Back to Cycling

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Protracted lockdowns have increased sedentary lifestyle forcing the new generation to embrace cycling to manage part of the obesity load. It is helping the otherwise defunct cycling market to relive a growth, reports Saifullah Bashir

A December 2016 photograph about a cycling event in Srinagar. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Aftab Iqbal Mir, 32, leaves his home at 6 am. He takes a water bottle, helmet and his branded new bicycle along with him. He bought the bicycle from Jammu for Rs 42000. He cycles from his residence, Natipora to Nishat, covering a distance of 37 km.

Mir enjoys fresh breeze, chirping of birds, waves of Dal Lake and a beautiful view of mountains.  He is a trekker but after the government restricted the entry to different trek spots due to outbreak of Covid-19, he changed his hobby.

“We see patients everywhere. Hospitals are packed and it is because of our sedentary lifestyle. So cycling provides us with an opportunity to exercise and keep ourselves fit”, he said.

A New Trend

Mir is not alone. Successive lockdowns have impacted the mental health of youth and their ability to cope with stress and so cycling is catching on as a trend to deal with the challenge. It reported a surge after the revocation of Article 370. Amid the lockdown and digital blockade, the cycling became a favourite pastime to stay healthy and kill the time.

There is a reflection of this trend on social media. Cyclists are posting their pictures and short videos on different social media platforms. Not only boys but girls are also taking an active part in the activity. They can be seen riding multi colour cycles in groups and trying their best to beat one another.

Cycling is filling even the generation gap. Parents and children are riding together, thus strengthening the parent-children bond.

Zameer, a banker, has two children, daughter Lilac, 10, and Shami, 9, Both the siblings ride along with their father early in the morning and cover around 20 km. Over a period of time, many mobile apps have been developed that help cyclists to monitor the distance, record routes, analyze stat, pace and calories burned while riding.

Good Business

Normally a bicycle cost around Rs 5000 but now high-end cycles are in the market and they are very costly. These the new generation cycles are comfortable, fast, lightweight and durable. Such cycles cost up to Rs 20-25,000. Some cost much more than this. Fit Fat cycles are most popular among youth. Fit is popular because of its big tyres and it can be used even on snow and sand. Also, fit-fat is affordable.

Another reason for a significant rise in cycling is the craze for physical fitness of youth. Obesity is one of the major issues in our society. Obesity leads to multiple health problems. Studies have shown that cycling can help in burning fat and flatten one’s belly.

Interestingly, the growing demand has led to a shortage of cycles. Pandemic has hit the production and transportation of cycles. Foreign companies have restricted the production that has directly affected the supply of cycle dealers.

A Lal Chowk cycle dealer confirmed the growing demand of cycles amid pandemic. “Not only youth but children under 7-9 years are also showing interest in buying a cycle,”, the shopkeeper said, wishing to remain anonymous.

According to him, he is selling more cycles per month as compared to the previous year. “We used to wait for customers. But now they are coming themselves. Now we sell one cycle every two days and around 15-20 per month”, he added.

According to him, modern cycles come along with multiple accessories.

“Companies, whether national or international have sacked employees due to Covid-19 lockdown. It has impacted our business,” the shopkeeper said, adding he is hopeful that pace of production will come on track as lockdown is eased.

“We are witnessing a surging demand for cycles but pandemic has put a halt on production of cycles and shops are empty now”, said Riyaz Ahmad, Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Motor Bike Association. He added that Covid-19 has forced people to realise the importance of physical activity and they were preferring cycles over luxurious cars.

“There were only 30-40 members in our association but the figure has doubled now”.

Repairing Up

This trend is helping the cycle repair shops. Ghulam Mohammad, 60, (name changed) is a prominent cycle mender of Batamaloo. He is in this profession for the past 42 years.

“When I started mending cycles they were cheap in price. Still, it was not affordable for many. The rate of a cycle was Rs 500-650,” he said. Then there were many brands – Hercules, Hero, Robinhood.

“Time has changed and now we have modern cycles. But their life span is small and they are costly. Being stylish is the reason for their popularity”, he added.

According to him during his youth cycle was the main mode of transportation. “Masons and carpenters would love to buy the hero cycle as they had to travel a longer distance,” Mohammad said.

“Now in every household, we have a cycle. People have become conscious of fitness”.

He recalls that until a few years ago hardly any customers used to visit his shop and even he had decided to quit this profession but now it is going good.

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