Bicycling in India – 2009 in retrospect and 2010 in anticipation

Rohan Kini Uncategorized

2009 has been a good year for bicycling – new bike stores, new brands and new events. All making this space very exciting indeed.

What we have here is a quick snap shot on some of the aspects of bicycling in India – to see what has happened and where we might be heading.

Local Biking Communities

At BumsOnTheSaddle we know from experience that a local biking community is the best way of seeding a strong and sustainable biking culture. Our very own Bangalore Bikers Club is a fantastic example. One of the most vibrant biking communities in India and at the forefront of any kind of bicycling initiative.

While we have initiated similar communities across India, a strong backbone of bikers is needed to root these communities. While starting an online space might be easy, the hard part is breathing life into that community and making it sustainable. Really hard !

At the moment – Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore are all thriving. Kolkota and Mumbai are just about there. Many more are in the stagnant state, waiting for us to discover and connect with local bikers. If you are interested and excited in community building activities please do shoot us an email. We can plug you in with your local communities or you could plan along with us.

A list of various cycling communities across India

Group discussions have also ‘upgraded’. Common conversations are commonly captured in the Biking Notebook. The local biking clubs have been a good breeding ground for conscious bikers – who have some fantastic initiatives up their sleeves. Hats off to these leaders who selflessly work towards bringing about a change.

Biking Consciousness

So far a bicycle has been a poor mans means of transport. Or a Kiddie thing. So far.

With good brands entering the market, things have changed. With a relatively open minded and well travelled population, the stigma of riding a bicycle has gradually changed for the better. We know quite a few CEOs who have ditched their cars and upgraded to a bicycle ! Kudos to them for leading the change, by example.

Increasing traffic congestion, the power and trend of going green, shooting fuel costs, awareness and the coolness-factor have all contributed towards daily commuting on a bicycle a reality. Quite a few companies are biker friendly, further encouraging their employees to give this a shot !

The Government has also been plugged into this space – with bikers steadily standing up for their rights. We are yet to see any action, but are definitely heading the right direction. More bikers on the roads and the various initiatives should make the government take notice.

Tons of rides, good conversations, tons of converts, daily commute, Critical Masses, biker workshops etc – all have contributed towards building a good image in the public psyche.
All disconnected planning, but coming out really well !

Local Bike Stores (LBSs)

This above mentioned change has resulted in quite a few entrepreneurs to step in and take an age old business and re-invigorate and run it with new ideas and ideals.

A good LBS run by an enthusiast(s) is something that can electrify the local bicycling scene. If done really well, the impact can be pan India !

A really powerful job, I must say :)

Quite a few age old bicycle businesses are adapting to handle the new steeds. And are not faring too badly. As long as you see decent tools, an honest business and a good idea of how to put together a bike you might not do too bad at picking up a bike from that place

Bike Brands

At the moment we have Firefox, Trek, Merida, Decathlon, Cannondale, Bianchi, Giant, Schwinn and Adidas in the market. Some more biggies are all set to enter. While this may mean more confusion for the newbies, it is awesome for the serious biker who understands and knows what they are looking out for.

More brands equates to more choice, more accessories and better spares.

Competition should hopefully force the distributors to provide better warranty service and turnaround times.

At the same time – on the LBS front, this would eventually mean cut throat business – with shops offering unsustainable discounts to cut a deal. At the moment, the dealer percentages offered in India are no way close to what is deemed sustainable at the International level (nice writeup by the NBDA on starting a bike shop)

Events

Its interesting to see the plethora of services that have mushroomed around this slowly growing market.

BumsOnTheSaddle has been in a unique position of nudging the biking market and watching it grow from a couple of small-once-a-month-rides-on-local-bicycles to the point where we have amateur race teams forming and getting ready to race at the international level.

Its fantastic ! Both as a biker as well as an entrepreneur.

From bi-weekly rides a couple of years back to multiple rides thru the week now, things have changed a lot. We even have a Ride Calendar to track of all these rides. (looking to release a Ride calendar for all communities across India – interested in helping out ? Ping us)

The bicycle championships were something that we introduced in 2009. We have had some fantastic racing and the community has done a fantastic job to ensure the races happen. Its been so good that we have had Pune jumping in with similar races and Hyderabad and Chennai looking to start soon.

There have been a ton of other biking events – the Cyclothon, Duathlon, Bike HASH’s, MTB Himachal, Sikkim MTB etc. Each of these play a very important role in giving the bikers a goal to work towards and want to build their skills.

There have also been a ton of touring initiatives from the community – Tour of Nilgiris, Cycling and More, Tandem Trails and MuddyBoots are some that have done a fanastic job at showcasing the best of India with bicycling thrown in – a heady combination indeed.

If you look at your biking calendar, you will notice that there is no dearth of biking adventures thru the year :)

useful links

Where we are heading?

2010 looks exciting. The prospect of being able to do so much more. It would be really nice if all segments could do their bit and give this eco system a good push.

Clubs – need to work towards pushing the biking culture locally. Its simple, just talk about what you love doing. When bikers talk with passion about their simple awesome machines – its hard to not be impressed. Its health, its cheap, its green and its fun – cant go wrong with this combination !

Bike Shops – will play a very important role in ensure newbies get the correct bike with the correct bike fit and proper advice and service once they get on the saddle. Sadly, this needs a lot of work at the moment.

Distributors – need to work on proper stocking, introduce good accessories/spares, and work on warranty servicing. These are currently problem areas and often make your Local bike store operate the way they do. Keep that in mind the next time you want to yell at them for not getting your bike fixed on time.

Events – have more of them. Talk more about them. Its tipping point.

Bikers – just keep riding and enjoying your bike. Ensure you continue telling people around you how much fun bicycling is. Be aware of the bicycling initiatives that you can be a part of. You are a very important part of this eco-system.

Government – has a lot of work. Needs to work on basic biking amenities like bike parking and bike lanes. Bicycling is a very good solution to the traffic snarls in most metros. It is a simple solution to one of the most complicated time-consuming and expensive problems that governments are currently grappling with – traffic density. Its time the government understands this and pays some attention towards promoting bicycling.

Employers – could work on introducing and promoting bike commute ! Its healthy and its green. And its simple to kick-start. Check out the Corporate Page on the bicycling notebook. It has tips on how you can get this rolling in your company. Plus some companies who have taken the lead ! Email us if you need help in this area.

Well, thats it. A fantastic 2010 to all of you. Thank you for following the BOTS blog and cheering us thru 2009.

Ride Safe

~The BOTS team

Rohan Kini

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I love riding my bike. Whether it’s a simple commute, a high-intensity road race, a jaw-grinding brevet, fixie rides thru packed Indian city or a kick-ass technical single track – I love it all. Apart from riding bicycles, I love being all geeky and know everything there is to know about bicycles, technology, bike fit, and service.

I started BUMSONTHESADDLE to share this passion for cycling.

DISCIPLINE: Partial towards MOUNTAIN BIKING but love it all
CURRENT BIKE(S): Specialized Rockhopper, Specialized Tarmac, Pure Cycles Original
DREAM BIKE: S-Works Epic HT & S-Work Roubaix

OTHER PASSIONS: Technology, Photography, Baking, Travel, and Reading