Pavan Muthanna and Nikhil Ram Mohan gave up their high-flying jobs to get down and dirty with Cyclists for Life

Pavan Muthanna was climbing the corporate ladder. Nikhil Ram Mohan was climbing mountains. But their love for cycles brought them together. Thus began an endearing partnership that saw Pavan leave his job heading retail, operations and projects at Indus League Clothing and Nikhil as a freelance camping and mountaineering instructor for corporates and get their hands on bicycles.

As I entered an old style Bangalore bungalow in Frazer Town, Pavan, holding a broom in one hand and bicycle parts in another welcomed me to his bicycle store and service centre. Nikhil alternated between working on his laptop and attending to the store’s errands. The duo left their well-paying jobs and chose to make bicycles for a living.

“I felt a certain restlessness, that there could be more to life. It was not like I got up and decided this is what I want to do. There were many days when I felt this is what I don’t want to do. I took a year off from work to figure things out. I needed to be outdoors,” reflects Pavan.

Travelling gave time for introspection and he did a mountaineering course. Meanwhile, he also worked as a management consultant and soft skills trainer for IT companies. “I cycled to work and loved it. It kept me fit and was a good way to commute to work. In the course of my second year of consulting I felt, there were a lot of things that were not quite right at a cycle service centre and how bikes are sold. One didn’t really know what the mechanic was doing with the bike. I felt, I could change this and make things better. That’s how the idea of setting up a bicycle sales and repair unit came about,” he reflects.

Nikhil, on the other hand, was already outdoors. “I was pursuing a BA degree and decided to switch to mountaineering. I worked as a mountaineering instructor and also freelanced as camping, rock climbing and outdoor activity instructor for corporates. I organised runs for Runners For Life and met Pavan when he proposed the cycling business. Eventually, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the grease and chains and all things mechanical about the cycle,” smiles Nikhil.

Thus on Republic Day last year, their store Cyclists for Life was started. Geared with experience in the retail sector, Pavan makes sure that every customer walks out content with the service. The job also gives both of them ample time to focus on other passions. Fitness gives them both a kick. Apart from cycling on free weekends, Nikhil enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee and riding his customised Bullet while Pavan gets to spend time with his daughter and read books on military history. Both share their passion for brewing coffee

Nikhil feels building a bike is like a project. “The best thing about a bicycle is that one can dismantle it and rebuild it to suit one’s requirements in a few hours. So if I decide to head out for the hills today, converting a road bike into a cyclo-cross bike needs just a toolkit!”

Over coffee and customers, the partners in the business look forward to taking the journey forward.

“We feel we are part of this community now. We ride to work, we do what we love, we even barter for spare parts with our customer and other cyclists. We love to build bicycles which can’t be bought off a shelf,” smiles Pavan.

This column features those who choose to veer off the beaten track.