One of the best ways to enjoy monsoon is being tucked in your bed or sitting on your porch with a good book and a hot cup of coffee or chai. One can watch the showers transform the dusty climate to a pleasantly moist one, all from the comfort of their home. But for Dhiraj Relli, CEO of HDFC Securities, this season means something else — a time to put his shoes on and dash into the cool breeze. Clad in his B’Twin cycling shorts and polyester jacket, he steps out to ride his blue Firefox bicycle. “I love monsoon, and biking around the city when it rains is bliss,” he says.
Only four years old in Mumbai, Relli has explored it to the fullest on his cycling expeditions. It’s not just about the sport for him, but also about staying grounded and reminiscing the good ol’ days. “Every time I cross RK Films studios in Chembur, I re-live the era of my favourite movies within a couple of minutes,” he says.
While he keeps busy with work over the week, weekends and holidays are when he dedicates nearly four hours a day to cycling. A marathon runner and fitness enthusiast, he cycles for 30-40 kilometre on different routes every weekend — from Eastern Express to Thane, Wadala to Vashi and Chinchpokli to Cuffe Parade — each starting point just a few kilometre from his residence in Lower Parel. But the Marine Drive stretch is his favourite during monsoon. “Cycling there makes me feel like I am welcoming the clouds that have travelled for miles to give a breather to Mumbai’s busy life,” he says.
A bottle of water and a handful of dry fruits — dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and pistachios — are on Relli’s checklist whenever he has to go on a long cycling trip. “I also keep a couple of bananas for the extra energy,” he says. But, he doesn’t find these excursions too taxing, since he has been cycling for over 18 years and also trains for marathons with Striders, a fitness-training club. Besides, he sticks to green tea as his go-to beverage to keep him hydrated.
It’s the best way to explore localities, he believes, and has followed that habit in every city he has lived in, including Noida and Jaipur. But Relli fully realised the joy of monsoon cycling during his stint in Bengaluru. “When it rains, there is usually less traffic and the presence of nature is intense,” he explains. However, he advises that the bicycle should be well serviced before venturing out on the damp roads. “The tyres should be 80% inflated to maintain a good balance, and both the brakes must be applied simultaneously to avoid slipping,” he cautions. Neon lights on the gear and helmet is another thing to keep in mind, he says. These additions help one to stay visible on the road when it gets dark.
Relli’s tryst with cycling started when he was working with ICICI Bank as a retail banker in Gurugram, and his passion has only grown each year. “Cycling around the city helped me gain perspective about the locality. I could see the suburbs, develop and connect with the people,” he says. He also believes this hobby offers a meditative experience that helps him stay focused. “While cycling, one’s thoughts and body are aligned to maintain a balance,” he adds. And it’s this balance that has brought Relli so far in his professional career as well. He gets philosophical when he talks about his passion and says that cycling is akin to life in general. “If you carefully plan the speed and adequately adjust the resources to avoid the bottlenecks, it will be a smooth ride,” he concludes.