The TI Moonlight Ride saw enthusiastic participants cycle to Malabalipuram and back

The Tamil Nadu Cycling Club (TCC) recently organised the TI Moonlight Ride, in which 40-odd riders cycled 80 km from Adyar to Mahabalipuram, and back.

Open to anyone with an interest in cycling; the event saw novices and experienced riders of all ages, from 11-year-olds Gautam Putcha and Akshansh Sharma to 61-year old expatriate Charles Lewis. “It's a nice way to meet people,” says Lewis, a director at Nokia Siemens Networks, Chennai.

The three-month-old TCC is a non-profit club, whose objective is to “promote cycling as a sport as well as an environmentally-friendly form of transport”, says T.K. Vibhaker, president of the club.

Membership to the TCC is free, but there is a charge of Rs. 100 (covering food and water) for events such as the Moonlight Ride. Rental bicycles are available to first-time riders at a cost of Rs. 150.

Beating the odds

Even now, cyclists in Chennai face myriad obstacles, such as poor road conditions, chaotic traffic, inadequate bicycle lanes, and a lack of respect from other road-users. However, all these might change, says Vibhaker, the 54-year-old former State cyclist.

The State Government has decided to provide infrastructure to aid the growing bicycle population. Until then, TCC's rides are one of the few safe ways in which cycling enthusiasts can practice their hobby.

Cycle rallies such as the one they organised are accompanied by an ambulance, and as many as four support vehicles.

From Adyar, the riders cycled through Kalakshetra, Thiruvanmiyur, Palavakkam, ECR and Scenic viewpoint, before reaching Mahabalipuram, and the Ananda Bhavan restaurant. It was here that everybody tucked into a hearty South Indian meal, and recharged their energies for the ride back home.

Participant Radha Murthy, 42, says that she has tried many different sports but found cycling to be the most effective in burning calories. The homemaker, who cycles 25 km a day, is not making a bold claim. Figures from the U.S.-based Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion show that for a person of average weight (68 kg), leisure cycling burns more calories per hour than weight training and walking, and high-intensity cycling burns more calories than aerobics and swimming.

Besides Moonlight Rides, the TCC organises technical workshops and cycling tours. L.B. Suresh Kumar, 35, one of the founding members of the TCC and the owner of the BSA Go bicycle chain in Chennai, says that the club is planning a seven-day ‘Tour of Tamil Nadu' this December.

“Keep going, don't lose your momentum,” was an oft-heard refrain throughout the five-hour journey, as the riders exhibited teamwork and camaraderie. Both a recreational and sporting activity, cycling brings up the esprit-de-corps of the group, leaves virtually no carbon footprint, and zaps those calories away effectively — what more can one ask for?

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