Cycling Vacations In India – A Few Things to Know
Are you planning cycling vacations in India? Well I suggest you first read below before you book your tickets for cycling vacations in India so that you are prepared for them and have a pleasant experience.
There was a time when India was a nation of Bicycles, and bicycles are one item that India produces more than any other country in the world. So why is it that you rarely find bicycles in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai etc? Well the reasons are not very difficult to find. Leave aside cycling vacations in India, most Indians don’t even ride bicycles for day-to-day use.
The roads in India are not designed to accommodate bicycles, unlike cities like Amsterdam where the roads are designed or have been redesigned to keep cyclist in mind. But in India even in cities like Delhi where in 70s and till mid 80s cycles were still popular now hardly anybody rides a bicycle. Even the kids today use them as recreational tools when their mothers snatch their ipads away, unlike when I was growing up a bicycle was the primary source of exercise, entertainment and commute for me. I have fond memories of riding cycle during vacations in my childhood.
Most of the cyclists in India you will find on roads will be poor people who can not afford any other vehicle, unlike in western countries where a bicycle is a recreation tool and not a sign of poverty. Most highways in India are death trap for cyclists, with more cyclists dying in road accidents than anybody else. The challenge is most of the bicycles in India still follow the designs of first world war and safety features like a light, bright-colored strips to glow in light are unheard of. The bicyclists never wear any kind of helmet to protect them in case of any mishap. But still in rural India bicycles are very popular not only to ride to market, fields and the village temple but also as a family vehicle, to carry fodder, and to drop kids to school. If you are lucky you may see a bridegroom in rural India on a bicycle to go to the home of his bride for marriage.
A lot of young boys in Indian villages will ride the large bicycles of their father with legs inserted inside the frame to reach the pedal in a riding style called “Crenchy” (I cannot explain it to you just check the picture below) like I saw this boy in Weavers village Pochampally outside of Hyderabad.
I found a lot of people using bicycles in Gandipet and Chilkur when I went there to click pictures of Flamingos. You will also notice that a lot of bicyclist on Indian roads are actually not riding them but are actually walking with the cycle. This is a defense mechanism when they hop down where they feel vulnerable and ride back the cycle when the road is safer.
But slowly there is a movement to revive the bicycle culture in India especially in cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore where a large no of Expats and Indians who have returned after living abroad reside. So in Hyderabad we have clubs like GHAC, Hyderabad Bicycling club are trying to promote using more of bicycle use. Atlanta Foundation organizes cycling races with the money going to charity. Most of these groups are formed by highly educated upwardly mobile IT and BPO professionals with the idea of using cycles as much as possible and promote safe cycling with proper use of helmets and other safety gear using better bikes with gears etc. A lot of these clubs also organize mountain bike races in the cities as a part of promoting cycling as an adventure sport.
So if you are planning a cycling holiday in India I suggest you take help of a specialist bicycling holiday company and visit places where there is still some culture of bicycle travel with both locals as well as travelers. Some of the places that are good for bicycling holidays are Pondicherry, Temple Town of Hampi, Parts of Goa, Fort Kochi in Kerala, Rajasthan and Western Ghats. Your tour operator should be able to help you in better planning. But remember you will still be on same roads ruled by trucks and buses and it will be a good idea to not ride alone and stay in a group to avoid any unfortunate incident like the ordeal of this Swiss couple.
So while it is a good idea to have a bicycling holiday in India you need to be ready for the heat, unfriendly roads and go to parts like, Pondicherry, Hampi and Kerala in South India, where it is not uncommon to see foreigners on cycling vacations in India.
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I would love to hear about your cycling vacation in India or anywhere else, do leave a comment about the same.