“I have always had a bike, as far back as I can remember. As kids, we would ride around chasing taxis or go watch planes land and take off,” reminisces Pavithran Nambiar, GM, JW Marriott Mumbai. Nambiar, who spent most of his early life in Australia, took up cycling as a means to raise funds for different social causes in his home country. Soon, however, the thrill of exploring his immediate environment took over, leading to some memorable rides. “There’s an altogether different intensity to your surroundings when you’re cycling through the countryside. You start to see things that you would miss otherwise,” he adds.
Nambiar has been a part of several cycle tours both in India and abroad, in the process scaling the Atherton Tablelands of Australia and riding from Kochi to Munnar in India. In fact, on one of the cycle tours he and three friends undertook in Australia back in 2001, he ended up covering 1,100 km in 14 days.“The goal was to raise AUD 500 to provide a table tennis set-up for a Police-Citizens Youth Club. However, once word spread among family and friends, we ended up raising AUD 4,500, enough to provide for a whole recreation space at the centre,” he explains.
Another special tour for Nambiar was the one from Shimla to Manali in 2007, which he undertook with wife Anna,who was then a few months pregnant with their first baby. Several of the couple’s friends from Australia accompanied them on this guided tour,with the group covering a distance of 800 km. “We cycled via the Rohtang Pass and lived in local Tibetan monasteries.”When asked how different the experience of cycling in India is from that in Australia, Nambiar says, “Well, for starters, the terrain is very different in Australia – the mountains aren’t as high as the ones in India. Secondly, cycling in India makes you feel closer to the place and the people.”
On his biking tours, Nambiar averages about eight hours of cycling each day, and admits to being miserable the first few days.“Only when the tour is coming to a close do you feel a bit sad that the experience is ending.” He adds that it is important to work out regularly and build stamina for such tours, since under the strain, “you tend to break down both emotionally and physically”.
Talking about some such moments of despair, Nambiar adds, “This usually happens to me around day 3 or 4. That is when I start asking myself why I’m putting myself through so much physical exhaustion and discomfort.” Rookies might want to keep this in mind, because “your first time can be quite devastating. You just want to get on the bus and leave the tour”. However, bolstered by his four big 1,000-km successes till date, Nambiar is preparing for another big one.
“We’re planning to go on a cycling tour of Sri Lanka by the end of the year. My wife and three kids will accompany me on this journey.” Despite the strain and struggle, Nambiar wholeheartedly promotes cycling to anyone he meets. “Cycling helps you disconnect almost entirely from everyday life. It is quite a meditative experience, as you get to spend a lot more time with your own thoughts.” And the pay-off is waiting for him at the finish line. “Never have I finished a ride without thinking how good it would be if we could go on for another week or so.”