State of Indian cycling

Cycling scene in India has been on the up for the last 2-3 years. Although bicycle is the biggest means of transport in India, racing a bike has never caught on with the cricket-mad nation. Bicycle has always been considered a poor man’s possession and cyclists are often looked down upon in the country which is infatuated with bigger and faster motor-driven vehicles. One couldn’t blame the people who are successfully lured and convinced by big motorbike and car companies to part with their new found wealth. But in an increasingly global world, the influence of bike racing is gradually permeating the culture. With the Indian economy recording decent economic growth, more and more number of Indians are finding their way back to the country from Eruope and USA. Along with many different experiences, they bring the Western (mainly European) enthusiasm and penchant for cycling. One of the outcome of the emerging scene is the success story of first Indian UCI Continental team KYNKYNY Wheelsport from Bangalore. The team was recently given an elaborate coverage on CyclingIQ.

Helped by it’s relatively cooler temperatures, undulating terrain and young populace, Bangalore has emerged as the cycling hub of India. The city boasts of a Decathlon store, specialized cycle stores like BumsOnTheSaddle, Wheelsports which has in return whipped the passion for cycling in the young working class. The city now also has a vibrant racing calendar Bangalore Bicycle Championship (BBCh) which consists of a bevy of races like downhill, cross and road challenges. Organizers of the championship, people behind the store BumsOnTheSaddle, are now even consulting an ex-Aussie racer to design the racing calendar for 2012. All in all it bodes well for the local cycling scene but you may ask questions about the state of cycling in other parts of the country.

Apart from the races in Bangalore, other premier events on the Indian calendar are Tour of Nilgiris, a paying tour, MTB Himachal, an international week long race across the rugged mountains of Himachal and Mumbai Cyclothon which is a UCI 1.2 event raced over two legs, Mumbai and Nashik. Given the tropical climate and typical Indian mindset, cycling hasn’t been able to grow as rapidly as other sports. Cycling Federation of India has been active in the last few years but the efforts have born minimal fruits. There’s now an official road cycling calendar for the CFI registered athletes and it comprises of only seven races over varied parcours but none more than 150K which makes it difficult for the national riders to step up to the professional level.

Bangalore has been a success story for cycling in India, a nation where people hardly follow any sport other than cricket. But in spite of all the odds, there have been success stories like KYNKYNY Wheelsport cycling team and people like Kailas Patil who finished Paris-Brest-Paris this year. Cycling is a sport where Indians have no history of excellence and as a result public support and sponsorship is hard to come by. But with the burgeoning economy and increasingly Western outlook, the attitudes are changing. If the sport has to become a hit in the country, cycling enthusiasts will have to draw inspiration and enthusiasm from Bangalore to develop the local scene which will ultimately be a stepping stone for launching bigger things in cycling.