A cycling group is wheeling in a lifestyle trend among city folks. If it catches up, as it seems to have , it will see a healthier, happier lot pedalling away many of their woes. It is encouraging people to take to cycling.

The two-year-old, Cochin Bikers Club (CBC) has witnessed an increase in its membership, the figure has reached a whopping 390 members.

And though most have joined online and do not participate regularly, yet a big group turns up for the weekend rides.

“People are getting serious about cycling,” says Shuhaib Abdul Rehman, founder of the club. He runs The Bike Store at Palarivattom and has been watching the trend grow.

City riders

CBC holds short early morning rides daily and longer ones on weekends. All rides are city related. Any member can come up with a route and a ride plan. Thanks to social media the networking is quick and savvy. A ride is proposed and goes online. Instant responses follow. A buzz is set and people enthused. Actions, reactions and a firm plan emerges and the group meets up for the ride. They generally flag off in the morning around 6 and the routes are from easy to hard. So far the longest one day ride, which touched 120 km, has been to Bhoothathankettu dam near Kothamangalam. As there is no competition, the bikers take an easy pace, “for we have novices and pros.” They stop at local tea shops and take small breaks. It is a friendly yet focussed attempt to ride. “It is a relaxed outing for many of us,” says Shagzil Khan, a biking enthusiast and a tour guide. He says that Kerala has many tour operators who offer bicycling trips. “The Kerala countryside offers excellent biking routes but the CBC does more city related routes. It is for local folks and a good way to discover the city.”

Abraham Clancy Ross, an executive with an Insurance company and a member, had a choice between buying a mobile phone and a bike. “I chose the bike,” he says with clear fondness for the sport. He indulges in moderate to heavy bicycling and finds immense relief from arthritis.

Shuhaib says that group biking is fun, it is a healthy lifestyle and philosophical. By philosophy, the group means, a conscious effort by members to be close to nature, to reduce carbon footsteps, to gain in confidence about a mode of transport and a way of living.

In 2009, when Shuhaib started the club he says that youngsters were totally new to this aspect of biking. The biggest hitch then was that bikes were expensive but now their outlook has changed. Bike sales have gone up. The idea of spending on a class bike (with gears) is that you are spending on a state of the art machine. “An imported basic gear bike would begin at Rs. 9,000 upwards. We can get bikes for Rs. 4 or 5 lakh depending on the customer requirements. A bike with gears is recommended as one has to negotiate climbs and dips,” explains Shuhaib adding that such rides need to be done in proper gear, using helmets, gloves, reflective jackets etc.

“No helmet, no ride,” is the rule.

The group has women members but only once or twice have they turned up. They plan to go more professional by holding Duathalon, where they will combine running and biking. They are also planning for Individual Time Trials, small challenges with Mountain Track Bike or MTB. With latest software and the invaluable access that GPS provides the riders map the routes beforehand. A dry run is conducted by a group member before the event. A back-up car with a technician follows the bikers in case of any break down. The most attractive rides for the group are the ones on the Seaport Airport road and the Kalamassery Goshree Bridge route.

Shuhaib runs a similar club in Chennai called the Chennai Bikers Club. Both his clubs associate with each other. For the coming week the bikers have planned a ride through Thodupuzha calling it “More Climbs, No Mercy.”

It is urban biking that CBC promotes with a strong wish to make the city more biker friendly. Shagzil says, “our dream is to have the forth coming Metro project biker friendly with bicycle parking facilities at Metro stations and bicycle carry space in each metro train. That will give a big fillip to this trend.”

With such drive and plans they hope to get all the armchair cyclists pedalling, unleash a healthy culture with everybody like in the famous song from Queen wishing to ride a bicycle.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle...