On a quiet Saturday morning, a group of cyclists wearing helmets, vests and biking shoes, are moving fast on their bicycles on the Delhi-Gurgaon road, their hips still, and their cadence steady.
The cyclists belong to the Gurgaon Fun Riders, one of the many cycling communities that have sprung up, creating a cycling sub-culture in the Capital.
Till a few years back, the city only had Delhi Cycling Club, today, however, there are almost a dozen cycling clubs and communities. Cyclesutra, Gurgaon Fun Riders, Noida Cycling Club, Delhi Cyclists, Cyclofit, Pedal Yatri, Team T-3, South West Riders and the North Delhi Riders are the better known ones.
These groups started out with a few friends cycling together on weekends, but now their membership is growing rapidly: Cyclesutra has 3,000 members and Delhi Cyclists has over 5,000 people, including CEOs, lawyers, businessmen, homemakers, doctors, students, and photographers. They ride to myriad destinations — exploring lanes, bylanes, hills and villages on the fringes of Delhi and NCR. Some of the popular routes these cyclists take include, the Biodiversity Park in Gurgaon to Qutab Minar, CP to Civil Lines. Besides they also undertake off-the road trails through densely forested areas such as Manger in the Aravalis. There are also groups like Team T-3 which organize long journeys covering 200 to 1,200 km.
For Delhi’s bold new cyclists, cycling is not just about fitness, but also about fun, food and bonding. “Biking is about exploring new places, forging friendships and keeping fit. Unlike gyming, which many find boring, cycling is exciting and suits all age-groups,” says Ashish Nagpal, a co-founder of Cyclesutra. Members of Cyclesutra gather at Akshardham every weekend and cycle to pre-decided destinations such as India Gate, the Walled City and Hauz Khas.
“The idea is to combine fun and fitness. Unlike walking or running, cycling allows you to explore new places, meet new people. There is nothing like the joy of discovering a new trail,” says Gagandeep Singh Bhalla, founder member of the Gurgaon Fun Riders, who often head to the Gurgaon-Faridabad road, and on longer journeys to Greater Noida. The cycling communities in Delhi are well connected with each other, and often invite other clubs to ride with them.
With their membership growing fast, many of these clubs such as the Noida Cycling Club, which gets 50 new members every month, organises the beginner’s ride for newbies on Saturday. “Riding a bike is not as simple as it seems; we teach our new members the techniques of smooth peddling, gearing and braking,” says Aman Puri, a student and founder-member of the Noida Cycling Club, which has about 1,200 members.
Similarly, Delhi Cyclists founded by Gaurav Wadhwa, whose family owns one of the oldest cycle shops in Delhi, also organises an ‘induction ride’ on Wednesdays.
“People generally have no idea which bike suits them most or how to handle one. They generally buy mountain bikes which look macho with their heavy grooved tyres, but are unsuitable for roads. Wrong bikes and wrong peddling strokes means you lose power fast,” says Wadhwa, sitting in his shop, designing the route of the group’s upcoming event Diwali short ride to India Gate. On Sundays his group ‘Delhi Cyclists’ organises ‘Zippy’ rides for fast riders, covering about 150 km.
For Manas Arvind, who started Team T-3, cycling is more of a sport than a fitness regime. “The cycling movement is picking up globally. It will take over golf as a popular sport,” says Arvind, a Gurgaon-based businessman who has undertaken cycling journeys clocking over 1,000 km on his German Cube bike.
Members of the city’s biking communities own hybrid bikes worth Rs 40,000 to 1 lakh, but there are many who own road bikes which cost Rs 5 lakh from high-end brands such as Trek, Giant, and Scott. Many of these bikes are fitted with GPS devices and cyclo-computers which throw up metrics like altitude, speed, even heart rates. In the past couple of years, several shops selling such high-end cycles have come up in Delhi and are doing brisk business.
“The sales of high-end cycles have doubled in the past two years. We sell over a hundred bikes every month from the Gurgaon showroom alone,” says Rajesh Girdhar of Rajesh Cycling Trading Company, which has shops in Guragon, Noida and Ghaziabad. He also rents out high-end bikes for Rs 300 a day for those learning to ride. “A lot of beginners rent bikes before they decide to buy one,” says Girdhar. Like Wadhwa, Girdhar too has started a cycling community — Cyclofit — which he admits helps both his business and the cycling movement. “The sales of our high end cycles is growing at 40 percent a year. After Bangalore, Delhi-NCR is our fastest growing market,” says, Sandeep Kumar Sinha, country manager, sales and operations, Firefox.
Cycling, however, is far from being a lifestyle choice for Delhiites. Cyclists are at the bottom of the city’s road system, and cycles continue to be a mode of transport for the poor.
According to a recent Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report, Delhi tops in road accidents deaths in the country and is most unsafe for cyclists. On an average two cyclists die every week on Delhi roads.
“More than cycling tracks, we need a campaign to promote cycling. It is the fear of being hit by rash motorists that prevents people from using cycles,” says Nagpal, who often commutes from his home in Noida to his Gurgaon office on a cycle. “For traffic police, cyclists and pedestrians just do not exist. A cyclist should have a right of way on the city roads,” says Arvind.