Six-year-old from Chennai sets new world record

Rian Kumar cycles 109 km non-stop; his feat is recorded by the World Book of Records

“His two pedals equal to one pedal of my cycle,” Gauri gives an inkling of the dimensions of her son Rian Kumar’s world, whose Doppler-shift denotes it is not far removed from the world of doggedly goal-focussed grownups.

His seventh birthday still separated by a month, Rian is the possessor of a cycling record: The youngest to have clocked 109 km non-stop, a feat monitored and recorded by the World Book of Records, London this July.

Gauri is a randonneur with Madras Randonneurs, having completed a 200 km brevet. Her enthusiasm for cycling has rubbed off on Rian, just as her mother’s had on her.

“My mother Prabha Mishra was a national-level cyclist,” declares Gauri.

She underscores the speciality of Rian’s achievement: It arrived on the back of a rather rudimentary cycle. Rian has so far sat astride a regular 16-inch kid’s cycle, gearless and seems to have not been enhanced in any manner for record-making long-distance rides.

“First of all, I have not been able to find a suitable road bike for his size,” says Gauri.

“The disadvantage of having a regular, gearless bike is that he would receive little assistance from it when he is climbing a flyover.”

So, Gauri put Rian through the paces on various inclines across Chennai, and the exercise has made him flyover-hardened.

“In the port area where we live, there is a small flyover, where we trained him, and followed it up with the flyover near Savera hotel, and then the Gemini flyover. He did not get bored with these flyover-climbing practice sessions,” says Gauri.

The family lives at the staff quarters on Flagstaff Road in Island Grounds. With its quiet, the geography suits leisure cycling, but cannot support the intensity of the mother-son duo’s engagement with cycling, which requires an expansive terrain.

“On October 10, Rian and I attempted a 150 km Chennai to Puducherry ride down East Coast Road, but turned back at Kalpakkam as the road from then on is treacherous for any cyclist, more so for a six-year-old. However, by riding back to our home in Flagstaff Road, turning around at Kalpakkam, he did do a 150 km,” Gauri illustrates, adding that Rian’s rides are recorded on a GPS-driven cycling app, with which he has been registered as “Rian the Lion”, and this ride was no exception.

“Cycling happens three days in a week — two days during the work week and one during the weekend. We would start around 3 a.m. and be back around 8.30 a.m. before the traffic builds up. Sustaining a six-year-old’s interest for five and a half hours is not easy, but that has never been a challenge with Rian.”

Gauri has long-distance cycling ambitions of her own, but has put them in suspension to be an enabler to Rian.

“At present, I ride a hybrid cycle, but will switch to a road bike only when Rian is ready for one. I have to ride alongside Rian’s kid’s cycle now and having a fast road bike does not help matters.”

That is the least of the sacrifices. Her retirement after 16 years of naval service was partly shaped by her desire to be able to pay closer attention to the details of Rian’s growing-up years.

“For around a couple of years, our family of three was living in three cities — my husband was posted at Mumbai, I was posted at Chennai; and Rian was with my sister in Delhi.

In January 2021, the three of us reunited when my husband was posted at Chennai,” Gauri shares. “When I would go visiting Rian in Delhi, I would help him on short cycling tours, running alongside as he cycled. There is a big lawn near this house in Delhi, and I would place toys suitably to create a zigzag cycling course for him.

In January, when I took him on my cycling trips in Chennai, I noticed that he enjoyed it.”

What followed is out there for everyone to see.

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