Sitting behind a row of made-in-China ‘musical potty trainers’, Manik Dawar, 30, owner of MMD Enterprises (shop 76A), says, “Late in January, the government gave us a reprieve on Chinese goods. Otherwise many shopkeepers here would have had to pack up.” But if an off-season, weekday bustle of customers is any indicator, the wheels are rolling — at least for now.