“In early 2005, apart from kids, not many thought bicycles were cool. Good bicycle shops were non-existent, which meant no access to good bicycles or accessories. However, there was a new-age bicycle, the Hero Thunder. It was one of the first aluminium bicycles in the country, priced at 6000 Rupees. And cycling helmets you ask? Well, I still remember the apprehension and discomfort I felt when I first wore a cycling helmet on my commute to work. I had to solder together my first tail light as nothing was available”, says Rohan Kini, Founder of BUMSONTHESADDLE (BOTS).
Recently, we got in touch with him to present his side of the story of a time when cycling was not a fad, but just a poor man’s commute. Here’s what he had to say:
How were the cycling scenes back then?
A decade ago, bicycles were sold by traders who did not really have the passion for the sport or the culture. They also lacked the sense of community that is inherent in the cyclists today. Some of us used to ride around quite a bit and were eager to build and share our experience with others who chose to get onto a bicycle. It was a small, tight- knit community and everyone knew everyone. Exciting times!
Pretty much everything you see today, in the cycling space, was nonexistent – no cycling events, no rides, no races, no communities, no Facebook! Yup, pretty backwards and India had a long way to go with respect to cycling as a sport or a passion.
How did the idea of BOTS originate?
It all started from us solving a problem we faced – as cyclists, we had a massive issue buying products and getting advice from the existing retailers in 2005. After we picked up our bikes, service and technical know-how was impossible to come by. None of the bike shops had the environment, the infrastructure or the people to inspire cycling. Communities to enjoy and promote the sport of cycling didn’t exist. Basically, we were our own end consumers and we started BOTS to satisfy our itch for the joy of cycling. We realised, there could be thousands around the country who were like us.
Were there any challenges that you and your partner faced?
Setting up a business was not easy. It took us a lot of time to understand the legalities before we could open the bike shop. Choosing a non-traditional career was another tricky hurdle.
This was 10 years ago. At the moment, both are a tad easier and hopefully the industry is set to roll. Also, working in a very old industry and trying to change the mindset of people has been a massive challenge for us.
Why the name BUMSONTHESADDLE (BOTS) and not something else?
Cycles are awesome toys! Riding a cycle can mean so many things to so many people – the joy of freedom, being fit, exploring places, making friends, a brutal sport or just a recreational ride in your neighbourhood. We wanted to build a quirky company which is all about cycling and aimed at doing this in a fun, creative and professional setup.
The name encompasses these sentiments for us. The aim of this company is to get more bums on saddles and to remember to keep the passion going.
Any players who helped you in the initial phase?
Firefox made quite an impact on the cycling scene at that point by taking the quality up a couple of notches. They brought in some high-quality bicycles at a relatively good price. Trek was the first foreign brand to enter the market and set the foundation for everything. We were lucky to understand the impact of a good quality product to the foundation of cycling and this is something we will always remember.
At this point in time, a few of us were immersed in promoting cycling. When Trek entered the market, they reached out to us to know if we were willing to set up a bike shop in Bangalore. We called that bike shop, rather ALL the effort to get folks riding bikes, BUMSONTHESADDLE!
Our bicycle shop, was one of its kind in the country – on the rooftop, 3 stories up, with no signage! Coming to think of it, I have no idea how cyclists actually found us. While bicycle retail is never an end goal for BOTS, it’s always an integral part to provide the correct product, perfect advice and a kickass experience which would never fail to ignite the passion for cycling.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years, how has BUMSONTHESADDLE impacted the carbon footprint and the minds of people?
BOTS started out as a part-time effort where we met cyclists on our rooftop every Saturday. Here, we would set up and adjust their cycles; take them riding; help them with knowledge and also run programs to promote riding to work (which we still do now, at scale). Apart from seeding and nurturing a passionate community, it was also very exciting to run a business that thrived in this environment.
In short, we wanted to re-brand the concept of cycling in India. It’s great to hear from the cycling fraternity today about how BOTS had a massive impact on cycling across the country. It is also great to hear about how it has contributed substantially to what you see happening today in cycling – retail, community development, forums, racing, riding etc.
I think one of the biggest things we have accomplished is a change in the way bicycles are retailed and experienced in the country. From the very beginning, we’ve had an innovative approach that seems to have shaped the way the industry has grown over the last decade. Nothing is more satisfying than another cycle shop considering BOTS as its inspiration. Why impact only Bangalore when as a team you can inspire cycling across this massive nation?
How has BUMSONTHESADDLE (BOTS) grown since its inception?
Quite a bit actually!
The first five years were a tonne of learning where we worked Saturdays and on an appointment basis only. The next five years have been fast – we have spread across to multiple retail locations, have partnered with and now distribute some of the biggest cycling brands in the world in India and have a sizable chunk of the cycling E-commerce space in India.
Definitely good to meet cyclists who recognise us and tell us that we’ve impacted their cycling. So good!
Why do you think people should start cycling in cities?
Cycling is the fastest, easiest and most fun way to stay fit in our crowded cities. I would also recommend bicycles for cities as it seriously helps to combat pollution and traffic woes.
Anyone can easily have a shot at fitness without memberships or a partner to kick it off. Moreover, it can be experienced anywhere, at any age and at any time.
Just get on any bike and ride!
Oh yeah! Did I mention, it’s addictive and fun too!?
Besides, buying bicycles and other accessories, how else can BUMSONTHESADDLE help those interested?
We spend time in growing the culture of cycling – introducing our riders to the latest happenings across the world, kicking off the concept of community racing, running boot camps and workshops, movie nights, night rides, introducing fixed gear, and a lot more.
I think we’ve pretty much been at the forefront of everything that concerns cycling so far. It’s becoming tougher as we’ve become a lot bigger, but the exciting thing is to keep innovating and doing fun things we enjoy as cyclists ourselves.
Do you think Bangalore is a friendly city towards the cyclists, and why?
Yup, Bangalore is a great city for cycling. Lots of great cycling events, communities, commuting, ride opportunities, great weather and some good bike shops.
You name it, we have it.
Tell us something that not everyone knows about BUMSONTHESADDLE (BOTS)?
Many cyclists often assume BOTS is only about retail until they get to know us better. As a company, we’re focused on understanding and doing things that would create more riders and promote cycling.
Being rider-focused is key to everything we do. As Specialized Bicycles say it – the Rider is the BOSS. We try and follow this simple mantra. All of us in the company love riding bikes and we’re gunning to build a company that we as riders would love to experience if we were the customers. Quite awesome actually.
We’re not perfect, mind you. We will always be learning and evolving the BOTS experience.
What are your plans for the future with BUMSONTHESADDLE ?
We have a decade worth of experience, innovating and challenging the status quo. The cycling industry is in its infancy. We’re keen to grow a very cycling focused company which is innovating the way cycling is impacted across India. I’m definitely looking forward to what the next decade will bring!
Special Thanks to Rohan Kini
Editor: Tracy Alvares