The streets of Bandra were cramped for space on Sunday morning, but this time around, not a car was in sight. More than 8,000 participants of the Mumbai Cyclothon stumbled over each other as they enthusiastically entered the MET grounds, where the event was to begin at 7 am.
Started last year by ID sports, the cyclothon promotes the concept – burn fat, not fuel. More than 7,000 people participated last year and this year saw a 15% rise in participants. The event included four different rides for the general public: amateur, green, kids and corporate. It has also brought together professionals in the field to compete in the elite section of the race.
For participants of the 28-km Amateur Ride and 15-km Green Ride, cycling over part of the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea link stood out as the most cherished experience, where two-wheelers are usually banned.
“Riding in the breeze on the sea link takes away all feelings of fatigue,” said Chandini Mehta, 27, an insurance advisor who had not cycled for seven months before Sunday’s Amateur Ride.
Unlike Mehta, members of the online cycling group cyclists.in, who ride long distances almost every day, said the city is capable of doing more than 28 km. “The cyclothon route is beautiful but they should increase the distance from next year,” said Sunil Kamath, a first time participant in the event.
Eco-consciousness was high among the younger participants, many of whom continued to ride inside the grounds after finishing their respective tracks.
“Cycling is the best way to reduce pollution in the city, save money, and also keep healthy,” said Vatsal Anarkat, 14, a Green Ride participant who cycles to his tuition class regularly.
Echoing last year’s cyclothon participants, several riders in Sunday’s event reiterated the need for cycling tracks in Mumbai. “I’d love to cycle to college every day, but I cannot because there are no special tracks or parking space available for cycles,” said Nirbhay Singhal, 26, a management student from Andheri who rides for pleasure around the city on weekends.
The sheer energy of the participants filling traffic-free roads was a rare sight. Some, like Maya Dave, 4, cycled all the way without even registering. The kindergarten student came with her pink cycle hoping she could ride in the crowd of children along with her older sister.
“She not only managed to slip in, but also took a wrong turn and ended up cycling for 7 instead of 3 km,” laughed Tara Dave, 8, Maya’s sister.
‘It is not so much about the bicycle’
Bhavya dore, reporter
Mumbai: A misspent youth doing time on cycles of dubious origin and still more dubious intent should have prepared me for the less than watershed moment of breasting the tape at Mumbai’s second cyclothon on Sunday.
If only there had been a tape. The cyclothon was less glamour, all perseverance.
From the 7.30am start from the MET grounds to the 10am finish back at the same point, the giddy charms of pedalling across the sea link were to be had, twice over, as were the less publicised, but equally charming stretch along reclamation and Bandra’s other bylanes.
The first 14-km round was a cinch, the second 14-km round was a battle against ennui. But, it wasn’t all hunky dory going into the second lap. The curse of the cycle gods, firmly upon me, my cycle’s chain snapped seemingly irreversibly somewhere before the St Andrew’s stretch. A good 20 minutes worth of efforts from kindly passers-by and co-cyclists was not good enough.
The cyclothon was threatening to turn into a marathon, with me dragging my corpse of a cycle across the finish line. (Turns out Lance Armstrong lied. It is about the bike.)
But ten minutes and several more good Samaritans later, I was all aboard again. For precisely 15 minutes more, before the chain snapping shenanigans resumed. With the finish line in sniffing distance, the traffic growling along at this point, it would have been far simpler to just end on the 14-km one round high.
But here’s the thing: Cycling is a rare pleasure in a city where cars hold sway and raving motorists know more than a thing or two about road rage. I was going to take whatever I could get on my two-wheeler.
And I did. Ok, so it’s not so much about the bike – it’s as much about the adrenaline rush.