Interview with Amit Bhowmik — Founder of Cyclists.in
Before Facebook and WhatsApp, came into the picture, cycling community of India existed on a nascent platform known as ‘cyclists.in. Back then, the blooming community of intrepid cyclists would simply pedal against heat, noise and traffic for the love of it.
However, today, not many of us know about this portal that still exits. To bring you more insights, we got in touch with Amit Bowmik for an interview.
Below is the interview with Amit Bowmik that will not only inform you about cyclists.in but also about the cycling scenes back then.
What made you start cyclists.in?
Cyclists.in had a basic goal: To create an online platform for cyclists across the country to connect on. To build a social community where they could discuss, interact, plan rides, share blog posts and photos and much more.
Is there a story behind the name?
The name is self-explanatory. The domain is generic and refers to the sport.
How was cycling during that period of time?
The site was started in June 2008. During that time there were hardly any cycling clubs in cities — be it offline or online. The site helped bridge that gap. It helped hundreds of like-minded urban cyclists connect with each other for the first time and also hold some of the city’s first mass social rides.
How did you get the idea of starting such a big thing all by yourself?
The idea to start this was out of necessity. There really wasn’t any other platform to quickly search for and connect with active cyclists in one’s home city.
Do you have any future plans with cyclists.in?
We’ve worked with major cycling brands and large-scale cycling events in the past for promotion. I’d like to continue doing that while increasing the community size.
Besides cycling what are the other things you love to do?
I got bitten by the running bug last year. I’ve already run 7 Half Marathons and am currently training for the Mumbai Full Marathon in Jan 2015. After that, I’d like to attempt an Ultra Marathon and hopefully an IronMan 70.3.
What deters people from cycling in Mumbai?
There are multiple factors. Safety, Security and Pollution are the main ones.
Do you have a favourite cycling route? What time of the day do you prefer going out for a fun ride? Did you ever have any mishaps on the road?
Currently, my focus is more on the Running training so cycling is a cross training workout. Favourite routes are the interior roads of Vasai which are clean, green and devoid of pollution. I also like cycling to the beach and then doing a run there.
Why did you stop publishing cyclists.in E-mag after a year? We believe it was a very good initiative?
The e-Mag was just a trial run. Nothing with a serious long-term goal. I might release another issue if time permits. Creating a magazine requires a lot of effort — design, layout, content.
BRMS when initially started in India by Mr. Patki, took your platforms support to reach out to the mass. You yourself have volunteered and hosted some Brevets, Could you share your experience on the same?
That’s true. We owe a lot to Mr.Satish Patki for bringing the BRM movement to India. And cyclists.in was indeed the platform where all the discussion and planning started. The first ever BRM was a 200km ride from Mumbai to Charoti NH8 and back. It was an eye-opener for many! Forms to fill, cut off times, eating and resting on long distances, battling fatigue. Personally, it remains one of the toughest events I’ve done. I remember being plagued with bad muscle cramps by the 170k mark. The last 30k was purely on mental effort. Good memories!
How do you compare the cycling revolution in Mumbai as compared to other big cities in India?
Mumbai is quite suitable for urban commuting by cycle. It has its problems like all major cities but it also has some benefits like wide highways and mostly linear routes. This has helped the growth of the community. Coupled with the easy availability of good bikes and accessories thanks to an explosion of bike shops. The retail growth has helped spur the cycling scene here.
Is the folding bike really convenient in a city like Mumbai?
Folding Bikes are very convenient! Especially in Mumbai where you can use them along with other transport. For eg. cycle to a train station, fold the bike, travel to your destination, unfold and ride to your final meeting point. Else just ride the bike everywhere and fold it, enter cafes and restaurants. Fewer worries about parking and theft. Some establishments fuss initially about bringing in a folded bike but you can convince them ;)
Do plan to start social media platforms for other sports too? Running, Trekking?
Today’s scene is quite different. There are a lot of running and trekking sports clubs with fragmented groups on Facebook. While there’s not a real community platform as such, they are content with managing their own spaces.
Special Thanks to Amit Bowmik, follow him on Twitter here!