COVID – a word that has changed our world. While the hardship induced by COVID is undeniable – the restoration of a cleaner environment and increased attention on fitness are the top positive upshots that have come of this tragedy. Most metro cities are cherishing the clearer skies and the reclaiming of the public spaces by animals.

Mankind has started to treasure the simpler pleasures of life. Think about it, did you ever imagine that cycling or ludo or gardening would be trending on Twitter?

But what has made the general public hit the road in droves. The ootkal team did a deep dive to understand the recent trend and learn from the cyclists themselves, what makes them push the pedal.

The Bicycle Boom  

Recently India crossed the mark of 3 million COVID-19 cases. This has re-emphasized the need to find alternatives to public transport as a part of the unlock strategy of the government. Unsurprisingly, our old ways of moving around needed a big-time change. That’s when our old friend, the Bicycle, has come to our rescue. From fitness freaks to migrants returning home to working-class people, all have turned towards the humble two-wheeler for their commute and fitness related needs. 

During the lockdown, the bicycle business has thrived with the global surge in sale of one of the most basic forms of mobility. The businesses involved in manufacturing and selling bicycles have appreciated an ad-hoc increase of around 25% in countrywide sales in June compared to theaverage monthly sales in the pre-COVID times. 

While chatting with the Ootkal Team, Srirag Hans, owner of Odisha Cycle Supply from Bhubaneswar shared that “There has been a tremendous increase in sales of bikes. Sales have gone up by almost 30-40% during lockdown.”

 Commenting on the age group and their preference he said, “Adults lead the pack followed by teens and kids. Hybrid bikes are in huge demand. Gear cycles and light weight cycles are quite popular too. Slim tyres and vibrant colours are some of the most sought after features.” 

Mr. Srirag Hans in his store, Odisha Cycle Supply

We wondered if this trend would continue. When asked him about the popularity of cycling in the post covid world Srirag sounded hopeful, “I think even post covid people would love to continue cycling as everybody wants to build their immunity system and wants to be fit. Also the fact that people are now more conscious about the environment and are working towards reducing pollution, it looks like cycling is here to stay.” The government should provide incentives to employees who cycle down to work, create more awareness about the benefits of cycling and more cycling tracks in the city should be built”.

Cycle Enthusiasts and their experiences

These days most urbanites, irrespective of their gender or age, have a sedentary lifestyle leading to detrimental health and increasing the risks of obesity.According to WHO, the worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight and 13% were obese. 

Current times have made people more vigilant and involved in their health. Cycles have come out of the garages and ontotheroads. With extra time at hand, the enthusiasts are covering hundreds of km in a short period.

Vishal Subudhi, a fashion professional from Bhubaneswar narrated his experiences to Ootkal: “Cycling is a 360-degree workout plan in which every muscle of your body, from head to toe, gets involved and burns fat. I started cycling only 40 days back but I have already covered around 1000 km. I have also lost around 3.5 kilos which makes me feel fitter and healthier.” 

Vishal Subudhi strikes a pose while riding around Bhubaneswar

Summer time is a fun time. From children to elderly, everyone gets involved in a host of recreational activities during summer holidays. It helps to improve our physical well-being, emotional health and cognitive functioning. 

In Odisha, gyms, fitness centres, cinema theatres and other entertainment places have been shut since mid-March. After more than 120 days, the Centre finally allowed reopening of fitness centres, gymnasiums and yoga institutions from August 5, 2020. But given the perils of coronavirus, wider crowd continues to opt for cycling comparedto gyms. 

Arnav Dash, a lawyer from Bhubaneswarand recent cycling aficionado concurs:“It all started with the search for some leisure activity during the lockdown’, he said to Ootkal. “Since cycling was the only option for moving around, I got hooked. At present, I ride for an average of 25-30 km a day. My personal best is 62 km. I know people have been doing about 150-200km at a go.”

WHO has emphasised time and again on maintaining social distance as that is the first step to contain the overreaching spread of COVID. Cycling, in comparison to any other means of transport or form of workout, helps maintain social distance which is also our social responsibility.

Vishal agreed with this thought and added that “Given that I have parents back home, I prefer cycling over visiting the gym. This form of workout naturally adheres to the social distancing norms.”

What adds to this trend is that cycling is a sociable sport. There are many active cycling clubs across all major cities. Joining a cycling club or a group is an excellent way to grow your social circle which is also important for your mental well-being.

Arnav added that “I started riding alone but now we are a pack of 3-5 riders. At times over the weekend, the number increases to 8-10 riders. It is quite fun, refreshing and relaxing”.

Arnav Dash on one of his long rides

Unfortunately, we have also become a society of binge-watchers. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar became a saviour during the workless – motionless lockdown days. Experts say that more than 80 % of the young adults classify themselves as a binge-watcher. And these binge watchers experience symptoms of insomnia, poorer sleep quality and greater alertness prior to going to sleep. 

While binge-watching might keep your mind busy, one must take up some form of workout to stay fit. Tiring yourself out on the bike, can be a decent pick which also gives a good night sleep. 

Vishal shared similar views stating that “I prefer cycling in the wee hours and so my habit of late-night incessant binge-watching has come to an end. Cycling and sleeping pattern are directly proportionate to each other. It is because of cycling that I could have a first-hand experience of the adage early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” 

When asked if you would continue with cycling in the pandemic free world, Arnav shared that “I never imagined cycling to be an everyday activity but indeed it is. I definitely plan to continue with it even after the lockdown. It will stay in me for a long time to come.”

Vishal seconded Arnav’s thought and added that “What started as a hobby has now become a lifestyle andI would never want to discontinue cycling.”

The Way forward

WHO advocated cycling and walking fora healthy recovery from COVID. It advised people to consider riding bicycles or walking to meet the minimum requirement for daily physical activity. WHO also urged governments to improve walking and cycling infrastructure for people of all ages and abilities. 

The Indian government has commenced the groundwork to promote cycling for a better today and tomorrow.