The 800 km annual cycling event, Tour of Nilgiris (TfN), took off from the Movenpick Hotel early morning with 103 cyclists.
Traversing across Mysore, Ooty, Sulthan Bathery, Madikeri and back to Mysore across eight days, the tour aims at achieving its objective of promoting cycle tourism and cycle as a regular mode of transport.
According to Karthik Ponnapa from RideACycle Foundation (RAC-F), which is steering TfN, cycling should be taken up not just as a mode of commuting very short distances, but also for inter-city travel. “Like from Bangalore to Mysore. Instead of pulling out the car, why not bicycle your way,” asks Ponnapa.
TfN’s second key objective is to promote cycling within cities while commuting to the workplace, school, college or places of entertainment.
Ponnapa says while studying at IIMB, he would cycle everyday from his home in Sanjay Nagar to the institute. “And would cover that distance of almost 17 km in just 50 minutes. Even now for whatever work assignment that I go, I cycle along.”
Michael Traesborg from Denmark, also a participant in TfN, says in his native Copenhagen, people usually cycle across than use any other vehicle.
“Denmark is the home of bicycling. In fact half of the transportation there consists of cycles,” says Traesborg.
In its sixth year now, TfN this time has participants from 11 countries.
Ponnapa says from over 450 applicants, the final 103 were selected on the basis of their cycling experience and stamina to cycle 200 km per day for a week.
“To cycle in such events, you need to have a record of cycling at least 100km during the weekend, and a good 40-50km every other day,” says Ashwin Bhatia, a participant from New Delhi.
Many participants this time include those who have cycled across terrains like the Himalayas, the Alps, Pyrenees etc.
Like Soumya Urs AM, who is just out of engineering college, but TfN seems to be her second biggest cycling tour. “I have participated in a Himalayan cycling event stretching across 600km.”
While Chris Hay from Scotland has pedaled across the Alps and the Pyrenees.
“After this, we are planning to participate in the Edinburgh-London tour and the Race Across America tour,” says cyclist Usha Bhatia.
Love during TfN
For Ashwin and Usha Bhatia, TfN is not just exciting for the exposure it offers, but it is also the territory where they decided to cycle together for life.
Adventure cyclists both, who have cycled across Mussoorie, Shimla, the Himalayas; the couple decided to strengthen their bond during the last TfN.
“I had to cycle 3,000 km to chase her and get her to say yes,” says Ashwin.
The couple runs a group, Team Cyclofit, that organises weekend rides, long rides, rides for beginners, and rides to promote social causes like women’s issues and health awareness.
“We also hold family rides where families can cycle along with their young kids through a safe track,” says Usha.