By Rahul ChandawarkarA Colva based dentist, Dr Blanche Themudo has taken to cycling like fish to water. is a case in point. The dentist, who is otherwise a seasoned marathon runner has been transformed into a passionate cyclist now. Says Dr Themudo, “I always wanted to give cycling a shot but was always apprehensive about the traffic. Hence when the lockdown was relaxed, I decided to take my cycle out and explore this sport. Cycling has given me an enormous sense of freedom. I love to pedal away without a care in the world and enjoy the beautiful village scenes of Goa.” So happy is the young dentist with her newfound love, that she has started commuting to her clinic in Navelim on her cycle everyday. “My commute to work is a total of 14 km. I do not miss the comforts of my air-conditioned car as the distance is negligible and it is easier to negotiate the traffic on a bicycle,” says Themudo. On the other hand, Dr Vikram Dalvi, a Panaji based physician has been an avid cyclist since his school days. In what is a happy development, he has initiated both his children, daughter Saee ( 13) and son, Shreenivas ( 11) into the sport. Vikram has been cycling with his children for the last four years. “We like to do off-road cycling away from the rest of the crowd. I love the fact that my children like the outdoors now. They are not afraid of getting bruised by small falls and have learned to laugh at their small failures.” The father-children trio enjoys climbing trees, picking wild berries, and observing nature closely on all their rides. Significantly, both Saee and Shreenivas already know how to fix punctures, adjust brakes, adjust the seat height and change pedals. Says Vikram, “My wish is that my children must use bicycles at least up to class 12.” If cycling as a sport has become very popular in the state, it has to thank the emergence of several enthusiastic cycling clubs in all major towns of Goa for this. For instance, the Panaji based Tri Goa Foundation which regularly organises the Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRMs) or long-distance cycling events in Goa has to be credited for building a family of long-distance cyclists in the state. Rajesh Malhotra, founder, Tri Goa is happy to see more cyclists on the roads. Says the Panaji based cyclist and entrepreneur, “With gyms closed and transport facilities coming to a standstill during the lockdown many locals have taken to cycling as a mode of transport and fitness. Youngsters have started cycling again to meet up with friends and many have rediscovered the joy of cycling as a non-impact sport to maintain fitness and mental well-being.” Malhotra is of the opinion that the government can help promote cycling. “The government can promote cycling by demarcating dedicated cycling lanes on busy roads for cycling and enforce strict rules for motorists to keep a safe distance from cyclists. Special incentives for cycling to work and school with changing and shower rooms at prominent locations will help more people to start cycling,” he said. Architect Sameer Nadkarni, president of Xaxti Riders, the popular, Margao based cycling club is also all smiles about the state of cycling in Goa. Says Nadkarni, “Recreational cycling has increased big time in the last three years. Goa has some of the best cycling routes and the scenery in the villages makes it conducive to cycle for recreation.” Nadkarni is of the opinion that all cyclists must wear safety helmets, fix lights on their cycles and obey all traffic rules to remain safe. He also feels that the state government must create dedicated cycling lanes on roads leading to industrial estates in Goa, build a cycling velodrome to encourage school children to take up cycling and promote the state as a cycling hub, by encouraging hinterland tourism on bicycles. Likewise, architect Bryan Soares, president of Cycling Goa, an association of Goan cyclists also agrees that there has been an increase in cycling activity in the lockdown period. “Yes, I can surely say that lockdown did see a lot of people working out in different ways, but I am not sure if cycling will ever become a mode of regular transportation in Goa due to weather and other considerations,” says the avid cyclist. Soares is of the opinion that peer groups help a lot in promoting any activity. “People realise that recreational cycling is also very refreshing. Availability of high-end comfortable cycles has made it even more exciting,” says Soares. Cycling as a sport has also caught on in a big way in the port town of Vasco. Abhijeet Salkar, spokesperson for the Vasco Cyclists group attributed this development to the creation of a smart cycling jersey and shorts by their club. “We thought if we wore the uniform on every ride, it could make us visible and many Vascoites, especially youngsters would want to be part of the action. Breakfast, which is an important part of each ride has helped in bonding and promoting lasting friendships in the group,” says Salkar. Salkar is not surprised that cycling is catching up in Goa. “Goan roads are better than those in other states and suited for cycling. The rolling hills all over Goa also throw up challenges that cyclists enjoy. There is also an overall awareness towards reducing dependence on conventional vehicles,” Salkar said.