Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going the Distance (Bengaluru)

As I've perhaps mentioned before, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to keeping track of the number of miles I've ridden on my bike. It's helpful when it comes to remembering to do routine bike maintenance and having an idea of how often things like brake pads, chains, and gear cassettes wear out. 

I also find that it's motivational to be able to look back after some time and see how far I've gone. For instance, looking back in December to see that I've ridden over 3,100 miles on my bike just commuting to and from work over the course of the year does give me a bit of a sense of accomplishment.

Yesterday, I tallied up the miles I've ridden on my bike since I started commuting about three years ago. The tally, for commuting miles alone, was just over 8500 miles. 

With that in mind, I decided it was time to take a stab at an idea I've been kicking around for a while for a series of posts - highlighting some general information and some things about bicycles and cycling from a distant location. Using Google Maps distance measurement tool, I found a spot on the map that is the same distance away from home as I've ridden so far on my bike (in the year, say, or in this case the commuting miles I've accumulated since I started riding again a few years ago). Today's result: Bangalore, India.

So, without further ado, I present to you the inaugural post in the "He's Going the Distance" series.

Bangalore (Bengaluru)

The name Bangalore is an anglicized version of the city's actual name, which, in Kannada, the language spoken by around 38 million people living in that part of southern India, is Bengaluru. In much the same way as Bombay is now better referred to as Mumbai, Bangalore is more appropriately called Bengaluru or so it seems, so I'll refer to it as such for the rest of this post.

Bengaluru's situated at an elevation of nearly 1,000 meters, yet despite its relatively high elevation manages to average high temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. It is India's fastest growing metropolitan area, and now has a population of almost 8.5 million, more than five times its population 40 years ago. It was the first Indian city with electricity and it is home to the Indian Institute of Science, "the premier institute for scientific research and study in India". It is a high-tech hub and has been referred to by some as the Silicon Valley of South Asia, which makes its sister city relationship with San Francisco all the more logical. I suppose San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Cupertino would be a better pairing in that respect, but I, for one, am willing to accept San Fran as a proxy for Silicon Valley, USA.

But I digress... Let's move on to a few cycling-related tidbits about Bengaluru.
  • Since Bengaluru is a sister city with San Francisco, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to have found this post from the SF portion of StreetsBlog. Bengaluru, at least as of 2009, saw regular critical mass rides, just as many major US do.
    Unlike US cities, which by and large have seen an increase in cycling in the last 10-20 years, Bengaluru's mode share is decreasing. It's down to 6% (as of 2009) from 16% a decade prior. 
    Picture of girls riding to school from the SF Streetblog post
  • While its website appears somewhat dormant (look at the pot calling the kettle black), there is also an organization called Ride a Cycle, that's a more mainstream advocacy group working to improve conditions and promote cycling, seemingly along the same lines as WABA in the DC area, at least in terms of approach if not level of activity
  • *Apparently, there are more than a couple bike shops worth checking out in the city. This account of a guy's research and decision making process when buying a new bike sounds not unlike what someone here would go through if they hadn't bought a bike in a while. At least one of the shops mentioned has a website, and appears to have been the first Trek dealer in Bengaluru, if not all of India.
  • That same bike shop seems to be an active participant in the BBCh (Bangalore [sic] Bicycle Championship), a series of competitive rides, both on and off road. The 2012 season is underway, and the second race was held last weekend. More details here. 

    At the first race of the BBCh 2012 season
  • Now, I'm no fan of heat, so the idea of a hot, often dusty city is not necessarily appealing to me. The bicycle touring journal website Crazy Guy on a Bike has more journals including Bangalore (or Bengaluru) than I have time to go through, but one journal by two Canadians who cycled 2000 km around India with Bengaluru as their start end end point had this insight in their journal: "It's amazing how perspective changes with time; when we first arrived, we thought Bangalore was a huge, dirty, unpleasant city, but upon our return we found it to be a huge, dirty, and pleasant city!"
On that intriguing, and I suppose complimentary, note about Bengaluru, we'll end our virtual sojourn of a place far, far away. Hope you enjoyed it, Keep your eyes peeled for more posts in this series as time goes on.


  1. Right on! My cheap-o computer was a casualty of selling my previous bike, and I haven't bothered to put one on my LHT. I have been curious as to how many miles I've put on it in the two years I've owned it. Doubt it's anywhere near 8500, though.

    If you can ride to India, you can ride to Portland. What are you waiting for?

  2. neat idea, it'll motivate me to pay attention to my km-age