Cycling is a passion and a unique way to explore his city for 58-year-old Arvind Chenji. Having lived in Hyderabad all his life—“brief stints in other cities don’t count”—he’s seen it grow remarkably to reach its current tech city status. “I remember a time when almost everybody cycled to commute. It wasn’t uncommon for cycles to be given as dowry,” smiles the cyclist.
One of the organisers of the Hyderabad Racing League, Chenji has been cycling across and around Hyderabad since 2012. The hobby has opened him up to this hometown in ways he couldn’t have imagined if he were to explore it on foot, or with the speed of a car. Best of all, it is cycling that has given Chenji some of his closest friendships in life. “We’re a big group that goes for weekend rides and long trips,” he says, adding that they’re unapolomeccaic foodies and don’t think twice before making the 40-kilometre round trip to the village of Kowkoor for fluffy idlis and crispy bhajias at Vijay Tea Centre. Within Hyderabad, Chenji & Co. regularly cycle to Subhan Bakery in Nampally for Osmania biscuits, Ram ki Bandi near Charminar for buttery masala dosas, and Rio’s at Patny Cross Road for Irani samosas.
For those who are just beginning to cycle in Hyderabad, Chenji recommends that Necklace Loop familiarise themselves by starting with the 10-kilometre Necklace Loop around Hussain Sagar Lake. “And the 4.5-kilometre ride around K.B.R. National Park in Jubilee Hills is great if you want to get used to hilly terrain; it has the added benefit of being able to step inside for birdwatching and jogging,” explains Chenji. If you want to give your lungs some serious exercise, cycle up the deceptive one-kilometre Whisper Valley near Old Bombay Highway—with two turns and one very steep curve, this is not for the faint of heart, warns the cyclist. And lastly, one of Chenji’s favourite rides is the 50-kilometre round trip to the town of Medchal and Shamirpet village. “Go via the highway—there is not much crosswind—and all around you is undulating terrain and hills. We often veer off to enter by-lanes, and even stumbled upon an old emu farm here.”
Cycling is a way of life for Chenji, something that bonds him and his family to Hyderabad irrevocably. His family is filled with cyclists, including his son who won the silver medal for a 120-kilometre championship organised by the Cycling Federation of India in 2016. “I’m glad the bicycle is making a comeback, and hope is becomes the new normal for commuting post-lockdown,” signs off Chenji.
Lubna Amir is Assistant Digital Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.