As the World Cycling Day approaches, Shehr looks at some of the activities that Lahore has to offer with respect to the sport
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”
— John Howard, US cyclist
It used to be the common man’s — and woman’s, for that matter — prime mode of travelling distances within the city, but today bicycling has largely become a ‘sport’ that’s pursued for a cardio session and/or as a healthy outdoor activity best enjoyed with fellow riders on a quiet summer evening or in early mornings on Sundays.
As the World Cycling Day (which falls on June 3) approaches, it may be important to re-emphasise the virtues of this activity, and celebrate it as a sport, besides looking at some of the cycling clubs the city boasts.
The importance of cycling can be ascertained from the fact that right after Independence, we got the Pakistan Cycling Federation. Later, we saw provincial bodies that worked for the promotion of the sport with events like the Tour De Pakistan which remains the country’s premier cycling race. In this yearly event, the participant count is generally 150, composed of domestic and international cyclists. The race is one of the longest in the world, covering a distance of 1,648 kilometres in 11 stages, with four days of rest on the route. Teams from some government agencies such as the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the Pakistan Army, and the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) also take part in the race alongside regular participants from domestic teams such as Lahore’s own team. These events also produce legends such as Samar Khan, the female cyclist who is also the first Pakistani to cycle to the base of the second-highest mountain in the world, K2.
Over the past decade or so, Lahore has seen private cycling clubs come up. These include Gulberg Cycling Club, Canal Cycling Community, Model Town Cycling Club, Lahore Cantt Cycling Club, Cycling Defence Lahore, and more.
The Lahore Cantt Cycling Club prides itself on the fact that they are located in a part of the city (cantonment) which “offers some of the best cycling routes... with not so much congested tree-lined routes.” It is run by Zaigham Imtiaz, a keen cyclist, who also holds workshops for the club members.
Cycling Defence Lahore (CDL) has weekly activities wherein they form routes tentatively and have collective bike rides through them. There are two kinds of timings: after Fajr, starting around 4:30am to whenever the trial is complete; and after Maghrib, around 8pm to whenever the trial is complete.
The club conducts many interesting cycling tours of the city. Their most recent cycling tour was to BRB Canal. They also have night-time tours. The participants are expected to bring their own vehicles and wear safety helmets.
Cycling Defence Lahore, better known as CDL, was started in 2016 as a passion project by Yusuf Nazar and three of his colleagues to foster the love of cycling in Lahore. Together they set up a community that not only has its own activities but also participates in the aforementioned races.
The CDL has weekly activities where they form routes tentatively and have collective bike rides through them. There are two kinds of timings: after Fajr, starting around 4:30am to whenever the trial is complete; and after Maghrib, around 8pm to whenever the trial is complete.
They also have internal competitions among their members. These include races and fitness checks to build stamina.
“The CDL has taught me a great deal about stamina, and has ignited a love of cycling in me,” says Raahym, a 17-year-old high-school student. He says that he’s been a regular part of the club since he was 15.
The CDL members may be loosely divided into two groups. First, the high-schoolers and university students who use it to ensure fitness; and second, which is the majority group composed of middle-aged men and women, use it as an outlet for recreation and as an aerobic exercise.
It is heartening to see a large number of youngsters joining the CDL. According to Nazar, there has been “a spike in young members in recent years. They are rediscovering the joys of cycling.” He calls them “a new wave of cyclist in Lahore.”
The CDL, in collaboration with the Punjab Cycling Federation and other groups such as the Canal Cycling Community, holds racing events among to crown the reigning club. This often becomes a spectator sport.
The writer is a student based in Lahore