What is Cycling
Cycling (also known as bicycling or biking) is the riding of bicycles (also cycles, or bikes) for leisure or as part of competition. In many countries, the cycle is also an important mode of transport, more so in Asia (especially in Southeast Asia) and Africa. In Europe, cycling is predominantly a recreational activity. The continent is very much the hub of cycling as a competitive sport, but modern Europeans are increasingly inclined to use the bike as a favoured mode of transport (from home to office – and back). Indeed, across the world today, the cycle is the preferred means of conveyance for many commuters. Compared to the ubiquitous motorcar, cycles contribute almost nothing to air or noise pollution, besides giving the rider plenty of opportunity to get in some exercise. In cities, bikes help lessen traffic congestion and assist in solving seemingly perennial parking problems, as well as offering easier manoeuvrability. The bike, then, has plenty of things going for it – it’s kinder to the environment; it costs little to buy, operate and maintain; it is incredibly convenient to own; and it is the ideal way to fitness. All of these factors contribute towards making cycling a fun and enjoyable activity.
There are three types of cycling: Utility, recreational (touring, organized rides, mountain) and racing.
History of Cycling
There is still debate over when the first bicycle was designed (1839 is the given date, Kirkpatrick Macmillan the designer). But it was the velocipede (sometimes known, for obvious reasons, as the “bone shaker”) which was the first pedal-operated bike to be mass produced. Meanwhile, the modern bike traces its origins to the Rover, a safety bike and an invention of the 1880s.
The first instance of a cycling race being held was in 1868, in Paris. A year later, the first race between cities was organized, from Paris to Rouen. The heyday of racing began in the final decade of the 19th century; one-day classic races, like the Paris- Roubaix (1896), date back to that decade. After France, other European nations – Belgium, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – also started organizing races. And just as the era of road races was beginning, cycling as a recreational activity started gaining popularity. The Tour de France, the gruelling three-week test of endurance around the French countryside, is one of sport’s most iconic competitions. It has been held since 1903,
its fame growing with each edition (though the seemingly uncontrolled doping that has afflicted the Tour – and, indeed, the sport – in the last decade or so, has somewhat dented the public’s faith in cycling). The Giro d’Italia (Italy) and the Vuelta a España (Spain) complete the European triumvirate of summer road races. Europe is the venue for most of the world’s top road races but the United States and Asia also host road competitive races.
Cycling in India
The beauty and diversity of India – both natural and architectural – can best be experienced on a saddle. A cycle tour in the mountains and forests, or through national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, can make for a charming (and unforgettable) introduction to India. And on a bike, one can savour the freedom to explore and discover the country at leisure, and at the same time meet her people and learn about her culture. India offers some classic cycling trips, as well as some delightful out-of-the-way trails. Rajasthan presents an exotic cycling holiday unlike any other, while down south, the Bangalore-Goa trail, through the red-earth state of Karnataka, has a magic all its own. The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala can boast some pretty and quaint trails. Up north, for the hardly rider, are the Manali to Leh and Shimla to Manali (through Spiti Valley) trips, legendary tests of endurance. The high altitudes of Ladakh, meanwhile, present a unique challenge for super-fit rider. Out east, Sikkim and Darjeeling offer stunning routes amid the awe-inspiring backdrops of the Himalayas.
Know more about Cycling Holiday Tours in India.
Bike & helmet! Besides regular (utility) bikes, there are also road bikes, race bikes and mountain (or dirt) bikes.
Best season in India
June to March (Bangalore to Goa)
October to April (Sikkim and Darjeeling)
October to March (Rajasthan, Kerala)
November to March (Tamil Nadu)
June to September (Ladakh; Shimla to Manali)
July to September (Manali to Leh)
Cycling sites in India
North – Jammu and Kashmir (Ladakh), Himachal Pradesh
Central – Rajasthan
East – Sikkim, West Bengal
South – Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala
Ideal conditions for Cycling
Many factors go into making a cycling trip enjoyable (or not!). It all depends on the rider’s experience – how comfortable he or she is with terrain that is not flat. Conditions that are likely to affect the grade of difficulty include: distance covered, duration of cycling day, average elevation (and altitude gain and loss), weather conditions (including temperature highs and lows), amount of vehicular support and route conditions.
Previous cycling experience is not necessary but one should not be discomfited by riding on undulating and bumpy ground. It is advisable to practice on a standard bike before embarking on any biking tour, so that one is able to acquire the requisite level of fitness and familiarity.
Cycling only calls for a high level of fitness in the mountains, or on especially tough trails where the ground is uneven. Hill trails (like the Manali to Leh) demand stamina, especially in the leg muscles and the lungs – those suffering from asthma or breathing problems are advised not to go pedalling in the mountains. The benefits, however, far outweigh any drawbacks. Cycling is one of the easiest, and also one of the most convenient, ways of exercising; a few hours on the saddle helps build strength and stamina, while also improving cardiovascular fitness. Above all, a ride on a bike aids greatly in reducing stress.
Among the many advantages of riding a bike, the foremost (and certainly the most topical today) is that it is a bionetwork-friendly means of getting from A to B. Cycling is non-polluting – both in terms of air and noise pollution – and does not release any greenhouse gases, thus helping reduce the carbon footprint of riders. So get on your bike, and do your bit for Mother Earth – there’s no cleaner ride on this planet than one on the humble cycle!