The do’s and don’ts of cycling on Indian roads - In conversation with Usman Bhadelia (OnecyclistinBombay)

Cycling, for most of us, brings back a lot of childhood memories. After all it was the first vehicle that we rode and how can we forget the first fall and the consequent knee bruise. Are you smiling yet? Well some took cycling seriously and went ahead to make it a way of life. We are talking about Usman Bhadelia or OneCyclistinBombay! Recently we had a tete-a-tete when he shared his experiences around cycling. It was most definitely amazing to learn that cycling too works on both psychological and physical levels like any other exercise. And this is what we spoke about:

What's the story behind the name One Cyclist in Bombay?

I LOVE to cycle at night, I know cyclists complain about how bad the traffic is at night and for that same reason no road cyclists ride at night. Majority of the time I am the only one riding at night, that’s how I came up with the name  ‘One Cyclist’ and later added Bombay to it. 

Take us back into your journey, where are you from, and how did cycling become such an integral part of your life?

I was a regular casual cyclist all my life, in 2019 I decided to get into triathlons because I loved running and swimming as well. In 2020 I participated in a 12 Hour National Endurance Race and won it without any professional training. I cycled 353 kms non stop. 

Since when have you been cycling and what keeps you going on?

Cycling has become an integral part of my life and that's what keeps me going. My wins and losses in the sport have made me a better human because with each ride I understand myself better. 

What fitness routine do you follow to support cycling?

I am a triathlete, I swim, bike and run along with strength building workouts.

Can cycling substitute a full-body workout?

This may sound funny but cycling is one such sport where you need to do multiple support activities to get better at it. Cycling in itself is not a full-body workout. Being a vast sport that involves multiple disciplines (time trialing, endurance to name a few) one needs to train themselves accordingly as every discipline targets a different type of muscle.

How would you define the top three benefits of cycling for overall well-being?

  1. Cycling encourages movement
  2. It can be a social activity as well
  3. Improved joint mobility

Is cycling a good way of losing weight/belly fat, assuming that the individual is taking care of nutrition?

It can certainly be a good way to get fit provided one follows the right technique and method keeping nutrition in check. The basic principle of weight loss is calorie outtake > calorie intake. Needless to say, overtraining will only lead to injuries so as long as one takes proper precaution cycling will definitely make you fitter.

Is there an ideal weight that a cyclist should have?

I can't really pinpoint a particular weight. Different types of cyclists have different weight-to-muscle ratios. Sprinters tend to be more muscular with a comparatively low body fat percentage (as fast-twitch muscles come to play) while endurance cyclists who rely on slow-twitch muscles are comparatively leaner.

What constitutes an ideal meal for a cyclist?

A healthy meal is a meal well balanced with carbs and protein. There's no one solution for all when it comes to meals for cyclists. One needs to experiment along the way and figure what works best for them.

Does drinking water while cycling hamper the movement/process? How do you hydrate? Any electrolytes, juices, protein drinks?

On the contrary, one should regularly hydrate while cycling. Especially if you're riding outdoors since your body tends to lose salt and dehydrate in the process which leads to cramps. Carry a 500-750 ml sipper with water and electrolytes (you can also carry homemade nimbu paani with salt). The rule of thumb is to at least finish one bottle in an hour.

Would you say cycling is better than running?

Being a triathlete I wouldn't say that. Both are different kinds of sport with their own set of rules

Since cycling is entirely an outdoor activity, what impact did the pandemic make on it? What did you do to substitute it to stay fit?

I'm now using an indoor trainer to train on since a lot of outdoor races got canceled. Indoor training is one of the most trusted and efficient ways of training. Also I am lucky to have a small gym in my apartment,  that's where I do my training.

What are the essentials you wouldn't leave without? And what are the things that are absolutely unnecessary but people still carry!

Things I'll never leave without  my bike, helmet, lights, phone, bike computer, food and water, extra cash will never hurt. I see people carrying a small bag to keep their belongings in and it's uncomfortable. I'd urge them to invest in a good jersey and utilize jersey pockets to carry what they need. Right light, ride comfortable is something I believe in.  

We see a lot of incidents related to cyclists on Indian roads, because of rash driving by motor vehicles, no dedicated lanes for cyclists and lack of information about security. How do you advise people stay safe on their cycling journeys?

If possible make a small tag and attach it to your bike which has info about your blood group, number, emergency contact number. I'd advise cyclists to keep an eye on traffic when they're riding by taking quick glances at the traffic behind. DO NOT take the flyover if you're not confident. Obey traffic rules and if you want to take a turn, please look back to see if there's a car coming your way and give hand signals before making a turn.

Do you listen to music when riding?

No. Highly advise against it. I listen to music while riding only if I'm riding indoors on the trainer.

What has been your longest ride?

353 kms.

Morning ride or evening ride?

Evening rides 

Any dream ride that you want to take?

This year I am planning a cycling ride from Manali-Leh and climb the Khardungla pass which is the highest peak where you can ride. Fingers crossed.

What has being on the road taught you? Any specific thing which keeps bringing you back?

I am a competitive person haha, I get to live my competitive edge everyday! I love it and that's what I live for.

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