Ravi Ranjan (32) is, by his own admission, “ a regular guy”, who took to running six years ago when he found himself doubling over with a stitch in his side after a brisk walk. A year and an Ultra Marathon later, the Bangalore-resident bought himself a bicycle to add some variety to his exercise routine. “I eventually gave up running all together,” he said.
“I began cycling 42 km daily to work and back. I also went for long rides out of the city on weekends.”
Many others like him seem to be taking to endurance cycling in a big way. On February 21, Mumbai will not just play first-time host to the Tour de Mumbai, an international cycling competition like the famous Tour de France, but will also see city cyclists take part in a 24-km cyclothon. “Within a week of opening registrations, we crossed 1,000 participants,” said Satish Menon, CEO of Sports18, one of the companies organising the event. The registration, which began on January 15, is currently open. Last October, in Bangalore, over 6,000 cyclists participated in a cyclothon that also comprised a 65-km long ride.
Training for endurance cycling requires practice for at least three days a week. Gareth Harrington, a consultant member of Elite Athlete Performance and an international level triathlete, advises cyclists to focus on improving their time and intensity rather than speed or distance. Like in marathon training, it is important to start well in advance and taper your programme as the event approaches to make sure your muscles are well rested.
But for the likes of Ranjan, training becomes more enjoyable when the ride is both challenging and fun. In 2008, Ranjan and three other friends set up what is now considered to be one of the toughest cycling tours in the country — the BSA Tour of the Nilgiris held annually in December. “We rode 900 km in eight days, from Bangalore to Mt Doddabetta in Ooty and back.” The cyclists covered a distance of 130 km a day, riding through jungles, coffee plantations and a 92-km-long ascent. “For an endurance cyclist, the ride is not a race. The journey is what matters.”
Mumbai-resident Gopal Rao, 31, agrees. He recently rode to Goa in four days and can’t wait to go on his next out-of-town ride. “These long distance trips not only keep me very fit, but also make me push my limits,” he said.