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It is politically very correct to exclaim that you want to pedal your way to work every day, but it is open to debate how long you maintain that zealous drive. If you do want to gain and sustain that momentum, though, Bangaloreans Rohan Kini and Nikhil Eldurkar are the ones to get in touch with.
As always it took the proverbial "when push comes to shove" when, three years ago, Kini decided to cycle to work. It was an 11 km commute for Kini from his home in Jayanagar in Bangalore South to his workplace, Thoughtworks, near the old Bangalore airport. Cutting through the densest traffic in the city, the forward motion can sometimes grind to a dead halt. So, one day Kini just borrowed Eldurkar's old BSA.
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"I found that I reached work in about 45 minutes and the commute was a lot less stressful. It wasn't different from using a vehicle and there were the benefits of being environmentally friendly and healthy," recalls Kini. Eldurkar soon followed
suit, commuting to his workplace, Altair.
A year and half later, the duo realised that their respective bikes could use an upgrade. They went shopping for imported mountain bikes, only to find that not only were they hard to find but there was no one to help them choose the right bike.
"It was a business and all that mattered was making the sale. Many fellow cyclists had a similar experience," they say.
Thus was born Bums On The Saddle (BOTS). A meeting happened with Trek, the bicycle manufacturer endorsed by none other than Lance Armstrong [Images] himself, when it planned to enter the Indian market. Trek was interested in something more than a dealership and Kini and Eldurkar fit the bill to the "T". The UK manufacturer Firefox also soon roped in the duo.
The two realised very early that they wouldn't be able to take time off work or change careers to purely sell cycles. They decided to use the Internet withwww.bumsonthesaddle.com. The nifty and quite wonderfully designed site showcases the entire range of bikes, off-road and on-road, which are priced from Rs 14,000 to a cool few lakhs.
Today about a year and a quarter after the launch of operations, a total of 130-odd bikes have been sold. And what is more interesting is the fact that a significant majority of the buyers have been sufficiently wowed to cycle to work themselves. The BOTS blog (blog.bumsonthesaddle.com), is replete with first-person accounts, each a story in itself.
"It is impossible to cycle in this dense traffic. This was my reaction when I first imagined myself cycling to office or elsewhere. For more than five weeks now I have been cycling to office, a distance of 14 km one way (from Harishchandra Ghat, near Malleswaram Deviah Park, to EGL campus, Koramangala Ring Road), at least four days a week. And now, my reaction is, wow man -- cycling keeps me active and gives me a very good feeling," writes Muralidhar Chavan, an engineer with IBM while concluding that his mission is now simply: "Spread the message."
Spreading the message is something that Kini and Eldurkar have been doing quite well already. There are impromptu excursions to off-road trails around Bangalore. There is also the Biker Of The Week section on the BOTS blog, which is a space for bikers to share their experiences.
The essentials of cycling are stressed upon, such as wearing protective gear -- helmets and elbow and knee protectors -- always erring on the side of safety while on the road. Also, it is advised to carry a change of clothes to work. Kini says it would be ideal if offices have showers for their employees.
The duo's efforts have not stopped with cycles. Along with a circle of friends, they also run a tree-planting campaign in their locality. So, it is no surprise that their community has quite aptly nicknamed them the Green Force.
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