Author: Venkataraman Ramachandran
In this episode of Physeek fit, Our anchor Sumanth Shampur would be talking to Bangalore based fitness enthusiast Vinay Rayker whose passion for cycling has transformed until the point of getting his family involved too in the world of cycling by building a cycle himself.
Vinay Rayker is an IT professional currently located in Bangalore and an avid cyclist. Having already clocked 26000 kms with his rides across Karnataka and either participated in/won a number of races across the state, He continues to work on his passion with ever-growing enthusiasm and make rapid progress.
Let’s now get to know more about Vinay’s world of cycling through this interesting interview. You can find the transcript of the interview Q & A below.
How did you start cycling? What was the trigger?
Vinay reckons about going a bit into his childhood days while answering this obvious first question. It all started in those good old days wherein everyone at home would love to rent out bicycles at a rate of 2 or 3 rupees and enjoy riding the same throughout the day.
Interestingly, On being asked by relatives or friends visiting home as to what he would want as a gift from them, Vinay’s answer like other children never used to be chocolates, candies, and other fancy stuff. The request would always be to lend a few rupees as a gift so that he could rent a cycle and enjoy the rides. And that was the entry into the world of cycling.
Vinay still remembers the day when after repeated requests to dad, He got his first cycle, during 8th standard – which Vinay believes to be probably the happiest day in his life so far.
More recently in April 2014, when working for a sales organization of an IT company, the work pressure and challenges associated with the corporate profession had an impact on Vinay’s health with high sugar, blood pressure and so on. The situation sort of re-triggered his interest in cycling, since the thought occurred about starting his rides again in order to be active, improve his health and maintain fitness. Ultimately, It paved the way for purchase of a new cycle. The journey again into the world of fitness and cycling was restarted.
How would you address a cycling enthusiast – A cyclist, Biker?
The generic cycling community refers to each other as cyclists. When one goes in a little deeper and narrows down into the professional space, they are typically referred to as bikers.
How does one go about pursuing his interest in cycling? How should one get started?
Basically, there are 3 categories of cycles. They are referred to as mountain bikes, road bikes and hybrid bikes. Vinay’s recommendation to a beginner to start with would always be to go for a hybrid bike, which is a mix of mountain bike and road bike. Once the enthusiast rides the bike for a period of 2 to 3 months, there would be more clarity on what category the person would fit into – whether mountain bike category OR a fast biker on the road.
Does one need a huge investment to get into cycling?
I started my journey with a bike that cost 4000 rupees and rode it for around 2 years clocking 6500 kilometers. A simple bike with no gears or any other sophisticated equipment it was, which made me realize that I could be more serious and passionate about cycling. Afterwards, I moved on to a better bike which needed a higher investment.
To start with, A person would need an investment of less than 10000/- rupees which would include the bike and some of the recommended safety equipment.
How do you go about researching on choosing a good bike? What are the parameters considered?
Once a person has decided on the category of bike (recommended one being a hybrid bike for beginners), A number of factors come into play.
A critical element of the bike would be its frame and that has to be based on the height of the rider. Usually, a short or long saddle that is not aligned with the height of the rider results in problems like pain on the hands, legs, back, knee and so on.
There are quite a few websites that provide recommendations on the type of bike to choose based on the person’s height. Big brands like Decathlon also provide parameters and tips on how to choose an appropriate bike and these would be a good starting point for any beginner.
Simple suggestion when it comes to selecting a bike would be to choose one that suits your height and few other key parameters, rather than going in a random fashion.
Is there any specific time of the day that is recommended for cycling? Any suggestions on the distance to be covered?
Most of the cyclists go out for rides early in the morning between 6.00 AM and 8.00 AM. Those who go for longer rides do it for around 2 hours. For people who are starting and want to go for quick rides of 10 to 15kms, 6.00 AM would be a good time considering the traffic and quality of air.
What safety precautions would you suggest for people who are getting newly into cycling?
With a lot of heavy traffic on the roads, having some coming from the opposite direction as well – Important to have at least minimal safety gears in place. I strongly recommend wearing a helmet which is very critical.
A rear LED light that blinks helps the vehicles coming from behind to know that someone is riding forward. Good to have a similar light on the front as well since it helps in the scenario of traffic coming in from the opposite direction too.
On highways, it is also recommended to wear T-Shirts or Jerseys offering a radium reflection so that other vehicles can spot the bikers which provides an extra element of safety.
What is your regular cycling schedule like – All days of week or specific days or weekends?
There was a time when I used to ride almost every day. But I realized later that our body also needs a bit of rest.
My usual schedule is to ride at least 5 or 6 days in a week, covering 50 kms in each ride. On weekends, it would be 100 kms on Saturday and Sunday followed by giving the body a break on Monday which usually turns out to be the rest day. Give the body a rest, Time for the muscles to relax and then be ready to ride again on Tuesday.
As you are cycling, what are the parameters to monitor in order to assess whether you are improving?
There are 2 key factors to be considered for someone who wants to get into professional cycling.
- To cover a longer distance is one parameter. Let’s say if someone starts with a distance of 20 kms today, Is the person in a position to improve it to 25 or 30 kms in the next days or week. The first milestone would be to be able to cover a distance of 50 km in a month’s time. This is more from an endurance cycling point of view.
- The other aspect of professional cycling would be speed. Let’s say if one is able to ride at a speed of 15 Kms/hour today, whether it can be increased to 16 or 17 or 18 kms/hour in the coming days. Every increase in speed would be a huge effort as it requires the body to be trained, good techniques to be followed, etc in order to improve and get to your maximum speed.
Do you have any specific suggestions on the aspect of nutrition for cyclists?
Professional cyclists usually take a lot of protein supplements. My philosophy is to stick to your regular every day diet. Because, If someone is looking at a career in cycling, usage of supplements in the long term can have adverse impact in the scenario of an injury resulting in a break from cycling for a period of 6 months to 1 year.
For youngsters aspiring to compete at state or national levels which would be a career of 15 to 20 years, Supplements may be needed to support their performance on a specific day.
For adults above 35 years of age, the suggestion would be to stick to a regular diet and avoid supplements so that the body gets tuned in course of time and passion with cycling can be continued in the longer run.
After a long ride or short burst, one tends to lose salts from the body. One way I compensate for it is to have a lemonade mixed with a pinch of salt and sugar after the ride. It helps to regain the salts lost as part of the exercise/ride. It can be a good substitute for the supplements too.
With so many cycling clubs these days? Are there any benefits in getting associated with them? How does one get associated with the clubs?
Considering that you get to learn more when you talk to fellow cyclists, I would recommend joining a club especially for beginners. For example, interaction with other cyclists on the road may be a good idea as well. Getting to join cycling communities and groups can be helpful in enhancing knowledge, learning new techniques, position on the bike and so on.
A number of new things are learned when associated with such groups and riding communities. One can join the groups on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc also and register for group rides during weekends and also get to know about cycling events.
Are there any benefits exclusive to cycling as people generally tend to compare it with running too?
Let me mention a quote by one of my senior cyclists Dr. Shyam Prasad, referring to part about better enjoyment in cycling – The example is that of comparison between the experience of zipping through a small waterfall or a river stream in a car and doing the same in a bike. In this example, Difference felt in enjoying nature and levels of engagement with nature is higher when riding a bike compared to going in a car. The experience obtained through a bike ride is equivalent to watching a movie in slow motion.
With cycling in comparison to running, People tend to cover a lot of distance and explore more number of places. One personal experience after cycling in Bangalore during the last 9 months around the area where I live has been about us as a family discovering 9 different lakes. Besides, we also tend to spend time around these water bodies to have a relaxing time after a bike ride.
One importance of cycling in comparison to running is that the amount of strain on the legs and weight exerted on them is much lesser in cycling. Eventually, it so happens that a cyclist ends up cycling for a longer time frame compared to that of a runner doing running. Being able to sustain doing the activity is an advantage in case of cycling over running.
Legs are the most active part of the body while cycling. Do you suggest any physical training to keep them fit?
It is critical for the legs to be really strong if one wants to focus on professional cycling. The idea is to work on keeping the upper body thinner, whereas the muscles on the lower body need to be developed and strengthened. Turns out to be important when riding the bike both from endurance and speed point of view.
To start with, leg presses and squats are a couple of exercises that I would suggest.
How do you manage to adjust with different climatic conditions when cycling?
Once you get into cycling, you automatically tend to adjust with the changing conditions. For example, one may find it a bit difficult when going on a long ride when the temperature is high or the climatic condition is humid. With subsequent rides, the body tends to adjust automatically with the climate and difficulty is no longer felt.
It is good to ride across all climatic conditions. Personally, I have gone for rides in different climatic conditions – for example extreme rain, hot and humid condition, cold weather.
Last year, a group of 13 cyclists from our team had been to Bhutan. We rode the whole of Bhutan by bike across 10 days covering 970 kilometers in extremely cold temperature. As you tend to ride more, the body also happens to adjust accordingly.
Is there an ultimate challenge in cycling – For example, similar to Iron man challenge in running?
For aspiring youngsters, there is national and district level competition that happens every year. For those who are into other professions and doing cycling as a passion based on what they can afford, there are umpteen number of races focusing on both speed and distance aspects.
Do you do any other activity apart from cycling?
I happened to realize the importance of cross training ourselves recently. I have started working out in the gym 1 or 2 days and also started running as part of the fitness regime. In my weekly schedule, I do 4 days of cycling, 2 days of running and also sneak in gym sessions for 1 or 2 days depending on time.
Tell us about your experience with family cycling that you touched upon earlier.
It is an interesting thing that we as a family are into, me, my wife and kids. Once you are into cycling as a hobby and passion, we tend to spend a lot of time doing it. I realized that i was missing the kids while spending time cycling at various places on holidays, weekends and so on. I developed a “phantom” bike which has a baby seat at the front where I put my 5 year old younger kid and my 9 year old pedals with me on the “phantom” and we can all go together on long rides. My wife also joins us on her cycle over the weekend rides and all of us are covering long distances together. Our regular rides on the “phantom” bike are breakfast rides on Sundays covering 20 to 30 kilometers and the schedule includes cycling, having breakfast, relaxing at places like Cubbon park, Lal Bagh and then returning back home. It helps to create more attached family time.
What made you build such a cycle for the family?
At the time when we had only our first kid, my wife used to be angry at me having to be alone at home taking care of the kid as I would be away for 3 or 4 hours going on long rides. When I went to the United states of America, I happened to see a dad taking his kid on a baby seat on a bike. It made me think that I should also try out something similar. So, I got a baby seat and fixed it on my bike after which I used to take my kid along for rides. It helped my wife to have a relaxing time at home when we were away for rides.
When my 2nd kid was born, I started taking him also since he was 9 months old and people used to question me on that stating that it is quite risky to take such a young kid on some of those rides. However, the joy experienced by the kid spending time on the bike watching different things on the road, places, birds, vehicles and so on was not something that I wanted to stop. So, we continued the journey. Now that my younger kid was occupying the baby seat, I had to find a seat on the bike for my elder one now since he also wanted to join the rides. That’s when I saw the tandem being used in Australia. So, I got the tandem and got it fixed to my bike. That way no one was left at home and we were all able to spend time together cycling.
Kids also enjoy going on long rides together, with nice conversation happening throughout, being able to spend time together. Overall, it is a very joyous moment for them instead of having to sit at home and cribbing all day.
Has the passion of cycling rubbed on to your kids especially since you mentioned about taking them for rides? Has it had any positive effect on them?
My elder one started riding the bike at the age of 3.5 years. A number of kids start riding at a young age, but I believe 3.5 is still quite early to start riding the bike. When the kids watch you cycling, they also tend to develop that passion. My elder one wants a road bike for himself on his next birthday. There are also instances of the elder one joining me for rides on his own bike (not in the tandem bike) and riding 25 to 30 kilometers. It is about inculcating that habit and understanding at an early age that fitness is critical and it turns to be a hobby or passion for the kids.
How has the COVID situation affected your cycling?
I used to reserve a certain amount of time for family cycling every Sunday and we couldn’t go out anywhere due to the COVID situation. Earlier, it always used to be that we would go for rides on Sunday and enjoy breakfast outside. Now with the COVID situation, as eating outside may not be a good idea, we tend to carry the food, find a place to settle down, relax and have food instead of eating outside. That’s the adjustment we have had to do though it needs some additional effort.
How easy it is to practice cycling in a metro city?
Because of traffic, It is not easy to ride easily within the city. In most cities though, once you cross 8 or 10 kilometers of city limits, you generally have good and calm places to enjoy your rides on the bike. For those who can manage to get past that 8 to 10 kilometers distance, they will find it enjoyable.
What has changed in your life due to cycling now that you have been doing it for almost 6 years?
The aggressive nature that I had in my career earlier has come down. I am more calm and mellowed down to think about what is important in life. It has not been only about making money, career and there is realization about other important things such as family time, fitness that are also critical.
From a health point of view, the situation is well under control now compared to earlier when the situation with sugar and blood pressure being on the border line.
Are there any tracks around the city or other places that you want to recommend? Do you have any favorite tracks?
I strongly recommend people to look at maps and explore places as no one stops us from riding on the ride. I have explored a lot of places around HSR layout and we have done a lot of rides towards Nandi hills as well. Nandi hills is one of the most favorite places near Bangalore for cycling enthusiasts since it gives the elevation needed for cyclists.
Rapid Fire Round
After the detailed discussion, we now get into the interesting rapid-fire round. The anchor will ask certain questions that have to be answered quickly and fast.
Which is your favourite cycling track?
As I said, it is Nandi Hills
What was your most memorable ride on your bike?
The trip and ride that I had in Bhutan was the most memorable one
Which is your favourite bike?
I currently have a “Scott” bike. If my wife permits, I would want to upgrade to a “Pinarello” which is an expensive bike.
Which is one place in the world where you want to cycle?
Europe is an amazing place to cycle. Given a chance, I wish to do a family cycling in Europe.
Do you have a role model, whom you want to meet and chat about cycling?
My brother in law is a person who has clocked around 90000 kilometres and a person whom i go for few rides with and talk to in order to understand some new techniques.
What has been your personal best?
I have completed 100 kilometres at the speed of 32 to 33 kilometres per hour
What is your next goal?
Increasing speed by 1 km/hour is a herculean task . Let’s say my next goal in terms of speed is to clock 35 kilometres/hour for a distance of 100 kilometres.
What is your ambition in cycling? for e.g. Do you want to participate in Tour de France or anything like that?
I want to participate in long endurance races in India and also other races that are happening in Bangalore. Looking forward to doing it next year as everything took a back seat this year due to COVID.
If it was not cycling, what might have been a similar passion?
Finally, if you want to give your bike to someone, who would that person be?
Maybe my dad. Because I want to see him get back on the cycling track by giving him a bike that is suitable for his current age.
With that we come to the end of a wonderful conversation with Vinay Rayker wherein he shared a lot of information and experience about cycling, family cycling and a lot of other aspects for our viewers at Physeek fit. We hope our viewers who are enthusiastic about sports and fitness would have had a very good time listening to the nice discussion.
Vinay Rayker reckons that we hopefully get to see more cycling enthusiasts on the road and also more people of age groups taking up cycling as a hobby or passion.
As a token of appreciation, A T-Shirt was handed over to Vinay Rayker for taking time to talk to Sumanth at the Physeek Fit team.