This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
“Bike rides clear my mind and help me focus on the rest of the day. For me, quick physical activities during the weekdays are now based around trails—a positive lifestyle change that I would encourage for everyone."
Growing up, I enjoyed playing sports like cricket, volleyball, badminton and table tennis. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I moved to Hyderabad, India. Most of my sports needed multiple people to play, but slowly friends stopped showing up to games on weekends. So I instead started running and participated in 10K running events in Hyderabad.
I bought my first bike to commute to work and came across a WhatsApp group that does regular group rides. I started doing rides on weekends with them and also started riding on weekdays as well. I made friends across age groups and became comfortable with distances of 20–50 kilometers [12–31 miles].
I started participating in cycling events, not to compete or even necessarily complete them, but to see what they were like. In one of the unregistered events, I was talking to riders next to me, and at one point they said that we had already covered half the distance—50 km. I wasn’t sure I could make it back home because it would be double the maximum distance that I ever managed in one ride. Somehow, I managed to complete 100 km in seven hours; the ride boosted my confidence!
Not long after, I heard about the Hyderabad Randonneurs cycling club, which organizes long-distance rides. I participated in long-distance, self-supported rides called brevets. To date, I have completed 100-, 200-, 300- and 400-kilometer events.
Cycling in the USA
There is really no concept of bike trails in India. If you want to ride on your bike, you needed to ride on busy roads and even highways. Living now in Albuquerque while attending the University of New Mexico (UNM), the North Diversion Channel Trail and Paseo del Bosque Trail are the closest trails to my home, and my go-to trails for cycling. Albuquerque has a decent number of bike trails, and most importantly, a majority of them are connected.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university was closed, and all our in-person classes were converted to online. I was afraid to go for bike rides, thinking I might get infected by COVID. As the days went by, we were spending most of our time inside our house without any physical activity. By May, I realized the importance of physical activity in my daily life and started cycling again.
Why I Love Biking
There really is nothing I enjoy as much as riding. I can eat whatever I want without thinking about caloric intake, knowing I’ll burn them off soon. I’ve made a lot of friends, especially with people older than 40—they have so much to share during rides, and I have learned a lot from them. There may be a little pain, a little suffering, but that means I’m getting better, getting stronger.
I like to use apps that track my activities; cycling or running—or any physical activity—becomes a game of numbers, and I’m always trying to beat my best times. It gives me a lot of motivation to do more physical activities.
Growing up, my parents provided me with everything I needed. When I’m riding in cold weather or under the hot sun, or when I’ve run out of water or food, I am deeply aware of the importance of having one’s basic needs met. This outlook has led me to support others who do not have them, and I’ve started offering food or whatever I can to homeless people near UNM.
I also participated in the Great Cycle Challenge USA, which supports kids fighting cancer. I rode with a monthly goal of 300 miles and collected contributions to the cause. I want to continue doing long, multiday endurance rides with the hope of someday being part of an eight-person team to complete the Race Across America, a 3,000-mile cross-country race. I’m also interested in adding running and swimming to my physical pursuits and competing in a triathlon.
Bike rides clear my mind and help me focus on the rest of the day. For me, quick physical activities during the weekdays are now based around trails—a positive lifestyle change that I would encourage for everyone.
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.