“When one person starts a trend, many more will follow,” is Sameer Meisheri’s (Owner of The Cycle Worx Wadala) contention about the boom in bicycle sales since June. As many have weathered a lockdown which has transitioned from extremely strict to somewhat more easy, the desire to be trendy is still important to Mumbaikars, especially the residents of SoBo (South Bombay). Not only are people out and about early in the mornings and during a breezy monsoon evening in Mumbai today, on their cycles, some are even thinking of using the humble cycle to go to work. Whether a company leader such as a CEO, a college student, or even a domestic helper, everyone wants to cycle today.
Maanoj Agarwala, the CFO of an infrastructure construction company, a native of Prabhadevi is not an exception. Apart from harbouring ambitions to cycle to his office in BKC after the rains are over, Agarwala today even uses his son’s cycle to buy daily groceries. Would we have even dreamed of living like the Amsterdamers or the Denmarkians live a few months ago? Shares Agarwala who revived his son’s old, forgotten bike which remained unused, going out of the way to grease and polish it for use once again, “Traffic is less than before, so one can afford to be little carefree while cycling. Respect for riders is noticeable as cars let us pass by, slowing down if cycles are passing. Earlier they either won’t or couldn’t due to rear traffic.”
Many of us Mumbaikars who loved our public transport, our BEST buses, our trains and our Ubers found that this wasn’t such a bad idea anyway. The above were no longer easily available, and the fear to cycle on formerly chaotic and bursting with traffic roads was diminishing.
Raina Mehta Ranney, a Cuffe Parade-based physiotherapist was always afraid of getting pushed aside by the cars in the world before the pandemic. That was her greatest fear cycling on the Bombay roads. “Today the roads are a lot emptier. Whether 5 pm or 10 am, whenever my husband and I venture out it’s no problem. One sees a lot of people generally enjoying the outdoors today which wasn’t the case earlier. This is a great way for people to get their fix of fitness and also combine that with the outdoors. It’s also an activity where one doesn’t have to be close to anyone. I have been cycling around two or three times a week for almost two months and it’s been fine. Even if one goes on a group cycling trip, the activity is such that there is enough social distance. People are cycling more today because it’s how they can feel good after hours of spending time in front of a screen. One feels freshened up instantly.”
Ranney tells us that she doesn’t mind waking an hour or two earlier to pursue a brand-new passion even when vehicles have become more numerable on Mumbai’s roads later on. The purchase of a new cycle by her is a commitment to the hobby even post the pandemic.
Varun Mowar, management consultant at a prominent multinational, a resident of Lower Parel, has the same thoughts. He too decided to buy a cycle rather than simply rent one. He wants to make the habit a permanent one where he combines gyming workouts of weight and strength training with this cardio workout of cycling in the city. Being someone who feels odd without working out at least 3-4 times a week Mowar decided that it was time to invest in a cycle. He does long distance rides and uses an Apple watch to track his heartbeat and the speed at which he is travelling. He also likes how cycling is a ‘low-impact’ exercise activity for the knees, unlike running which might cause greater wear and tear. “I go all the way to Napean Sea Road, NCPA, Marine Drive and back. I’m even planning on going to Bandra bandstand soon.” Sometimes Mowar stops by bistros in South Mumbai which are open for takeaways where they give you a breakfast on the go. “It’s fun to sit outside and eat.”
Revealing that cycling can be a luxe hobby, Mowar says that he didn’t have a budget when he purchased his city bike. He wanted the best and he went in for a German bicycle complete with tail lights and helmet. “Comfort was a priority and I didn’t want my body to hurt while being on the cycle. Therefore I got a comfortable, high-quality long-distance cycle. It’s great to cruise along and stop by the Worli Sea Face in beautiful Mumbai. I’m usually cursing the Bombay traffic but today it’s not that chaotic.”
Meisheri says that the bicycle business, a business where he is a relatively new entrant, has doubled since 2019. Since the same time last year. “Usually we see a drop in sales during the Monsoon but this monsoon has been quite different. When lockdown started in March we thought we’ll be doomed. But sales of bicycles have only increased. Ever since the Maharashtra government announced that walking, running in the outdoors and open-air activities like cycling will be allowed, we have witnessed an unparalleled boom.”
The rich want to adopt the trend and will not hold back in acquiring the best of the best. Meisheri says that he is selling more premium cycles today than ever before. He talks about a shift from the sale of cycles from the working classes to college goers and other groups, people who don’t mind doling out Rs. 30,000 for a cycle or more. He says that frequent cycling makes it grow on you. “Once you ride a cycle, you will start to value it, and understand that it is an activity that brings one a lot of pleasure. People have the money, it’s just that the cycling culture was slow to pick up. With sales going up and more so with sales of premium cycles having shot up, we see that. It’s like the iPhone. When everyone started buying it, almost everyone started buying one.”
An executive from Mahim-based cycle rental store Cyclix also speaks about an almost 100% increase in cycle rentals when compared to the same time last year, however, he says, he is dicey about whether the current fad will continue once gyms open up and when offices start in earnest.