Harini Sivakumar Recounts Her Cycling Trip From Manali to Khardung La
Two years back, I moved to erstwhile Gurgaon, and was looking at making some friends in the new city. Every morning I saw cyclists riding fancy bikes with some super cool helmets. I thought, I must try this out someday.
My First Bike
Later a friend of mine asked me if I would be interested in biking. I was super enthusiastic about it, but she was talking about motorbikes. That very same day, I decided to buy a cycle. As I entered this shop, in Ghittorni, the salesman asked me what I was looking for and obviously, my answer was “a cycle”. His questions were too technical for me, like “do you want an MTB, hybrid, road bike, etc.”
I was at a loss of words because I did not know how to ride a cycle. The salesman was a bit confused, but I still decided to go ahead and buy a cycle.
My first cycle was just merely chosen for its looks.
I have always been a fitness enthusiast and have been part of several fitness activities. I spent the next two weeks in getting comfortable on the cycle and tipped many kids in my apartment to help me ride. At the end of the fortnight I could balance myself so I took the plunge and hit the main roads. I spent another week riding just within my society. Now I needed friends and some company to ride along.
Thus, I took to Facebook for some cycling groups in Gurgaon and posted my interest to join them. Soon, I was added to a beginners group for cycling at Freewheelers and started riding on the weekends with them. We started exploring places in Delhi and Gurgaon to places like India Gate, Qutub Minar, Agrasen Ki Baoli, Rajon ki Baoli and Sultanpur bird sanctuary, Lodhi Garden, Damdama Lake, Lost Lake and so on.
A cyclist always has stages in their journey
When I started cycling, I didn’t care about my speed, distance or time I enjoyed exploring places. After a few months, I started enjoying distances. My first-century ride was to Murthal to have the famous Sukhdev Parathas. During this time, I got in touch with another cyclist and moved on to a more professional group.
It was around this time that I learnt about “Brevets”. Brevets are long distance endurance testing rides with control points and done within a specific time limit. These are cycling events of 200, 300, 400, 600, 1000 and 1200km held by Audax India Randonneur, recognized by Audax Club Parisien. They conduct and oversee all Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux and Audax events in India.
I decided to participate in 200 km brevet and I managed to complete it in 10 hours. Post this there was no looking back at all. I did my 200, 300 400 and 600 km brevet twice and became one of the youngest “Super Randonneur” in Delhi NCR region. It was a great feeling for me.
Manali to Khardung La
The next step was to do a long distance cycling expedition and the time was just right for it. For a woman, there are hundreds of barriers in anything and everything that she wishes to accomplish. Right from setting up the home to ensuring that everything flows seamlessly. This responsibility increases manifolds if you are a mom. I had a lot of resistance from my family for this trip. When I spoke about leaving my son behind for 10 days and going for a trip, many told me it was a bad idea or some indicated I might be a bad mom. However, I decided to take the plunge and chase my dream rather than feeling sorry for having missed the opportunity in life.
When I spoke about leaving my son behind for 10 days and going for a trip, many told me it was a bad idea or some indicated I might be a bad mom.
We were a bunch of 15 who rode together. The ride from Manali to Khardung La was really tough since the altitude gain was ranging from 4000 to 18000. We encountered a lot of situations where we went breathless and had to stop for a few hours before we could continue. There were days when we could just ride looking at our front wheel and pushing ourselves to climb the mountain and there were other days when we just sat on the saddle and sped through the down hills with the wind gushing through us.
The best part about this trip was that, we did not have any network on our mobile phones what so ever… And we really had this opportunity to only keep looking at nature and talk to the people next to us. When we accomplished this expedition, it left us with a sense of immense satisfaction and feeling strong.
I am often being asked about how to get started with long distance cycling. My suggestion to that would be, buy a hybrid cycle and start cycling during the weekends with some group and start enjoying your little rides. In no time you will realize that distance is JUST A NUMBER!!!
Pic Credit: Harini Sivakumar
Harini Sivakumar is a banker turned entrepreneur and an avid cyclist.