Hiren Patel’s journey with the Velo started in the 5th grade with a BSA ladybird bought by dad for my sister. In spite of the many falls and run-ins, he continued to be inseparable through the scorching heat and merciless rain. Even as a kid, Hiren wasn’t fond of bicycles because of the ever increasing petrol cost and the pollution it causes. He adds on saying that, ”till date, my reasons for not owning a bike remain the same. My love affair with the BSA ladybird ended in 12th grade when it got stolen and I was given a second hand Hercules MTB from a friend of my father’s. The MTB got me through 4 years of engineering as I pedalled to and fro from the hostel to college. Till then, there was no long distance cycling. Just commuting and pure love for cycling”.
After shifting to Pune in August 2009, Hiren Patel decided to buy a cycle for his daily commute to the workplace. However, since my family kept pushing me to buy a bike, it took me a long wait of 6 months to finally buy a second-hand non-gear Hero Hawk in March 2010. Little did Hiren Patel know back then, that his life was about to change. Working for the IT industry allowed him to explore the city on my weekends off. One such ride was an 85km ride to Mulshi with the Pune Randonneurs.
Not only was Hiren Patel appreciated for riding a non-gear cycle uphill, but this was also where he first heard about BRM and PBP. It was the thought of one day representing India and the dream of being treated like royalty, quite like the Indian cricket team, that encouraged Hiren to sign up for the 1st 400km BRM in Pune, in August 2010. It turned out to be a nightmare. Hiren had never gone for a ride before at night, in such bitter cold and heavy rain.
Ultimately, it was the fear of riding in the dark that got me to quit at 11 pm at a distance of around 270 km. It was later that Hiren Patel realised, a little courage and patience would have helped him overcome his fear. However, it was this realisation that kept him going for the next couple of weeks as he went for regular rides to Lonavala over the weekends, battling the rain and other extreme weather conditions.
After almost a month, in September 2010, Hiren Patel was at the starting line of the 600 km BRM (Pune-Kolhapur-Pune-Lonavala-Pune) of 40 hrs. It was the day Hiren Patel transformed from an average commute cyclist to a long distance cyclist. He adds on stating that, ”much to the surprise of myself and the many multi-gear high-end cyclists, I finished the trail in 38 hrs, leaving the others behind. I soon made news and was crowned a local cycling hero.” As Lance Armstrong rightly said, “It’s just not about the bike.” In the year to come, I finished the 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km and became a super Randonneur who could ultimately qualify for the PBP 2011.
An incident during the 300km qualifying series made Hiren really strong. A severe financial crunch forced him to cycle my way to Mumbai for the Mumbai-Nashik-Mumbai series on the 9th of January, 2011. He adds, ” I left Pune on the previous day of the event. While riding alone on my way downhill the Khopoli Ghat for the first time, in an attempt to control my speed, I rammed into a side wall.”
With no help in sight, Hiren Patel walked a distance of 3-4km to reach the nearest village with a hospital. After being given a painkiller and an injection along with having rested for 3 hours, the doctors advised me to return to Pune and forget about my next day’s ride. However, knowing that attempting a qualifying series outside Maharashtra would be a financial burden, Hiren proceeded to Mumbai with his hand and leg in bandages and succeeded in completing the 300km in 19hrs.
With the PBP 2011 nearing, Hiren Patel had to either buy a new cycle or participate with my non-gear Hero Hawk. While the first option didn’t seem feasible, Hiren went ahead with his Hero Hawk. Multiple issues with the cycle forced him to quit half way through the course. ”So hard was the decision of having to quit, that I cried for the first time. I knew then, that, failure at the international stage would hurt more.”
Having failed at the PBP, Hiren Patel and Sumit discussed other rides like the LEL (London Edinburgh London) and RAAM, we could attempt in the future. Hiren continued practising in earnest, adopting running and trekking as a part of his cross-training. He successfully completed two more 600 km BRM’s on the Hero Hawk. With barely 3 months to go for the LEL, Hiren Patel bought the Scoot Speedster 50, which eventually turned out to be a very good decision. With financial help from close friends, Hiren participated in the LEL 2013, becoming the 1st and only Indian to finish LEL (1420 km) in 103 hrs. Since then, there’s been no looking back. Hiren has tasted victory at the Enduro3, PBCH, Impulse Run and 1000km BRM in 58hrs.
Tragedy struck once more during the RAAM qualifier. A bad fall while making his way downhill Mahableshwar, left him severely injured with a face bleeding profusely but having survived due to the helmet. This incident left Hiren unable to stand on his feet for a month, with no activity for two months. But with the blessing and wishes of his friends and family,”I’ve emerged stronger, with bigger dreams and plenty of hope. I’m now cycling, running and swimming and have my eyes set on the IronMan Zurich, PBP2015, RAAM and Ultra Ironman.”
I love cycling because it gives me freedom to
– Go anywhere without worry about Time/Transport
– Ride any distance without worry about Petrol expenses
– Eat anything without worrying about calories/weight
Courtsey: Hiren Patel
Editor: Tracy Alvares