February, a month that has been special for me over the past few years( no, it is not Valentine’s Day). This year, the month marks my return to more serious cycling. Can’t help it, the weather in February is just perfect for cycling. In Surat, this especially holds true as February is the later part of its very short and mild winter and the rest of the year is hot, really hot. My profuse sweating is not much of an issue at this time and that’s just the motivation I needed for me to make a resolution to ride my cycle to work on at least 50% of all days.
An interesting observation is that there is only a difference of one to two minutes between the gross time needed for me to reach office on my cycle(Firefox Roadpro 2200) or my petrol guzzling Vespa. You see, the slow, agonizing bumper to bumper traffic which I have to encounter daily does not need to exist for the cycle. I simply clamber onto the footpath and it is a fast ride sans any traffic.
The ride home is the tougher one. I may or may not have eaten during the day and so the energy for the ride is drawn from reserves. My bag seems so much heavier than in the morning on my arched back and this is the time when the natural riding position of the Roadpro is not very comfortable. Having said that, the aerodynamic position does help maintain good speeds with relatively little pedaling effort during periods of tiredness.
In all, in spite of the arched back riding position, the Roadpro doesn’t tire all that much. The gears work well and all one has to do is to find the gear appropriate for the rhythm. As I have not been cycling all that much lately, I am cycling at an average speed of 30 kmph for the journey as a whole, rarely going above 45 kmph. The Roadpro is no Trek and not for very high speeds anyway, though it is great for cruising in the late 30s or early to mid 40s. Fast on the climbs and nippy on the descents, I would still take the roadie rather than the more comfortable hybrids on the flyovers in this city.
I have decided to extend my experiment onto the coming summer months.
I have spent over 10 months now in Surat and undoubtedly, the diamond city is the most cycle friendly city in India that I have seen thus far. Here, the folks actually have a cycling culture. One would be hard pressed to find as many Hero Hawks and BSA Machs in any other city. Not only do kids cycle to school, a fairly good percentage of them use road bikes instead of the ubiquitous MTBS/ATBs (mountain/all terrain bikes) that go for popular cycles in this country. The city has a cycling group and several retailers of high quality cycles including imported ones. The presence of such fellow cyclists indubitably makes for a better riding experience.
My Firefox Road Pro 2200
It is not as if Surat has more sports lovers than other places. The phenomenon is more likely due to the awfully good roads. The sheer quality and width of the roads is so inspirational that within five days of landing here, I went ahead and bought a Firefox Road Pro 2200, complete with a headlight, blinkers and a speedometer confident that if the machine was built for any Indian city, it was built for Surat. The city road infrastructure is growing at such breakneck speed that in just 10 months of my being here, one flyover and one bridge have been constructed from scratch and several are nearing completion. The roads are mostly pothole free and extremely wide so that road space is not an issue.
The Sardar bridge sits over the Tapti river:one of five bridges In Surat (one is under construction)
Traffic Sense (or the absence of it)
In other cities, people work in contravention of traffic rules; they take pleasure in breaking them and getting away with it. Surat isn’t one of those cities. It is a city in which people simply have not heard of traffic rules. They may know the very obvious ones like, stop when a policeman blows a whistle or, reverse your motorcycle when you see challan-slip wielding cops and you obviously do not have a helmet on, but they have no idea about concepts like right of road or the free left turn or wrong and right sides of the road. They simply do not know. So I have seen sights like a huge bus coming down the wrong side of a main road at 50 kmph at 10 o clock in the night or motorcycles standing at right angles to traffic direction at red lights or vehicles stopping in the middle of the road at main traffic circles and consulting for directions.
Moving back to cycling, recently, I managed to measure something you folks might have never thought was measurable. It was an unintended consequence of my cycling expedition to purchase some merchandise, I ended up calculating the mileage of my cycle! For 25 km, I had to tank up twice on Mousambi juice drinking three glasses of 300 ml each. At Rs 20 a glass it is about Rs. 67 per litre, same price as petrol! 25 km per litre of Mousambi* does not seem good as compared to 55 kmpl on a motorcycle guzzling on petrol. Next week, I am gonna experiment with a different juice.
*Disclaimer: Performance is contingent on the user, traffic, temperature, humidity and sugar content of the juice.