Venky Rajgopal likes that feeling of the wind blowing onto his face. “Cycling up early in the morning just gives me an edge through the day,” says the chairman of Celebrity Fashions, the owner of the Indian Terrain brand. The story goes back to three years, when he came across an event called Tour of the Nilgiris. It was a cycling expedition across Karnataka, Kerala and Coimbatore. It set the tone for something to pursue with a lot of interest and vigour. Since then, the wind and the rush that come with it have become an inseparable part of his life.
Five days a week, Rajgopal, once a bureaucrat, but now an entrepreneur, is on his road bike, as he chooses to call it, traversing at least 50 km and hitting 100 km on Sundays. Three of these are done outdoors on the picturesque East Coast Road in Chennai, while the other two are at home, something he started eight months ago. “The bicycle is connected to a software and then simulated. There are people who join in from all over and it’s a lot tougher than doing it outdoors,” he says to demolish any notion in our minds.
The reason to cycle is clear and it’s a combination of it being a “wonderful way to exercise” and of course, the cardiovascular rush. If Rajgopal had his way, he would happily cycle to work every day. “People do it in the West and it makes for a good exercise and saves on our carbon footprint. It’s a lot tougher to do the same in India though.”
So far, Rajgopal has stayed away from competitive racing, though he is a part of groups like Chennai Joyriders. “It peps you up and one gets to meet a lot of youngsters. Otherwise, I am quite happy cycling on my own,” he says. At home, he has two road bikes, one being Colnago, an Italian brand and other called Trek. “The idea is to have a buffer just in case you wake up to a flat tyre,” he explains in all seriousness.
Contrary to popular perception, cycling does not call for an extraordinary level of fitness. “The body should be good enough to cover that kind of a long distance,” says he. Above everything else, what is required is the discipline to sleep early and feel great at 5 am. “It’s really the first 15 minutes that could be tricky. Once you are in the flow, it comes quite naturally.”
Rajgopal’s family has not taken to cycling, though his colleagues happily join in. “Today, it’s almost a group activity and we cycle all the way to Mahabalipuram once in a while,” he says. For now, the man will do almost anything to experience the joy of the wind.