Someone’s following me. No, really. Someone’s closely following me.
I didn’t notice that.
I’m on Twitter, and I admit I have more than 700 people joined hands with me there. Only this time it is different. I’m not in front of the computer or reading from a mobile device. I’m cycling on a vast plain of a road, draped in fog in the middle of nowhere. Well, it’s not exactly a ‘nowhere’, just an open road a little too far beyond the outskirts of the city where I live. But in a foggy road silent and without people or vehicles, it would just seem to be in the middle of a ‘nowhere’.
Cycling is something that I haven’t done in this city despite living here for 7 long years. There was always a plan to buy a cycle and go out to see places where buses and subways don’t take me. And then finally moving back in here after taking a short one-year break, I thought I should continue what I enjoyed during that one-year break – rekindle my love for cycling.
One early winter morning I dressed up and took my cycle for a long drive. In my kind of situation, this should ideally be somewhere between 35 and 50 kilometres. So there I was, enjoying the flat road along one of the (many) parallel roads to the Greater Noida Expressway, lost in fog, listening to chirping birds, barking dogs and the occasional thumping sound of morning runners. I was so lost in the beauty around that I failed to notice the buzz behind me.
In fact I grew so used to that buzzing sound behind me that I didn’t actually notice something is coming near. Yes, someone is closely following me. Yes, this is reality. I really felt I wouldn’t wait till next month to get myself a rear-view mirror. I tried increasing my velocity. Normally I’m not a fast rider. I used to maintain a steady tempo of 35-40 kilometre range for a long distance. The vehicle behind is some sort of a truck – I made that out from the silhouette that is following me since quite some time. I couldn’t go faster. So I decided to slow down and turn more to the left.
To my right was a truck. It must have been white in colour. I guessed it through the fog looking at the dried up dirt on its surface. With no faces looking over so that I could pass a smile on, it took a left turn without indicating and parked in front of me. Since I was already slow, I applied my brakes and took a right turn to overtake. Suddenly from the window a curious face appeared apprehensively and extended a hand indicating me to stop. I am sure I don’t know the roads in that area if that was something he intended to ask. I was about to tell him this when he started a conversation.
“Sir – what speed were you riding in before I overtook you?”
That appeared to be a harmless question. My answer began with a smile. I didn’t actually calculate my speed. In fact, I pulled out and threw away my speedometer. It was more of a problem than a solution. What speed was I riding? I was faster than my usual pace in Gurgaon – because the road was more of a straight line and the surface quite flat. So based on my erstwhile speedometer if I was riding 30 km in Gurgaon, this must have been slightly more than 45. I could guess it touched 48. I mentioned my guess.
“I was actually following you… I like your bike. Can you please tell me more about it?”
It isn’t the first time people ask me about LittleRide, but this was rather very innocent. I explained the features, approximate price and the feel of the ride.
“Would you be able to accelerate your bike just like the motorists do?” was the next question. I thought I should invite him to get off the vehicle and have a look himself. I explained how a bike’s gear is different from a motorcycle’s gear, and what benefit I get from applying them.
“Can you take my truck for a short distance? Because I would like to ride your bike for a short while, if that is OK.” So sweet. But sorry, I don’t have a valid license to drive a truck, let alone a huge one with a cement mixer rolling loudly. I know how difficult I manoeuvre the car even with the wife in the passenger seat.
“May I take a short ride?”
“Yes, please. No issues. Just do not tamper with the gears or settings”
He got on the saddle, took the bar and glided off. When he returned, I saw one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. “Thank you sir. You are so kind.” We shook hands and exchanges smiles again.
I told him about brands in India who provide affordable terrain bikes, and the sheer joy of riding out in the open. On that note we parted ways, but I was having deep thoughts.
It is necessary that a man’s set of wheels define him? Why are cyclists so looked down upon?
Why is it so surprising to passersby when a cyclist wears helmet, or indicates by hand before changing lanes or taking turns?
In a city where everyone complains that riding a two-wheeler is “increasingly unsafe” and the very same people take pride in not following traffic rules, will there be any chance in the nearby future for cyclists? Please share your thoughts.