Bicycle diaries

In Pedal Shakti: The Power of Cycling, R Sundararajan shares his years of experience when he steadily covered miles after miles on two wheels.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

CHENNAI : It’s 7 am on a Sunday. R Sundararajan completes his 40-km ride and parks his cycle in the garage along with his three other cycles, each designed based on the topography and distance of the rides. He has Garmin attached to the handlebar of his cycle, which has an in-built GPS and is also used to track general activity and heart rate sensor. It can be connected to the phone where everyday distance can be saved in the form of summary for future referral and assessment. 

For the past 10 years, he has been into performance cycling, having pedalled over 80,000 km. The senior cyclist is India’s oldest Grand Super Randonneur. The sexagenarian looks fit as a fiddle in his cycling jersey. His muscular physique and steady gait defy his age. Sundararajan was an engineer by profession and an alumnus of The College of Engineering, Guindy. He used to work for Engineers India Ltd, New Delhi, and moved to Chennai post-retirement a decade back.

“I’m used to cycling for the past 60 years. In the 1960s, during our school and college days, cycle was the only easy mode of commuting. Buses were crowded and infrequent. Motorcycles and scooters were not affordable. While contemplating if I should take up another advisory job or sit at home after retirement, I chose to do something different by taking up performance cycling. Since then, there has been no looking back,” says Sundar, a resident of Indira Nagar.

R Sundararajan advocates cycling for the
feeling of freedom it provides

Pedalling passion
Sundar used to give tips, suggestions, and advice related to safety, riding techniques and technical issues on his social media platforms. One of his co-riders suggested that he write a book on cycling since these posts were found useful by many of their fellow riders who posed queries, both technical and otherwise. This gave him the confidence and impetus to author his debut book Pedal Shakti: The Power of Cycling.

The book has 22 chapters, talking about the history of cycling, benefits, how to pick the right bike, nutrition requirements for riders, parts of a cycle, power-based training, and frequently asked questions. “This book is a compilation of my knowledge and experience with inputs from many cyclists around the world, making it suitable for cyclists in India considering the local conditions.

It is for those who want to get into cycling for fitness and commuting, who want to understand the basics of cycling and for those who want to do long-distance cycling. It also narrates the fascinating story of the bicycle and its technological evolution. Cycling helped me stay fit, so it was only proper to promote its virtues and explain its technology. I hope it will help everyone as it is a healthy way to commute and exercise,” he says.

Cycling for your thoughts
Sundar likes cycling for its simplicity and for the fact that he doesn’t have to look for a dependable partner that most sports entail. He feels that a cycle is inexpensive and easy to maintain. One day, a decade back, he took his son’s cycle and went for a 20-km ride which took three hours. That was a single gear commuting steel cycle. It was very heavy. He could not increase the speed but was able to do a long-distance ride at a constant pace. He continued riding till performance cycles were introduced in 2009 in the Indian market by Firefox and TI Cycles. These are international brands which make cycles using aluminium alloy and carbon frames. 

“I bought a mountain bike 10 years ago. My speed increased and was able to cover distances of 50 km and 100 km with less effort. In 2011, Audax India Randonneurs opened randonneuring rides in India. These are long-distance rides of 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, 600 km, 1,000 km and 1,200 km in pre-defined routes, monitored at control points for you’re integrity and timing limitations.

I liked these rides since, more than speed, riding at a constant pace and endurance was the criteria. Your family may be sceptical about taking up such an activity in the later days of life. I have written a chapter separately for that. There will be no motivation from their end if you don’t stand for what you believe in,” he says.

The veteran cyclist is optimistic about the trend of cycling picking up in the city. “Back in 2009, there were hardly a handful of people pursuing this activity as a passion. Now, there are 33 cycling groups with more than thousand members. Cycling gives you freedom. More people will take this up in the future.”The book will be launched as part of a function by WCCG Chennai Cyclist Group on July 21 at Sri Mutha Venkatasubba Rao auditorium from 9.30 am- 10.30 am. It’s priced at Rs 750.

The photography is done by  Srini Swaminathan. He is also the editor of the book. Akshayaa Selvaraj is the illustrator and artist, Meera Srikant is the language editor, and the book was designed by Avanti Natarajan and Rajavel Sundar.

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The New Indian Express