June 2022 | 766 words | 3-minute read
Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul,” said an unknown cyclist. Rajashekhar Malur, senior VP, head – Power Business, Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd, agrees wholeheartedly.
In November 2021, Dr Malur successfully completed a four-day bicycle Tour of Karnataka (ToK 7) from Chikmagalur to Madikeri, a distance of 473km. The route took riders from Chikmagalur to Shimoga, Shimoga to Udupi, Udupi to Puttur, and Puttur to Madikeri over four days. The challenge was heightened on account of a cumulative climb of 5801m with a maximum gradient of 17 percent.
He says, “The entire event was meticulously planned. For 62 riders, there were about 25 support staff, including organisers, those marking the route, photographers, physiotherapists, drivers to transport baggage to the next hotel, F&B organisers, etc.”
Booking a slot on the tour was an impulsive decision but one that paid off. Any doubts he had about whether he would be able to complete the trip vanished with the encouragement of his friends from the cycling group.
This wasn’t Dr Malur’s first such experience. In November 2019, he had completed a three-day Tour of Goa, a 240km distance from North Goa to South Goa and back.
Tested and rewarded
Day 2 of the tour was rather challenging. Riders had to go down the Western Ghats through 14 hairpin bends at Agumbe, known as the Cherrapunji of the South. It was a daunting stretch, but Dr Malur took heart from the advice of one of his friends, who said, “While going downhill, hold the handle at the lowest level and ride with the back bent down almost horizontally.”
Each day’s ride during the ToK 7, presented a different challenge, in terms of distance, terrain, the gradient and extent of the climb or descent.
As the cyclists rode on, they were richly rewarded, with the beauty of the forests on one side and river Tunga on the other. Dr Malur says, “I have travelled this route by car before, but riding a bicycle was an exhilarating experience as we rode amid nature in the wee hours of the morning. Through the silence of the forest and the sounds of the morning birds, I realised just how insignificant I was.”
Pit stop for the soul
The highlight of Day 2 was the pit stop that Dr Malur made at the signpost of Malur, the home of his ancestors and the village from which they took on their family name. Reminiscing about his father who heeded Gandhiji’s call asking people to return to the villages, Dr Malur says, “My parents were newly-wed at the time. My father left his job in KR Mills in Mysore and went with my mother to Malur, where he took up the ancestral post of shanubogue (village accountant). My father was in charge of Malur and Mahishi circles (a total of 10 villages). His salary then was 381 per annum!” The family struggled in the village for five years, then decided to return to Mysore in 1952, and thereafter his father got a job in ITI Bengaluru in 1958.
The tour photographer obliged by clicking Dr Malur’s pictures at the site that meant so much to him.
The biggest takeaway for Dr Malur was that the tour was about endurance, not just competing. He says, “Being out in the open is a different feeling. When you ride amid nature, you get a feeling of accomplishment. When you are one with nature, you get an opportunity to get into a dialogue with yourself.”
These days, Dr Malur keeps his date with his cycle and his cycling friends on weekends and holidays. On weekends, he also devotes time for the preventive maintenance of his bike. He carries a saddle bag, containing a puncture kit, a spare tube and a Swiss knife, and has a pressure gauge and pump attached to the bike. His phone has apps to tell him the route and speed, and his Garmin device tells him the gradient and speed while monitoring his heart rate. He laughs and says, “The more you get into it, the more gadgets you find.”
He is now looking forward to exploring yet another side of Karnataka with the forthcoming tour, ToK 8, in November. The organisers change the route with each year’s edition. He says, “It gives me a sense of accomplishment and keeps me fit.”