Had regulations permitted, there would have been a sign reading Flag Cycles, as well as Flag Cars, in parking lots at military stations where Lt. Gen. Anil Puri served.
On Wednesdays, when the army allows personnel at its headquarters to wear civilian clothes, a smart man, slightly graying on his ears, can be seen quietly parking his bike, climbing the front steps and returning the salutes of the officers around. That would be Puri, 59, who cycled the 90-hour, 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris circuit – France’s oldest cycling event – in 2019.
The three-star general is so passionate about cycling that his bikes have covered more miles than his car. The odometer of his 10-year-old car shows 25,000 km; the odometer of his bikes showed 68,000 km, or about 1.7 times the circumference of the earth.
There are perhaps many Indians who think that all roads lead to Delhi. For Puri, all roads lead out of Delhi. He has cycled at least 1,000 km in all directions from Delhi.
“When I joined the military, I played high endurance sports like hockey, soccer, and basketball,” he said. “These sports are close to the troops. But, as I got older, I looked for a sport that was lighter on the body, but would give me the results of high endurance sports. I chose the bike.
At the age of 50, when he rediscovered cycling, he bought himself a bike, “a Firefox which costs 14,000 rupees”. He started with short solo rides, until he met a group of cyclists who were riding for 200 km. Undaunted by his rank, they introduced a sense of civil discipline into the brass hat. They said, “Sir, you’re not wearing a helmet.
Puri decided to join them and attempt his first 100 km run. “I practiced for several days,” he said. “Then one Sunday I went with them an hour before sunrise to Nuh and Pataudi in Haryana. It took all day. We had punctures, cramps. But we learned many lessons.
Since then, neither Puri nor the cycling group, the SpinLifers, have looked back. How can they? Their bikes don’t have mirrors. “With them I started riding 200 km, 400 km, 600 km, 1,000 km and even 1,200 km,” he said, adding that with them every opportunity was “one for a lap “.
His wife and children were also bitten by the pedal bug. On weekends, the family can often be spotted on the roads leading into Delhi. “For any personal work within 5 km, I take my bike,” Puri said, adding that cycling brings you closer to nature and the human world around you.
“It lets you count every stone, read every sign,” Puri said, as he cut the cake on his 59th birthday. He had blown out the candle with a bicycle pump to the applause of his fellow cyclists. “It taught me to be a minimalist. We only take what we can easily carry on a cycle.
Next year, for his 60th birthday, Puri wants to do the Paris-Brest-Paris with his daughter.