I am bruised and battered after taking part in the Colombo Fun Ride—organized by the Pedal Pushers. Not because I’m inept in riding a bicycle but because a *feral little girl charged her tricycle right into my push bike at the Colombo University turn off. She was cackling the whole time. Yes, I was taken down by a vicious little girl, but, the mishap included (it makes it all the more memorable) the Colombo Fun Ride was certainly nothing short of ‘fun.’
Props go to the Pedal Pushers for organizing a fantastic event that was enjoyable and executed well. After all it is no easy feat organizing an event that involves taking over a large area of Colombo and ensuring none of hundreds of participants injured themselves while riding alongside ill-famed ‘Sri Lankan’ traffic. Especially when those hundreds of participants ranged from children just knee-high to senior citizens (plus one maladroit).
The total number actually, was over 275 with a grand total of about 400 if one includes the spectators and supporters. I managed to coax EyeoftheCyclone to participate and we got to Green Path on Sunday (June 10) by 7am, groggy and starved but eager to take part in the cyclothon. Some of the participants had their own bicycles (including pro Hummer bikes!), others rented bikes off the Pedal Pushers and some, like myself, rented cycles off the DSI truck parked at Green Path on the morning of the event. The DSI bikes were pretty decent– 29 gears, sturdy, and for only Rs. 450 it wasn’t too bad at all.
I felt a bit self-conscious riding around with bright yellow DSI boards inserted in the wheels and all that bubble wrap at first but once I started cycling I had too much fun to notice. The bikes snapped up like freshly baked kimbula bunis (yes, breakfast was on my mind), with several cycling enthusiasts renting them out. It just goes to show that there’s a cycling culture in Sri Lanka that’s waiting for the opportunity push pedal around Colombo.
I was disappointed though that there were no outrageously decorated cycles. Apparently, prizes were to be distributed to the fanciest decorated one.
Well anyway, here’s a map of the track (that I’ve unceremoniously ripped off the CFR event page on Facebook):
In all, that is 7km. So after four laps you’d have completed 24km. An extra kilometre was covered as we doubled up around Green Path when we started out. If I haven’t confused you, that’s a grand total of 25km. That’s almost the distance of cycling from Kelaniya to Panadura.
It seemed daunting at first but cycling 25km is not as hard as I expected. Also, with large sign boards and the Pedal Pusher marshals—in neon green jackets, guiding batches of cyclists along the route, getting lost was impossible (even for the directionally-challenged, like myself). They also had police stationed at major junctions; stopping vehicles to ensure the participants could get across with limbs intact.
With good weather– the sun was out but it wasn’t beating down on us mercilessly, it was a pleasant morning for cycling. And of course the entertainment was jaw-dropping! Groups of stunt cyclists performing wheelies and stuff I don’t know the names of but it looked as though they defied gravity!
It’s a shame though that cycling isn’t too popular here in Sri Lanka. What with deadly traffic, practically no bicycle lanes and high taxes on importing bicycles and spare parts.
One of the Pedal Pushers/organisers told me that taxes on importing bicycles is 50%. A mid-range bike would cost you around 256 USD (34,000 LKR), double that price with taxes, and you’re forking out 68,000 LKR for an average mountain or road bike. Don’t even think about the pro-bikes.
Toss in the scarcity of spare parts and the price of importing them, and weigh in high-risk of becoming rush hour road-kill, the prospect of buying a shiny new bike to ride around, will fade away.
Hopefully, the event will get the wheels in the head of ministers turning. But till then, events such as the Colombo Fun Ride is a splendid way to give cycling enthusiasts a chance to push pedal.
*All right, she was a cute little girl who lost her balance. Though my version is better for story telling!