Sanjay Mokla, 30, a native of Sangameshwar in Maharashtra joined Decathlon, a sports store in Bangalore as a cycle technician after quitting his job as a sales executive to be around what he loves most – cycles. His passion is evident when he introduces his work area as "dream place".
Sanjay Mokla at home amidst cycles. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi
At college, Mokla has been a B.Sc topper and has cycled from Srinagar to Kanyakumari. More recently from his base in Bengaluru, he has taken on several long distance cycling trips. In conversation with Citizen Matters, he talks about his love for the bicycle, his achievements, his hopes and aspirations.
How did your foray in to cycling begin?
Cycling, for me began not as leisurely activity but something which was a necessity. My college was 26 km away from home and I had to cycle to and fro every day and that is when I gradually developed an interest in cycling, which later became a passion. I later began to take part in cycling competitions and have been an avid cyclist since 15 years.
From a sales executive to a cycle technician in Decathlon. How did this transition happen?
I joined a sales company, based in Maharashtra; I was promised that my passion would be encouraged but as years went by I got engrossed in work and my sport aspirations were being neglected. I was transferred to Bangalore two years back and I would cycle from my home in Sarjapur to office everyday.
I came to Decathlon to buy a tyre tube one day and I was extremely impressed with their dedication to sports especially their extensive bicycle range. I felt that this would be my dream job, I got in touch with the management and within days I was working here. It has been a treat working here ever since!
Tell us about a few of your cycling achievements
I have taken part in a lot of your competitions and rallies. When I was in college I decided to go on a north-south tip. I started from Srinagar in Kashmir and ended at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. I covered about 4,000 kilometers in two months. This has been one of my proudest achievements.
What made it even more special was when I was on the expedition; my mother called me up and told me that I had come first in my 2nd year B.Sc exam. Recently I completed the Malnad challenge where I had to cycle 850 kms in 9 days. I have done the north- south trip; soon I hope to do a Manipur to Mumbai trip.
Tell us something about your life in Bangalore.
I came to Bangalore two years ago and the city is wonderful. I have an amazing life here. My work, my family, and my passion – It’s a perfect fit in this city. I learnt Kannada within six months of coming here. It has come in handy especially when I am talking to customers.
Is Bangalore safe for cyclists? Are there enough enthusiasts?
Oh yes, cycling is catching rapidly here. Cycle was thought of as something for the poor but the perception is gradually changing. More people are taking up cycling especially the IT professionals. People are becoming more environment conscious. Corporates should do more to promote it among employees. There are a few biking clubs in Bangalore and the number is only going to increase.
As a sport in India, cycling hasn’t received enough attention. What do you have to say about that?
That is true. Cycling as a sport grew rapidly in European countries and the developing world is yet to wake up to it. As I said earlier, it has got a lot to do with the perception of status. Indians prefer buying cars or motorbikes to cycles. This is where I feel corporates can come in and promote it. Bangalore is home to many top companies and if they decide to get involved by sponsoring athletes then the sport can go a long way.
Has your family been supportive of your passion for cycling?
Oh absolutely! My mother supports me whole-heartedly and wife too is extremely supportive of me. She wants me to excel in this endeavour. She takes an interest in it and some times cleans the bike for me after my ride.
I am a big fan of Lance Armstrong! He provides with all the inspiration and moral support I need. I follow the Tour de France or any cycling event religiously no matter what time it is broadcasted!
What makes a good cyclist, how do you keep in shape?
One should build an extremely firm cardio-vascular system, as it is the most important. Then one can work on their speed gradually. Diet and a structure-training regime play an extremely important role too. It is not just one’s physique that one must take care of. One should also have a good knowledge about bicycles, their working etc. A good bike is extremely essential for one’s success. I ride 65-70 km every morning as practice but it is not enough.
What do you see as the way forward for you?
I am aiming to take part in time trial competitions both at national and international level. However, the bike needed for such competitions is extremely expensive, something which I cannot afford as of now.
I can cycle about 38 kms in an hour while the record is 45 kms in 59.9 minutes. If I can do this with an under-equipped bike, I am sure I am can equal or break the record if I have the proper gear. I am looking for sponsorship from corporates or individuals in helping me fulfill this dream and also promote cycling in the country. I come from a humble beginning but I would like to achieve something great as a cyclist.