Pedal Attack We ride we save

Raggie Thokchom *

2nd Annual Bicycling Fest, Riding Yaoshang 1.2

Velophiles, it's a term for a person who loves to ride a bicycle or enjoy any activities related to bicycling. Imphal is a small city with a radius that can be easily covered on a bicycle. Hence, Imphal can be the best velophiled city. And Why Not? A group of velophiles who called themselves "The Pedal Attack" raised the curtains on the bicycling scene and people began to take notice of the increasing number of cyclists in and around the city.

Many of us are now familiar with the name "Pedal Attack", for it really attacks anything when it comes to cycling. It was a club formed in the year 2013 by a few friends with similar interests! Fun loving they are, with an adventurous spirit in their young hearts. The idea was to ride only on Sundays to someplace far from the dusty and polluted scenario of the city. Just to have fun of course!

For us Manipuris, the idea of a Sunday is a picnic or a barbeque or rummy or a date or a nice nap. So why not grab a bicycle and have fun instead? Put the fun between the legs! So they started riding each Sunday and many more fun-filled Sundays have passed. Eventually the number of friends increased every Sunday and the number is now above 200 and counting. Wow! He...she...old...young...who's left? North.. East...West... South...Where not? It is now the most renowned bicycling club of Manipur.

Pedal attack has organized and participated in various countless social events. The World Environment Day ride, the ILPS ride, the Tree Plantation ride, the Marathon ride, an Educational ride and even a political ride are a few that may be mentioned. One interesting thing about Pedal Attack is that when any foreign cyclist whosoever he or she may be, crosses Manipur on a bicycle, their first aim is to search and find Pedal Attack. They either get in touch through the internet or ask fellow cyclists, trusting that they will be in safe hands.

And they are easy to find as well. They managed free meals and a place to sleep for every cyclist from all across the world. Someone truly said "If You want to experience the minute feelings of a place, just grab a bicycle". The Pedal Attackers ride with their guests and show every nook and corner of the State to give them the true taste of Manipur. Fraser Baillie, a Scottish cyclist, said that the local brew of Khurkhul (waiyoo) was the best wine he had ever tasted.

Sam Griffiths from London said the best meal he ever enjoyed was at the Govindajee Temple (Laa gi Chaklen). Karina and Jen (Germany) had tears in their eyes after listening to the story of Khamba -Thoibi at Loktak. Dr. Steven Fabes from England had quite an experience at Maria Montessori School sharing his adventures with the students. These are few of the beautiful experiences from the people they encountered.

Such is the hospitality and care Pedal Attack showed to these people from across the globe and also to fellow Indian cyclists from other States. At the same time they are promoting and representing our State in terms of tourist attraction, free of cost. (Where are you Mr. Tourism Department?). They spare time from their own busy schedules and meet these people all because of their interest in cycling and inadvertently welcoming them on behalf of our State, Manipur.

On the sporty side, Pedal attack had also produced its own competitors who have participated in many tournaments and events across the country.

They encourage and promote young cyclists who have a keen interest in the field. They have plans to build a mountain bicycling track to ready themselves for upcoming tournaments. They have BMX stunt riders too and their own coaches who are nationally certified. They also share similar interests with the Manipur Cycling Association (MCA), Khuman Lampak.

Pedal Attack now comprise of many intellectuals and individuals from every sphere of life with new members bringing in new opportunities, ideas, and beliefs. It has reached a point where it is not always about Cycling! Moreover in a State like ours, one needs to sacrifice something for the betterment of their own. They have started to promote events related to social and environmental issues; hold seminars and meetings on eco-friendly related topics; raised their voice against the congestion and havoc of traffic; organized awareness programs on health related issues; helped in cleanliness drive programs, among other things. Such are their concerns now, besides cycling.

Moreover, they are now a self-funded, self-reliant, non-profit bicycling club registered under Regd. No. 691/M/SR/2015 under the umbrella of Mountain Bicyclists Union, Manipur (MBUM).

This is one of their stories- It was in summer on a cycling trip to a place,123 kms from Imphal. The safe road was blocked because of some blah-blah bandhs by some bleh-blah organisation. They had to take the tough route on the other side of the world up through the hillocks and hedges and unknown unexplored paths. Turning back was never an option! It was up and down...down and up through the jungles. They came across many villages that showed them care and hospitality. There were 25 cyclists altogether. They began to separate themselves based on their speed of rotation (pedalling)-The fast and the slow team. For the fast, they reached the destination the very night (2am).

Unfortunately they came across some 'Ninjas' with guns who snatched all their money. Sad but true! Maybe they were faster because of this. The never look back theory! For the slow team, it was a different story. They landed to a village at a time when the villagers were about to slumber. The sound of their happiness (as if they have discovered America) woke everyone up.

The village which they thought would save them eventually turned out to be a lion's den. To make a long story short, they were made to introduce themselves one after the other and forced to turn back the same route they came from. What on earth! Their hunger and exhaustion made them beg fearlessly for a night stay again and again. After all, we are all humans. The fierce villagers whom they thought were savagely dangerous turned out to be the friendliest and fun loving brethren. They offered food and shelter finally.

One sad fact about that village is, they had to travel a long distance just for a packet of salt. They said that most people died on the way to hospital. The children were all malnourished. Yet they knew all the songs of Bryan Adams. The villagers shared their grievances hoping that their voice would reach the concerned authorities. In the morning they bid goodbye and the cyclists reached to their destination without further incidents. Months passed.

Then one day a phone call came to one of them from the chief of the lions' village. His daughter was on her way to a hospital and was seeking help. Surprisingly, the members of Pedal Attack not only helped them but paid for all their expenses too. The village chief came down himself to personally thank them for their kind gesture. Ever since, they have become very good friends and help each other in any way they can. This was the turning point for Pedal Attack. The rest is history.

Pedal Attack has its own annual cycling festival (Riding Yaoshang) which comes during the spring season in March. The idea of this festival is to create a one day car-free ride across the city while celebrating the colours of Yaoshang. They chose the second day of the Yaoshang festival on purpose so that every office goer can also enjoy a one day without tension. A day when the mind is free and where one meets friends through the concept of bicycling.

A colourful day where everyone would experience the beauty of cycling. A day away from the pollution. A nostalgic day, waking up the child in you. A day of harmony and peace. It's high time for everyone to own a bicycle and support cycling. No need to mention the benefits of bicycling. Let us deviate ourselves from the concept of the bicycle as a poor man's vehicle. Let's be free from the narrow minded society of ours. The status-quo of our society needs to be changed. Start cleaning nature. Shred some cholesterol.

Rejuvenate yourself. So go grab a bicycle for the biggest festival of cycling is approaching. You never know what may lie within you. You never know what awaits you at the festival.

Wish Pedal Attack a good luck and success ahead. Way to go. Kudos.

* Raggie Thokchom wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on March 17, 2016.

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