It's 5.30 am on a warm Saturday morning. The city has just begun to wake up. A motley group, which has gathered near Akshardham temple in east Delhi, is pulsating with energy. Part of the cycling club, Cyclesutra, this group is geared up with helmets and gloves to embark on a morning ride to Lodhi Garden via India Gate. A yoga teacher will be awaiting their arrival to teach asanas with breathing and meditation techniques relevant to cyclists. Over the past two years, many such cycling clubs have mushroomed in Delhi and NCR. A few prominent ones are Delhi Cycling Club, Gurgaon Fun Riders, Noida Cycling Club and Cyclesutra.
For the love of the sport
It might come as a surprise to many, but Delhi has various cycling tracks crisscrossing its topography. "There is a cycling lane connecting Vikas Marg to ITO, one from Noida to Akshardham. The Master Plan Road 2 and 3 in Noida are popular as well. Most of Lutyen's Delhi is also great for cycling," says Nalin Sinha, founder and convenor of Delhi Cycling Club. Other tracks include Shyama Prasad Mukherji Marg and the stretch from Ambedkar Nagar terminal to ITO. Cycling enthusiasts in Gurgaon usually cycle from the Biodiversity Park to Qutab Minar. Dum Duma lake and Sultanpur sanctuary are also popular destinations. If you simply want to get away from the hustle-bustle of the city, head to the ridge area in north and south Delhi. The most popular rides usually involve food: Noida Cycling Club heads to Lajpat Nagar for chole bhature, while Cyclesutra regularly finds itself in Old Delhi to savour piping hot jalebis and chai. The routes depend on the kind of cycling you have in mind: recreational or fitness-centred.
"There has been an increase in the number of people cycling to work. People are cycling more frequently, whether it is to go the market or to run daily errands," says Sinha.
Cycling is all about holistic fitness. It helps you de-stress while keeping the body fit. This low intensity workout tones the calves and thighs while keeping the heart healthy, blood pressure under control and the lungs conditioned. "Anyone can adjust to the sport. And it's a non-contact sport. Delhi has no proper running surfaces so a lot of people suffer from injured knees every time they face hard ground," says Cyclesutra Founder Ashish Nagpal. And the best part is that one can explore those parts of the city that can't be navigated in a car such as the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk.
These groups started out with three to four buddies cycling together every weekend. Today, however, the membership is growing. While Noida Cycling Club and Gurgaon Fun Riders boast of 400 to 500 members, Delhi Cycling Club has a whopping 1,200 members. One finds CFOs, CEOS, lawyers, journalists, homemakers, students, and photographers cycling together in camaraderie. "We have members in the age group of 16 to 60. Anyone can join, but there are some safety pointers that everyone must follow. No helmets means no rides, watch your fellow rider, preferably ride in one lane on vacant roads, tail lights and head flickers are a must. The idea is to ride as a responsible friend and as a responsible citizen," concludes Bhalla.