Riding high

Riding high

Prashant Mehta, 42, quotes a line from Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird – There are some kinds of men who are so busy worrying about the next life, they have never learned to live in this one. “This is one thought that keeps me going and encourages me to experience and experiment in life,” says the chief-executive officer of Komli Media, a digital media network platform.

An avid cyclist, Mehta, enjoys heading off to the mountains on his bike for a ride. From the time he moved to Mumbai from California, he has convinced a group of friends and colleagues to also take up biking and has done some fun trips with them. “When I lived in California, I used to cycle three to four days a week. Since moving to Mumbai, I try to get out at least a couple of mornings in the week. I am hoping to improve on that number,” shares Mehta. His wife is a cycling enthusiast as well, though she hasn’t ridden much in India. His daughters also love to bike and he is hoping that they will join him on the road soon.

“The most epic experience was an eight-day, 700 kilometre mountain biking race from Shimla to Manali.”

He shares his cycling experiences and how this sport has played an important role in his life:

When did you realise that cycling became a passion?

In 1999, I injured my knee and had to stop most of my physical activities. I saw a video of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour De France after having cancer and that is what got me motivated to take up biking. It was also much less pressure on my knees when compared to skiing or running. I haven’t looked back since then.

Do you have any memorable experiences while pursuing the hobby?

I have many experiences on the bike; it’s difficult to highlight one. The most epic experience was an eight-day, 700 kilometre mountain biking race from Shimla to Manali. We cycled through all the roads no one has travelled. We climbed some of the steepest slopes I’ve ever cycled through and came down some of the most exhilarating descents of my life. I was literally holding on to my life at 55 km/ hour on a mountain bike on a dirt road. I also enjoyed riding in France, especially through the Alps.

What did you gain most from pursuing this hobby?

Some of my closest friends today are those whom I’ve met while on the bike. We find ourselves taking at least one bike trip a year where we meet friends and do bike rides. It’s a great way to spend a vacation, meet up with friends from around the world and stay active. I also find that I get time to myself to reflect on life when I’m on my bike, especially during long, hard mountain climbs.

How is the existing infrastructure in Mumbai to pursue your hobby?

As you can imagine, cycling in Mumbai is challenging given the traffic, infrastructure and natural elements. I try to head out before 4.30 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. before the city gains full steam. I love seeing different parts of Mumbai when the city is just waking up and the sun is rising. It is a great city at that hour.

How do you manage your time to pursue cycling?

You have to be passionate about this sport as it really requires you to be up super- early in the mornings and get a good night’s sleep when many of your friends are out partying. You also need to be organised to ensure your gear is in good condition as when you’re out 150 km from Mumbai; there is not a lot of help out there.

What is the most important physical quality you require to cycle regularly?  

First, you have to eat well and make sure you’ve hydrated yourself well, especially for long rides as you don’t realise how much energy and water you lose. It’s also important to stretch before and after a ride.

How has cycling helped you at a professional level?

In the past, while working in Singapore and California, I would ride with my teammates and colleagues. We sometimes use this time to bond as a group, but also to discuss strategy and deals. For us, biking was what golf is to others.

How has it helped you at a personal level?

It really helps me make time for myself, allows me to reflect on life, helps me stay focused and gives me the freedom to just enjoy life at my own pace – sometimes slow and steady, and at other times, fast and furious! I just love it.

Can you tell us about the charitable cause you are working for with other cycling enthusiasts?

I have supported and raised funds for the American Diabetes Association via several bike rides in the past. I am currently planning a 250 km ride from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar with a group to help raise funds for a good cause.


ON THE GO

Number of cycles owned : 5

Model : Custom-made mountain bike and road racing bike. Mountain bike is a Stump Jumper, front suspension and road bike is all carbon Roubaix.

Maximum distance cycled : 900 km over 7 days in France. 205 km ride in one day starting from Mumbai in 2010.

Cyclothon : Participated in many cyclothons in California, France and India.

Been to Tour De France : Twice, once in 2003 and again in 2009.


Prashant Mehta, CEO, Komli Media, shares his memorable cycling experience

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.