What started off as a business venture, led to a life-changing passion for Niraj Singh. “I got into the cycling business a couple of years earlier when my friend came up with a suggestion to open a cycle shop,” says Niraj.
His decision led to him taking up short cycling rides where Niraj surprised himself and his friends with the amount of natural ability he possessed. “I have been cycling for a year and a half now. I started cycling by doing short distances. One thing that has happened to me after I took up cycling is that I wake up every day at 4 am to cycle which has given me a healthy life style. And it’s fun to do!”
To challenge himself further, Varanasi-born Niraj took it upon himself to complete the SR series (Super Randonneur),a long-distance cycling series. Niraj surpassed his own expectations, finishing all four brevits (long-distance, free-paced cycling events)in the first 6 months.
The longest of the brevits was Dhule, a gruelling 600km. To prepare for such long distances, Niraj places special focus on training and spending time at the gym as well. He emphasizes on work-outs that strengthens the back and gives a stable core for long distance rides.
Apart from a strict work-out regime, Niraj also keeps a close tab on his nutrition. He turns to a high carb diet for a couple of weeks before riding long distance and makes sure his body is well-rested before and after the journey.
His success as a randonneur led to him pursuing another cycling format. “I have always enjoyed speed. More than anything else, high speeds give me a rush. Now, I only do short and intense rides and try to participate in most of the local races that happen around Maharashtra.”
As much as he liked the shorter races, Niraj had to change his work-out and diet routine to suit the challenging nature of the event where an individual is expected to suddenly release bursts of energy.
“For short distances, the training is very different. There are various kinds of cycling intervals you need to incorporate into your training as the intensity you are riding at changes. It is important to control and measure how hard you are riding to give you the ability to target specific improvements in form.”
Niraj’s shop ‘Freewheelers’ deals exclusively in cycling goods and services in Vile Parle, Mumbai. With a keen knowledge of the different cycles used, he now rides a fast cycle with a short and aggressive posture. “One can turn to aero bikes and race geometry for races. For long rides, you need good bikes with an endurance geometry. These bikes won’t necessarily be fast but they will be comfortable.”
Niraj’s training is paying off already, with him winning third place in the Lonavala 100k challenge and second place at the Tour de Kalyan. His sights are now set on the Deccan Cliffhanger in Pune. “It is a 650km race which needs to be completed by a two-member team. I am participating with my friend Aman Tripathy and we’re hoping to do well in the event.”