Cycling To Success

It was his brother’s bicycle that stirred Akbar’s passion for cycling. After a number of medals and titles to his credit, Akbar hopes to become Kashmir’s best cyclist ever. Syed Asma reports

Mohammad Akbar Khan recieving one of his tropies.
Mohammad Akbar Khan receiving one of his trophies.

The twenty-one-year-old Mohammed Akbar Khan is one of the top cyclists of Kashmir.

He was recently in news after being awarded ‘the best performer’ in Khyber’s 12th cycling Tour, ‘Tour de Kashmir’.

A five-stage weeklong cycling tour, ‘Tour de Kashmir’ which started from picturesque Verinag and concluded in Srinagar.

The only regret that Akbar has about his recent performance is that he could not win the title. “I fell short of two minutes in the last stage,” says Akbar, “otherwise I had won all the other four stages.”

Akbar lost the title to Umer Nabi, another cyclist from the Valley, a Srinagar resident. Treating Umer the only competitor in the state, Akbar says, “I have won more than 50 state-level titles so far.”

“None other cyclist in the state except Umer has defeated me so far,” a shy Akbar says in a low tone and smiles. “He practices a bit more than I do.”

Apart from different practice styles, Akbar credits Umer’s American made bicycle ‘Trek’ which he says is worth Rs 3 Lakh. “He owns a 15 gears bicycle which definitely plays a lead every time we compete.” Umer’s cycle is sponsored by the corporate Khyber group.

Akbar too now owns an American made bicycle worth 1.5 lakh, called Cannondale. Sponsored by Jammu and Kashmir Bank, it has 11 gears.

Prior to this, Akbar was riding an Indian bicycle, ‘Indian Hawk’ which his brother had won in an inter-college cycle race organised by the Indian Army.

‘Indian Hawk’ though having a fixed gear helped Akbar to win many titles in Jammu and Kashmir, he says. And it was the same bicycle, he adds, which helped him to impress the authorities of Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

“J&K Bank sponsored Cannondale (his bicycle) for me after I defeated Umer with a simple ‘Indian hawk’, in one of the ‘Kashmir cycling challenges’.”

A resident of Chek-i-Kawoosa, Budgam Akbar’s father is a farmer. Akbar’s elder brother who is working as a sports instructor in Burn-hall school is a cyclist too.

“My brother is a better cyclist than me but he could not continue. He encourages me to take up my passion as a career.”

Akbar has started cycling in 2006 after his elder brother won an Army-sponsored tournament in his college.

Then a 6th standard student, Akbar started riding his brother’s bicycle in the lanes of his village. In 2008, Akbar participated in an inter-school cycle race and won. “After winning that race, our Chief Guest, Riyaz Ahmed Wani, got impressed and helped me to be a better cyclist,” says Akbar.

Riyaz aka Tiger is a well-known cyclist from Srinagar, who once headed the state’s cycle association.

Akbar has done his schooling at Celestial Buds, a local private school in his area.

Presently pursuing BPed in Government College of Physical Education, Ganderbal, Akbar has done his graduation from Amar Singh College, Srinagar in Political Science, History and Geography.

During three years of his graduation, he has won all inter-college and annual cycle races held in his college, Akbar claims.

He aspires to become the best cyclist Kashmir has ever produced and for that he believes he is working very hard.

Akbar rides more than 50 kilometres every morning. “After that I go home for breakfast and then leave for work on my bicycle.”

Everyday Akbar covers the distance, around 36 kilometres, from his home in Budgam to his work place in Ganderbal. “It helps me stay fit,” he believes.

But he says his routine is disturbed in winters when he has to spend most of his time in gym. “Dr Syed Gazi who owns a gym in our area has been kind enough to enrol me in his gym from past five free of cost,” Akbar says.

Akbar thinks that winter sports have huge potential in Kashmir. “Last year snow cycling was organized in Gulmarg. Events like these will help us and other players to be in practice round the year which is good for us.”

Last year Akbar had won winter cycling tournament held in Gulmarg.

Passionate about cycles and cycling, he presently owns three bicycles but interestingly has bought none of them on his own. The first one was an Indian made won by his brother, the second, the one that he presently rides, is sponsored by J&K Bank and the third one, the one with a strong grip usually used in snow is sponsored by Zaz traders.

“I have never bought a cycle. Never!”

Now, as he owns an imported cycle, Akbar has kept his hopes high for the upcoming events. “This year I will win the cycle race in National Games of India as I will be riding an 11 gear bicycle,” says Akbar, “last year I managed to be in first 10 positions as my fixed gear cycle played a spoiled sport.”

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