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Published on July 2nd, 2013

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Velo mania!

On a recent three-day work trip to Geneva, Mumbai girl Gurpreet Bilkhu got the chance to go cycling in Europe.

Ever since I took up cycling some years ago, I’ve always wanted to ride in Europe – a continent that promotes cycling like no other. Most European cities have dedicated cycling tracks, parking spaces, sensitive vehicle drivers and a climate that makes the ride even more joyous.

My wish came true on a recent three-day work trip to Geneva, Switzerland. I landed sleepy and tired on a Monday morning and spent the entire day in office. During my lunch break, I checked with everyone in office for bike stores, strangely no one was aware of any. My hotel helped me with this information. Apparently, Geneva offers bikes for free to anyone who wants to ride. Every year, from April 29, one can hire a bike for free from small arcades around Lake Geneva. Alas, I was there a week earlier!

GenevérouleSo I took the other option – Genevéroule – an association that promotes the use of bikes in Geneva. They have a big store opposite Gare de Cornavin, Geneva’s main railway station. One can rent a bike throughout the year between 8 am and 6 pm.

Knowing fully well how punctual Swiss people are, I left office early to reach the place before 6 pm. The experience was extremely pleasant. They offered me a bike with a frame size that was appropriate for my height. I was amazed to see their collection of some of the best road, cross-country and daily commuting bikes. I paid a total of CHF (Swiss Francs) 28 of which CHF 20 was a refundable deposit so the ride cost me no more than CHF 8 or approximately Rs 460. A very good deal indeed!

Initially, I was hesitant to ride in the midst of traffic in a new city like Geneva but passion took over Biking in geneva soon and I was rolling like it was my backyard. Geneva is a beautiful city and I was able to explore the smaller lanes that took through picturesque cityscapes I had not seen before. I rode in the botanical gardens, did the uphill climbs, and rode through the parks and around the Lake, on the bridges and what not.

After a two-hour ride, much to my surprise, I read names like Chamonix, Evian des Bains…was I at the French border? I was! I so wished I had kept riding that night and entered France but I was on a work trip and had to go back to report to work the next morning.

On my way back, I picked up a meal from McDonalds and sat in a park relishing it along with my dessert. I rode back to my hotel, placed the bike safely in the garage and went off to sleep. I woke up early the next morning and took it out again. Sun-kissed Geneva looked even more delightful. I saw the city waking up, met some riders, sipped coffee by the lake and then returned the bike by 8:10 am as I had promised. I walked out with a happy, content smile.

The day was a normal one as I worked through it but something extraordinary had happened. Something had made me happier this time around. This trip certainly was more meaningful and productive. I felt closer to Geneva than I had ever before. I felt that I knew the city better and probably (hopefully) the city got to know me too.

Some pics from Gurpreet’s Geneva trip:

This story was penned by Salil Jayakar. Gurpreet is a cycling enthusiast who works for an Indian MNC. Read about her earlier exploits with her bike at the world’s highest motorable pass here

(Pictures courtesy Gurpreet Bilkhu)

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