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The Mass High - Increasing Popularity for Cycling in India

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Cycling has been one of the most neglected sports in the world for quite some time. Cycling gained recognition in the area of passion only in the last couple of decades. The sport conveniently combines the enthusiasm and passion of travel and the health benefits of exercise making it even popular among the masses. The knack for travelling is common to a large number of people around the world. However, the scenario for cycling in India wasn’t always so favourable. Cycling adds to the travel experience by nurturing your adventurous soul and wanderlust at the same time.

Cycling in India – Pedalling towards Development

With cycling gaining popularity around the world, India too joined in the trend.The sport gained immense popularity among the masses in the last decade with more people taking part in the tours and biking experience. In the recent past, cycling in India has been accepted and promoted feverously to bring it to the attention of the masses.

The Mass High – Increasing Popularity for Cycling in India
We did change our outlook towards cycling ( Source )

Cycling in the Past

Cycling in India has been more of a mode of transportation than a sport of passion. It was trivialized continuously as a sport up until the past few decades. Motorcycle rides were preferred more in comparison with cycling. It was highly unappreciated as a serious sport or as an outlet for passion. But we still had people who were passionate towards cycling. However, in the 1960s, a travel plan involving cycling wouldn’t necessarily be respected or understood as such.

The Mass High – Increasing Popularity for Cycling in India
Once upon a Time – Bombay bicycle club ( Source )

In the past, cycling wasn’t exactly for the “elite”, unless it was for pure leisure. The “elite” would mostly indulge in motorcycle or cars, whereas, the bicycle became more popular with the “middle-class” section of the society. However, things slowly changed from the more radical elitist ideology.

The Mass High – Increasing Popularity for Cycling in India
The bike boom period ( Source )

In the context of the world, a short period in the 1800s saw a considerable appreciation for cycling. The years that marked a remarkable growth in favour of cycling came to be termed as bike boom. However, most of these periods were relatively short-lived. Cycling in India, however, came in much later than the 1800s. The early 1900s saw short periods of cycling but it was only in the mid-1900s that any considerable appreciation for the sport came into being.

Cycling in the Present

With the growth of bicycle culture in the present day Netherlands and Germany, India too has adopted their vigour to the slightest extent. The growth of fitness culture across the nation fuelled the bicycle boom of the 21 st century. The bicycle market gained immense popularity and seeped into the elitist mentality of the society, taking it by a storm. Transportation and necessity were replaced by passion and fitness benefits. The introduction of premium bicycles, as opposed to normal ones, helped to spread the bicycle culture beyond the distinction of “class”.

Mountain biking is a rather recent development serving to the adventurous element of travel. Several cycling and mountain bike associations began to be set up across the country. Today, with the advent of social media, cycling further gained fame. In the present day, there are numerous blogs promoting the sport devotedly.

The Mass High – Increasing Popularity for Cycling in India
The love for adventure is also a big boost for Cycling ( Source )

Another reason cycling in India gained fame was to support the entire idea of a pollution-free society. Cycling being a soul-stirring experience in itself, reached out to everyone who tried it in jest, and eventually took the place of their passion. With the growing zeal, multiple trips are organized around the country. The bicycle has now become a go-to option while planning road trips. The Manali-Leh trip which was mostly a dream route for any motorcycle rider has now become one of the favourite terrains of the mountain biker as well. There are several agencies today which support the zeal of even a cyclist and promote state tours on bicycles. The tour of the rural roads of South India, the royal structures of Rajasthan and the tea trails of the North-East are only a few that capture the attention of the travellers.

Cycling tours in South India

Social media websites like Facebook and Pinterest allow individuals to explore the entire field while constantly fuelling their interest. Cycling vacations have been rather common among most travellers searching for road trips. Trekking and camping are usually combined with cycling to enrich the travel experience. Modern travel organizations that host online events are promoting cycling trips, and it is working out much for the almost forgotten sport.

Cycling has captivated the travel industry and changed its entire face attracting individuals across all age groups. A few of the other common trips that attract both locals and foreigners equally include the Western coast of India, the route from India to Nepal, the roads of Coimbatore to Ooty, Ladakh, Varanasi and the mountain passes. One of the most famous cycling trips of India now organized by multiple organizations includes the entire tour of the country covering various cities and terrains, marked at a high difficulty level.

According to the India Bicycle Market Outlook, cycling in India is predicted to gain much greater popularity over the next few years, marking 2021 as the bike boom of this century so far. However, given all of this and the acceptance of cycling as a means of transportation in this country, there are hardly any cycling lanes in India. The first cycling highway in India from Agra to Etawah was opened on 26th November 2016. The scenario in the world, however, is much different. Many European countries romanticize cycling and take it to different heights allowing the development of separate lanes for cycling. New brands and models decorate the shelves every day, and Cycling and Para-cycling are a part of international competitions around the globe.

Deborah Herold from India in a cycling event ( Source )

Cycling in India is also growing by leaps and bounds given the beautiful and adventurous flavour it brings to overall travelling and sports. With the development of The Cycling Federation of India, the sport finally began to gain recognition and funding and progressed to where it stands today in the country. Famous cyclists in the country like Bikram Singh, Deborah Herold, and Amrit Singh have brought in fame and recognition for the country for cycling in the area of sport.

Amrit Singh, Bikram Singh, and Deborah Herold – The Cycling Stars ( Source )

Cycling in India has journeyed a long distance – from being the poor man’s mode of transport to the hobby of the elite to an exercise for the elderly, before finally progressing to a full blown professional and competitive sport and a passion for the Voyager. Do you have a story to share on how you started cycling? Share in comments below!

Here’s one, by a guest blogger, Kanishka Poddar!

My First Year of Cycling: How I went from 0 to 220 kms in a Day.

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