Sunil Gopalachari(Blog written by – VeloKofi)

Having your best buddy riding along with you on long distances and also be your nutritionist is the best thing a cyclist can ask for and best is when that best buddy happens to be your spouse. 

This was essence of our interview with Mythri and Sunil –  One is state-level badminton player proficient in Yoga and another one is a multitude of talent – triathlete, trekker, photographer, bird watcher, volunteer, ex NCC cadet and also an aspiring Iron Man. He is also a Supply Chain Consultant.

Mythri and Sunil have complimented each other throughout their SR journeys and other cycling expeditions.  While Sunil has coached Mythri for her first SR title, Mythri has always been by Sunil’s side ensuring everything is taken care of, including packing some nutritious food and Indian Gooseberry Juice (Amla juice, just did not want to sound colloquial there J) for every ride.  

Give their story to a Tollywood movie maker and you could well see a blockbuster on the screens with a complete package including a few songs shot in Europe based on Mythri and Sunil’s cycling exploits in and around Amsterdam.

This is going to be fantastic read if you want to know – how not to give up even in the most adverse situations, how to make your passion for cycle a part of your life, and why cycling is a vehicle of freedom, exploration and magical memories.

VeloKofi’s Manasa, Manju, Kishor, Nandu, VP and Sudu in conversation with the inspiring Power Couple from Bangalore – Sunil Gopalachari and Mythri Sunil on their journey as life partners, cycling and more.

VeloKofi: Myrthri& Sunil, thank you.  We were truly fascinated by the fact that you are the 2nd Super Randonneur couple in Karnataka.  Almost everyone VeloKofi wanted to hear your story, so we are six of us today that includes 2 couples; Nandini and Kishore, Manasa and Manju, Sudu, and VP.  Tell us how it all began.

Sunil :  Thanks for giving us the opportunity to tell our story. Appreciate all that you guys are doing for the community.

I started cycling as a kid just like many other.  As I moved to higher classes, I started to realize that bicycle is vehicle to freedom and soon my rides became more exploratory than just to commute to my school.  I started riding with my school buddies and I ride with some of them even today.  We started exploring few place around where we lived and went swimming in the nearby lakes.  I got exposed to long distance rides very early; our first long distance ride was a 350+ km ride to Wayanad on a single speed cycle from Mysore  way back in 2000. While I have never stayed completely away from cycling, my more serious rides started when I joined Go Green in 2015. I was looking for an outlet from stress at work. Cycling was the natural choice. By then I was married.  Wife started cycling after our kid was born.  We saw lot of cyclists in Bangalore to draw inspiration from, I was in the organizing committee  for a few rides in my apartment complex, took kids and ladies around Kanakapura road to help them experience the joy of cycling, with Brevets and riding with friends, cycling has gone to a new level, I have never looked back ever since.

VeloKofi: Mythri, tell us about yourself. Was Sunil your inspriration?

Mythri: I am from Chikmaglur and I used cycle a bit during my school days.  Other than that I only started cycling after our kid was born.  Sunil gifted a bike for Ugadi (New Year celebrated in Southern parts of India) and helped me start or, rather restart by cycling.  I was state-level Badminton player during my school days, I was coached by my father – Suresh Babu, who is a well known Badminton and TT coach. I have been practicing Yoga from very early age. We had moved to Netherlands for an yearthe people and the culture that I experienced in Europe actually inspired me to take up cycling.   I saw lot of women cycling there with kids and young mothers. That was a  driver to start, then Sunil egged me to take up the next level including brevets.

VeloKofi:  Wow.  That’s interesting!  You started cycling after your kid and we know Sukruthi is still very young and you are already a Super Randonneur.  How can couples create a support structure for each other and at home, what has been the preparation and how did you manage to achieve your SR title.

Sunil & Mythri: It is extremely important that we create a support system at home and for each other. Throughout the journey of brevets, our family recognized the passion and have helped us in taking care of our little one. And we alternate for medium distance rides like 200km or 300km – Only one of us used register and planned these rides with our friends; we prepare together and also ride with our friends for the preparatory rides so that the confidence is built in; but 400km and 600km brevets are the ones that we do together.

Sunil:  In addition, on long rides like brevets we take multiple short breaks instead of one long break.  If the break is longer, body cools down and it will be difficult to pick up the momentum.  And on these rides we don’t worry about speeds.   We have practiced riding in hot sun when required and have also done night rides for preparation. 

VeloKofi: That’s fantastic. Support system apart, one needs to have great fitness to do all that you have achieved. Can you tell us about your background and what other sports you do follow today which has helped in your fitness journey.

Mythri: I was a state level badminton player during my school days. My father was my coach and I had lots of encouragement at home to pick up sports at an early age. I have also been practicing Yoga for the last 30 years. Fitness sessions with Anil Kadsur including stair climbing routine has helped in my cycling journey. I do suryanamaskara every day that has helped me build and increase all round fitness.

Sunil: I have represented my college in Hockey and softball.  Swimming is another sport that started as a hobby.  Now, I have completed couple of triathlons – A Sprint and A Olympic distance – tough running is not my strong suit yet.  While I have some background in sports, Mythri ‘s cycling climbs are better, her Yoga and breathing techniques are far more superior than mine J

VeloKofi:  Sunil, this one is for you.  We have heard from many cyclists about your heroics about the third dimension of endurance – mental strength. They often say that you are the best example for not giving up even during the toughest situations.  Tell us more about this.

Sunil:  That is not completely true J. I had given up couple of times due to lack of preparation.  Preparing your mind for the long-hauls is the key.   Prepare to ride alone and prepare to ride any kind of bike is what we have learnt from Anil Kadsur.  So for me, the focus is always on preparation.  For the BGB rides, every weekend I used to do 300-400 km rides so that my body get used these long-hauls.  I used to switch my bikes during training.  Now coming to some interesting incidents, during my Pondicherry – Shoolagiri and Pondicherry rides, I was near Shoolagiri and had to make a u-turn.   Suddenly a guy on his motorbike, whom I guess did not see me, coming from the opposite direction hit me hard.  Bike got damaged and my leg got hurt.   I did not want to abort this ride.  Myrthi and other friends got me my MTB to Shoolagiri from BLR.  I informed the event organizer and switched my bike and managed to complete the ride in time.  My BGB (Bangalore-Goa-Bangalore) rides was even more interesting; I had to change my bike twice and had to ride 3 bikes.  My reparation was good and I was very confident.  The event started and I was doing very well, and I was ahead of some good riders.  When I was near Shimoga, the hub of my back wheel got cut.  I had to call up my friend Mr.Nataraj from Go Green. Iborrowed his MTB and started riding.   Raghu Reddy joined me at Jog and he stood by me and we rode together till Goa.  I was 30 min late to the Goa checkpoint.  At that time, there was another event happening in Goa in which Chaitanya sir was participating.  I could borrow his bike at Goa.  In the end, I managed to finish the ride with 5 min to spare.  So, in essence, it is the preparation that matters and notbike (In case of breakdown be prepared to ride any alternative bike u can get).  Fitness is important.  Focus on core and strengthening.   Climbing stairs helps in cycling.  Proper sleep is critical, at least for one week leading up to a big event is required.

VeloKofi:  That’s incredible!  So Mythri, what is he made of?  What do you feed him?

Mythri:  Normal regular food just like anyone else!  He likes coconut water, amla juice, sugar cane juice and regular water.  He takes Redbull or Sprite once in a while if he is feeling too sleepy.  We both carry chikki and yoga bars for long rides.

VeloKofi:  Ah! That’s interesting. We do see Sukruthi riding with you guys nowadays, what’s next, what are your dream cycling routes / events?

Mythri & Sunil: Definitely LEL if possible.  We wanted to do North Karnataka tour with the family and we had got a custom seat for Sukruthi.  This would have been one of our memorable ones, but unfortunately, we had to miss out.  Ride to Manali, Leh, and Spiti valley is something we want to plan for.  Like a lot of other passionate cyclists, we want to target PBP in 2023.

Sunil:  I also want to do this one event in Australia (1200km), to test myself in those conditions.

VeloKofi:  Any scary or funny incidents that you would like to share?

Mythri: I had never done night right.  It was my 400 brevet and also my first night ride.  I wasn’t sure if was prepared for it.  At the Chikballapur climb, I started hallucinating.  It was a scary experience.

Sunil: During a Malnad trip with college friends, one of my friend’s bike seat came off on one side, then I tried to fix it, as luck would have it, I made the entire seat came off.  We made him ride without a seat for 5-6 kms until we could find a bicycle shop, he could not sit down….we laugh at that even today.

VeloKofi: Ha haha, that is hilarious! Poor poor guy. We read about the Ultra Spice experience Sunil and how you acted as Crew chief and official photographer for the crew. What else do you pursue?

Sunil: I have started farming with a few friends, we use natural farming techniques, trying to grow organic veggies and fruits now. I am big fan of Kannada literature – SL Byrappa’s  novels are my favorites. Whenever I get time I would like to go for bird watching which I have been doing for a long time.

VeloKofi: You have completed 120 hundreds and 100 fifties.  50k on Strava is a milestone is just around the corner. Who are your mentors

Mythri: My father and Sunil. I also am inspired by Anil Kadsur’s fitness. VidyaChandran’s spokeswomen group brings in a lot of positivity and has helped me immensely in my cycling journey.

Sunil: I also would like to call out my Coach – ex manager at Mysore VivekNadig, he has taught me everythin – lessons in life, on enjoying life to the fullest, on finances, he has been a mentor in many ways and has helped a lot in shaping my life.

Anil Kadsur has taught us that your cycle condition should not deter your mindset.  10 min ride with him, you learn a new thing; Two quotes that has made a deep impact to my cycling life are “Enjoy cycling, cycle should not matter to you” and ‘‘Be prepared to ride alone” .

Mohan Subramanyam, irrespective of the situations and the way he goes about conducting the events, and the volunteering spirit is something that I always admired

VeloKofi: Indeed, they are legends aren’t they. How many bicycles do you guys have, and what gives you more fun?

Mythri: We have 5 bicycles at home, space is an issue! Have a fixie, MTB, road bike, hybrid and a kids bike. Hybrid is my favourite one.

Sunil: I am a Trail guy. I love my MTB, now I have started enjoying fixie a lot.

VeloKofi: Do you drink coffee and what’s your favouriteadda?

Sunil and Mythri: Coffee, yes. Cant start the day without a strong filter coffee. We like Cothas.

VeloKofi: That’s great to hear, now our final question, what are your thoughts – how has cycling helped you as an individual and parting message to the community out there

Sunil: I found solace in cycling, it is a stress buster; Whenever there is anger or a barrier of sorts, I pick up the bike and go for a ride; my anger comes down, I start to think from my perspective and from others perspective, I do introspect, there is much time to look at problems in a new light; new solutions have emerged, thinking has evolved, lot of my personal and professional success is attributed to cycling ; There is more calmness now, there is more positivity.

Sunil and Mythri: Our message to the riders, it is a wonderful sport, never give it up, be it short or long distance, keep pedaling J..