Seventy cycling enthusiasts from across the country begin an eight-day BSA Tour of Nilgiris (TFN) from December 16

Six cyclists from the U.S. and Europe, cycling enthusiasts from all over India, and, for the first time, three women cyclists — a total of 70 riders get set for the fourth edition of the Tour of Nilgiris (TFN), the annual flagship event of RideACycle Foundation (RAC-F). Based in Bangalore, the foundation popularises cycling for commuting and leisure and hopes to make it a viable option for daily transportation.

Participants of the BSA TFN 2011 cover a distance of 860 km across Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and touch a maximum altitude of 2240 MSL. Starting from Bangalore on December 16, the cyclists will pedal through Mysore, Hassan, Madikkeri, Kannur on the Kerala coast, Sultan Bathery, enter Udhagamandalam and wind up the tour at Kodanad View Point on December 23. The route offers breathtaking scenery and a bio-diversity rich in flora and fauna.

“We have a mixed group — lawyers, IT professionals, doctors, Army personnel and students, from places such as Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Chennai,” says Sridhar Pabbisetty, co-founder, RAC-F.

The tour is aimed at reviving the ‘cycle culture' and popularising the cycle as a mode of transport as it is environment friendly and also eases traffic congestion. “It is a great way to connect with Nature and a healthy way to stay in shape. Cycling helps one sustain an active lifestyle,” Sridhar adds.

The highlight of BSA TFN 2011 is the competitive racing element on certain climbs. Every day, a 15 to 40 km stretch is earmarked as a race stretch, and the cyclist who takes the least amount of time to cover it emerges the winner.

This year, the format is different and I am looking forward to the experience, says Rajesh Nair, co-founder of TFN. A three-time participant in the annual tour, he says every day is a challenge. “For a lot of us urban Indians, the ride through the Nilgiris, being out there in the wilderness, and the experience of stopping by villages and eating with the locals, makes the tour memorable. It is also amazing to interact with fellow cycling enthusiasts from across the country. We carry home a lot of happy memories,” he says.

Preparation for the tour begins six months in advance. Preference is given to riders who have track records in endurance sports. “Endurance level is important. You need to watch what you eat and pay attention to physical fitness,” says Rajesh. He has put in 15,000 km of cycling as a preparatory exercise. “We encourage amateur cyclists too. They should try and cover as many kms possible in a day as a preparatory exercise. Fitness levels and the quality of cycling have got better with every passing year. For a lot of people, cycling becomes a way of life even after the tour is over. They begin cycling to office too,” he adds.

The riders get to pedal across different terrains and on the splendid mountains of Western Ghats. Says Rajesh: “The tough ride would be the 200 km we plan to cover in a single day — from Hassan to Madikkeri. This time, we are doing the Kannur coastline too. As the landscape changes, from coffee gardens and tea estates to breathtaking views, it makes for an incredible experience.”

December is ideal for cycling as there are no rains

To ensure safety, riding stops at 6 p.m.

A supply station every 30 km or 50 km allows riders to stop by and refresh

Riders are in the 14 to 65 age group. Based on their cycling pace, the members are split re-organise into different groups

A physiotherapist, a doctor and an ambulance accompanies them to take care of sport-related injuries. A bike mechanic also travels with them

The money generated by the from the tour goes towards the aid of charity NGOs in Nilgiris who work with children

For more information, log on to www.rideacycle.org/ www.bsatourofnilgiris.com

In short TFN is keen on promoting cycling culture & popularizing cycling for the sheer versatility

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012