How did it start?
I was a couch potato enjoying parties, food and alcohol. I was married. Coming from India and being part of a big Indian community in Montreal, Canada, every weekend I saw at least two parties with a lot of food, gossip and a eternal bottle of beer. What did I do for my body other than just fueling it with a lot of tasty (and probably deadly: more about it in another blog) food? nothing much! I was very comfortable in the status-quo.
I was a couch potato. A change in family situation changed my life.
Not much time later disaster struck. My wife left me and the worst, I did not see it coming. All my #dreams were shattered.
I was fortunate that I could think clearly before the reality hit me, before I felt the real pain. I saw a big #depression looming in front of me. But, I had gotten a grace period to do something about it. I knew I had to keep my mind and body busy and I had to come up with a plan, fast.
One thing was for sure. I was not going to lie down and lament where I had fallen. I came up with a quick plan to keep me from thinking myself into depression. It was to #bike every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings (during #summer and replace #biking with #skiing in #winter), play #badminton every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on weekends, #hike. The idea was to come back home so tired that I would #passout on the bed. This will give me #zero time to think about my tragedy. I was ready to execute the plan until I forgot about the disaster.
I was surprised to find that there is enough nature in the vicinity of the big city to practice play after work.
However, there was one big challenge. The last time I biked was when I was in the university and it has already been 13 years since. I had never biked on Canadian streets. I still remember being scared. Were there any special rules to be followed on how to bike in Canada? In India the rule is "bike where you can". I still decided to go forward with my action plan and learn by following other bicyclists on the streets.
I did not have budget for a new bike and hence I hit on the #secondhand bike market and found myself a good hybrid bike - The Miele Umbria.
The seller of this bike was awfully tall for its size and never looked in my eyes during the entire transaction, which I found very weird. The bike was rusted and hence he gave me a good discount. I got it for $150. Later on while servicing the bike, I realized that it was a Miele Umbria Elite. The bike had much better parts than what was mentioned in the description. Was this a stolen bike? Now my experience with the seller made sense! Till date, I am not certain about this hunch.
This bike helped me to see the city of Montreal from a totally different eyes. I used to whiz past the tall skyscrapers in the car. I found enjoyment in riding on the bike-only paths within the city, near the beautiful canals, the rapids, the tall silos of the flour mills and finding beauty of the city that I never experienced before.
Another community that became my family
I happened to take a 50 km ride with a very good friend of mine. This was my first 50+ km on the bike and hence I was expecting to be tired and worn out after the ride. This ride was not only on the contrary to my expectations, but it also helped me to realize that it's a lot of fun to bike with people having similar interests. My previous experience with biking was biking to and from my school, alone.
I found family away from my family with this lovely bunch of people.
I found a need to find other people who had similar interests like I did. I took this task on me and eventually hit meetup.com. This was a success and a discovery. I found a group of people who were into all the sporting activities I was into. I found a family away from my family with this lovely bunch of people. I started doing small biking rides with them and even some fun events organized by the city.
Soon enough I was an organizing events for one of the locally well known #meetup groups called #MOAC (Montreal Outdoor Adventure Club). I used to scout unknown areas within the city and the suburbs to familiarize with the route, plotting them on the map and then organizing rides for the group. I started with organizing shorter rides of 30-40 km on the weekends and expanded to organizing longer 160+ km rides. I remember sending people without helmets back home, crashing on the bridge due to a puncture, carrying damaged bike on my shoulders and walking home, and many such sweet and bittersweet incidents. An unforgettable incident was accommodating a newly migrated girl from Russia on her $50 mountain bike to do a 160+ km ride with us when the rest of us had road bikes or hybrids. When asked if she would be able to complete the ride with us on the mountain bike, she just said "I am from Russia" and she did it. This incident still boosts my confidence on a grim day on the bike.
I realized that biking had become a passion when I found myself searching online for biking accessories, clothing and visiting the local bike store for no particular reason, uncountable number of times. I had unknowingly gotten serious with an activity that I started just to get away from depression. I found it incredibly exciting to ride to many beautiful areas on the suburbs with many like-minded people whom i considered family and occasionally racing with a few of them having road bikes on long bike-only stretches. On one of such rides, I found myself chasing a fellow rider and was excited to see that I touched and maintained 40 kmph for a few minutes on my hybrid bike. This was another pivoting point for me.
A few road bikers in the group challenged me to to ride faster and the draft behind them and I found extremely entertaining
Hence came the big question - should I invest in a road bike. Will that investment be worthwhile? I love biking and also the biking community anyway. Find out in my next blog.