Malayali youngsters cycle through India to connect with its soul

(From left, standing) Jayaram Vishnu, Joel Thomas (from left, in the front) Balamurali Krishna and Aravind Balachander. Photo: Special Arrangement

Travel is a magical experience that opens new vistas of knowledge, and each time you hit the road you get ample opportunities to acquire unique perceptions and prudent wisdom. But what if the journeys are on bicycles? A tour on a bike is the prefect platform to delve into and get a ringside view of various cultures and lifestyles.

Driven by this proposition, four friends - Jayaram Vishnu, Aravind Balachander, Balamurali Krishna and Joyal Thomas - embarked on a month-long cycle odyssey from Kochi to various exotic destinations on October 20, 2022.

The cyclists look back on their wonderful memories to recall how each of the places welcomed them. 

Kochi to Himalayas
Apparently, there was a twist in the quartet’s cycle expedition. They carried their two cycles – Cradiac Gunner, a hybrid cycle, and Crow Rogue, a mountain bike -- on the cycle rack of their car and drove to important destinations. It is worth noting that both the cycles were 21-speed models.

From Kochi, the friends headed to Isha Yoga Center, which is an ideal place for cycling, in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore. The foursome’s next stopover was at Bengaluru, which is known as the cycling hub in Karnataka and they had a great time with the members of the cycling club ‘Bengaluru Randonneurs’. The green city of Bengaluru provided perfect space for all types of cyclists. After randonneuring for a while in Bengaluru, they headed to the ancient town of Hampi, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Karnataka.

Awe-inspiring Hampi
Hampi is in a different league altogether and the best way to know this age-old town inside out is to pedal through this beautiful place, opine the friends. The town is replete with famous temples such as the Virupaksha Temple, the Vittala Temple and the Badavilinga Temple. Moreover, Hampi is dotted with dams, canals and eye-catching views. Tourists can also hire bicycles for rent at Rs 500 per day to visit the interesting spots in Hampi.

Their next destination on the cycling expedition was Goa, which is every cyclist’s dream world. Undoubtedly, the hallmark of this miniscule state is its heterogeneity. The quartet said they can vouch for the fact that they savoured the unparalleled charm of Goa by going around on bicycles. Facilities are in place in Goa too to hire cycles.

Night ride on Mumbai’s Marine Drive
The quad group reached the metropolis Mumbai on the sixth day after travelling through the Goa-Mumbai route, the most famous stretch in India. After taking a breather after a long drive, the four friends pedaled across the mega city on their Cradiac Gunner and Crow Rogue in the evening.

The spots that were touched during the cycle ride include the iconic Gateway of India and the legendary Taj Hotel. It was pure fun for the quartet as they cycled through Marine Drive, which stretched from Nariman Point to Malabar Hills, enjoying the stiff sea breeze.

The cycle tour of Jaisalmer provided invaluable memories to the close friends and later they headed to Jodhpur. Photo: Special Arrangement

Cycle ride through salt desert
The friends’ journey that began from Mumbai in the morning ended at night in Gujarat’s Rajpipla where they stayed for the night. They stayed at Rajpipla for the night and the next day they reached Kutch, which is world’s largest salt desert, via Vadodara. Tourists can apparently enjoy the expansiveness of the salt desert throughout the year except for the months between June and September. While cycling through the desert, make sure to carry the puncture kit as the chances of your cycle tyres going flat on the off-road stretches are pretty high. And also make it a point to keep your body hydrated while moving around on a cycle on the salt desert. Wear without fail light full-sleeve dress, sun cream, sunglass, gloves, helmet and shoes.

Amidst sand dunes
After the Kutch outing, the quartet drove to Jaisalmer, the ‘Golden City’ in Rajasthan. Jaisalmer is situated at the heart of the Thar Desert and one of the Unesco World Heritage sites. The cycle tour of Jaisalmer provided invaluable memories to the close friends and later they headed to Jodhpur.

The city of Jodhpur was founded by Rao Jodha Rathore, the 15th century ruler of Mandore. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur, the ‘Pink City’. After staying in Jodhpur for a day, the group of four friends travelled to Delhi.

India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan

The cycle ride on the stretch connecting Rashtrapati Bhavan with Indian Gate provided an out-of-the-world experience to the foursome. It is always advisable to cycle early in the morning to escape the suffocating traffic snarls. It is noteworthy that the stretch is the favourite hunting ground of morning walkers, cyclists and skaters.

After bidding goodbye to the national capital, the pals moved to Ludhiana, which is Asia’s largest hub for cycle manufacturing, in Punjab. As the city also houses the manufacturing unit of ‘Cradiac’ brand of cycles, which has its origins in Kerala, the tetra team visited the factory in the evening.

The factory employees introduced Cradiac’s new models to them and they were given the latest Cradiac XC 900 24-speed MTB bike for test ride. The friends continued their odyssey by attaching Cradiac XC 900 cycle to their already flowing car cycle rack.

The Wagah border, which lies on the Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar in Punjab and Lahore in Pakistan, was their next port of call. They headed to the Golden Temple from Wagah border and sight of the temple dome in full splendor with electric lights all around was breathtaking. After paying obeisance at the Golden Temple, the friends started their journey to Himachal Pradesh.

Finally, the Himalayan ride
Pretty unsettling cold conditions received the set of four friends the next day in Himachal Pradesh. After checking into a hotel, they tested their brand new Cradiac XC 900 on the Himachal roads that had fresh snow. They found that the handle bar and the seating position of the cycle were second to none and the bike was easy to ride in both sitting and standing positions. It was easy to ride through mountains as the bicycle had 24-speed gear transmission and the zoom suspension made ride across the rough terrain quite comfortable.

But cycling in extreme cold conditions was tough, to say the least, for them. Here also you can hire cycles for Rs 500 per day and roam around. Later, the quartet went to Kasoli, one of the most beautiful villages in Himachal Pradesh.

Pretty unsettling cold conditions received the set of four friends in Himachal Pradesh. Photo: Special Arrangement

As the adage goes, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” So to keep cold at bay one has to wear water-proof jackets, cycling gloves, water-proof shoes, cycling cap and quality sunglasses while cycling.

The quartet’s next stop was at Puducherry, which is one of the Union Territories in India. The yellowish buildings throw light on the colonial architecture and the aesthetically-designed streets show that the region’s French legacy is still intact. Cycling on the beaches of Puducherry gave an outstanding experience to the four pals.

The group of friends reached Kochi on November 22 after a one-month trip to discover and know India.

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