Malvika runs India’s most popular online cycling group – Cyclop today. But how did she start cycling, and what was her biggest expedition, the one on her bucket list? As she clubbed her love for mountains and the passion for cycling, MTB Himalaya became one of her biggest bucket lists!
How It Began
It all started when she was unable to join two of her best friends on a trip to Ladakh. She was a copywriter at a design firm then, and unable to wrangle a leave. Deeply disappointed at missing out, she booked a cycling trip with YHAI to Ladakh.
Little did she know this would be the beginning of a whole new passion! Back in Delhi, she hit the Aravalli trails with the Pedal Yatri group and got a taste for offroading. She then did 900km off-road in the Tour of Nilgiris and continued cycling around Mumbai when she shifted there. Malvika says cycling not only gave her an adrenalin rush but also the company of the best people she has ever met.
Now only one item was on her bucket list, the ultimate – MTB Himalaya Race!
MTB Himalaya is considered as one of the toughest MTB stage races across the globe. It starts in Shimla and goes all over Himachal Pradesh, covering 500 kilometers in just 8 days.
In Mumbai, she would reach home at about 7:30 pm from work, then train from 9 pm to 12 am. Whether it was raining or her spirit implored ‘Not today…’ she would cycle 60km from Andheri East to Colaba and back every day. Gradually, she’d increase the distance and time, and test her limits.
And then one day she got a phone call while riding. Anticipating this call, she quickly ducked into a noisy shop, and learned that she was being sponsored, by no other than the UK based ChainReactionCycles.com (once again, they had previously sponsored her at TFN)! The news was fuel to her fire, and that night she rode like never before, simply on a high!
And so, came the date, for the 8th Edition of MTB Himalaya. All the cyclists, sponsors, organizers, reporters gathered in Shimla. The race started with a steep incline inside Shimla itself! However, over the next two days, the incline was both uphill and downhill, and she got into the rhythm of things.
Every day the riders reached a new destination and camped in a new place. With good mornings and hellos, they’d get ready, and then launch into a day of hard riding, interrupted only by a lunch break. After lunch, Malvika says she’d pedal extra hard so that she successfully completed that day’s course and was never picked by the sweep trucks that picked up the trailing riders at night!
“There was no time to acknowledge tiredness as one raced against the night!”
Once back, the riders would collapse in their tents, and catch up around the bonfire.
A memory etched in her mind is climbing the notorious Jalori pass, a steep continuous ascent with an elevation gain of 2610m (that’s a hell lot!). All of Malvika’s training kicked in that day. At one point though, towards the beginning of the climb, she felt her cycle flying forwards miraculously! As she looked back, two Himachali boys were laughing merrily and pushing her cycle forwards. It brought a smile to her face.
One of the days was a Bike & Hike day – day of cycling plus trekking over mountainsides with cycles on the riders’ backs. Malvika had expected this, instantly improvised and made a contraption that held the cycle on her back, and kept her hands-free! She says that it was the only way that was possible for her.
“Only in this race, I realized downhill can be tougher than uphill.”
She recalls hurtling down rocky slopes for kilometers on end on her cycle, the handlebar rattling in her hands. Some veteran cyclists crashed and faced injuries too. Against this, the steep uphills were a blessing!
When the race ended, the cyclists faced withdrawal symptoms, and felt a loss of purpose, not having to pick up their cycles and dash off into the mountain trails. They had also not used money or mobile phones for days and returned to civilization almost unwillingly. The good thing to return to though were hot showers and luxurious bathrooms!
“The race gave me a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. My mind, body, spirit had all been on a great journey, and was fulfilled.”
Having trained for the race and completed it, it gave her the understanding that just picks a goal, train and achieves! It is that simple if you keep to it privately, doggedly; but yes, it works only if you are truly motivated towards that goal, and want it with all your heart.
Malvika is currently running one of India’s well known online cycling Facebook community Cyclop, which helps cycling enthusiasts in all possible ways, especially in buying and selling among cyclists.
The next item on her bucket list is the Chadar Trek!
“Nothing compares with the majestic Himalayas; not only because of the mountains, but also the great food (rajma-chawal-parathas!) and the sweet pahaadi people. So why not soak it up!”