It’s been more than a decade since we started Art of Bicycle Trips. From our first bike trip to now covering many countries across Asia, it has been a grateful journey. Nostalgically, India got its first cycle in the 19thcentury. According to historian David Arnold around 35,000 bicycles were imported by India in 1910. Though meant for Europeans, the cycle which initially was a transport vehicle for the few, found its way through many Indian cities. And was quickly embraced. The first cycling club came up in Calcutta. With the help of industrialization and a few entrepreneurial Indians, cycling in India became popular. The popular Black Cycle became ubiquitous with hardworking Indian. It offered more freedom.
An Old BSA ad, from the book, Cycles of Empowerment? The Bicycle and Everyday Technology in Colonial India and Vietnam by David Arnold and Erich DeWald
Inspirations followed and the cycle could be seen as a source of inspiration in Bollywood. Indian actor Dev Anand cycled to perfection in an air of romance. Indian classic movie Paying Guestis a testimony to the same. Picnics in the reel and life happened around the cycle. In Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, a movie hinged around cycling, the entire town and audience watching the movie were kept on the edge till the very last frame. A coming of age movie the annual cycling race was the crescendo of three-hour epic
A screen grab of Dev Anand ‘s Paying Guest
However, the cycle did not stop at Bollywood. Cycling in India was introduced as a sport by mid 1930s. In Indian politics, it became a symbol of progressiveness and simplicity. Political party such as Samajwadi Party used the cycle as its party symbol. The government encouraged Indians to make use of the cycle. Most recently in 2015, cycles were distributed by state governments to girls in rural areas to improve their participation in schools.
Commemorative stamps on Asiad Games and Women Empowerment in India.
Back to the times of Hybrid bikes, E-Bikes and health, cycling has become even more important. WHO is constantly reminding us to stay active and healthy during a pandemic. Cycling is one of the ways out. Our own STRAVA Cycling Club logs daily activity of solo cycling rides. Cycling trips in Asia offered by us past decade has only made us surer the popularity of the cycle has only risen.
More power to the pedal.