Cycling is slowly but steadily finding its ground in India, both as a sport and as an alternate mode of transport. MH caught up with Kiran Kumar Raju, the pro athlete of the American brand, Trek bicycles and a professional mountain biker. The story behind their association is nothing short of an epic, movie-like romance.
Revisiting his first encounter with the brand, Kiran recalls, “Once on a practice ride from Bangalore to Mysore - a 150 km journey conducted prior to an event (Tour Of Nilgiri), my cycle had a mechanical issue and I could not continue. Another rider who didn’t ride that day lent me his Trek. It was the first time I lay my hands on a high-end Trek bike. Since then I have been riding Trek.” Talk about love at first ride!
He continues, “When my previous sponsored team got dissolved in the middle of 2016, I approached many brands in the country. Trek not only responded positively but understood my needs and supported me with equipment and accessories and top-of-the-line bikes.”
Here are some excerpts from the time we caught up with Kiran…
Cycle Your Way To Fitness
It is the best way to get fitter as it is environment-friendly and you get to travel at the same time. Not only this, it helps in experiencing nature and exploring new landscapes. So, cycling is the best way to achieve your fitness goals. It also sets a good example for the family when you choose to cycle. However, it is crucial to take necessary precautions given the pollution such as wearing a mask.
First Timer Tips
Stretching hamstrings, quads and glutes before riding helps you to cycle better. A great tip is to take it slow. It gets easier as you make progress. Start off at an easier gear and go on increasing the pace to achieve better results.
Fitness Routine Of Champions
My fitness routine includes performing different intensity workouts during different days of the week. However, it is crucial to pitch in 18-22 hours of exercise per week. It is important to perform core strength exercises 2-3 days per week. During race week, it is advisable to reduce the time period of workout to 12-15 hours per week and it is also important to stay active.
Diet Of Champions
I keep my diet extremely simple. I avoid processed food and eat what is readily available in the market. I consume fruits and veggies along with a high intake of protein as it is crucial. The most important aspect is what you eat and at what time along with timing your food; so first comes the veggies and then the fruits for some sugar. The mantra for any athlete is to eat at frequent intervals, ideally every 2 hours. My go-to meal before a workout is oats soaked overnight with muesli, dry fruits, flax seed, honey and peanut butter. This offers a great boost of energy. It is also important to give a one hour break prior to beginning your workout. I also carry three bottles for hydration. The first bottle has Fast and Up Reload, the second has Fast Abs, the third has BCAA to maintain sustained effort. I also carry 3 small bananas while I ride. I consume my post workout meal within 40 mins after my workout. I mostly have lactose-free milk, whey protein, dry fruits and bananas as a part of my post-workout meal.
Early Introduction To Mountain Biking
I ventured into cross-country mountain bike riding in an unusual fashion. I was a notorious motorbike rider back in college. I feel that my cycling skills are heavily influenced by my riding skills. I used to travel on my motorbike when I was pursuing engineering. I started cycling in 2010 due to the heavy traffic congestion and to decrease the amount of time it took for me to commute. I started enjoying mountain biking as it requires not only power and strength but also skills to jump and turn, which is extremely exciting for me. In addition to this, I acquired the 3rd position in the very first mountain biking race I participated in. Mountain Biking is what I love and where I belong. Right now, I’m going to pursue racing for at least 2-3 years and then start training youngsters by starting my own coaching academy and teaching them how to excel in the international circuit. My dream is to participate in the 2020 Olympics and to motivate the younger generation to win laurels and excel in the International space and secure a place for India in the International circuit.
The Long Distance Cyclist
In 2011, I used to enjoy all the formats of cycling. There was a race called ‘Race across America which had its preliminary round in India. The round required the cyclist to complete 636 kms in 32.5 hrs. I was one of the 2 cyclists who managed to finish the race in a field of 8 participants. So, the longest stretch I have accomplished is 636 kms. Keeping safety in mind, it is always better to avoid long distance cycling in a country like India. There have been various instances of cyclists who end up falling asleep while cycling at night.
MTB Or Hybrid?
I personally prefer Mountain Bikes due to the road conditions in India. It is the best bike to take on a trail and can be converted to a hybrid by changing the tires. Mountain Bikes can be taken on the footpath as well. Also, MTBs have wide tires which further help in providing comfort while cycling. Hybrid bicycles are also great for people who are looking for a bike to commute. Most people prefer hybrid bikes, however, they cannot be taken on trails. Trek has supported me with two high-performance mountain bikes which include a full suspension MTB and a Hardtail MTB. The Top Fuel 9.9 is one of the fastest full suspension XC mountain bike in the world. Everything on this bike is geared toward helping me go faster and perform better. The bike features the industry’s best OCLV Mountain Carbon frame, Active Braking Pivotal that allows the suspension to work freely whether you’re on the brakes or off and super-lightweight full suspension setup that makes Top Fuel 9.9 a race-ready rocket that flies over gnarly terrains. The other is my Procaliber 9.9 SL, which is the lightest and fastest hardtail mountain bike out there. The bike is equipped with an IsoSpeed decoupler that makes the ride smoother than any other hardtail, so your body doesn't get beat up by trail chatter and also features handlebar-mounted controls that let you lock your suspension on the fly as you switch terrains. There's no getting around it: Trek bikes are made to win!
Injury Prevention And Recovery
The most important aspect in preventing injuries is choosing the right frame according to the height and weight of the rider. It is important to understand one’s needs before buying a bike. Secondly, since cycling is an endurance activity, it is crucial to hit the gym and strengthen the muscles and core area. Thirdly, it is important to place your feet in the pedal in a way that the ball of the feet push the front of the pedal. The ball of the feet offer maximum strength. Fourthly, it is best to maintain a good position in terms of placing the feet, palm, and glutes properly on the cycle.