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Updated: March 12, 2010 19:50 IST

Cycle of life

NIKHIL VARMA
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MARK IT OUT: The city has to be more cyclist-friendly feels Samim. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu MARK IT OUT: The city has to be more cyclist-friendly feels Samim. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Samim Rizvi tells NIKHIL VARMA that long-distance cycling requires mental fitness as well

“In these times, when climate change has become a serious cause of concern, cycling is the best way to put forth a case for the environment. It will help reduce pollution levels and is also good for health,” says Samim Rizvi, an ace cyclist, who became the first Indian to qualify for the “race across America event that spans a total of 3,000 miles spread across 12 states in the United States.”

Samim is thrilled at the opportunity and feels that the race is tougher than the acclaimed Tour De France event.

“The Tour is also tough, but this race does not account for any rest days, has fewer breaks and is much longer. A rider is expected to cover nearly 600 kilometres every day, which is a stiff challenge.”

However, for 39-year-old Samim, cycling long distances is not an alien concept. He has cycled nearly 900 kilometres from Bangalore to Mumbai, as part of an awareness drive for climate change.

He also cycles from Bangalore to Mysore regularly. He comments: “Physical endurance is important for a cyclist, but mental toughness is also a must. If you are not tough mentally, you will not be able to take the stress and strain.”

On the diet that one must follow to build stamina for cycling, Samim responds: “Some of the grocers are amazed to deliver huge contingents of eggs and carbohydrate rich food to my house every day.”

Samim took to cycling as a youngster growing up in suburban Mumbai. “My college was located almost 60 kilometres from my house. I used to cycle to college everyday and quite enjoyed it.”

He soon decided to take up cycling on a professional level. He initially faced objections from his family. “They thought that I had gone mad and was wasting my time, pursuing this useless activity. In due course, once they realised that I was very serious about the sport, they supported me whole heartedly.”

Sponsorship was a contentious issue, till he was noticed by Bulldog Sportz, who took over his sponsorship.

“That helped me focus on preparing for various events and competitions. The management aspect is taken care by Bulldog. I feel that private sponsorship is necessary to build a base for sports other than cricket in India. Cricket must be looked upon as a sport where good management has paid dividends, instead of being blamed for the lack of development of other sports in the city.”

He says that though more and more Indians are taking to cycling, especially in urban centres, it is yet to find acceptance among other motorists. “Many feel that they should have the right of way and do their best to scare cyclists off the street. There are some, however, who are very nice and encouraging.”

Cycling for such massive distances, Samim has had his share of falls and bruises. He says: “Once when I was cycling, a Volvo bus came very close. The driver saw me at the last minute and we both managed to back out, just in time. I was left a bit shaken by that incident.”

To be a good cyclist is a test of endurance and mental will feels Samim. You need to have mental strength to last long distances, especially if you are involved in endurance cycling. “To a layman it may seem simple, but is a fairly difficult task.”