When Raghvendrasinh Zhala, an avid cyclist from Vadodara, tells people that he rode 600 km on his bicycle on the trot, many people are amused. And when he reveals that there are over 30 such cyclists in the city, who have traveled 200 km to 400 km on their bicycles, their curiosity goes up.
Long distance cycling is the new buzzword in the cultural capital of Gujarat. Right from 12-year-olds to those in 40s, Barodians have taken to long distance cycling to test and improve their endurance.
When these cyclists go on long distance cycling, Audax Club Parisien (ACP) - France's oldest cycling club - puts the tour dates on its calendar. "There is no prize for completing the route in the fastest time.
The objective is to cultivate the qualities of endurance and self-sufficiency. It is for serious cyclists and Vadodara is leading the way in Gujarat as we have got maximum number of long distance cyclists," said Zhala who launched Cycling Club of Baroda (CCB) in November last year.
The club is affiliated to Audax India Randonneurs (AIR), which in turn is affiliated to ACP that has been promoting long distance cycling in France since 1904. Dozens of cyclists from cities like Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Mumbai too turn up in the city to join long distance cycling with CCB.
"Any cyclist who rides at least 200 km gets recognized as a randonneur. Vadodara now has 33 randonneurs who regularly participate in long distance cycling.
The concept of long distance cycling is catching up fast in the city and many youngsters have joined our club," Jhala told TOI.
CCB has the youngest randonneur Ajayrajsinh Jhala, who recently rode 200 km in 13 hours and 20 minutes in Bhuj at the age of 12.
"We rode bicycles to Bhuj, Porbandar, Somnath, Dwarka, Dahod and even to Maharashtra. Cycling is the best for a healthy lifestyle and long distance cycling helps in increasing our stamina," said Sanjay Patel, who has completed 200, 300, 400 and 600 km cycling. CCB now has 300 members.