Rohan Kini, a cycling enthusiast opens up about his cycling journey and how he wants to change the landscape of cycling in Bangalore and beyond!
Getting to and fro from work in today’s hectic world is a challenge, to say the least! We all cringe at the very thought of traffic, especially on Bangalore roads.
It was no different for Rohan Kini, an IT engineer with ThoughtWorks (a Chicago based IT organization) back in 2005. He along with his best friend, Nikhil Eldurkar used to commute 2 hours a day on their motorbikes covering a distance of 25KM. The endless waiting at traffic jams was more than they could take so they decided to hop on their bicycles and ride to work. What was meant to be a faster ride to work turned out to be the most exciting part of their day. “We enjoyed a faster commute, saving the environment, saving on gas money and enjoying a great workout. The mechanical geeks in us also loved the fact that we could completely be hands-on with our beautiful machines”, recalls Rohan.
The bicycle is the simplest solution to some of the world’s most complex problems.
For Rohan, riding a bike brought in a whole new dimension to his life and expanded his horizons tremendously. To him, it was more of connecting himself with the simplicity and the freedom that came along with it. On being asked if it was easy for anyone to pick up cycling, Rohan says, “Cycling is the fastest, easiest and most fun way to stay fit without having to get memberships or a partner to kick it off. Moreover, it can be experienced anywhere, at any age and at any time. All you need to do is just get on a bike and ride! It’s totally addictive and fun”.
One often wonders on the safety of riding a bike in the city but Rohan allays these fears by saying, “Yes, we currently have a LOT more cyclists commuting daily. Back in the day, I used to be embarrassed to wear a cycling helmet because I was probably the only cyclist in Bangalore wearing one – now it’s heartening to see almost all cyclists do the same. Safety is absolutely essential, especially on a bicycle.”
To combat Bangalore’s ever-growing traffic woes and manage pollution, it appears that a collective effort from commuters to use bicycles to get to work or run errands could be the simplest solution. To this end, Rohan wanted to share his drive and passion with the rest by building cycling communities and encouraging fellow Bangaloreans to give cycling a shot. The abundance of learning he gained just by riding the streets of Bangalore made him grow and learn a ton of skills to be able to do this successfully
For the love of cycling.
Both (Rohan and Nikhil) were equally fond of the outdoors and sports in general, having to ride their bike every day just ignited their passion for cycling all the more. “It opened a whole new world for us- mountain biking in urban forests, long distance endurance road rides, exploring city outskirts via village roads and offbeat tractor tracks were quite exciting”, recalls Rohan.
Rohan enjoyed all aspects of being on the bike be it recreational or the competitive side of it, as each gave him a different experience. According to him, “Cycling as a sport is fantastic as it has all the thrilling elements and is quite sustainable as it’s much easier on the body vs other high impact sports. You also don’t need a court or a partner to enjoy it. It’s just you and your bike. At the same time, it’s a great team sport and the social aspect of riding a bike is fantastic”.
To share his love for racing, he kickstarted a series back in 2009 called the Bangalore Bicycle Championships(BBCh – http://bbch.in). Today, this series has grown significantly with hordes of cyclists from across the country participating in their monthly race format. Rohan believes, “The level of racing is substantially higher now and it’s absolutely great to see increasing numbers of youth participating as they are the future of this sport and the culture of cycling in India”. This race series was handed over to the cycling community in 2015 to maintain a grassroots level connect and engage with the sport, however, this is one race that holds fond memories for Rohan as he feels it enabled the sport of bicycle racing in Bangalore and also inspired similar races across the country.
Over the years, Rohan has met with a lot of wonderful people who have worked closely with some of the top cycling companies and share the same passion as he does for this simple machine. Rohan has grown to appreciate cycling and as he says, “I’ve understood the lifestyle, cultures, and sub-cultures of cycling and how they are slowly growing in India and impacting thousands of Indians”.
Riding to work and a full-time job kept them busy through the week but that didn’t deter Rohan and Nikhil. They spent their weekends in slowly building a community of cyclists in Bangalore by running workshops, conducting movie nights, organising weekend events and also some bit of corporate engagement to promote the concept of cycling to work.
A budding idea.
In 2005 Firefox Bicycles, a new Indian cycling brand made quite an impact on the cycling scene by introducing good quality bicycles albeit with a hefty price tag. To Rohan this was a life-changing moment, “The rides were safer, faster and we could do so much more with these bikes”. To that effect, they took off on long road rides over weekends, explored mountain biking in trails in forests and commuted all over the city on their new bikes. These high-quality bikes came with good accessories, which meant their rides were safe and a whole lot comfortable.
The power of good quality products and the impact it created stayed with Rohan long after. He longed for a space that gave him access to these high-end cycling products but the lack of knowledgeable salespeople and educated mechanics who could work on these bikes meant that his longing could not be satiated.
In 2006, Trek Bicycles (one of the biggest international brands) entered India and approached Rohan and his friend if they would be interested to set up a bike shop to retail their bicycles since they were already doing a great job in building a community and they came across as people with strong technical know-how. At the start, Rohan thought it was a crazy idea but this was something he always wanted to do – build a great retail experience and develop a strong cycling community. On deeper pondering, he figured, ‘hey, there’s no one better to do this’ and that started a new chapter in Rohan’s life.
Continue to read about Rohan’s journey in the second part, click here.