He didn’t plan on working where he does today when he took up cycling in his early 20s. As a young man, Viju Varghese, 34, head sales and dealer development, Trek Bicycles India, knew the fastest way in Bengaluru to get from his college, Indian Institute of Science, to his table tennis practice 7km away was to cycle. Today, Gurugram-based Varghese’s passion and work overlap all the time, except instead of cycling in the city, he now prefers mountain biking because it helps him to stay fit, be close to nature, stay calm and gives him an excuse to get away from the chaos of the city.

Varghese took up mountain biking when he entered a Bangalore Bicycling Championships (BBCh.in) race organized by the local cycling community in mid-2000. Following that, he signed up for multiple racing events in the Himalayas and Uttarakhand, even though he regularly goes cycling in and around Delhi. Downhill biking, a very specific kind of mountain biking that involves going downhill at very high speeds on specially designed cycles, has a certain thrill and Varghese has done it often. But he prefers cross-country mountain biking as it involves cycling for extended periods of time through trails. “While it doesn’t usually involve extreme obstacles like other forms of mountain biking, it does require great endurance. You can ride on trails, open roads, winding narrow single-tracks, paved roads, rocky gardens and if you are lucky, in a single ride, a combination of all of these sections that test your endurance," he says.

Risk management

Nothing on two wheels is ever risk-free, especially in India’s notorious traffic conditions. While there is always the danger of being hit by fast moving vehicles on city roads, even cycling in traffic-free trails comes with its set of risks.Varghese is well aware of the risks involved but he says the challenging nature of the sport has kept him hooked to the pedals. “Finishing a multistage cross-country mountain bike race is more rewarding than everything else in life. It is a high-risk activity testing your endurance and technical handling skills, but I would say that the risk is worth the experience," he adds.

Balancing act

Varghese has had a go at paragliding and rock climbing but found that cycling and mountain biking was something he liked a lot more. That apart, the two are also easier to stick to on a daily basis while continuing with a daily job, five days a week. “As a sports enthusiast, I wanted something which could coexist with my job through the week. Cycling and mountain biking are easy to juggle around your work timings," he says.

Varghese hits the trail for 40-45 minutes on his mountain bike almost every day early in the mornings before starting his workday. On weekends, he mixes it up and takes out his road bike on which he gets in a 90-100km ride in about 3 hours.

Since his work also involves cycles, his adventure sport of choice actually ends up helping him in his work too. “Cycling keeps me active and fit, and helps me stay focused throughout the day. It also helps me get connected to our end users, be it in mountain biking or road racing," says Varghese.

Learning curve

Varghese, whose favourite competition is the multistage race Mountain Biking Himalaya with elevation gains of up to 2,500m, feels his own foray into cycling has helped him navigate through the challenges in his work life. “Cycling helps me see the rewards or issues, which I face as a cyclist in real time, which in turn helps me understand the market, its potential and the opportunity in India," he says.

Varghese, who is looking to take part in some international competitions next year, travels across the country as part of his job. He connects with the local racing community everywhere he goes. “When I ride at local event or races, I get connected with the local cycling community and consumers.This helps me develop a deeper understanding of the local market. My passion and work’s focus is aligned too—to get more people to take up cycling as a recreational activity, and a fun and social way of keeping fit," he says.

In mountain biking there is a saying, “Choose your lane wisely and then pedal hard." Varghese applies that principle in his work and personal life too. “If you do that, no matter what obstacles you face from time to time, you will fly past them," he says.

Adrenaline Rush is a series that looks at how professionals use lessons from adventure sports to make their work life more effective.Shrenik Avlani is co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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