46-year-old Bangalore resident Meera Velankar, and 26-year-old Varanasi resident Utkarsh Verma have created a new record in tandem cycling. The Indian duo are the first in this mixed age category to summit Umling La on a tandem bicycle, which is the highest motorable pass in the world.
Meera and Utkarsh rode for a distance of 1835 kms in 19 days, 7 hrs and 18 minutes and covered the route from Agra to Delhi to Srinagar to Leh to Umling La; crossing five passes with an elevation of 19000 metres.
Their journey started on 15th August, 2022 to commemorate India’s 75- years of Independence and reached Umling La on the 3rd of September.
Both were self-supported in this journey and faced extreme temperatures ranging from 38-40 degrees to a low of 5-10 degrees. Apart from harsh weather, they battled other challenges such as finance, food, hydration and accommodation.
Meera explains “We both come from a different socio-economic backgrounds and despite the age gap, we managed to maintain consistency in our communication during the ride. What bothered us is the constant questioning of our relationship by the crowd that reflects lack of acceptability about gender differences in our society”.
Help came from the Indian army and Border Roads Organization for route updates and finding stay in remote areas.
Meera Velankar who is a seasoned endurance athlete for over a decade is also a PhD in life sciences and Utkarsh Verma is a graduate from an open university and has been cycling for the past 5 years.
With this mixed tandem bicycle ride Meera Velankar becomes the oldest women to reach Umling La pass. The duo have applied for the Guinness World Record and WUCA (World Ultracycling Association) and their application is in process.
They used an entry level tandem bicycle which was sponsored by Spokeherd, while Polygon India handled the logistics from start and end point. Bikepacking gears were sponsored by The Posst bikes by Geosmina.
Photo credits: Meera Velankar
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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai