Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back on the saddle after 8 years

I have wanted to buy a cycle for a long time now. After 3 years on the job and 4 years before that in an engineering college, my body is in the worst physical shape it has ever been. It's not all that bad because I try to travel as much as I can but my stamina isn't a tenth of what it used to be, as I realised one fine day gasping for breath in the office kitchen.

That really was the trigger, I decided that I shouldn't wait any longer and started to seriously look at the options I had. I could either get a cycle, or increase the frequency of my treks, or join a gym.
My friends and my trekking group dont manage to plan a trek/bike trip every weekend. A gym membership would cost more than a cycle and I think it's pointless exercising while listening to the latest Bollywood numbers in a conditioned room. Its a waste of effort and not sustainable because you are doing it for the sake of it. The day you stop--your muscles disappear and your stamina goes back to where it was.
If I cycle to work, even if its once a week, it will fit in as a task of my daily routine--getting me to work and back. And to add to that, I love cycling.

My first "cycle" was gifted to me on my first birthday by Krupakka. It was a yellow tricycle and I had it for a couple of years. I spent the rest of my childhood pleading with my parents for a real cycle. They promised me one every report card season and every other Diwali but I soon realised that they were dangling a carrot while I played the donkey.
Well they did get me one and I had to stand first in my class to see that day.

We checked out a few stores and finally landed at Ravi Cycles, Mulund (West). There was this beauty being fitted in the store--nothing like I had ever seen before. Jet black with fluorescent orange lettering, it had those fenders on the handlebar and a chain lock mechanism that hung on the frame in front.
It looked out-of-the-world and I was in love. It cost 1.5 times any other cycle in the store and I wasnt sure if Dad was that impressed with my first rank but I think he noticed the little hearts circling over my head because he actually got it for me.
I returned the favour by having my first crash while we took it home--my BSA SteetCat.

The envy of every boy who laid his eyes on it, my first love was with me for over 6 years and took me as far as Kopar Khairane in the south and Kalwa in the north, and I also owe all my "slow" cycling trophies and certificates to it. I stopped using it after I moved to junior college - I dont remember why but it wasn't in great shape after all those years. The watchman asked me if he could have it and nothing stopped me from handing him the keys. It was passed around in the group of Nepali watchmen but I didn't see it after a couple of years.

That was a long digression--let's get back to the present. So I knew I had to get a cycle and as usual my first stop was the internet. I subscribed to a few groups but the real breakthrough came after I joined the BikesZone

I did a bit of research and put up a post on the forum. The guys over there were very helpful and I decided on the
Hercules Ryders AV102. I loved it's look but then saw the ACT 105 which looked almost the same (except for the plastic fenders and carrier--but those can be fitted in right!) and cost 2000 less.
I found a dealer who said it could be done and I booked my cycle on the 8th of November (a Saturday). He promised to get it by Monday assuring me that it wouldn't be a day after Wednesday. The week went by without a call from him. I tried to go there on weekdays but I never managed to reach before 9, which was when his shop closed for the day. I caught up with him the following weekend and he asked for a few more days. I had paid the guy an advance and figured I could wait, I didnt get any calls from him till Friday, which is when he told me that my cycle had arrived from Chennai.

I landed up at the shop on the 23rd (a Sunday). I asked him to remove the metal fenders as I planned to put them on later. I headed home for lunch, went back at 4 PM and rode back home on my Hercules Ryders ACT 105 MAX--quite a mouthful.
He hadnt fitted the carrier and U lock that I wanted. I plan to go collect them tomorrow.

I knew it was going to be difficult to convince my parents about me getting a cycle so I never bothered. Dad disagreed but accepted my decision, he always does but Mom was as adamant as ever, she always is. I had to listen to a lot of stuff, I dont want to start on that.
The best taunt was that about my peers moving "ahead" in life, buying cars, etc while I backpedaled to immaturity and irrationality. Now how may times have I heard that before ;)

I carried the cycle up 6 floors to my home and was welcomed with a diktat that I couldn't keep it in the house. I tried reasoning with Mom knowing it would be futile--my cycle had to spend it's first day on the staircase. I didn't expect things to turn this bad but there wasn't much I could do in the situation.
But I had to do something with the frustration in my head and I decided to do something I would never have imagined.

My original plan was to gradually get back on the saddle, that would mean starting out with short trips to the market and in and around Mulund. Once I had the hang of things and settled to riding in traffic, I planned to commute to office once a week which would finally settle down to twice a week.

My cycle lay out on the stairs unsafe, easy prey to all the little kids who would simply love to try out all the gears, sit on it trying to imagine themselves riding it.
I probably would'nt care a few months down the line but I didn't like the sound of it for now. Without any real thought and simply to prove a point, I decided I would commute to office the next day--24th November 2008.
I wasnt thinking that:
  • My office is in Sakinaka--my bike's odometer reads 36kms after a round trip.
  • There is one major climb at Powai and several minor climbs on the route.
  • I was getting back on a cycle after 8 years and had very little highway experience.
I was only thinking that my cycle is safer with me in office then on the staircase all by itself. That night, when I went to bed at 2 AM, I set the alarm to 6 AM and tried to not think of everything that could go wrong the next day. The plan was to leave at around 6:30, which would spare me the traffic and pollution.

It was still pretty dark at 6:45 when I stood in front of my building, all geared up with a change of clothes and the helmet in my backpack. I was back on the saddle after 8 years.