Stretching the country thin: 33-year-old woman cyclist from Pune rides solo from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
Long-distance endurance cycling has been readily picked up by many adventure enthusiasts from the city. The thrill, the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment all drive Punietes to challenge themselves to conquer the perilous journey from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
33-year-old entrepreneur, Pratibha Dhakane’s decision to tackle the Jammu - Kanyakumari route solo was something unheard of in her family. Despite the apprehensions, with unyielding determination, Pratibha began preparing for the mission. As part of her training, she began using her cycle to finish all her daily chores and would cycle about 70 km to 80 km in a day.
“This boosted my confidence and I began truly believing that I can take on this herculean challenge. I was training my body and my mind to be stronger and was preparing for the upcoming challenge,” she said.
Pratibha’s journey will now go down in history after she began her journey from Jammu on February 24, 2018 and reached Kanyakumari on March 28, 2018, completing the distance in 33 days.
However, it wasn’t a smooth ride for the 33-year-old. On the eve of her departure, she faced a rude and unwelcome shock.
“I had approached several people for a sponsorship since I could not handle the expenses on my own. One international cycling brand (which she did not want to name) had assured me a sponsorship and a cycle. I started my preparations based on this promise. On the eve of my departure I was in shocked to hear that they had dropped the idea and refused to fund my mission. I was devastated, but I decided to continue without their support.”
“I had no time to arrange another bicycle within such a short period so I took my old MTB bicycle. Riding an old, ill-equipped cycle made the challenge harder than it should be. The cycle was heavy and I was worn down by the additional weight. So I called Vidur Thakar of Pro Sports and Bikes in Pune and he assured me that I will be given a new bicycle once I reached Pune en route to Kanyakumari. He lived up to his word and I was gifted a brand new, lighter and more advanced cycle,” she said.
When asked about her experience of riding solo for so many days, she said, “Initially I was quite worried and the roads in Rajasthan were lonely with no villages or towns nearby for almost 40 km to 50 km. I had prepared myself for the worst and had kept a pepper spray and chilli powder handy along with a small knife in my pocket. Thankfully I never encountered a situation where I had to use them. On the contrary, I was well received everywhere and several riding groups in different cities often came to meet and ride with me. I was even invited to a few of their homes,” she said.
When asked about what she learned from the expedition, she said, “I gained confidence, but most importantly I gained a goal to work towards. While I was travelling, I saw several children running, playing or engaged in some physical activity. I want to work towards bringing them into the mainstream and to give them an opportunity to prove themselves. That is my dream now.”