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Cycling gone Wild

Agra, India

all seasons in one day 90 °F

As you probably know, Robin and I are huge fans of cycling and have plenty of experience with bike commuting, riding in Critical Mass and navigating the crazy streets of China and Vietnam… however in all of our past experience riding we have never seen anything like cycling in India! We haggled our way into some bikes and thought we’d have a pleasant ride around the Agra Fort, across the river to the baby Taj, and then over to the park on the opposite river bank of the Taj Mahal. Boy, were we in for a surprise!

Imagine freeway traffic squashed into the size of two lanes and then change the road surface into half dusty dirt with loose rocks and the other half bumpy ash fault with potholes the size of your wheels. Now add in some traffic with equal parts pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, big trucks and then throw in a few large animals (think cows and water buffalo) and a few piles of their manure for good measure. Now remove the yellow center line, and start the traffic moving in all directions (including perpendicular to the road). Place yourself on the side of this road mounting a kid’s sized road bike with skinny wheels, no gears and barely any breaks.

Listen as you hear every single vehicle honking their horn at random intervals (short and long), and smell a river of ripe sewage flowing along the side of this road. Imagine trying to merge into this chaos and when you eventually build the courage to do so, you see the faces of all these drivers turn to look at you in amazement… some of them begin yelling at you, others start waving, and some of them with jaws dropped unknowingly start to steering directly towards you… your instinctive reaction is to wave back, but then you quickly realize that all of them are now ignoring the obstacles in front of them and you start to panic and frantically pedal into a semi safe position.

You survive riding this main throughway for a few miles and make it to a country side road. You notice now that the entire road has been reduced to the size of one lane, but still have two ways of traffic, old men crossing the road and a herd of unpredictable goats coming towards you. As you look to your right, you see a large smile on the face of a kid riding a bike next very close to you and over your shoulder you see that you are being followed by two more. When you turn your head forward you slam on the little breaks you have to avoid hitting any of the 10 children that are pouring onto the street. Cheering and giggling they run alongside of your bike (think Le Tour de France maniacs). You grin widely, feeling like a star until you feel your bike sink and become harder to control. You look back to see that while you were riding, one of the squealing children successfully jumped onto your back rack and is now wobbling back and forth. You are so busy comprehending the sensory overload that you don’t even notice that your rear wheel has already lost half of its air, and then to top it off a huge gust of dust blasts you in the eyes and a crack of lightning and thunder darken the sky. WTF are you going to do now?

Stop, dump the kid off your bike, turn around, and start pedaling home as fast as you can. Just as you get back on the main road, the wind picks up and starts blowing trash horizontally across the road including the old school cassette tape that gets wrapped around your neck and follows you like a kite tail. You hear a ripping and look ahead to see a gigantic billboard sign rip in half and crash to the ground in front of you. At this point you aren’t sure if the pelting on your face is raindrops or pebbles in the wind so you increase your pedaling cadence… but as you do, your chain pops off the gears and gets caught between the frame and the single back cog.

Now is when you reap the benefits of being a celebrity in India. A second after you stop your bike to try and fix, a man on a scooter pulls over, parks on the side of this freeway like road and begins to help you. Remember that it is raining and there is trash being hurled horizontally across the road at you, but this doesn’t stop this man from smiling uncontrollably as he his fingers become greasy from working on the chain. Thank him and navigate your way back into traffic, then off the main road, past a twelve foot harnessed camel and back to the safety of your hotel.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 04:30 Archived in India

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Graphic word description. It looks like travelling has sharpened your sensory perceptions. Get that lovin' feelin', Keep wheelin' -dad

by Harry Strharsky

I liked your Agra part. most of your blogs are full of comedy. I enjoyed reading these. now my friends also read your blog and they love it. now I m waiting for your amritsar part of blog.

by Rajanpreet Singh

Did you make that up? Unbelievable!!!!
I love your way of telling stories! I felt like i was right there with you!

Have fun! Gen x

by Gen from Canada

Holy cow! You guys really were in the Thick of It. Stay safe, and so nice to hear about nice people you meet that help too. Good for mankind :)

by Megan D

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