Cycling contributes to a greener planet. It is also a great way to keep fit, writes Anand S.K
The Tour De France is one of the most respected, gruelling and longest of races driven entirely by human muscle power. Started in 1903 in France, this cycling race conducted every July, requires that participants cover about 3500 Kms of plains and steep mountains in 22 days. I’ll leave you to learn more about it on the internet, but let me interest you into the exciting world of bicycling.
Ups and downs
Your biking experience can vary from one of supreme delight to extreme frustration, purely based on the bike you ride on. The easiest rule is to go for the lightest bike you can get your hands on. It will let you climb hills, besides helping you go further and faster. Of course, the other most obvious requirement for long distance cycling is to ride a geared bike. Gears help to maintain an optimal cadence (pedalling Rotations per Minute) of 60 to 80 in any gradient. With non-geared bikes, you simply cannot climb steep inclines, even if you stand on the pedals. Besides, it will put a lot of strain on your knees leading to injury.
A common mistake to avoid is buying a bike with big knobby tyres. Most of us are going to ride only on paved roads, and so the thinner and flatter the tyre is, the faster and longer you will go. For fitness and fun biking, choose only a straight handle bar. Drop handle bars are good for road racing only. Male riders should get a seat that has a central depression to ensure that your nerves don’t get pinched down there, during long rides.
Finally, don’t forget - you get what you pay for. More expensive bikes come with better quality frames, gear trains, and other components, and are worth the price. You can buy a geared bike in India starting from Rs.3,500 all the way to a few lakhs. Currently, high end bikes are available in India from Trek, TI Cycles (Cannondale and Bianchi brands) and Firefox.
Once you are set , spend some time in mapping out safe riding routes that have light traffic and scenic environs. I prefer the village link roads. If you are a beginner, aim for a 20 to 30 KM ride to start with, and choose level roads with no steep inclines. Do these short runs over a month, and let your body adjust. Gradually start including light inclines in the route, besides increasing the distance. Aim for an average speed of at least 18 km/hr on level roads. You can graduate to 80 and 100 km runs with an average speed of at least 25 km/hr. And, don’t ever ride without a helmet.
Down to earth
Form small biking groups of two to four riders. The best time to ride is early mornings - you beat the heat and the traffic. You will find it easy if the ride is split in half with a small break of 15 minutes to re-hydrate and may be, have a sandwich. The small breaks present an opportunity for you to interact with the local villagers. You will learn to appreciate their lifestyle and eco system, and at the same time enjoy the calm and green environs.
Nutrition and hydration are important factors. Your body will burn about 400 to 600 calories per hour of swift cycling. If you plan to cycle for four hours, you will need 1500 to 2000 calories. If you are climbing hills, your energy and salt needs are much more. Absence of both can lead to cramped muscles and serious illnesses like dehydration, light headedness, etc. So, add oral rehydration salts in a one litre water bottle and carry it with you. Before you hop onto your bike, drink fruit juice or milk and snack on some bananas and dates. During the ride, sip the prepared drink frequently. Cycling is a good cardio-vascular exercise , and unlike running and other impact sports, it is non-impact and hence wears your knees less. It allows you to explore your surroundings quite intimately. You can challenge yourself constantly by choosing hilly and longer routes.
Cycling is considered the most efficient and eco-friendly mode of human transport. If you use it to go places besides riding for fun and workout, take pride in knowing that you are contributing to a greener earth. Think about cycling as a great package deal - it is an exercise machine, takes you places, helps make new friends, is fun and super cool. So, wear that helmet and hop on – destination is unimportant. But unlimited fun is guaranteed!CYCLING ROUTES
1) CBE-Thadagam Road-Anaikatti and back – 60 kms
2) CBE-Thondamuthur Road-Kovai Kalaimagal College and back – 50 Kms
3) CBE – Thondamuthur – Siruvani Rd – Siruvani and back – 80 Kms
4) CBE – Kalapatti Road – Annur and Back – 70 Kms,
5) Malumichampatti – Velanthavalam Road – Kerala and back – 50 to 120 Kms
6) CBE – Chettipalayam – Elgi Race Track – Negamam and back – 100 Kms
7) CBE – Annur – Mettupalayam – Kotagiri and back – 175 Kms.