Until recently, I was what one would consider to be quite fit. To be precise, I was considered quite fit until I joined OVERDRIVE. I used to cycle to work every day when I was working in Bangalore, and no matter how much I ate, I never managed to grow a paunch. But now, after almost two years at OD, I've been utterly spoiled. Spoiled by the cushioned seats and the air-conditioned cabins of the numerous cars I've driven and all the irresistible food I've been subject to while travelling. But I'm not complaining about any of that. In fact, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. What I am complaining about, however, is my slightly protruding belly which I have come to call, Prosperity.
But enough was enough and it was time I started to get back in shape. I considered buying a bicycle and cycling to work. But the distance I'd have to cover compared to when I was in Bangalore had more than doubled to around 13km one way. To top it off, I'd also have to deal with the oh-so-magnificent Mumbai weather. That's when we came up with the idea of trying out one of Hero Cycles' electrically assisted bicycle - the Ozone. It sounded like a perfect idea! Considering how I wasn't in the best of shape, it looked like just the solution for someone like me.
The electric scooter is all very fun to ride around in traffic...
...until of course, it runs out of juice
And then Rishabh butted in. He'd just ridden the Okinawa Ridge electric scooter and called the cycle a stupid idea and terrible waste of money. He says that he'd rather buy himself a scooter and get to work smelling as fresh as a daisy rather than cycle there and smell like a fish market. Ha! Like his overweight-self could cycle a few 100 metres even if it wanted to! But anyway, I called him over to my place one morning and told him to convince me of his choice on the way to the office. He was on the scooter and me on the bicycle.
Rishabh: Sorry, but we're quite spent after all that hard work. Excuse us while we both charge up.
Rahul: I bet you can't even spell hard work.
Rishabh: I can even carry some delicious homemade food in my dabba with all this space.
Rahul: Do you, at any point, think of anything but food?
His first argument was that using the Ridge was effortless and easy. All you had to do was twist the accelerator and you'd be happily swishing around instead of pedalling and panting your way around the place. My counter argument, however, was that with his generous proportions of 'prosperity', he could do with some pedalling and panting in his life. On a serious note though, the electric motor on the Ozone is just brilliant. I initially expected the cycle to have an accelerator like in an electric scooter, but it just has a small panel on the handlebar which shows you how much juice the battery's got and allows you to select how much power you want at the wheel - there are five levels. The electric motor works only when you're pedalling, so can't get away with using electric power alone - you have to do some work. But that boost from the motor is just what you need to get you through those last 100 metres on an up-hill climb. Think of it as assisted exercising. But hey, it's still a lot more exercise than just twisting the throttle.
Rahul: Woohoo! Let's see you try and have half as much fun on your scooter, Rishabh!
Rahul: Ya Rishabh, you go 2km ahead and take a U-turn, while I just cross over to the other side here.
When it came to dealing with traffic, Rishabh says that the Ridge was very nimble and easy to chuck around in the tiny gaps. However, nothing but a bicycle can fit in what we South Indians call a 'cycle gap'. The electric motor only helps my cause because it ensures that I quickly pick up the necessary momentum to squeeze through the tiny windows in traffic before they shut. Of course, the biggest issue I faced on the cycle was visibility. I don't mean my visibility of other motorists, but the other way round. While Rishabh's existence was at least acknowledged on the scooter, I might as well have been wearing an invisibility cloak while riding around the city! Cycling in Mumbai traffic is a life hazard and it's just something you have to learn to accept. I know I did.
There's no accelerator here. You have to pedal for the motor to run at the preset power level
Rahul: Hello, excuse me! Are you blind or are you just plain stupid?
But what's also a hazard, not just in Mumbai, is theft. If I had left the Ozone locked to a pole out on the street for one night, I'd have found nothing but the frame the next morning simply because of how easy it is to dismantle. I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't even know what to do with the battery pack, but they'd take it anyway because of the oh-it's-free-so-I'll-take-it mentality. When I got to my apartment building, I'd have to shove the cycle into the elevator and then me behind it to take it up to my house. If the elevator was occupied, I'd have to carry it up. And at 22.6kg, the Hero Ozone is a bit on the heavier side of the scale even for an electrically assisted bicycle. But if you're the type who likes to look at the bright side of things, it does count as exercise. However, it's not just at home that this is a problem. Anywhere I go, I'll have to park in a spot where I have a good view of the bicycle just to make sure that no one's fiddling around with it. If you're like Rishabh and you choose the Ridge, all you'll have to do is drop the stand, lock it and leave knowing that it's not very easy to dismantle in the middle of the night. I also assume that the average bike thief doesn't quite know how to hot-wire an electric scooter just yet.
Rahul: Okay, so maybe I have to stop for a couple of chai breaks on the way.
Weaving effortlessly through tight spaces in traffic is so satisfying on a bicycle!
What Rishabh also didn't have to worry about is carrying an extra set of clothes to wear in the office, along with some soap and deodorant to avoid being avoided by everyone else. But even if he did, he had enough space in the Ridge's under-seat storage to stow it away along with the charger. Speaking of under-seat storage, he even had a proper seat! I, however, had a tiny little uncomfortable patch of cushion that can hardly be called a seat. I also had to pack all of those things I mentioned into my backpack along with the battery charger and lug it around for the 13km ride to the office and 13km back home. Carrying that backpack was probably the toughest part of my journey because, by the end of it, my shoulder and neck hurt far more than my legs.
Now that's what you call a seat
This patch of cushion has been designed so that you can't sit for too long
At this point, you're probably wondering if Rishabh has anything to worry about at all, and if I've just made a stupid decision. Well, I haven't! You see, unlike with the Ozone, Rishabh can't just remove the battery pack and carry it up to his desk or his house to charge it like he would charge his phone or laptop. He needs a charging point in his garage, which he doesn't have. The only charging point available is in the office and even there, there's just one! While he did get to the office parking lot around 15 minutes before me and plug the scooter in, it's only a matter of time before one of the hundreds of people working in the complex brings an electric scooter to work too. Once that happens, it's a matter of piling (fighting) for the one working charging point in the parking lot. And while Rishabh might have seen a top speed of around 55kmph on the Ridge's speedo (I didn't have a speedo), once his battery dies, he'll be able to move only as fast as his feet can push him and that can't be very fast. I, on the other hand, still had my pedals to keep pushing me till I get to where I have to.
Rahul: Rishabh would call this a burden. I call it exercise.
Rishabh: Who's laughing now, Snorlax?
So, did Rishabh finally manage to convince me that the Okinawa Ridge made more sense that the Hero Ozone? Considering the Ozone costs Rs 42,050 and the Ridge Rs 43,702 (ex-Delhi), it's hard not to see why he'd want the latter. Factor in the taxes and the Ridge will be around Rs 10,000 more than the cycle, which isn't too much for something that doesn't literally make you sweat every time you have to go to the office. But considering a decent cycle in this day and age costs between Rs 25,000-30,000, the asking price of the Ozone isn't very unreasonable. It's specifically designed for people like me who want to sweat and exercise during their daily commute with a little cheating, and no fat man on a scooter can convince me otherwise.