Thirty students cycled from Coimbatore to Chennai and learnt a few lessons on the way

At 4.30 p.m. on February 17, 30 youngsters embarked on a novel road trip. Students of Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, the 30 were attempting a Coimbatore to Chennai trip on cycles for three reasons — a record for the longest cycling marathon by a team for community development, spreading the word about “Fearless Leadership” (a summit on March 3 that is being hosted by their college) and thirdly, learning leadership skills on the road.

When the group reached the warehouse of Just Buy Cycles in Ambattur — at 7.30 p.m. on February 21 — they were greeted by adjudicators from Elite World Records. Apart from a certificate of achievement from Elite, the students are taking back valuable lessons from the trip.

“The trip was an object lesson in leadership,” says T. Dheepan, managing trustee of the college, who, along with physical director Keerthi Arun, joined the students.

February 17

Coimbatore to Avinashi. It was evening when the group took the road to Avinashi. A poorly laid stretch, it is a nightmare for any road user, let alone youngsters taking up long-distance cycling for the first time.

Fifteen kilometres into the ride, a few students realised they were on mountain bikes and pedalling them required great effort. “They pulled off the road and did some stretching exercises and this helped,” says Dheepan. The Coimbatore unit of ‘Just Buy' Cycles, which sponsored these cycles, was contacted and they arranged for these cycles to be replaced.

Lesson learnt “Leaders pay attention to detail. The students would have saved themselves this trouble, had they checked on the features of their cycles,” says Dheepan.

February 18

Avinashi to Salem. The group had to cover around 120 km and they took a long break — from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They bitterly regretted this decision. The cyclists were moving in a single file. As a result, they were travelling at around 10 kph. Even at this speed, they could have reached their destination in Salem on time if they had not taken that long break. They had miscalculated the hours at their disposal, and paid for it: it was very late in the night when they went to bed.

Lesson learnt “Good leaders look at time as a commodity that has to be rationed wisely,” says Dheepan.

February 19

Salem to Krishnagiri. The students appeared to have learnt from the mistakes of the previous day. Instead of riding as one single group, they broke themselves into three. Each group was encouraged to ride as fast as it could, but without disintegrating. The fastest group naturally set the pace for the other two. One of the groups took a wrong route — despite being warned about it — and lost a little time.

Lesson learnt “Good leaders delegate responsibilities. Instead of having one team, we decided to have three groups that can ride at their own pace. They realised the importance of healthy competition within a group. They also understood the need to listen carefully. If that group had being attentive in taking instructions, they would not have gone down the wrong road,” says Dheepan.

February 20

Krishnagiri to Vellore. The students took things by the hour. They did not see reaching Vellore as their target, but focused on covering a lot of ground every hour. Even when it was noon and they suffered from blistering heat, they continued riding. In the afternoon, after having covered a lot of distance, they rested in a farm. They lay on dry coconut leaves for a siesta. They reached Vellore earlier than expected.

Lesson learnt “Every wall — high or low — has to be built brick by brick. The students also learnt what it means to adapt to circumstances. By resting at a farm on the way, they made the most of what was available,” says Dheepan.

February 21

Vellore to Chennai. The students clocked their best timing of the trip.

Lesson learnt “You get better at something you keep doing. Great leaders know this,” says Dheepan.

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