Inspiring Stories


HCL Cyclothon - Noida 2024

02 Nov, 2023

The Ultra Cyclist

Daily newspaper boy to Super Randonneur, Shankar Thakur is on an enchanted run.

Shankar Thakur’s rudimentary single-gear bicycle is the truest avatar of the MUV : Multi-Utility-Vehicle. He has used it to deliver courier packages across Delhi and messages of environment consciousness around the country. He has ridden it from Gurugram to meet his family in Bokaro, a distance of nearly 1300km, at least once each year since moving to the National Capital Region in 2015. And, of course, he has turned to its versatile power to win countless cycling honours. It is not called the TR-Express for nothing.

For a lad who took over his recuperating father’s job of delivering newspapers in Bokaro Steel City and kept at it for eight years, riding 50 to 60km a day, life has come a long way. And his faithful TR Express – as he calls his machine – has been an integral part of Shankar’s extra-ordinary journey. Indeed, it has been more than just a faithful witness to the hurdles Shankar Thakur has crossed and the miles he has conquered. It has been an active alley in those victories.

For both Shankar and his ‘milk man’s bike (as some have also called it), it was a classic case of baptism by fire. Unlike most riders who open endurance cycling with 200km or 300km distances, Shankar Thakur’s debut Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM) was a 1000km effort in 2018. He earned the honorific called the Super Randeonner by completing Brevets of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km.

He soon was on an SR5 covering each of these long distances in five days in November 2018, including the first of his many rides from New Delhi to the Wagah border. And the following month, he was part of bunch that completed the G2G ride from India Gate to Gateway of India, enjoying the varied terrain and weather.

These feats earned the indomitable Shankar Thakur, who hails from Jharkhand and lives in Gurugram, wide recognition as an Ultra-Cyclist and even earned him a job with a sports company in Delhi. He graduated from the Indira Gandhi National Open University and is now preparing to further his academic journey as well.

It is not as if he has encountered success each time he has set out Randonneuring. A ‘Did Not Finish’ outcome, caused by a broken brake part, in the iconic Paris-Brest-Paris in August 2019 sticks out, but he had plenty to take away from the experience. “Just watching thousands of cyclists from across the world can be so invigorating,” he says.

Greater challenges beckon in the not-so-distant horizon, and Shankar is busy preparing for ‘winner mode’. He has changed the Crank from 44 to 48 teeth, and the Freewheel to 16 teeth instead of the usual 18. He also knows that he will need a hybrid bike when he is racing, and not attempting only Brevets. The champion insists, however, that it is not about the machine. Winning and losing happens between the ears, not the ankles. “I give my 100 per cent effort to attain that. I notice that others take breaks intending to stop for five or 10 minutes but they extend to half an hour. I power on”, he explains. Yes, it’s not the pedals and brakes. It’s the mind.

For Shankar Thakur, of course, it’s also his TR-Express. The inseparable companion who believed in his ability right from the beginning, a time when the rest of the world preferred to scoff. “It is priceless and I don’t let anyone else touch it. After all, we know one another well. I love my cycle,” he says.