Life & Style

Up and down and round and round

In an age of bullet trains, express ways, and long haul flights, choosing a bicycle as a means of touring still presents a challenge. While there have been people who have toured the world on a bicycle since it was invented, it is still difficult to navigate even familiar cities today thanks to issues like safety, weather, road conditions, traffic, on-road support, and so on.

In 2010, to give more cyclists an opportunity to cycle in properly organised tours, Tamil Nadu Cycling Club (TCC), a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation, began organising an annual cycling tour in partnership with The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation. Vasanth Ramaswamy, Secretary TCC and curator of the tour, outlines the objective of the tour as “to promote eco-tourism in the state of Tamil Nadu and provide a platform for touring on cycles”.

The group poses together

The group poses together   | Photo Credit: unknown

Given the vastness and diversity of Tamil Nadu, TCC has come out with different themes each year. In the first edition, the tour started in Coimbatore with the theme ‘Mountains’ and offered riders a chance to explore Ooty, Yercaud, and Kodaikanal. The subsequent editions explored themes like heritage sites, cuisines, the Eastern Ghats, Western ghats, the Nilgiris and wildlife. The focus was on visiting places that are intricately linked to these themes. The theme this year was ‘Waterfalls’ and the ride covered four waterfalls in Northwest Tamil Nadu. The tours typically start and end at one of the major towns in Tamil Nadu; this time, it was Erode. The intermediate halts over the next seven days were at Hogenekkal, Yercaud, Kallakuruchi and Kolli Hills. Forty five riders, including five women, participated.

The route for different days were designed to provide a variety of experiences; flat sections, uphill rides that test one’s determination, downhill rides that require good control, frustrating headwinds and tailwinds that provided much-wanted relief. “We avoid National Highways as much as possible as they offer very limited scenic beauty and most are all about speed,” says Venkat Venkatadri, one of the key organisers.

A stop for breakfast

A stop for breakfast  

The first day from Erode to Hogenekkal passed through some beautiful roads that had stiff headwinds and the second day had steep inclines. After a more relaxed third at Yercaud that was all about scenery, the fourth and fifth day offered gentle climbs in the Kalrayan Hills. The toughest one was reserved for the sixth day when riders ascended the Kolli hills. The last day was a ceremonial easy ride back to Erode.

When asked how this tour compared to the prestigious Tour de France, Rajaram Pattabiraman, the tour director, quickly dismisses the inevitable comparisons, “This is not a race; it is a tour. It is immaterial whether someone rides fast or slow, the entire distance or partially, all days or some days... We want each participant to enjoy the tour and will offer support and recognition to all riders in the best possible manner.” The participants came from all over the country including a few international riders. They were from all walks of life and of all ages. For many, especially those from other parts of India, it was a new experience to ride through Tamil Nadu in places that they had rarely heard about.

Vasanth Ramaswamy

Vasanth Ramaswamy   | Photo Credit: unknown

It is not always the destination that counts but also the journey. One may not find a small town like Kallakuruchi very romantic but, when reached through the Kalrayan Hills and breathtaking views of Gomukhi dam, it is a place worth visiting.

Riding up to the hill stations helps one enjoy every bit of the view from the top and a sense of accomplishment. Modern highways bye-pass most small towns and link only the major cities. Cycling through small towns helps us connect with many wonderful people and institutions. The friendly cheers from children make each rider feel like a celebrity. It also offers us a chance to try local cuisine and get a closer look at local customs and traditions.

It is an opportunity to pay heed to what songwriter and entertainer Eddie Cantor said, “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast; you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

Pedal winners

The tour covered four waterfalls: Hogenekkal, Kiliyur in Yercaud, Periyar in Kalrayan Hils and Agaiya Gangai in Kolli Hills

There were 45 riders including five women

The distance covered was 852 km

The total elevation was 11,111m

The total trip took seven days

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 3:23:08 AM |

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