Friday, October 20, 2006

A bike race to remember (1994)

I got my first bicycle in 7th grade. It was a mini Hamilton. Wasn't the fastest nor the most reliable, but , against all odds, I loved my bike. There were four of us 'bikers' in the neighborhood. Kiran, Niran, Nitin and me. Come summer vacation, we used to pack our lunches and set off early in the morning to find a quiet place and have a picnic. Pedal away for hours on end, finding rarely used bylanes, short cuts over sewage pipes, even through compounds of friendly folk who would wave us through. We had a map of the city in our head more comprehensive than that with the finest surveyor.

My Hamilton gave way to a bsa slr and finally a Hercules MTB. I had moved to 10th grade .. but my pedaling never stopped. Biking taught me a lot of things. I learned to ride without touching the handlebar. Learnt it wasn't such a good idea after all. Learnt how much fun it is to ride in pouring rain. Learnt I could beat a moped uphill .. and nowhere else. And finally .. Learnt I could never beat my brother in a race without cheating. Here is the only race I won against him without doing so.

It was my second year of badminton camp. 12 months of training and it was beginning to show. I was as fit as I had ever been. My brother and I were pedaling back from camp after a rather easy workout. Both of us were fresh. I hadn't raced my bro for a while, having still to recover from a particularly nasty loss when he beat me without holding the handlebar of his bike. Anyway .. I heard this voice in my head telling me that this was the moment. "Race you kinu" I screamed and took off. We were on the main road. Heavy traffic on our right and the sidewalk on the left. I felt great. Had a headstart and I felt like I had never pedalled faster. My feet whirled with lightning speed and for one spectacular moment I felt I would actually win .. but the whizzing sound of my brother's bike scorching the road brought me back. He had caught up, he had overtaken, and he was getting away. Suddenly a wobble. Something came flying out of the back of his bike. It was a cog from his bicycle chain. Before I could shout a warning, the whole chain was off and had tangled itself in the back wheel. The wheel locked and Kinu was airborne. I'm sure he would have flown and bounced, skidded and gone on past the remaining 10 meters to finish the race but there was this post in the way. Flew straight into it with a sickening 'thunk'. Poor post .. It dint stand a chance. After all this is a guy who would kick a tree and make it's fruits fall down. I believe there's still a huge dent where he struck it. As for him, he was already up and readying to make a dash for the finish line (still ahead of tortoise me) . Unfortunately concerned citizens who witnessed the crash and had no idea of his superhuman abilities got in the way. They made him sit down. Pointed fingers, asked him how many numbers it was, lectured him on road safety, shone a flashlight on his pupils, checked his tongue and almost got him admitted to the hospital. By the time they realized he was ok, I had won and was standing there grinning from ear to ear, waiting for him to join me. I would have loved to not race him ever again, but a black eye and body slam later I agreed to race him the next day and normality was restored.