Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride.Eddy Merckx, Considered the greatest cyclists of all time
With every stroke on the pedal, a gush of wind hitting the face and the sense of freedom while riding a bicycle can be compared to very few things in life. Over the past 4 years, I turned into a cycling enthusiast. Whenever I get time, nothing compares to a ride, short or long.
In college, I always wished to work at a place where I could go riding on a bicycle. The dream did come true. I was in Chandigarh for my post-graduation, when I saw a group of cyclists gushing past me at high speeds on a windy morning along the Sukhna Lake. That was it, I decided to go and buy a bicycle.
Decathlon had recently opened up and it was a paradise. I bought a bunch of gear along with my Rockrider 500. The next morning I was off on the roads. 15 minutes later I was panting. I never knew the street on which I lived, was a graduated uphill.
Cycling is an excellent way of working out. No special equipment needed except a bicycle and you are on your way to an amazing workout. Low impact, no special skill needed, helps you build good strength and stamina, very good for joint mobility as well as muscle stretching and you can also control how tough you want your cycling workout to be.
For doctors, cycling has been a favorite outdoor activity for multiple scientific reasons too. Cycling has been correlated to reduced risks of diabetes, cancer, mental illness including anxiety and depression as well as prevents obesity and improves cardiovascular health. Preventive relationship of cycling with grave diseases are commonplace in multiple large scale medical studies, making it one of the favorite exercises.
Simple. You just need to buy a basic bicycle. And if you intend to do long rides, you’ll need a few things more and some reading about the right posture, stretching, and the seat height. (the most crucial and the most neglected part).
Buying a bicycle can be a difficult task. But with so many options, online as well as online, the customers have a range of options. Depending on your terrain, weight, height, and comfort, choose a good bike for yourself.
Back in 2016, I did not have a lot of options and ended up buying a Btwin Rockrider 500, basically an all-terrain bike, for roads and occasional off roads. I wanted to buy something from Cannondale, Trek, Scott, or Giant, but getting hold of them was impossible, and I was not experienced enough to just order something online. One store has changed this in the past few years. Track&Trail opened in Chandigarh in 2017, bringing a premium range of bicycles, cycling gear, and world-class cycle maintenance facilities into the market. I obviously became a regular customer.
What else to buy?
A bottle holder, a helmet (MUST, maximum road cyclist die from head injuries), and padded shorts. These are a must. A pump can be avoided in the initial stages. The shorts with padding in the saddle area are a must for anyone planning to ride long distances. The saddle area pain becomes chronic if not taken care of.
Also, I use the app Strava to record my rides. It’s a beautiful application that connects you to a network of enthusiasts across the world. Scrolling through my feed on Strava, looking at all the people doing the 50,100 and 200km, makes me feel guilty for not even riding 10km. So it is a really nice app to keep yourself accountable and on track. You can see my profile here – https://www.strava.com/athletes/16818990
What did I learn over the years?
Once I started riding and covering longer distances, I realized cycling has a lot of parallels to be drawn to real life. Every time I was riding, I used to come back with life lessons. And it continues to date.
1. Keep going. Don’t stop.
As Sir Albert Einstein said ” Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Whenever I felt tired, was panting, was out of stamina, had exhausted my water stores, or felt riding anymore was difficult, I just pushed myself to stroke a few more pedals. And the same goes for life, whenever you feel like things are tough, you just push a little harder and keep moving, and life goes on.
2. A little everyday, goes a long way.
I am not able to regularly go on rides. Work, laziness, and multiple other excuses have stood between me and regular rides. But with time, I have just realized one thing – Do a little, every day. In this lockdown, I have started doing 10-minute rides just to continue the habit. I also ride once when the temperature was 43 degrees. It felt suicidal, but just to ensure a little every day I took the risk. I have realized the same goes for life and most of the tasks. Want to crack an exam? Want to pump up those muscles? want to lose that belly? Do a little every day.
3. Focus and self-talk.
A lot of times, when I am on long rides, after about 40km, and in the scorching heat of Delhi, you just feel your body can’t do it anymore. I have at multiple times taken a break, had a few sips of water, and talked to myself. A quick pep talk from self has allowed me to cover the next many kilometers seamlessly. I feel the same goes for multiple situations when we feel things are hard and we just can’t go on. Stop, Focus, and do have a Self-Talk.
4. It’s all in the head.
I had heard marathon runners talk about how the races were a mere show of mental strength and endurance rather than physical, I never thought it was true, till I started long-distance cycling. Cycling always seemed easier and low impact on me than running. Being a doctor, I was always skeptical about running more than 10 km thinking of the impact it will have on my body. So since cycling was a low impact exercise I ended up doing 50km and then 70km routinely. Over the first few times, I stopped multiple times. It was tremendously demanding physically, but every time I was able to finish the journey if I was able to talk myself out of the feeling of physical exhaustion. And then it occurred to me, it was never the body, but almost always the mind which stops us from achieving what we want, with everything in life.
I still use my rides as a time for introspection. I prefer riding alone at least 3-4 times a week, and with friends once or twice. Introspection during cycling is something I cherish a lot. Another thing that leaves me spellbound is the beauty of the city. Chandigarh would leave me spell-bound and even Delhi with all its historical monuments around is nice. On a bicycle, you are much closer to nature and the experience is scaled up multiple times.
This lockdown has managed to help get regular with cycling and I am loving it, although the Delhi heat makes it unbearable sometimes.
I hope some of you guys end up going out for a ride after reading this!!