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Bicycling: Explore The Life Holistically

Twenty cyclist teams participated in Shivalik Signature event –ULTRA cycling race of 615kms (a qualifying race for RAAM –Race Across America) in last week in Chandigarh. It’s one of the toughest Cycling endurance events. Started from Chandigarh to Hoshiarpur-Pathankot –Amritsar  -Jallandhar  via Ludhiana to Sirhind and Back to Chandigarh . Few Riders were from Patiala like Bhavjit Singh Sidhu, Puneet Kumar from Royal Patiala Riders and  Jeewanjot Singh from Tour de Patiala Club, two riders from Green Bikers Club were competing  to qualify  this nonstop Race. In Patiala, from last two years, these endurance races like Suroor–e–Malwa, Malwa challenge 1 and 2 are being organised at regular intervals. Many riders from Punjab are participating in these Brevet events. Clubs and groups like Tour de Patiala (TDP) riders, Green bikers, Royal Patiala Ryders (RPR), Bathinda Cycling Club, Nabha Riders, Sangrur Riders and Clubs from Ludhiana and many more are regularly participating in these races.
Generally the brevets races include routes of different cities and villages like in Soroor –e-Malwa the route was from Patiala-Bhawanigarh–Sangrur –Barnala via Bathinda back to Patiala. The best part of these events are you are competing with yourself, beating your own previous performance in stipulated time period, but you still prefer to ride with, new fellow rider friends and exploring the rich flora and fauna of the Malwa region, villages, cities and small towns.
cycling races biking in punjab
According to Birgurinder Singh, founder member and President of Tour de Patiala Club who founded TDP back in April 2013 said “I participated in 200kms events five times and this time I participated in Suroor-e-Malwa and motivated new riders to complete this 200 km ride after facing challenges of tyre punctures and chain problems. That was a complete team work and that brought me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction that I along with all new riders completed this challenge fifth time”. 
The rider who completes 200 km race in 13.5 hours earns the title of ‘Randonneur’ these races are called as ‘Brevets’ and the person who qualifies all Brevets of 200 kms, 300 kms, 400 kms and 600 kms all in one year, then that person becomes ‘Super- Randonneur’ and Super Randonneur are the qualifiers to participate in PBP race in France. These Brevets are conducted by Audex Club Parisien all over the world and in India its Audex  India  Randonneur (AIR).
PBP RACE- (Paris –Brest-Paris) is a long distance cycling event, a 1200 kms bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris. The start of the ride is scheduled from the Nation Velodrome situated in Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines. 
BREVETS– These long races are known as Brevets, there is an emphasis on self sufficiency. Riders buy supplies anywhere along the course, but support by motorized vehicle is prohibited except at check points.
RAAM (Race Across America) – World’s toughest bicycle race – Raam is an Ultra Marathon Bicycle race, started in 1982. Starting in Oceanside under one of the Longest piers in California, RAAM goes 3000 miles, climbs 175000 feet,crosses 12 states and finishes in Annapolis, Maryland, the east Coast  sailing  Mecca. All entrants must prove their abilities by competing in any of several qualifying events. RAAM  always been from West Coast to the East Coast of the United States, Approximately 3000 miles (4800kms) making it a transcontinental Event.
LEL (London-Edinburgh-London) – is a redone Bicycle event of Approximately 1400 kms (870mi) over an out-and-back course between the capital cities of London(England) and Edinburg (Scotland). It has been described as a contender for hardest cycling event in the United Kingdom.
Now the question arises in non cyclist community that why cyclists go for these tough long distance races, what are the benefits of these cycle races, putting in hard work, sweat and blood. The only answer we get from a dedicated cyclist is sports addiction, fitness level step up and passion to overcome new challenges. It brings a sense of satisfaction and self confidence. When I asked 39 years old Jeewanjot Singh, a businessman from TDP club Patiala who was the first from Patiala to complete and qualify 1000 kms challenge in 2016, about his interest  and passion for these races he replied “these challenges keep the sportsman alive inside you irrespective of your age and other hurdles, I used to be a sportsman in my school and college days, but now i am a professional cyclist representing my club Tour de Patiala and makes my family proud after completing these challenges”. 
Benefits and Learning of these Races and practice sessions:
Team Work– Rides in Groups, ride with constant speeds, follow a balanced diet, motivate each other and practice self discipline. They Help each other in times of Cycle breakdowns. They keep advising each other to take balanced meals during ride to get remained hydrated and energetic. They alert each other to be cautious about potholes or other things during the riding practices.
Community Development And Growing Social Circles – Cycling is a social sport which revolves around weekend cycling club culture. Several hours of riding at an intensity that enables easy chat and the moments to stop at café, refreshment and tea points. Joining a cycling club or group is an excellent way to grow your social circle and if you’re new to riding- you’ll probably find all the maintenance and training advice you may have been looking.   After completing these races, randonneurs and super randonneurs, social groups are formed, cyclist community is developed, people interact during races and experiences are exchanged. Riders from different clubs become friends and they remain in touch with each other on phones and social media like Whatsapp and Facebook.
Health Benefits– Cycling is not weight bearing sport, scientists found runners suffered 144% more muscle damage, more inflammation than cycling. Bicycle rides improve mental well-being, cycling promotes weight loss, usually burns 400 to 1000 calories in an hour depending on intensity and rider weight. Cycling helps to build muscles, better lung capacity, reduces heart disease and cancer risks, improve sex life, better sleep, boost your brain power, reduces stress levels and strengthens your immune system. Take the real life story of Arvinder Singh Arora, a business man in Patiala. He completed 200 kms Suroor-e-Malwa challenge in 2017 in minimum time of 9 hours as compared to other competitors of the same challenge. He told us that two years back he weighed 108kgs and was on anti-hypertensive medicines, but now after doing cycling for two years, he is fit and fine, no more a hypertensive patient and lost around 14kgs now he is not taking any anti-hypertensive medicines.
Exploring Nature- Everyday plans of different routes through cities, villages, off roads, kacha roads and pagdandis gives you the immense opportunity to explore nature. On weekends, riding through the mountain roads on bicycles in the early morning hours or in the evening gives tremendous opportunities to explore nature in a much holistic manner. 
Improves Navigational Skills– Unless you invested in GPS cycle computer with mapping capabilities, getting out and exploring the lanes can provide you essential exercise for your internal mapping capabilities. In the world of car satellite navigators and Google maps, sometimes there’s just not much incentive to sharpen your natural sense of directions.
Saves Time and Money, Fuel– In your routine life you get into a car, wait in traffic jams, pass long queues to get into the car park and pay to park. And if commuting by public transport then you walk to bus stop, wait for the bus, get on the bus, pay the fare and bus stops at each bus stop. But if you are a bicycle rider you just hop on the bicycle, beat the traffic, squeeze your bike in the tiny parking space and save much of your time. 
Improves Handling And Self-Dependence– Cycling isn’t just raising your heart rate and getting breathless, there are technical elements which teaches you to use your body weight to get the bike going. You learn to use tools and puncture kits to fix bicycle breakdowns; gaining skills to manage these technical elements can provide a massive confidence boost-especially when you start to see improvements in your morale. 
Enjoy Double Breakfast– Punjab is known for its food culture. And if you decided to do cycling you’ve got a great excuse to add a couple of guilt free snacks to your day. Take a half an hour ride to work and you’ve got a license to enjoy your second breakfast at your desk. 
The List is endless and it will take many more pages to describe them, I know them all because a few years back. I became a cyclist and left behind the unhealthy life and became a fit, healthy guy from an unhealthy hypertensive fat lad. There are other groups and people who can’t afford these professional sport bikes, but still they enjoy the rides to pilgrims on their simple cycles, having flags on the handle bar. People, who can’t afford public transport; peddle through long distances, not by choice, but to earn for their families.  People frequenting between workplace and home are some of the unsung cycling heroes, we get to see them in routine and we appreciate them. As a cyclist we take special care for them on the roads when we are on our speeding vehicles.
To sum it up, I would say cycling and participation in long distance cycle races is best way to explore nature and burn calories.

Vitesh Verma, Patiala
Business Officer (Marketing)
Pharmaceutical Industry 
Student of Journalism and Mass Communication
MA 2 Sem IV, Distance Education
Punjabi University, Patiala

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