On one wheel down under
Siddharth rajan was a biomedic, but he liked the outdoors too much. Now he’s out there, unicycling his way across Australiaindia Updated: Jul 25, 2009 22:11 IST
Sid is fine. Sid is dandy. All he needs is a swig of brandy” is Siddharth Rajan’s message sent to friends and family after he checks into a hotel at night. Given that by the time he sent that message, Siddharth would have been riding a unicycle for around nine hours that day, no one can grudge him that swig. For riding a unicycle is strenuous — “one slip of concentration and you could be flat, scraping the tarmac”.
Siddharth, 24, is the first person to attempt to unicycle 6,000 kilometres across Australia, from Perth to Sydney. By the time you read this article, Siddharth will be in Port Pirie in south Australia, having covered over 3,500 km, and, hopefully, enjoying his tipple.
The ride has not always been easy. Negotiating Nullabor, the vast plain of limestone with no trees, was daunting with its “long lonely stretches between roadhouses, huge road trains”. Nullabor, however, was to be Siddharth’s most exhilarating experience. “I completed 145 km from Nullarbor to Nundroo riding 11 hours and 25 minutes. I had never done this distance before, that too with a 12-kg backpack. The best part was, by the time I finished, I did not feel tired,” says the man who would still have been working as a development technologist in Nanyang Polytechnic’s biomedical laboratory in Singapore if he had not decided to quit and pursue adventure sports.
“At my work-desk, next to a large window, I used to gaze out wishing I were outdoors, cycling or running. Then I used to hit the Internet, and read about explorers and their adventures and want to do the same. By the time I quit, it was not soon enough,” Siddharth recalls. It was a road fraught with doubts. “In the end, it is about how you deal with doubts. Overcoming fears is what adventure is all about,” Siddharth says philosophically. He went on to get a bachelor of sport and outdoor recreation and later, an honours in education from Monash University, Melbourne.
He took months learning to ride a unicycle — most people do it in weeks. But for the last five years riding it has become second nature. He’s done four long rides already — the Laos Unicycle Tour in February 2006; One Wheel, One World: India-Pakistan, in January 2007; Uninam in March 2008; and the Vietnam and Tasmania UniTour-Aubin’s Ride in April 2009.
On the rides alone, Siddharth sometimes sings loudly to himself, thinks of the Ashes series or imagines cycling the Tour de France with Armstrong. “Most important, I keep thinking of future rides I can do,” says this 6’2” tall lanky man with a close crop who wants to raise funds for an NGO to help children in need.
Four years ago, when his mother Devika, then 49, walked half a marathon, Siddharth spurred her on. Says Devika, “He just makes things seem within reach.”