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These Indian Parsi men cycled across the world nearly a century ago

The United Nations General Assembly declared June 3 as International World Bicycle Day. The resolution for World Bicycle Day recognizes “the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transport.”

Even before cycling became a thing for the world, a few Indians were marking their way through the world on their bicycles. In the 1920s and 1930s, 10 Indians – all in their 20s, all Parsis, and all from Bombay – chose to cycle around the globe in three separate groups. The goal of this young blood was to carry the name of the country – Mother India – to the far-flung corners of the world. They journeyed across mountains, forests and plains, sometimes without food and water. Eventually, only seven of them completed their odyssey.

By the time Hakim, Bapasola and Bhumgara reached India in March 1928, they had covered around 70,000 kilometres. In their book With Cyclists Around The World, they have listed out their achievements. In four and a half years, they had scaled the Alps, crossed pirate-infested territories and waded through jungles with hostile semi-savage tribes, sometimes escaping death by inches. Their efforts inspired a sports journalist from Bombay named Framroze Davar to set off on his bicycle, all on his own.

For these cyclists, the expeditions were not about challenging their physical and mental ability, but to present India to the world, they were like brand ambassadors.


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