For most young adults, navigating through life can often be a daunting task, what with trying to manage academics, career choices, and the umpteen issues that tend to get thrown along the way. But ask 22-year-old Abhijit Tase and he would tell you that putting the pedal to the metal is an effective way to keep moving forward. Quite literally.
A cyclist by passion and for now, also by profession, Abhijit is currently studying for a Masters Degree in the ‘Psychology of Sport and Exercise’ from Leeds Beckett University in England. To make ends meet, and to feed his passion to cycle, he works as a bicycle courier with UberEats, Deliveroo and Stuart.
Cycling has been a part of Abhijit’s life since early childhood. “I got my first bicycle on my fourth birthday - a bright yellow BSA Dinosaur. It's one of my earliest memories, running in circles with my bicycle, shouting with joy. I taught myself how to ride without training wheels when I was six - I took both training wheels off and taught myself within eight hours of continuous practice!” The passion to cycle for longer distances kicked in for Abhijit when he started going to college in Mumbai. “My commuting distance increased, so I started cycling more. I started doing regular 10k rides to Juhu and back.”
By October 2015, he took part in his first official event in Mumbai. “They had 3 different distances - 30kms, 70kms, and 100kms. I went for 30kms, as I didn't feel confident about a longer distance. That’s when my cycling really kicked off.”
Having cycled for a fair amount of time in India and England both, Abhijit also has a good insight into the differences between the two countries in that regard. “In India, some of the challenges I faced were to do with the road conditions. No following of the rules by motorised vehicles was another challenge. Cycling is also a relatively unknown sport in India, and is often looked at for commuting and transport rather than pleasure. There is no decent infrastructure in Mumbai or India as such for cycles, may it be trails, cycle paths, and so on.
“The UK is better aware about cyclists. You have better infrastructure here - cycle lanes, velodromes, special roads only for cyclists, and even special ‘cycle superhighways’. There are some challenges you do face, though. There is often road rage here, and I've had many close calls due to drivers almost hitting me or deliberately trying to scare me while cycling on the road.”
Having done long distance rides on various instances, Abhijit finds it particularly hard to list down one as his most interesting experience. He did however point out the training ride he did for his first 200km ride. “It was very difficult, hot, long, mundane and not what I expected at all. Cycling on the Nashik highway, the temperatures was almost 40°C. We had already done 55kms and had another 50-60kms to reach the top of Kasara Ghat which was our turnaround point. We finally reached the top at 1:23 PM - a time I remember very clearly as it was the first time I had climbed Kasara Ghat. This was 120kms, and we had to head back as well! However, I had to quit 40kms short, because my partner, Elan, had a puncture, and I was suffering from severe sunburn and dehydration as well. As difficult as that was, I think the extreme conditions is what really helped me create a mindset required for these insane distances that I do.”
Abhijit doesn’t do races, but rather participates in events based on endurance-based cycling called ‘Randonneuring’. “The events are called Audaxes, ran by an organisation named Audax. Many countries have their own organisations. India has Audax India. UK has Audax UK,” he explains. For myself, I don't see me doing races. Maybe in a couple of years, after finishing my studies. But, I think I'll stick to my endurance rides instead. They're differently challenging than racing and require different skill sets.”
“My biggest achievements I would say are my two 600km rides, and my first 70km+ ride. My first 600km was last year – Mumbai-Dhule-Mumbai, and the other one was this year – Blackpool-Glasgow-Blackpool. 37:50 hours and 35:30 hours were my timings. Doing a 600km ride is a different experience altogether. You really do go on a special journey with people you have never met before and form special bonds with them.”
Abhijit’s future ambitions are to ‘bikepack’ and explore the world. He also wants to take part in major events, like ‘RAAM - Race Across America’ and a Red Bull event across Russia called ‘Trans-Siberia’, to name a few. An avid football enthusiast as well, the Manchester United lover wishes to become a qualified coach. “I'm already a qualified coach in India, but aim to become a qualified coach in The UK. I'm doing my first coaching licence course next year. I'm also keen on becoming a triathlon coach, and am training to do my first triathlon next year. In the distant future, the Ultraman, which is an invitation event only, is an ambition.”
“I followed the people who were better than me. I kept trying to chase them, which improved my own ability,” said the modest Abhijit when asked for some tips for other cycling enthusiasts. “But really, my favourite tip that was given to me is – ‘It's not the cycle, but you. You can go only as far as you allow yourself to.’