If you want to go cycling in a country that culturally feels miles away from your own – then India is for you!
The scenery in this vast country runs from lush coastal roads to the mighty Himalayas, dense jungles plus the relatively dry Deccan plateau. There’s something here for every touring cyclist, unless privacy is high on your priority list. (India is not the go-to country for riders seeking to be alone in the wilderness…)
The cultural diversity is immense. Nearly every main religion has followers who live here. Ride through the Himalayan region of Ladakh and Spiti where you can experience the Tibetan Buddhist culture. Rajasthan is full of ancient Moghul forts and palaces. The South has impressive Hindu temples whose towers reach toward the sky.
You think you’ve seen it all. Cycling through India will prove otherwise. Turn a corner and you’ll see an elephant ambling your way. Or you can land in a hotel where a wedding is taking place and the bridal family insist you join in.
India will test your sanity. The country has the capacity to delight, exasperate, thrill and frustrate all at once. Even if you plan your cycling trip ahead of time, India always seems to throw a spanner in the works. Sometimes you’ll wish you had never come. But once you are back home, you’ll be yearning to return.
The people you meet while cycling are friendly, curious and inquisitive. (Sometimes too much so!) And if you truly want to make friends there, read up on how the Indian cricket team is doing beforehand.
Many cyclists begin their first tour of India by flying into Delhi since they want to see the Taj Mahal. Yes, the Taj is gorgeous and worth a visit. But this region is also one of the most densely populated areas in India. It would be somewhat similar to flying into New York or London and starting your cycling trip from there.
Southern India is much more relaxed, less-populated and Tamil Nadu has plenty of quiet backroads.
Grace Johnson and photographer Paul Jeurissen have cycled through numerous countries around the world. Yet India remains one of their favourite ones. On their website Impressions from Bicycle Travels they have extensive reports of cycling through India. Grace also publishes the free bicycle touring magazine Bicycle Traveler.