Ex-serviceman, mother of two set out on 6000-km tandem cycling trip
As pandemic and lockdowns pushed many towards a sedentary lifestyle, two cycling enthusiasts – one from Bengaluru and another Nashik – have embarked on a nearly 6000-kilometre-long journey on a tandem bicycle in a bid to promote cycling.
A 44-year-old mother of two and a 48-year-old ex-serviceman on Saturday reached New Delhi after cycling for more than 14 days. Meera Velankar from Bengaluru and Dinkar Patil from Nashik started from Bengaluru on June 19 to cover the entire ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ which would nearly be a 6000-kilometre-long trip.
The journey will take them through 12 states and will pass through Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, New Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatanam and Chennai before returning to Bengaluru.
“I’ve always loved a good challenge and since I had done a cycle ride from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in October last year, I wanted to cover the Golden Quadrilateral on a tandem bicycle. It was doing this time, I heard about Dinkar, and I asked him if he wanted to do this ride. We knew it was difficult, but that was the most exciting part about it,” said Velankar, who holds a PhD in life sciences.
Patil, an ex-serviceman, who currently heads security at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at Nashik in Maharashtra says he was initially reluctant about the offer but Velankar’s enthusiasm convinced him. “A soldier is always up for challenges and I took this one as well,” he said.
Tandem cycling is difficult than normal cycling, according to them. “For starters, the tandem bicycles available in India are very basic because touring on them is not popular. At the same time, getting along as a team is very important too. Dinkar rides fast and my pace was different. It could use few days to get the rhythm and once that is done, the teamwork makes you very proud,” she said.
The duo covers around 150-200 kilometres every day. The routes they have covered came with their own challenges as well. “It takes a lot of mental and physical effort to cover these distances. Around Bengaluru, the terrain had a lot of elevation, near Mumbai the rain slowed us down and towards Rajasthan, the heat and the traffic were a nightmare,” she said.
But Velankar says the support from the people keeps them going. “Of course, there is a lot of curiosity. In some places, since we were wearing riding gear and riding a tandem bicycle, people thought were part of the circus,” she said. “But in most of the places, we find that people could relate to the effort we are putting. They understand how challenging this is and they motivate us,” she added.
More than holding or setting records in tandem cycling, Velankar says she wants to chronicle the experience of travelling the country on a tandem bicycle.
The lockdowns across the several states posed some problems to their efforts, especially in Rajasthan where they couldn’t ride during the day, but at night. “But the good thing is that the highways were not overcrowded, which made our trip easier,” said Patil.
Do they feel like giving at times? Almost, says Velankar. “There are days when a thought why did I start this journey creeps in, but then you keep yourself motivated. And most importantly, if Dinakar or I stop this journey halfway, the other person will be stranded on the road with a cycle that can’t be paddled by one person or transported in a normal vehicle because of this size,” said Velankar.
“So, it is also essential not to irritate your riding partner too much either,” she added with a laugh.