Inspiring Stories


HCL Cyclothon - Noida 2024

30 Sep, 2023

Taking the Right Turn

As he pedaled his way out of depression, Amit Daga invited hundreds more to ride into a thrilling new dawn.

The community of recreational cyclists Amit Daga has pioneered is suitably called Folks on Forks. The pedal pusher, after all, is no stranger to one. Caught between the tailspin of clinical depression and the escape route that cycling offered, it took courage and self-belief for the young man to pick the latter. The fork of life had tested him, and like a true winner, Amit had triumphed.

He looks back at those days : “As a workaholic, I used to have 16-hour days and stress myself. And I was clinically depressed in the wake of demonetization. I am happy to share that cycling has weaned me away from medicines.” Today, the sport is his daily recharge point, a way to top up his positive energy. “The feeling of completing a 50km ride is inexplicable”, he gushes.

The cycling enthusiast who was born and raised in Calcutta (Kolkata) and traces his roots to Haryana had, of course, done much more than just ride his way out of darkness. He had discovered a passion and – through his community –is helping hundreds of others do the same.

The side effects of the mission are nothing short of therapeutic. For instance, when a 65-year-old (whom he had encouraged to take up cycling) tells everyone that his blood sugar levels have dropped from 250 mg/dL to 110 mg/dL, Amit Daga experiences a shot of satisfaction that’s, frankly, unmatched. “While the first century (100km) ride and the first 400km ride are landmarks that I will always cherish, there is no greater joy than in helping others find the joy of life,” he confides.

It might have turned out different, though. For long, Amit’s bicycle stayed parked in the lobby, gathering dust and questions marks. He had bought it way back in 2008, but never pressed down on the pedal. So why did it take so long? Amit Daga confesses the thought puzzles (and haunts) him too.

“Sometimes I do think that I was perhaps too scared to take a bike on our roads, more so since I did not even have a helmet, let alone the right gear. It was a mind block since most who cycled for health did so indoors in their gyms,” he finally explains.

Covid-19 changed everything. As lifestyles got disrupted, cycling presented itself as a viable way to stay fit and get some fresh air, both of which had been severely compromised by the pandemic. “Playing badminton was out of question and you had long stretches of roads to yourself,” he recalls. “I dare say the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for recreational cyclists looking to stay healthy.”

The show was finally on the road, as they say, and there would be no u-turns. In the past three years or so, Amit Daga has ridden over 30000kms on his faithful bike. Along the way, he has created a unique community of recreational cyclists, made countless friends, and even done Brevets, a special form of long distance cycling.

Folks on Forks, his community of hobby cyclists, is now 350-strong. “Each month we are growing with riders who had bikes but didn’t use them enough and riders who are first time cycle buyers joining us. And each month we have at least four or five new centurions. I can say that at 25 per cent of the Folks on Forks community knows one another really well and are strongly connected”, he says, taking great pride in his extended family. The group today connects at several levels, not just cycling. Beyond creating social connections, it also expands business networking opportunities.

An e-Commerce entrepreneur, Amit is also looking forward to acquiring the Super Randonneur honorific sometime soon. “I missed it last year since I had a mishap when attempting the 600km ride. ” Is there a hint of anguish there? The dynamic rider’s matter-of-fact tone certainly doesn’t reveal it. Evidently, he has learnt to take things in his stride. And pedal on.

He does cast his gaze on the larger picture from time to time, though. And reflects on the development of the discipline. Amit Daga is hopeful State governments and Municipal authorities will create better infrastructure for cyclists. “It will not only free up space on the roads for other vehicles but also ensure greater safety for the riders,” he says.

Speaking of creating infrastructure and opportunities, what does he think of HCL Cyclothon? Amit is generous in his appreciation : “The HCL Cyclothon Noida 2023 will be a pioneering event to create awareness about cycling” is how he captures the scope and impact of the endeavor.

Amit also longs for the day when Indian employers would encourage those living within 10km of their places of work to ride bicycles to work. “Imagine the number of automobiles that will come down on our roads, imagine the reduction in carbon footprint, imagine the overall health benefits for the population at large,” he says.

As the climate debate intensifies and wellness becomes a burning priority, the global community will arrive at that fork – sooner rather than later. And when we do, one hopes folks will, just like Amit Daga, have the courage to take the right turn.