Is it snowing in Bangalore this winter? No, but something just snowballed into a major event!
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What started as a simple outing that a few friends wanted to do together has now got all the makings of a major sports fixture. Let’s see how the Tour Of Nilgiris (TFN) event that some Bangalore cyclists have put together, grew from small to large…..
The whole idea was triggered in March of this year, when Ravi Ranjan Kumar, a software engineer, thought of organising a holiday ride for some friends. He posted the idea on Bikezone, one of the e-communities for cyclists in Bangalore. In the first week of October, several cyclists, including Ravi, decided that their regular commutes to work by cycle and their trips to outlying areas on weekends were not enough; they itched for a really ‘meaty’ ride. Thus the idea of cycling through the scenic beauty of the Nilgiris was conceived, and for some time, it remained just that… a cycling holiday trip for friends.
However, Ravi, according to some of the other friends, always dreamt of a more significant outcome, and soon, they found that many people were signing up for the trip. Ravi and Pradeep B V went on a reconnaissance trip to map out a route through the scenic routes of the Nilgiris. At this point, the team got together to see if they could get some corporate sponsorships. One more recce trip ensured that the optimum course was set.
What is the Tour of Nilgiris?
The Tour of Nilgiris is a 7-day, 919-km bicycle ride across the famed Nilgiri mountain range in South India. The Tour of Nilgiris takes off from Bangalore on 25 December 2008 and ends on 1 January 2009. As the name suggests, it is a tour and not a race. There 40 like-minded riders from across India and the world are participating.
The route is: Bangalore, Maddur, Mysore, Somwarpet, Mercara (Coorg), Virajpet, Sultan Batheri, Gudlur, Ooty, Coonoor, Kotagiri, Ooty, Sigurghat, Masinagudi, Bandipur, Gundalpet, Mysore, Bangalore (across the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The sponsors are:
Title Sponsor and Food Caterer: Nilgiris 1905
Associate Sponsor: Diet Pepsi
Official Accessory Partner: Wildcraft
Official Radio Partner: Radio Indigo 91.9FM
Official Medical Assistance Partner: Manipal Hospital
Official Print Partner: Time Out Bengaluru
Official Documentation Partner: Flaunge
"Cycling," says Arun, another avid cyclist, "is an ‘invisible sport’. It’s not recognised in India at all, so we were on very tough ground when we were going to meet sponsors." The bikers had to convince some sponsors that the value addition would be worth it; but in some cases, such as Nilgiri’s, the product, which was ready-to-eat, nutritious foods, gelled so well with the needs of the cycle tour, that the match was very good, indeed, and the sponsorship clicked immediately.
The first sponsor, who actually sought them out was Wildcraft, the outdoor equipment store. In fact, the competition to choose two bloggers who will be with the TFN group on the entire journey finally resulted in the two winners getting a great camping tent from Wildcraft!
Other sponsors soon joined in; "Nilgiri’s 1905, the department store," smiles Arun, "was an obvious choice, given their name and our destination!" A van from Nilgiri’s will be going along with the cyclists, and food will be available to them throughout.
Cyclists’ media contacts helped bring in Time Out Bengaluru, and Radio Indigo FM as sponsors, too. The frequency on which Radio Indigo broadcasts is 91.9 FM… and this gave Sameer Sisodia, one of the cyclists, the idea of converting it from the 910 km ride to a 919 km one, to get the numbers to correspond!
Manipal Hospital is very supportive of the initiative. A fully-equipped ambulance and a physiotherapist from the hospital will accompany the cyclists. Two doctors- Dr Rajat Chauhan and Dr Renu Arora are part of the group of 40.
To see more details on how Manipal is supporting the bikers, visit the website.
Nutritionists from Manipal will actually check the food being supplied to the cyclists to ensure that it is the best possible diet during the trip. There are also counselling cyclists on just how much to push themselves, so that they can extract the most enjoyment from the trip, and not exhaust themselves.
Flaunge, who are the official documentation partners, will be making a documentary of the trip, which will be both a memento of the trip for the participants, as well as a kind of explanatory process to promote further events.
Pradeep B V, who has been working with mapping, has put together a roadmap of the route along with Ravi, and the volunteers have done two reconnaissance trips so far, factoring in night stops, road conditions, and other vectors. The final route map is available at www.tourofnilgiris.com.
The charges for the tour are as follows: the fee for a full tour of TFN is a flat Rs. 10,000. A single day stage is priced at Rs. 1500/-(with night accommodation) and and Rs. 900/- (without accommodation) respectively. It includes registration fees, food and refreshments during the day, access to a bike mechanic in case of problems to one’s cycle, and of course, first aid in case of mishap.
Did the bikers have any difficulty in finding sponsors? "Initially, we thought we might face some setbacks," says Arun, "because we are not celebrities, but a totally unknown group of individuals!" But the support that they have found has been truly heartening. "When one is cycling," smiles Ravi, "there is always a curiosity factor…either people pay attention to you because they are curious about this activity, or they pay attention because they appreciate your cycling." This attention is what the sponsors felt would translate in terms of publicity and increased sales, and many of them were happy to sign on even though this is a first-time event, with an unknown group of people.
The bikers also seem to be concerned that the carbon footprint of this trip should not be large. "The Nilgiri’s van will be taking back all the packaging of the ready-to-eat food that is served to the bikers" says Arun. When asked about the PET bottle trash that may be generated as a result of the Diet Pepsi sponsorhip, the bikers say that in the first place, not all the cyclists may drink the aerated drink, and if they do, they will probably decant the drink into their own bottles. In any case, they say, they have given all cyclists strict instructions not to litter. "If we find a biker littering, he may be dropped from the event, and prevented from participation later, too," informs Ravi.
TFN now has 40 participants; their thumbnail sketches are available under ‘participants’ at www.tourofnilgiris.com.
One of them is 11-year old Sukhdev M- the sole exception to the TFN rule that participants must be over 18 (they are required to give proof of age.) Sukhdev is a child athlete and will be riding under the supervision of a medical expert, and his parents will be accompanying him in a car.
The very idea of the TFN trip, says Ravi, is to convince people that "if a 11-year old can do 919 km in a week, surely, the people of Bangalore can think of cy
cling to work every day!" The popularisation of using the cycle as a city commute vehicle underlies all the activities of TFN, and in a city like Bangalore, choked with cars and other motorised vehicles, this is a laudable initiative!
Hari Shenoy, who is also going to be cycling the entire tour, will be doing detailed profiles of the bikers, and also covering the excitement and action of the Bangalore-Mysore leg of TFN for Citizen Matters. Apart from this, TFN had its own bloggers’ contest, to decide on two bloggers who would go with the bikers, on an all-expenses paid accompaniment; Prashanth Kota and Minakshi Menon won the contest, and are all set to document their experiences with the Tour Of Nilgiris, as well.
Bangaloreans are hoping that this becomes a celebrated annual event, and that it also ushers in cycling as an accepted mode of transport in the city, as well! ⊕