A Cycling Story – Part I

For those of you who follow my blog posts and the few patient ones who actually read it, most of my blogs in the past years have been on the treks I have done in the Himalayas. And for those fewer ones who know me well, know the crazy me, every time something moved me, I blogged and it has always been about the Himalayas.

During my sojourn to the Himalayas, I have learnt, unlearned, made so many mistakes and continue to make as I go along. I associated Himalayas with treks, or sometimes backpacking and that’s the way I got used to.

Yet something happens that is not in your control, you go with the flow and you jump right in blind eyed, literally blind eyed and so this blog series I am about to share is unlike any others I have written. It is filled with cycles, landscapes, expectations, disappointments, human dynamics, connections and also disconnecting.

I am not being philosophical here, I call it a cycling story because I didn’t realise that a tiny puny cycle will teach me lessons on communication, patience, love, loathing, self control, egos in ways I ever imagined.

It all started with a message from my trek friend Archana. We met during Har ki Dun trek in 2018 and there was an instant connect between us with our varied backgrounds. It had been 4 years since we even spoke to each other but some relationships are such that you pick up from where you left off and it is as simple as that. No questions,just a quiet comfort knowing it exists. And yes we would chat, messaging regularly on topics, on issues we connected with. We never lost touch with each other.

And this is the thing with a tiny cycle. Last year when I did Pin Bhaba I was very inspired by my trek mate Shantanu who goaded and encouraged all of us then to buy a cycle, to commute in a cycle. In less than two months after I met him, I bought one. Let me stop here and tell you something from my past.

I was a triathlete while living in the US, I have done the whole cycle of triathlon events while being there. I did Olympic, half, full ironman events and done the whole jazz until a couple of accidents took me off the cycle for over a decade.

And yes I never cycled in India, and am not counting my childhood cycling memories here which almost every Indian kid has. So coming back on to the cycle after so many years was kind of a catharsis. I bought a basic mountain bike clearly telling the sales guy it was ‘recreational’ and I wouldn’t ride beyond 5 kms.

Well what can I say, old habits die hard don’t they? 3 went to 5 kms to 10 kms then to 20 then to 50 to 75 kms and so on. Yet it still was recreational. That feeling of freedom while cycling, the breeze blowing in your face, the head wind, tail wind all of it was coming back to me like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And it was just a matter of time.

So do I call it fortuitous that Archana out of the blue messaged me in March this year about a cycling trip from Srinagar, Kashmir to Leh, Ladakh in June and would I like to join her?

What made me say an instant YES to her? She asked and I joined in. Was she crazy enough to think of me the moment she wanted to go on this cycling trip? Who knows? I remember her saying, I am going on this trip in these dates and I thought of you. That’s it. And that’s a connection and that’s all it needs. No logic nor the whys and how’s can apply here.

As for me I jumped the gun, said yes to a journey that was gonna happen in 2 months. And this knowing that I had a tough trek in April before that. Archana’s attitude is what I love the most. Frank, straightforward no nonsense talk. When I asked her what do I do to prepare for this? I have no clue! She only said practice in such a way that you are able to cycle 4-5 hours continuously and maybe 2 times a week practice? Simple.

So you see my friends, this is a cycling story, a very different cycling story that I am not going to sugarcoat which I do in my treks. I saw both the positive and the negative aspects in people and circumstances of which I wish to write and I will write. If one thing cycling has taught me, it is ‘ Call a Spade, a Spade’. I rest my case.

To be continued tomorrow!

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