I can’t believe it has been so many years since I gave up my cycle. I had a StreetCat Rock’n Roll, a fully loaded bike with 6 X 3 gears and shocks on both sides. In ’97 it cost a heavy Rs. 3200! It was my incentive to ace the 2nd PU exams. Of course, it did not help that I kept falling sick and started using buses more often. But it was there. Before that there was my brother’s hand-me-down StreetCat, a single-gear one, the more common sight which I used from ’95 when in school till ’97 when I got the new one.
Most memories of cycling are about huffing and puffing my way up from Srinagar. I say ‘up’ because we lived in a low-lying area, almost like at the bottom of a volcano. To get anywhere I had to deal with crazy slopes! Of course, the perk was that I could reach home with minimum effort. We used to do this thing about stopping pedalling some 1.5 Kms away and get home with just gravity. And it used to work! There were only 2 tiny ‘ups’ and the momentum carried you up usually. Of course, there wasn’t much traffic also those days. And neither were there speed bumps placed strategically at the end of each down-slope.
So, after much thought, actually not that much thought, I went down to Decathlon and bought myself a bicycle. It cost a cool Rs. 18000 with extra for stand(seriously!), water holder and helmet (sigh, I did not need one back then!). That evening I promptly took it on a ride to my cousin’s place and back.
There was a huge difference. I noticed that I was slow, even when I was probably fast for a cycle, in a ‘down’. A huge part of it could be owed to the evolution of my riding/driving. In my last Millennium avatar, a cycle was the first vehicle I owned. I never had the experience of getting anywhere faster by myself. In this millennium, I’ve been used to driving and riding motor vehicles and the speed is naturally much faster. When faced with an up, you just accelerate more. You don’t hunker down and pedal your way up. This slowing down is something that I’ll need to get used to. It was a distance of around 8.5Km with a break at my uncle’s place where I got some nice food to refresh myself up.
There were other differences. You cycled to get to somewhere earlier. And where you went had cycle stands and lots more cycles. We are talking the ’90s where you still pestered your parents to get a cycle when in college. Now you cycle as a pastime and there really aren’t that many adults, or even teenagers, cycling on the streets in Bangalore. Kids look at you oddly and a few of them even chased me down. Of course, I chased them away as I was already nervous about getting back on the bicycle!
And today I did a 9.6Km stretch with bad ups all along. After 7-8 Km, faced with one really bad up, made the mistake of trying to get there too fast and expending too much energy. I promptly felt light-headed and dizzy, and had to spend 10 minutes just getting some Oxygen to the brain. It was slightly scary as my eyesight itself started acting weird. Thankfully I reached home safe and am able to sit and write. Of course this was a not too uncommon occurrence during my school days when to get to Chamarajpet from Srinagar you had to climb, climb, climb and climb all the way up. You barely got to sit on the seat on the way to School!
Anyway, there’s the cycle and I hope to be using it as often as I can. Hopefully will do it the way it needs to be done: slowly.