When i was a little guy, in 4th standard(=grade) i guess, our painter (construction work going on at home) taught me how to cycle. Then i used to ride friends' cycles. And yeah, unlike kids' usual way of learning cycling, i learnt it without a fall, or support wheels :) Back then, cycling was just another fun thing to do, a toy rather,
Around a year later, my bro got a cycle for his daily commute of 2 km to a computer course. It was a Hercules Rockshock, which had five gears and front suspension. It was the coolest cycle of the neighborhood for quite some time. And i used to get some precious moments on it once in a while. Then, one fine day, my bro had an accident, and then he gave up cycling altogether. And of course, i was stopped too, fearing similar risks.
The cycle was just lying in a corner, catchin dust n rust for a few years. Then, after a lot of debate, i officially was granted permission to ride the cycle, with strings attached though (no main-roads, if u have to cross a mainroad, get down n push, etc etc). And i used to break the rules once in a while. I once rode 12 kms without anyone's knowledge.... And that sense of accomplishment after that.... Bragging about it to friends n all.
And then one fine day when i had finished my 10th, on a similar sneaky ride to a friend's place, i had a great fall, and lost one of my front teeth in the accident. As a result, cycling was banned at home. And this time, i was scared too. And the cycle lay in the corner again, until it got sold away to a friend.
Years later, when i was doing my 3rd yr BSc, some friends were planning a long cycle ride(40 km). Getting permission was not as hard as it would've been before. I was a bigger kid(sic!), and mom wasn't around either. Borrowed a bike, and had loads of fun (and butt-ache too) during the 40 km ride to Hessarghatta and back (ride report here).
A few months later, i bought my Hercules Ultima DX. Main purpose was for exploring around the GKVK campus (my institute, NCBS, is at the edge of GKVK) and beyond. And then, i found shortcuts to reach my institute from home, on a almost-no-traffic route. It then became my daily commute. I also would occasionally just head off to some random colony and cycle around. For close to half a year, that's all the bike did: daily commute (~10 km to n fro) and some urban exploration.
Once, when my then-girlfriend was out of town for a long while, and i wanted to take my mind off it, i went on a solo ride to Nandi. And the ride is a whole interesting story in itself! (read it here). That was my first century ride. And was damn proud of it, in spite of how i struggled through it. My cycle was reduced to rubble at the end of the ride, and stayed unrepaired for quite some time.
Then my gf ditched me (which led to lot of painful philosophical-self-revisit), and soon enough it was time for another loooong ride to take my mind off it. Did the Makalidurga ride then. (Ride report here). And this time, i ended in much better shape at the end of the ride, and so was my cycle.
I felt i was becoming a pro at this. And soon, i was looking for a biking forum where i would find others like me. I joined Bangallore Bikers Club (BBC) as suggested by a few RFL'ers. This marked a new era in my cycling life. What i once felt were insane distances, were the distances many ppl in the forum rode on almost every weekend! And their long distances, were much insaner! Stuff like Bangalore-Mangalore, Chennai-Calcutta, Bangalore- Kanyakumari, Bangalore-Ooty. I was contemplating a Bangalore-Mysore ride once, thinking of it as a BIG thing. But, here those were such trivial things. I sorta felt out of place. For a long while, i was just reading all the mails and sporadically asking doubts, speechless at the expertise and experience of almost everyone who were discussing.
Then, once after a long vacation in Rajasthan, my Ultima vanished (it later turned out that there was a huge shuffle in the parking lot, and my cycle was tucked away somewhere, and i din't get the message as i wasn't around). I saw this as a sign to get a better bike. By now, i had gotten accustomed to the fact that bikes can actually cost quite a lot. And i had saved up enough to buy one. I knew of Trek, Firefox and Merida as options. Paid a visit to BOTS(deals with TREK and Firefox bikes). Rohan there, was a real nice guy, who told me stuff that i never thought / knew of : Frame size. Most bikes for the average Indian, won't suit me, as they are very small for a 6'6" guy. And he was so great that he never pushed on the bikes he had in stock. He was a true caring cyclist, who wanted people to enjoy their rides, rather than trying to push as many bikes through. He was a cyclist first, and then a bike dealer. I loved the Trek 4300D, but he didn't have it in my frame size and shipping the right one in would take months
Venkatesh, dealing with Meridas, had a Merida Crossway, that had a 21.5" frame, which was ok for my height. And since it was a cross-bike (MTB x Road bike), it fit my requirements perfectly. I bought it, as it seemed real value for money. And Venkatesh too, is a cyclist first, and then a dealer. He was once cycling for the state team, and now has his on cycling team.
And from there on, came the phase, where i would do a 100 km ride, just when i got some time. Nandi became a usual haunt,, instead of a destination to head to when haunted. I din't need a reason to do a long ride, i just started doin it as and when time permitted.
One month after i bought the bike, i did the Bangalore-Mysore ride (report here). Although, i wasn't happy with my performance then, it still stays the longest distance i covered in a single day(160 km, that's a century mile!). The cycle stayed idle for a coupla months as my saddle was out of sorts, and i misplaced a part of the headset, trying to over-dis-assemble my bike to fit into a car.
After that hiatus, got the cycle fixed and the old fun began all over again. Now, when i'm off mood, my ride distances increase. And rides like the 362 km ride to Yelagiri happen.
Riding on the Merida was effortless. And it has become my default mode of transportation no matter where i go in the city. On weekends, its my fun ride, my meditation, my girlfriend,
And now, I'm headed to do my longest ride ever! 919 km at the Tour oF Nilgiris, starting Dec 25th. Hope it goes all well.
Current mood: Excited and nervous
Currently listening to: Say what you need to say - John Mayer