Gap between ‘poor man’s transport’ and ‘rich man’s sport’

Riding an expensive cycle seems to draw people's attention to the price of the cycle, rather than the rider who is actually riding a "clean green machine".

Recently, on the  Hasiru Usiru e-group (a mailing list for people who want to engage with the government to see how best we can keep this city green while developing it) we have been having a debate about cyclists participating in the Cyclothon.

Cyclothon is a cycling event on the Peripheral Ring Road, which is usually not open to cyclists, built by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), that is alleged to have exploited farmers.

The debate has heated up. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

One person made this statement about the cyclists who want to participate in the Cyclothon: "Lets leave the Road to guys with six packs of Gatorade and Red Bull on their 24 speed imported chrome wonders and perhaps hoot from the sidelines".

Now, this statement really worries me and it underlines a worry I’ve had for some time.


The sight of the “fancy cycles” and the spandex clothes seem to make people identify these cyclists as “privileged people”. Pic: Deepa Mohan.

We cycle for different reasons; some for the exercise alone, some as a sport, some for the fun of it, and some as a form of transport. I do find that many cyclists who have "ordinary" (read, less expensive) bikes, seem to have a real problem with those who have sports cycles or mountain bicycles. The fact that someone is riding an expensive cycle seems to take the attention to the price of the cycle, and not  the fact that the rider, who could probably afford a petrol two-wheeler or four-wheeler, is actually riding a "clean green machine."

The sight of the "fancy cycles" and the spandex clothes seem to make people identify these cyclists as "privileged people" and their reaction seems to be one of scorn, if not outright hatred. It’s probably an understandable reaction of the have-nots to the haves. (It was, of course, less understandable when one of the members of the cycling community expressed such sentiments, but that’s not to the point).

If there’s a gap, it’s up to both sides to reach out, I agree but if one side won’t or can’t, let me suggest that the other side reach out a little more. By all means let’s have the cycling championships, rides to Nandi Hills, the Tour of Nilgiris, and the other events but let’s also take the trouble to organise events, perhaps, that the "ordinary" cyclists can join in. We need them, too, to identify themselves as people who are doing something for the environment and we need to bond as a community. The "doodhwallah" or the newspaper guy needs to take more pride in the fact that he is cycling (as of now, it’s looked down upon as a poor man’s transport).


Cycling out of necessity. Pic: Deepa Mohan.

We need to bridge this gap between the "poor man’s transport" and "rich man’s sport" categories of cycling, and not have arguments and bad feeling within the cycling community. The children’s cycling event on September 6th 2009 organised by Bangalore’s Biker’s club was one such great initiative. Let’s organise one in which more "regular" cyclists participate. Otherwise, the gap may widen, and ill-feeling may fester.


  1. Pushpa Achanta says:

    Thanks for this balanced viewpoint, Deepa!

  2. Sri Guru says:

    Good write up Miss Mohan. […]

    In many countries Aus included; 50-80cc engines are used in bicycles and need no licenses.
    If these can be installed for these mobile businessmen they would save a lot; fuel consumption per liter is quite less- so it shd benefit them.

    and oh; you can bypass the main govt in india right now – they have have not done much in 50 years of misrule..what else can you expect now from them?

  3. Prosenjit Paul says:

    i took part in the cyclothon riding my old bsa trailblazer and there were quite a few jibes by some of the folks taking part,on the old bike. i was glad that i had the last laugh by completing the 25 km ride on the same,passing a lot of the same folk whp forgot that ts about the biker and not the bike.:-) i have found the old one quite useful for cmmutes below 5 kms and for the 2 day a week rides to office.again, there have been comments from people ranging from my maid,building security guard,colleagues and boss as to why I should buy a geared snazzy bike that really fits in with my job profile!!!if u look at the enormous number if high end bikes rusting in the basements of any apartment buildings,then you will find that there are a lot of folks who buy exepnsive bikes but give up once they grow out of the fad.

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