CHENNAI: On a regular morning at Sholinganallur junction, one can notice a small stream of cycles. This keeps growing by the dozen till you notice a swarm of cycles heading down the road. These are not just your weekend getaway cyclists, but also your everyday Chennaiite who wants to ditch fuel-guzzling bikes for a sleek new premium cycle that can match a 100 cc motorbike’s swagger.
From names like Hero and Hercules, bicycle consciousness has leaped toward brands like Bianchi, Cannondale, Schwenn, Firefox and more. These bicycles are not only teaming style with substance, but also bring out environmental consciousness and the fitness streak in our city folk. Starting from `6,000 for the gearless models and going upto lakhs, these cycles come in three broad varieties — road bikes, mountain bikes (MTB) and hybrids.
The road bikes are tall, aerodynamic with thinner wheels and built for smooth roads. They can touch high speeds and range from `50,000 upwards. MTBs are the ones that make a splash on many advertisements, boast of thick wheels and shock absorbers, besides 21 types of gear shifts. The hybrids cost between `15,000-10 lakh for the popular brands and seem to be the most popular among Chennaiites with its nylon tyres and sleek frame.
Venkatesh U, who owns a Btwin model, says it’s because Chennai’s terrain is perfect for these cycles. Riding to work, he says some Indian brands don’t have good spare parts and maintenance compared to their imported counterparts. They also navigate potholes and uneven roads with ease. “I researched Indian brands but settled on this because it not only fit my budget at `7,000, but is also a smooth ride for our roads with a lighter frame. This is quite important as people don’t respect cyclists on the road and honk at you relentlessly,” he says.
The 33-year-old, who rides from Nanganallur to his workplace at Guindy, adds that it not only helps him work out, but also go green. Besides him, several doctors, IT professionals and middle-aged folk have also have joined the bandwagon.
Murugesh, a marketing manager and bicycle enthusiast, explains that Chennai weather can be challenging but adds that premium cycles have helped. Both he and Venkatesh rue that more cycling lanes should be available, at least around the IT corridors where it’s popular. Cycling is now catching up in Chennai and recognising it as a mode of transport is important.
The ‘Track and Trial showroom’ at Khadar Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam welcomes you a host of premium cycles. With anti-skid pistons, aluminium bodies, high-speed prowess and tyres the size of a small motorbike, these cycles make the old rusty and trusty models seem antique.
“Some people who have purchased cycles from here travel 20 km up and down every day. There are no road condition glitches that these cycles aren’t built to handle. We also provide them with repair kits, so we can guarantee each of these premium cycles can run at least 3,000 km before a tyre change,” says Gopinath, manager at the store.
There are other luxury cycle outlets at Velachery (Just Cycles), Kotturpuram (tied to Cyclo Cafe) and Poonamallee (Decathlon).