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Cycling has been a rage in the realm of emerging Indian subcultures for a while now. But for 26-year-old Bengaluru-based Shashankh, bikes are a passion that dictates both personal as well as professional choices in life.

Back in 2010, right after 12th exams, he decided to take a gap year. After lazing and watching TV to his heart’s content, he soon got bored and on a friend’s suggestion went along for a short ride in the city. There was no looking back after that. The rides grew longer, and Shashankh grew along with the cycling scene in the city. He pursued a Foundation in Fine Arts for a while, dropped out and joined a theatre group called Space Theatre Ensemble from Goa, touring, performing and conducting workshops revolving around social, environmental and several other issues, but still with bikes on his mind and more hours on the pedal. After a stint at the pioneer bike shop Bums On The Saddle, he now works as a ride operator at the well-known cycling manufacturer Giant Starkenn and loves it.

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Here he tells us more about his passion, the community and his hopes for what is still a fledgling industry.

IB: Following one’s passion is never an easy task; how do you feel about having taken the leap towards an alternative career?

I did wonder if I should resume studies or start working in a bike shop, I mean the only reason I went to an art college is to learn how to weld metal so I could learn how to make bicycles. I figured I might as well start working and learn the rest of what it is that goes into being bicycle mechanic.

I loved what I was doing daily, even on bad days it still felt like a good day in the end. Honestly I didn’t think it was a big deal, this was officially my first job and I wasn’t fooling around anymore.  I have never done the norm. When people asked what I did and I said I work in a bicycle shop, I would get mixed reactions. Some asked why I wouldn’t rather do a normal job and my answer is still the same: I’m a grease monkey and I love riding my bike.

IB: Do you go for night rides? And is the experience different when you conduct one professionally?

Having a few years under my belt in conducting rides I came to realise a few things early on. Cyclists love to have fun and go as fast as they can, some maybe faster than others while the rest would rather have a chilled out ride. The trick is to amp them all up during the ride where they all get what they want – chill, fast and fun – errrr, besides we end it with ice cream at Corner House! Even the night rides I go on with my friends are pretty much the same, other than the urban mountain biking session we have while we look for the best late-night chai Bengaluru has to offer.

IB: You’re also involved in races we hear.

I have been on and off the racing scene for a few years. Primarily into racing mountain biking disciplines, though I don’t mind pushing it on the road either. Thanks to Giant Starkenn right now offering me a bike and helping me through races, since this past year things are looking up! Training and constant growth in your skills and knowledge is always an edge in this sport, so never keep off it. Helping it grow as a sport is something I’m keen on as well.

IB: How much time would you say you spend on the saddle or thinking about it?

Well, besides my daily commutes to work up and down, not to forget that I use my cycle to commute anywhere in and around the city, I also have 4 rides a week, clocking an average of 400 km a week. I would say I still want to spend more time on the saddle.

IB: Where besides Bangalore have you enjoyed biking most?

After falling in love with cycling again after my childhood days in Bengaluru, the idea of cycling elsewhere was really exciting. I stayed in Goa for a while and really enjoyed cycling by the backwaters through rough terrain. Pune was an experience I will never forget. Stayed there for about 6 months and that place really advanced my mountain biking skills. I also rode around in Mumbai, Chennai and Mysuru. Manali was a goal I had and it was a great way to start 2017, by riding though some great mountain biking trails there. Looking at exploring the world in time…on two wheels.

IB: Any wise words for fellow millennials?

The scarier it seems, the more rewarding it can be. As long as you don’t give in and keep fighting that good fight.

Follow Shashankh and his bike here.

Image Credit: Utkarsh Rao (left ), Nageshwagh (right)

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