BENGALURU: Dr Arvind Bhateja is dealing with an addiction. Before you jump to any conclusion, hear this: The Bengalurean consultant neurosurgeon and spine surgeon is hooked to cycling. The long hours dedicated to his medical education had taken a toll on the doctor, who started looking for a way to get back into shape. His tryst with fitness, however, started with running on a treadmill in 2003. “Then, in December 2008, I came across stories of marathoners and half-marathoners in a magazine. I was amazed with long-distance running and made it my resolution for the coming year to run a half-marathon,” he says, adding that he trained thrice a week in Cubbon Park to prepare himself.
Unfortunately, the same year, Dr Bhateja developed severe knee pain and an MRI revealed that his knees had suffered damage due to running. This meant a temporary break from running was in order. “A doctor friend of mine had just bought a bicycle. He recommended some stores for me,” he says.
Thus began, on February 14, 2009, Dr Bhateja’s love for cycling, when he walked out of a store with a bicycle (a Merida sub 40D) and rediscovered his childhood joy of riding to school. He used the bicycle to kick-start the tradition and commuted to work by it. The cycle, black framed with green highlights, was later joined by nine other bicycles in Dr Bhateja’s collection.
“I still use that cycle sometimes. All my bicycles are special but my fanciest one is the model I use for weekend road rides – a S Works Tarmac SL 4, Nibali limited edition frame,” he reveals. How does a doctor with a 12-hour shift make time for his passion project? By setting up an indoor setup. “I have a stationary cycle that is attached to a device called the trainer. This setup is synced to an app on my laptop, a 3D virtual cycling world. Once I’m logged in and start pedalling, my avatar on screen mimics the moves. There are other riders too to play and race with,” he explains. The idea came to him around three years ago, when he got busier at work and had to report by 8 am. “This way, I avoid traffic and save time,” he says, adding that his hour long workout now begins at 5:15am.
The Tour of Nilgiris, a bike tour that passes through Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, takes place in December every year. The hospital Dr Bhateja is associated with, Sita Bhateja Specialty Hospital, has been tour’s medical partner for 10 years now.
“Every year since 2013, we nominate a charity rider, who takes part in the tour and raises funds for people in need of surgeries,” he says. The doctor was the charity rider in 2016. “So far, we have raised `25 lakh and have conducted over 200 subsidised spinal surgeries in the last four years,” he says.
Four months ago, Dr Bhateja had a spine surgery and wasn’t able to ride his bike for a month. He attributes his quick recovery time to the fitness levels he acquired after taking up cycling. “During that one month of no cycling, I missed the sport terribly. It’s like an addiction. Once you get so used to something, you can’t imagine your life without it,” he says.