Category Archives: Anita Recommends

Links on where to, how to, what to… relating to travel, food & wine, adventure, cycling, trekking and all the things I love to do!

Desi Traveler Prasad

Fitness on the road: A few strategies that might work

So here’s the problem.

I like good food. And when I’m travelling, food obviously becomes even more of an issue. Let me explain why. I can’t really control what I’m eating. I like trying out local delicacies so I rarely say no. And if my host is cooking something, I would eat even if I’m not hungry (rarely does that happen though). I usually am.

So the big problem is that it doesn’t do any good to my waistline (I can’t actually find it these days). After every holiday, the scales tip a bit more. At this rate, I have to get new scales.

Bringing me to the main topic of this post. With all this gluttony, one has to figure out creative ways to keep fit. I’d love to hear how you do it, but here are some tips from my side. And why “might” work, you might ask? Because as you’ll probably realise, you have to put these to practice for results. So personally, I have tried to make a few of these work. At least I make an effort. At most times!

Devise a yoga routine

I tried this – putting together a series of exercises to keep me occupied for around 45 minutes. The problem is that I rarely actually do it. I also have a very low motivation level when I need to do things on my own. So it makes it all the more harder. I love yoga and have dabbled in all kinds. But asking me to do it on my own is like dragging a horse to water… You get my point.

A 45 minutes yoga session will make you feel refreshed and ready to take on anything!

A 45 minutes yoga session will make you feel refreshed and ready to take on anything

Go out for a jog

Usually, when I arrive at a place, to get a lay of the land, I go out for a jog. It’s a nice way to get familiar with the new roads and also discover the place. I did this during my Europe trip. I particularly remember the picturesque village of Le Vaud in Switzerland, where I was lucky enough to stay for a week. I venture out nearly every day and discover new roads and routes. It’s a lovely quiet village, with enough hills to keep the calf muscles burning. I ran a lot. Around the village. To the next town. I was even tempted to run down to the town at the bottom of the hill, but I realised it would be difficult to get a lift to come back up again.

Where there are footpaths and running trails, make use of them!

Where there are footpaths and running trails, make use of them

In Den Haag, Netherlands, when staying with friends, I was impressed by the city’s efficient network of roads and pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. It was walking and running paradise. After being shoved off the road, being second (no, actually third) class citizens on Bangalore’s road when you’re walking or cycling, this was truly paradise. A part of me didn’t want to come back. Ever. While I was there, I made sure I went out nearly everyday. Found some excellent routes, tree-lined avenues that went on forever. I loved it. And I’m not even a runner. I can just imagine how pleasurable it will be for a real runner.

In Spain, with Stefania, training for her next long run, I had a nice time jogging on Malaga’s very scenic beach, very close to her home. With a location like that, I would run everyday. Yes, I’d probably train for a marathon. But then, I don’t.

Borrow/rent (don’t steal) a cycle

Pedalling is a great way to get some exercise and see a city (a bit faster than walking). Most European cities have great infrastructure for cycling. Every city I visited – Den Haag, Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Malaga – has cycling lanes and also has places to rent cycles. In Amsterdam I did a cycling tour, enjoying the cycling lanes and getting a view of what the lucky citizens of the city get to experience everyday. In Den Haag, I borrowed a bike and went out exploring the city.

While in Den Haag, I made use of the extensive cycle pathways

While in Den Haag, I made use of the extensive cycle pathways

Rent or borrow a cycle - there's no better way to see a city and get some exercise

Rent or borrow a cycle – there’s no better way to see a city and get some exercise

My best biking experience was in Malaga when I decided to do my own little cycle tour, visiting an automobile museum, a park, a artsy neighbourhood, ending with a climb up (locked the cycle at the bottom of the hill) to watch a most brilliant sunset from a viewpoint called the “Castle of Gibralfaro”.

Enrol for walking tours

I love them! I also found a company called SANDEMANs New Europe which offers free walking tours in nearly all major European cities. And I did 3 of them – in Amsterdam, Brussels and Madrid. It’s a great way to glimpse local culture, food, environment and get interesting nuggets of information that you possibly wouldn’t be able to figure out on your own. Besides the hosts are usually really interesting characters who will keep you more than engaged. So we had Scott in Amsterdam, Berber in Brussels and Michael in Madrid who had their own unique styles and kept us amused and on our toes. The walks are around 3 hours and so you’ll be glad to sink in a chair and order that wine or beer once it’s over.

Walking tours are a great way to explore the city

Walking tours are a great way to explore the city

Hit the hotel gym

Most of them will have some kind of a health club. During our Kerala Blog Express trip, I still remember a particular hotel where we went through a set of darkly lit rooms to discover one treadmill in a corner. So, you never know. If you seek, you might find. I’m not a fan of gyms; give me the outdoors any day. But if there’s absolutely no other option, then it’s a good idea.

Use that pool

Shimmering blue waters beckon. And you look at it. Take photos. Dip your toes in. Contemplate.

Two pools to choose from at the beautiful Crowne Plaza, Kochi

Two pools to choose from at the beautiful Crowne Plaza, Kochi

Well, don’t. Just jump in. There’s nothing like a few laps of a pool to make you emerge refreshed and feeling good. And besides, swimming also burns calories I’ve heard. I love the water. If I had a pool, I’d probably be inside half of the day. So it’s a good thing I don’t. But most hotels come equipped with pools, so it’s a good thing to get in a swim first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day. Avoid those crowds of aunties though who step in wearing everything, including their family heirlooms and jewellery.

Use common objects

Okay, I haven’t actually tried it personally, but a friend vouches for it. You can use chairs, beds, sofas, tables and other such furniture lying around your room (and if you’re staying with friends hopefully they have enough furniture). Or even kitchen objects like water bottles, kettles. Using them as props, you can then do some simple exercises – you need to get creative. Look them up online and list around 10-12 of them in a notebook and do whichever ones are most convenient.

If all else fails, do 100 surya namaskars. Okay, maybe 20. You are on holiday after all.

So what is the routine that works for you?

Foodie Thursday!

Taste of Tangra: From the kitchen of Chef Edwin

Ever wondered about the origin of “Indian Chinese” cuisine?

Apparently, it all started in Kolkata – the place where the Hakka community from China settled down many decades ago. Interestingly, according to this link, “One of the earliest records of immigration from China can be found in a short treatise from 1820. This records hints that the first wave of immigration was of Hakkas but does not elaborate on the professions of these immigrants.” Over a period of time, they grew to a large flourishing community initially involved in the tannery business. Over a period of time, many families closed down their business while others were moved to an area outside of the city. The New Chinatown area, where the community resides came to be known as “Tangra“.

Over time, the cuisine of this community began to undergo modifications to suit the Indian palate. Coriander, chillis, cumin began to make it’s way into the dishes. What resulted was “Kolkata Chinese” or what is known today as Indian Chinese. This cuisine gained popularity rather quickly and you’ll probably find “Chinese food”, even in a remote part of the country.

My first encounter with Kolkata Chinese food began way back during my childhood days in Shillong. We had a Chinese restaurant at the bottom of the hill from our place (I think it was called Abba) and dad made sure he packed us a parcel of oily hakka noodles for us whenever he passed by the place, while coming home. My sister and I would eagerly look forward to his treat!

Chef Jolly of the JW Marriott introducing Chef Edwin and the Kolkata Chinese inspired "Tangra" cuisine

Chef Jolly of the JW Marriott introducing Chef Edwin and the Kolkata Chinese inspired “Tangra” cuisine

We are given a taste of this cuisine at a special cookout session at the JW Marriott, Bangalore through 3 dishes, demonstrated by Chef Edwin, who runs and owns the very popular “Golden Joy” restaurant in Tangra. Chef Jolly (follow him here) of the JW Marriott recounts the story when upon visiting Kolkata and this area, he settled on this particular restaurant due to the quality of the food and it’s popularity.
Special kitchen set up to whip up some Tangra delicacies

Special kitchen set up to whip up some Tangra delicacies

Chef Jolly didn’t waste any time and organised for Chef Edwin to come down to Bangalore, so we can get a taste of this unique cuisine.

Chef Edwin demonstrates threaded paneer – his creation and innovation – a good alternative for vegetarians. The other two dishes are the Hakka style chilli chicken and golden fried prawns. By adding a bit of seasoning, garnish, soy sauce and Chinese wine, he cooks up these delicious dishes. Served with Indian style sauces – flavoured with mint and coriander – they have their own unique taste.

For the special occasion, we also got to taste a big spread of delicacies like like momos (pork, chicken, vegetarian), egg hakka noodles and fried rice and fish in oyster sauce.

The delicious golden fried prawns

The delicious golden fried prawns – – we did try to get the recipe for the batter – but I doubt we can replicate it even if we tried!

After a good meal, which is topped off by Tangra inspired cocktails (we tried the Beijing Bellini), we had an interesting chat with Chef Edwin who tells us a bit more about the Hakka community and his style of cooking.
Tangra inspired cocktails to add to the spice!

Tangra inspired cocktails to add to the spice!

Interestingly, he was a resident of Bangalore around 1978, but can no longer recognise the city. (Well, neither can we!). After a few years, he left and rejoined his family in Kolkata, taking over the running of the restaurant. He attributes his love of food to his mother, who is a very good cook. A lot of things he learnt by hanging on to her apron strings. But along the way, he’s also had to improvise and be creative to keep his customers happy. He says he gets people from all over the country (and even the world). “For example, I get Sikhs who won’t eat meat on Tuesday, but still want to eat out and want exceptional food,” says Chef Edwin of the kind of demanding customers he gets. He seems to manage all his customers really well; the restaurant on busy nights does around 600 covers, Chef Jolly tells us. If you look at the reviews of the restaurant online, it’s not hard to believe either.
With Chef Edwin, who lived in Bangalore around 1978. He doesn't recognise the city anymore, he says. We're not surprised!

With Chef Edwin, who lived in Bangalore around 1978. It’s changed a lot since then, he observes

The Hakka community has managed in the meanwhile to keep their language and culture alive (Hakka) over the years. They don’t however know how to read their own language, since they are all 2nd and 3rd generation Chinese brought up in India. Even at home, Chef Edwin says he insists his son speaks in Chinese. It’s the only way to ensure that some aspects of their culture is preserved. From a large community of more than 20,000, then numbers have dwindled down to a few thousand with many immigrating and moving out.

About the food, says Chef Edwin, the idea is not to drown the dishes in soy or over cook/fry the ingredients, but to bring out the flavors in subtle ways. And his food is testimony to this principle.

So in case you’re tempted to check out a few Tangra delicacies from the expert hands of Chef Edwin (and don’t want to fly to Kolkota), hop across to the JW Marriott Bangalore which is hosting the Tangda seafood festival till November 9.

So this special is a part of the JW Kitchen buffet, along with other cuisines and mouthwatering choir of desserts for Rs 1599 + taxes.

Hakka, anyone?

(Note & Disclosure: Please excuse the not so good pictures as I dropped in after another hectic event of my own and had no time to grab my DSLR! This was on an invitation from the JW Marriott, Bangalore).


Savouring the world, one dish a time!

My first taste of Portuguese food was in Goa. The owners of the now restored 213 year old mansion Palácio do Deão, built by a Portuguese nobleman, had opened their doors to visitors for a taste of the traditional cuisine. I don’t remember the names of the dishes now but our hosts Rubem and Celia Vasco da Gama had gone to great lengths to lay out a memorable spread. I do remember the fish cooked to perfection. And the calamari flavored to bring any foodie to raptures.

Dining area
This old but restored Portuguese mansion made the ideal setting for a traditional meal

A taste of Portugal Main course

I’m glad I captured some of these culinary delights on camera so when I sit back and think of the delicious food, I can supplement my memories with photographs. Of course, the images don’t do justice to the actual taste of the mouth-watering delicacies served, but they only increased my curiosity about the cuisine and food of Portugal.

Goa was a Portuguese colony till as late as 1954 and the influences on the food and culture are indelible.

The Portuguese are said to have brought in potatoes, tomatoes, guavas and even cashews from Brazil to Goa and many of these ingredients today, find their way into Goan dishes, especially the Christian fare.

In my mind, there is no better way to explore a place than through it’s food and cuisine. And as cliched as it might sounds, I do actually live to eat so it seems but a natural way for me to explore a new place. I look forward to my next meal with anticipation, especially when I am travelling. I usually go armed with a list of recommended dishes and make sure I try at least a few of them.

When in South East Asia, it’s difficult to resist a meal without noodles

Not only is exploring local cuisine interesting, but eating as the locals do adds to the whole experience.

I was recently in Vietnam, when I got to sample some really scrumptious local fare. From the traditional pho, to fresh and fried spring rolls, to the gorgeous (and tummy filling) pancakes filled with shrimp and rice, it was definitely a trip to remember for me. I even have memories of what I ate and at which particular place. The little non-assuming roadside eatery in Saigon where we sampled fresh spring rolls for the first time.

Making of the spring roll
A lady cooking fresh spring rolls; this has been her livelihood her whole life is what we’re told

The fish at a homestay in Mekong Delta, served like I’ve never fried seen before. The spring rolls we first learnt to make on a cruise ship and then relished. And the list goes on…

Pho in Vietnam
You can’t leave Vietnam without tasting the pho

Lots of seafood!
Streets are lined with sellers who pile up their stock and wait for buyers

Ingredients for the spring roll
The fresh spring roll is both delicious and healthy

I’ll have what he’s having!”

In March of this year, during a trip to Kerala I met with food and travel blogger, photographer Nelson Carvalheiro (and belatedly also found out how famous he really is!). Nelson in fact, through his amazing food pictures and experiences has the ability to bring about the above reaction from any onlooker.

Yoga poses with Nelson
Nelson indulging in a spot of yoga to get rid of all those calories piled up during our Kerala trip

During the trip, our meals were memorable, not only because of the varied spread but because of the fact that it would bring us together to discuss more about our cuisine and influences. We enjoyed authentic Kerala cuisine, the rice delicacies, the avial and stew, the fish cooked in different styles and best of all, the famous Kerala sadya (a multi-spread vegetarian meal) served during festivals but where everyone got a lesson on how to eat with their hands. It was an experience like no other. I was so taken in by the meal served on the houseboat while cruising the backwaters (probably our best!) that I even wrote about the experience.

Traditional fare from Kerala - appam with egg stew
Yummy egg stew served with fluffy appams in Kerala, India

Putta and kadlakai curry
Another delicacy called putta, with coconut and rice, along with kadla curry

As I head to Europe next in August visiting friends from various regions for the next couple of months, I am definitely looking forward to the more attractive aspect – sampling local fare. From the seafood paella and sangria of Spain to the variety of cheese in France, to the famed seafood and other delicacies of Portugal (if I am given a chance!), I’m surely looking forward to this trip already.

I definitely wouldn’t mind a “foodgasm”. I can’t think of a better way to experience Portugal!

(NOTE: This is an entry for the 16 day food tour of Portugal being conducted by APTECE. More details are here on Nelson’s blog. The last day is July 31.)


Why buy when you can try? Camera Equipment from

I’m super thrilled to announce my photography gear/equipment partner,, a camera and lens rental service based in Bangalore. They also offer additional services like photo editing, and monitor calibrating services.

FACEBOOK: BookMyLens | TWITTER: @bookmylens

On my Wayanad trip earlier in the month, I tried out a Canon 500D and a 17-85 mm lens and most of the photos from my earlier post was taken by this camera.

For me, photography is a way in which I can bring my stories alive. And it makes sense therefore to take updated gear and lenses when on a trip. But I discovered that you don’t really need to buy so much equipment, when you can easily just try it out for affordable prices instead. That way, depending on the kind of trip you’re going on and what you’re planning to do – you can decide on the equipment you want to carry. It’s a much better deal according to me, rather than accumulating a lot of equipment, which you might use only sporadically. Not to mention the fact that equipment can get frightfully expensive.

Goutham Shankar, who is the founder of BookMyLens (with a lot of support from his friends, family and customers, he says) answered a few questions I had of their service and I am sure you’ll find them useful too.

Q1. When did you start off and how did it happen?

BookMyLens is a photography equipment rental service company. We provide an easy and quick service for photography enthusiasts to experience all kinds of photography related equipments.

We have wide range of equipment covering entry level DSLRs, Pro-DSLRs, and Lenses ranging from 50mm to 600mm, video equipment (including our newly acquired cinema cameras like Black Magic), support rigs, audio equipment used for video shooting etc. which are used by budding photographers, wildlife photographers, wedding photographers, short filmmakers alike.

I started testing the waters sometime early 2011 and within a period of 5-6 months I was convinced with the business model, which I had in mind. By Sep 2012, I quit my IT job and started full time.

First and foremost reason for me to start this venture was my passion for photography. Having started as an amateur photographer in early 2005, which slowly turned out to be serious hobby over a period of time. That’s when I realized that not everyone could afford to buy photography related equipment owing to the huge cost and hassles involved in procuring them here, also felt the need for have different equipments under one roof.

I could figure out a huge potential in the market with just not hobbyist photographers but also for ad agencies, event companies, short filmmakers, wedding photographers etc., the demand is going to increase in the future.

I realized a rental service providing high quality gear at affordable prices was essential.

Q2. How has the scene changed over the years?

There has been a fantastic response (+ve). Lot of people want to try their hands on photography without the need of spending huge amount on buying these expensive equipments. On the other hand, there are lot of other rental companys which have come up in recent times which has lead to price wars.

Q3. Any bad experience or learnings in the last few years – things you hadn’t accounted for?

Lot of learnings, everyday there is a learning as in when we meet different customers. Lot of things we learnt and implemented it in a jiffy to make the entire business model stronger.

Q4. So who is your typical customer?

It’s a mixture of professional / amateurs. Apart from that we have lot of companys who rent our equipments for their in-house shoots.

Q5. What would you say your USP is? Why should someone come to you?

The market for photography is growing day by day exponentially. People have started to realise the ability to rent any kind of equipment without spending huge amounts.

There is a high demand for the same and so are the services available. One has to take care of all aspects including providing high quality gear, delivery/pick up and guiding people for picking the right equipment.

Our aim is to provide the best in class lenses, DSLRs, video equipments and accessories at affordable rentals and we believe that our service and range speaks for itself.

If you want to try out their services, head across to


The Noob Guide: Everything you wanted to know about cycling

A guide for those who are contemplating buying a cycle. Or wanting to get back into cycling. Or even those who’ve taken the first step, and want some tips on what to do next. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, so welcome to the world of human powered bikes – also called cycles.

(NOTE: A very long post, so be warned. However, I’ve tried to include as much information as I can. But like I say, don’t get paralysis by analysis. Act instead!).

(ANOTHER NOTE: This is written from the viewpoint of a Bangalore cyclist, but there are equally good bike shops, trails and resources in all the major cities today including Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Hyderabad.)

Why do people cycle?

In a nutshell:
– To keep fit
– Commute to office, it’s faster in peak traffic
– Rediscover the joys of experiencing wind in the face
– Discover the countryside
– An alternative way to travel

Long answer. The cycle of life ironically means that you stop cycling at some point of time. You start earning money, get a two wheeler, then you get a car. Wait, it doesn’t stop there – you get a fancy 4WD and increases your carbon footprint to zillion not so brownie points. (And the only place you drive this vehicle is to the airport). Anyway, it so happens that most of us, in the process, forget the sheer joy of cycling. Of feeling the wind in our face. Of the open countryside and just you and two wheels.

People have today realised that to reduce the traffic (which all of us are contributing to) there have to be longer terms solutions. It’s happening in countries like Copenhagen and Amsterdam where a large percentage of citizens cycle – come hail or sunshine. So what stops us Indians from getting onto our cycles and getting some exercise, de-congesting our roads. Well – usually it’s our status consciousness. But seriously, it’s time we get over it. Because when you have jam packed roads like ours, your expensive Landcruiser is as good as my Maruti Zen – we’re all stuck in the same traffic. Many people have started realising it’s a faster, smarter way to commute to work and you’ll notice a lot of folks zipping about on cycles these days.

All roads lead to Pearl Valley
It’s a great feeling to head out on open roads and experience new sights and sounds – the joys of cycling are definitely worth re-discovering

It’s also a way to exercise and keep fit. There are enough success stories of people who have re-discovered the joy of cycling, got on their bikes and managed to get fitter and healthier (and lose weight as a result). While you might think that cycling actually exposes you to polluted air (which it does) you’re actually pretty much breathing in the same thing in your car and frankly, it’s very relative.

Noob Guide to Cycling
And I wanted to put this at the bottom, but I secretly cycle mainly so I can eat more. Being a foodie, I love my masala dosas, idlis and fried chicken. So my thought is that if I cycle more, I can eat more. Unfortunately, the formula hasn’t quite worked in my weight’s favour, but then I’ve had a lot of fun cycling. And ummm. Eating.

So, in short – there are many reasons. Find yours and you won’t regret it.

Can I just get up one day and decide to start again?

The good news is: yes. I didn’t start cycling till very late in my life. Well, I grew up in a hill station. If I remember correctly, there were two very adventurous girls who had cycles – they were a bit of an oddity. And I never did understand why anyone would want to cycle up Shillong’s rather scary slopes. Not anymore.

Noob Guide to Cycling
I’m glad I decided to learn to pedal at a ripe old age. It’s opened so many more doors to travel for me, and added a much richer perspective to the way I see things now

From being scared of riding 10 kms, to being sent home in an auto after a 35km ride to completing a 400 km ride at a stretch, I’ve realised that anything’s possible even for a relative newbie to cycling. So yes, if you’re reasonably healthy, there’s no reason you can’t cycle, 10, 20 and then even a 100 kms. You just need to scale up with some thought and consideration and let your muscles start warming up to the fact that it’s finally getting some much needed exercise.

Noob Guide to Cycling
This is somewhere on the road, during my 400 km ride from Bangalore to Vellore and back, which I completed in around 23 hours. Yes, we all do strange things sometimes.

And a caveat: You’ll look at long stretches of good road very differently once you start riding!

Which cycle should I invest in?

I see you’re convinced now. Well, you’ve survived till here.

The way I suggest approaching it is:
a) Determine your goal – what do you want to do with the cycle. Commute? Join longer weekend rides? Get into travelling to different places on cycle?
b) Determine a comfortable budget and be prepared to stretch it.

What I advise is getting a mid-range city bike if you’re not exactly sure about what you want to do. The hybrid is a cross between a heavier MTB and a lighter road bike and is actually great for commutes, slightly bad roads we tend to encounter and quite sturdy.

Noob Guide to Cycling
I started with the Trek hybrid, which I still use. But I also added others to the stable along the way. In a cyclist’s world, ek se kuch nahi hota. But then, to balance the equation, I never upgraded my car.

Once you fix a budget, look around and do some window shopping. I personally feel that buying a cheap bike actually robs you of the pleasure of cycling. So don’t settle for something sub-standard just because it costs lesser. Remember that this is also a vehicle – it will take you places, it can potentially substitute a gym membership if used regularly and can be your commute. You buy a flat screen television for more than 25k and all it does is dish you crap and turn you into a couch potato. And we never heard you complain while shelling out all that cash then, did we?

The value will go up as soon as you see it in the right perspective. And so will your budget. You should get a decent bike starting from 20-25k onwards. Do look around and if you’re unsure, ask for advise from someone who has been biking for a while and can give you some valuable inputs.

But do I need a geared cycle?

The simple answer is that it’s not absolutely necessary, but if you’re looking at exploring cycling, using it as your commute and slowly graduate to longer weekend rides, you’ll probably start wondering why you didn’t opt for a few gears.

For most humans, gears help you put in lesser effort and get more efficient. So if you’re going on a long ride for example, a geared bike will mean that you’ll be less tired and less inclined to hurt your other muscles. Try taking a non geared bicycle over a flyover and then try it with a geared one and then you can tell the difference. Or on a long stretch with a lot of ups and down, climbs and hills, you’ll be glad for those gears.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Gears? No gears? No question – definitely the former, especially if you want to start exploring more avenues in cycling

Having said that, the man on the street today uses a cycle as a primary commute and is usually extremely fit, and rarely rides a geared cycle.

If you haven’t noticed (they are an invisible population, as I’ve written earlier), do take some time and look at cyclists on the road – they’re usually very fit, agile and tuned to survive in our horrendous traffic. And they do this quite well despite the honking trucks, tempos and other vehicles who drive like they want to mow down everyone in their way. Life is much more challenging for a cyclist, and yet he/she adapts well the challenge.

So the point I was getting to: unless you’re out to prove something, or you want to take it on as a challenge, resist temptation and just invest in a decent basic geared bicycle.

Where can I get myself a cycle?

Another question that people ask frequently. And while as part of Bangalore’s cycling community, we’ve seen the birth of several bike shops in the city, a larger percentage of citizens are quite unaware of the revolution taking place right in front of them.

Here are few bike shops run by cyclists – so you can be sure to get enough attention and correct information when you’re trying to choose a cycle.

Click on the links and you’ll be led to bike shop heaven! All run by passionate cyclists, I would recommend all of them.

Bums on the Saddle (BOTS)
Cyclists for Life

There’s also a second hand option in case you’re not sure you want to get a new bike first. But again, do make sure you’re picking up the right size:
Second hand marketplace

What should I keep in mind when I am buying a cycle?

The right size and fit is the most important aspect if you’re going to use the cycle frequently. Many people try cycling their kids bikes and then say they don’t enjoy it. Make sure you have the fit right, because on the longer rides this is going to make a difference in your comfort levels.

One important thing to remember is that the guy selling you the bike should be taking an interest in your comfort and asks about your height and suggest a frame fit accordingly. If he’s just trying to peddle the latest model without asking any questions, then you should get out of there. Quickly. And move on to the next place.

Most of these bike shops will also service your cycle. And you can always start learning some simple tips on bike maintenance yourself.

How do I start off?

Some tips:
— Bike around your neighbourhood
— Run your errands nearby on a cycle
— Find a few quieter lanes in your neighbourhood
— Get out early in the morning
— Join a community
Go Green, started by Prabhakar Rao, who is also now known as GoGreen Rao, is a great effort with over 2000 members. They conduct regular rides in the city and outside.
— Start cycling to office (fast becoming a popular option)

I usually encourage people to join a community. Bangalore has a thriving cycling community and depending on the area where you live, you will most definitely find groups which are active. Join the Bangalore Bikers Club to begin with.

Another very vocal and active community online, with members from all over India (and overseas) is – there are animated and heated discussions sometimes. But it’s also packed with useful information. In fact, if you want another good guide on how to choose a bike, read this discussion on the same forum – it goes into much more detail.

There are also groups on Facebook where you can get information about rides. Many bike shops like BOTS and ProCycle have regular city and night rides. These are a good way to start off and join the community. You will get to meet new people too who are also into cycling. Once you’re comfortable and feel you’re getting reasonably good (so now you can actually ride 10k and not complain), it’s time for a longer ride.

This article has some details on the different trails inside and outside Bangalore. This is another one from Ravi Ranjan, an avid cyclist, and though it’s an older article it still has quite a few routes listed in a lot of detail.

One option is to put your cycle in a vehicle, drive to a start point, where you park your car and then begin pedalling. Else, if you’re confident you can even begin pedalling from home.

South: Outer Ring Road to Harohalli via Kanakpura road (around a 21 km stretch one way), and there is also a stretch called Pipeline road which runs parallel for a while and is supposed to be a good road for cycling.

This road is also used for longer 100 km rides to a place called Anchetty in Tamil Nadu. I’ve also used Kanakpura road to cycle to Mysore – it’s a much more scenic route. I had to meet a friend once and decided to cycle and catch her there :-) It was fun and she was a bit surprised. But naturally.

Noob Guide to Cycling
While I’ve cycled on Mysore road, I wouldn’t recommend it for the crazy, speeding traffic. Try the quieter Kanakpura road itself. I’ve done this route a couple of times and it’s much more enjoyable.

Noob Guide to Cycling
This is during a weekend trip we did to Anchetty a few years ago. We decided to camp at a school for the night and despite the mosquitoes and the packet food, we had loads of fun. And then rode back the next day. These kind of trips don’t need much planning – just get a motley bunch together and ride off! We carried just some light sleeping bags, toothbrush (optional!) and some packet foods

South-East: Silk Board to Bagalur (falls in TN) via Sarjapura road (it’s a lot more traffic now till Sarjapur, but gets better after). It’s got a few climbs thrown in for good measure and is around 30 kms one way. Bagalur also had an awesome idli shop once upon a time where we’ve enjoyed some great breakfasts. I don’t know if it exists anymore but a few of the houses have one room turned into small eateries and will serve you hot idles.

— Airport road (beyond the airport on the National Highway).
— The city (or wherever you live) to Nandi hills (this is a very long ride so try this once you’re getting better at longer distances)
Highway turn off to Nandi hills – A lot of cyclists also drive till the highway turn off, or park somewhere around Nandi and then cycle up. Nandi is a 7 km stretch – but uphill all the way so it makes for good training for those who want climbing practice. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to torture themselves on a weekend doing that, welcome to the world of cycling.

Just note that Sundays (and Saturdays to an extent) are usually particularly busy with two wheeler and four wheeler traffic so it’s better to watch out for idiots on the road if it’s the weekend. Also, ride and stay in a group – there have been unpleasant experiences here.

East (Whitefield): Old Madras road – Hoskote to Kolar is a long stretch of 44 kms (one way) and is a favourite with road cyclists. It’s got smooth tarmac so you can speed it up. And also a wide shoulder so the trucks avoid you (well, at least you can pray they do). There’s also Siva’s road – a relatively scenic road to Devanahalli, named after a now-famous cyclist of the same name. Watch out for racing airport cab drivers though. It’s much busier than what it used to be and the drivers can be maniacal. Also the inside roads in the Whitefield-Varthur area are still great for cycling.

What if I change my mind later?

There are quite a few things you can do in case you’re unable to find time to cycle. Or change your mind. Remember that change is constant and nothing is really permanent. So buying a cycle is actually not a decision that you should take forever to think about. If you change your mind, here are some options:
a) rent out the cycle so others can use it. Rates can be from 200-400 Rs per day depending on the brand and state of your cycle
b) worst case (and only if you’re surely not using it anymore), sell it on a group like BOTS Marketplace or spread the word in the community (Bangalore Bikers Club, Bangalore Cyclists), and Facebook Cyclop group, which will surely get you enough enquiries.

Is there a place I can compete in Bangalore?

Bangalore’s competitive scene has gotten definitely “hotter”. BBCh (Bangalore Bicycling Championships) began as a small affair and today has turned into a monthly event where around a 100 cyclists descend in all their spandex glory. You’ll probably wonder where they all emerged from at 630 am in the morning. Gasp.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Well-dressed and slick cyclists appear from different parts of the city, suddenly turning the road into a racing paradise. Motorists, watch out – we mean serious business!

Locations chosen for races are usually slightly on the outskirts so be prepared. But these are well attended events and racing is also quite serious business now. BAR (Bangalore Amateur Racing) is another such start-up in the racing scene but have quite well conducted races every month. Then there are one-off races held by other groups – usually once you subscribe to the community groups, you unearth many more. There is a group called SFS (Students Foundation for Sports) which organises regular events. Which means, if you get into the racing circuit, you’re going to be busy throughout the month.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Professional teams turn up at these events – and yes, we do have them in India and Bangalore. A lot has happened since you bought your fancy car! But apart from them, there are also a bunch of not so serious, but equally passionate bikers who form cycling groups to compete in these events. Some usually ride for a big breakfast, but then whatever gets you going, right?

What if I want to push myself even more (aka 100 kms is not enough)?

If cycling has gotten you hooked, and you want to push yourself, you can also try the Bangalore Brevets. This began around 2011 with a bunch of enterprising cyclists who decided to get the famous Paris-Brevet-Paris qualifier events to India. The main PBP event is held once in 4 years. To qualify for the event you need to complete a series of rides – 200, 300, 400 and 600 within stipulated times. And yes, don’t get scared looking at the zeroes. It’s not actually as difficult as it seems. Some enthusiastic folks have even completed 1000 and 1200 km rides.

For upcoming long rides, you can check out this calendar.

These are not races as there are no winners. You try and complete the distance so you can qualify. Bangalore community’s enthusiastic volunteers run these rides regularly.

Apart from that, there are also other events that keep happening in the city. A few triathlon events have also been held, by the Mysore Cycling Club.

I don’t want to race. Are there leisure rides?

This is the good news. And my favourite part. There are groups today who offer leisure cycling and this is an ideal way to see a city, experience new sights and have fun with friends.

I did my first leisure ride in Goa over 5 days and enjoyed the countryside immensely and that was my introduction to recreational cycling – and I was hooked.

Noob Guide to Cycling
My very first multi-day cycling trip in Goa. I loved every moment of it!

After that, I ventured to do the Tour of the Nilgiris, another prestigious event in the cycling world which happens every December. Around 80 cyclists descend in Bangalore (starting point) and pedal from here cover nearly 900 kms in around 8 days and there are also competitive stages to the event. I did this in 2009 and had the time of my life. In 2010, we went to the North in search of more climbs and did the torturous Manali to Leh segment – an extremely tough ride.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Some sights you’ll be witness too when you cycle to Leh – definitely a trip of a lifetime. And be prepared for the endless climbs! Nandi hills will seem like a tame mouse in front of the lion of mountains!

It’s also great fun and the the best part of being on a cycle is that you can stop anywhere you want, take pictures, chat with locals enroute and have interesting exchanges like this one:

He: Madam, kahan ja rahe ho? (where are you going)
Me: Hum Leh ja rahe hai. (I’m going to Leh!)
He: Lekin, Madam – aaj kaal jeep milte hai. Aap cycle kyon kar rahe hai. Aap ko maloom nahi kya? (But there are jeeps available nowadays, why are you cycling. Or didn’t you know?)

How could I explain? There were no words and I couldn’t have conveyed in my limited Hindi as to the beauty and sheer exhileration of seeing things at my pace. So I just smiled at him and started up the mountain again.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Resting somewhere on the way from Manali to Leh. And yes – cycling involves a lot of resting in between. Especially in the mountains.

There are also other events like the Great Malnad Challenge, the Tour of Tamil Nadu and a crop of other exciting bicycle events to choose from today. Many enthuastic cyclists have also their own cycling tours.

Here are a few:

Unventured: Started by cycling enthusiast Gurudeep Ramakrishna and then Tejaswini Gopalswamy, another extremely passionate and avid traveller, who joined as the co-founder. From their website: “From a decade of wanderings across this country of cultural diversity taking the road less taken, Unventured brings some of the best adventure acitivites to experience Incredible India! At Unventured, we are obsessed with the need to provide travelers an off the beaten path real world experience of India that will leave them amazed. We do this with the element of safety and security in mind and provide simple but essential support to discover the Unventured – natural wealth, cultural diversity and natural history of Incredible India!”

Cycling and More (CAM): One of the pioneers in this kind of travel, they do mainly weekend rides, and I’ve been with them and enjoyed the experience. From their website: “In an unbelievable short period of time, cycling has grown on to become a mainstream hobby. Cycling and More is the brain child of cycling and adventure enthusiasts Sreeharsha & Vikrant from Bangalore. When weekend treks are a yes yes, why not weekend rides ? This is the situation we are trying to change. We hope that helping people ride will aid acceptance of cycling as a fun, viable and completely eco-friendly mode of transport.”

Noob Guide to Cycling
Group cycling is a lot of fun; especially since everyone is obviously there because of one reason. No, make it two! Cycling and good food :-). This taken during a rainy CAM ride. The rains don’t get in the way of pedalling.

Red Spokes Cycling: A fairly new venture. From their FB page: “Red Spokes offers unique and exciting experiences, on a bicycle. Feel the wind on your face. Listen as the roads whisper stories to you. Take in the sights and sounds of nature. We guarantee that you will taste the excitement with our unique experiences across India, on a bicycle.”

MuddyBoots: Based in Kalpetta, this adventure company offers some great trails in the Wayanad region. The best part is that you don’t need to transport cycles as they have a stable of pretty good options. They are also operational in Madikeri, Coorg and Bekal.

Noob Guide to Cycling
Cycling with MuddyBoots in Kerala. The scenic beauty of this region is unbeatable. And add to that, it has pretty decent roads for cycling.

How safe is cycling on our city’s roads?

People ask this all the time. Before I answer the question, take some time to observe cyclists on our city roads. Do you hear or see a lot of mishaps. (and we’re sure there are quite a few in a city of our size). But it’s true – there are lakhs of cyclists on our city roads – and yet, they are as prone as someone on a two-wheeler or a car (despite the fact that you probably feel safer in a car). However, safety is very relative.

Is it safe for them? Depends on how safe we drive actually because safety of cyclists usually lies in someone else’s hand. Having said that, to answer the question, I don’t think cycling is much safer or unsafer than anything else. For example, cars have accidents, pedestrians have mishaps, two wheelers get into skirmishes. What you can do is ride as safely as you can. Take all the precautions.

So here are some I’d suggest:
— Wear a helmet
— Be noticed
— Give hand signals
— Follow traffic signals
— Watch out for erratic motorbikes, crazy tempo and call centre drivers, sudden opening of parked car doors (very important), drivers on opposite side of road, honking cabbies, holy cows, very aggressive Volvo drivers – so you get the drift right?
— Oh, and did I mention dogs? Just make some noise and hope they stop chasing you. They’re usually very friendly. You can try carrying some biscuits with you to make friends.

There are also others who believe that you should not wear a helmet or get noticed. I would rather protect my head however. Even if, for some reason you get nervous and fall at least you know your head is protected. I also like to wear bright clothes and make sure I get noticed because when I’m cycling I want that cab fellow to take care and not come too close. Doesn’t work all the time though.

But take an informed decision on this one.

What next?

Get on your bike and ride! If you’ve gotten this far, then you have no excuses not to ride.


To contribute any links or other information that might be useful, do leave a comment

CYCLING BOUTIQUE: For all your needs related to cycling including accessories, apparel, components and even bikes
PEDALS AND WHEELS – Bike shop and outdoor equipment store

Bikey Venky (also called as Lord Venky in the cycling circles); an amazing cyclist who can also write about it as passionately!
Manoj Bhat who blogs about his running and cycling experiences at Visor View; an extremely inspiring athlete


Jane Jacobs themed photo walk in Bangalore on May 4

Came across this interesting concept called Jane’s Walk, named after Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), an urbanist and activist, whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building.

More about the walk: Jane’s Walks are free, locally organized walking tours, in which people get together to explore, talk about and celebrate their neighbourhoods. Where more traditional tours are a bit like walking lectures, a Jane’s Walk is more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers.

And who is this walk targeted at? According to the website, “Everyone knows something about where they live. Every perspective is important to building vibrant and healthy cities.”
This walk is intended for:
— Anyone who enjoys getting to know their city and neighbours.
— People who want to participate in meaningful conversations about the social and built future of their neighbourhoods.
— People engaged in the work of building cohesive communities and improving the walking environment.
— People who want to change their cities and neighbourhoods, for example to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots in our cities and towns.
— Youth and children who experience the impact of current transportation choices disproportionately, but who are rarely consulted on their aspirations for walking or cycling.

You can also get involved as a volunteer, add your city or create a walk.

Sounds interesting? “Framing Shivaji Nagar through the eyes of Jane Jacobs“, led by Nithya Ramesh is the theme of the walk in Bangalore on May 4.

“On this photo walk, we’re not only going to look closely at our city, but also capture some of its scenes on camera.Since the walk is themed on Jane Jacobs’ ideologies, we’ll be paying attention to key concepts such as the ‘sidewalk ballet’, ‘eyes upon the street’ and many others from her book. Participants will be given a brief at the start point of the walk and will spend the next one and a half hours along the route for the walk taking pictures in line with the given brief. While on the walk, participants are welcome to  step into St. Mary’s church and observe the tamil mass and compare it to the musical service at St. Andrews church, peek into the parade grounds and the police canteen and join the walk leader for a discussion on community engagement in the city building process at Koshy’s.”

Jane's Walk, Bangalore
Reference: — Urban Design Collective