Seasoned endurance cyclist, Sumit Patil cycles for 24hours to raise money to help the thousands of migrants walking and cycling from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The funds were given to Prabodhan Trust, based in Dhule, Maharashtra. Dhule has a unique feature of being a nodal point of the Mumbai highway. Anyone travelling north or east from Mumbai has to pass through Dhule.
Prabodhan Trust has been fighting on this front and been helping out hundreds of migrants on foot and bicycle, with food and hydration, as they made their way during the peak summer heat.
Sumit has been in the sport of endurance cycling for more than a decade and is one of the top athletes currently in India. He has raced in numerous cycle events in India and abroad including the prestigious Race Across America (RAAM) and ridden in Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). He was one of the first Indians to do so. Sumit is also a Limca Book Record holder for riding from Manali to Khardung La in 72 hours.
Being an endurance athlete, Sumit had an idea of what our people might be going through, as they crossed thousands of kilometres to get home. He did what he knows best, getting onto his bike and pedalling hard. And as Sumit says:
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone lies my happiness.
….but in the current scenario I have, unknowingly, knowingly, failed to live up to these words. My people are out there on the road, along with newborn babies and 90 year old grannies, endeavouring journeys of thousands of kilometres by foot or by cycle and occasional, cattle like, parachuting by motorised locomotives.
All this for Survival.
Maybe because I fell short in reassuring them the sense of belongingness. Failed to make them feel at home.
Last but not the least, due to blunted awareness, I failed to empathise.
Because of the lockdown, the Alibag resident could not ride on public roads. Instead he was forced to ride indoors. He rode for 24 hours with his cycle attached to an indoor trainer. A machine which simulates real world conditions, so that the cyclist goes through the same rigours as on the open road.
During the 24 hours of riding he was constantly live on Facebook, so that people could see the effort involved in the activity. That paid off, the donations poured in for the worthy cause. People generously contributed and a total of Rs 1,80,000/- was collected. This was thrice what Patil and Prabodhan Trust targeted.
The collected funds have been put to good use. The organisation having helped a lot of people as they made their way home.
As Patil said, “It was a small contribution to help our fellow countrymen. Since we had failed to empathise and support the most distressed amongst our people.”
The ride was on Zwift. Which allowed others to join him, virtually, for short sections of the ride.
Sumit chose to ride on his terrace rather than an air-conditioned room, as most do during indoor training, because it would have been tragically ironic. That the people he was championing were toiling under the hot sun, while he would be in air conditioned comfort.
To compound matters, there wasn’t a whiff of breeze and humidity levels were soaring. Nature wanted Sumit to truly get a taste of discomfort.
He changed his clothes every 3 hours. By then it would be soaked in sweat. And wet clothes are a perfect recipe for chaffing. Once that happens, there would have been no possibility of continuing the ride.
The saddle was scuffed by the end. The humidity and buckets of sweat took its toll. It didn’t look ‘almost new’ anymore!
Physical and Mental Game
The physical and mental aspect of cycling 24 hours on an indoor trainer is rather different from that of riding on open roads.
When you are pedalling on the road, no matter how ‘still’ you are on the saddle, there are still micro movements. On the trainer, the bike is fixed rigid and the lack of these micro movements cause hot spots for the rider. Which are painful as the hours pass.
Indoors also means no natural breeze of cycling on open roads, and humidity of 78% surely didn’t help in this regard.
Another often overlooked aspect of cycling on the road, is the ability to coast, even briefly. On the trainer, you are constantly pedalling.
Because this ride was not for himself, Sumit could still sustain riding for 24 hours indoors. Else there is no motivation. You are ‘riding’ hundreds of kilometres, without moving an inch.
The unchanging scenery is a mental strain and riding on the terrace had a positive impact in this regard. At the very least, Sumit could enjoy watching the sunrise and set, and appreciate the ever changing sky.
The end result was not just raising funds for the migrant crisis. But it was also about increasing awareness amongst our more fortunate citizens. At times we fail to empathise and this ride helped to spread the word.
The beauty of the contribution was that it didn’t emanate from a single source. Instead it was the support of the community. Which is the single most important thing to keep our country going in these tough times…