South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Vasti Mulholland

Profile: Vasti Mulholland - (Mar/Apr 1999)

It is particularly commendable that a Beginner should share the DA Award for 'The Most Ambitious Ride'.

Vasti Mulholland has achieved the Award after riding a tour through Northern India from the foothills of the Himalayas to the River Ganges. Yet it was only a few months ago that she joined our Beginners Section in Nonsuch Park to learn how to cycle once again.

Vasti came to the UK from South Africa in the Autumn of 1997 with her daughter Shani and son Bryan. She describes how she came to take up cycling and embark on such a challenging ride: "I've often wondered what forces are at work when you page through a local newspaper and a seemingly non significant invitation to do a 400km bike ride through the foothills of the Himalayas jumps out at you as if it was addressed specifically to you. Maybe the fact that I had moved to the UK six months before and I felt it was a very good way to beat those homesick blues. The fact that I haven't been on a bicycle since I can't remember when (long before gears, specialist frames, saddles or toe clips were discovered) did not enter my mind as being an obstacle."

"So after borrowing an old 'shopper' bike with 5 gears and having a quick 2 minute run through on how and when to change gears I set off on my first 'bike ride' through Sutton. All went well until I slammed on my brakes and Biiiiiiiigg mistake, I went over the handlebars and ended up with my ego in tatters and three broken front teeth".

Despite this bad start, Vasti bravely realised that she would benefit from some help and received good advice from Pearson's bicycle shop who suggested the CTC Beginners group - "with the help and patience of the local CTC members I learned how to stay on a bike, when and how to change gears, what to do when cycling up and down hill and what not to do when cycling in a group and in traffic (all essential skills if you want to cycle in India)".

Vasti spent 10 days in India. We do not have room to describe her time on tour nor the arrangements for her Mencap Sponsorship - can you imagine facing her difficulties in collecting £2500 sponsorship in a country in which you had only recently arrived to live! You can however read of this in Vasti's award winning account or see her stunning photographs on display at the barn dance Social.

The 10 day trip cost her about £600 (including the outlay for cycling shorts, shoes and a saddle) plus a Registration Fee of £300, £45 Insurance, £20 Airport Tax, £10 for guide tips and £150 pocket money for one or two beers at night and shopping.

Vasti's notes could be helpful to others starting out on a first trip to the Indian sub-continent.

"Learnt about reserving energy - saddles, not too soft (Terrys Ladies saddle recommended), lots and lots of fluids, working gears not only uphill, but also downhill. Training to cycle in big groups by riding with the CTC was invaluable. Biking is the best way to sightsee, but roads in India are busy and full of fumes - preferred a scarf around neck and over nose to use as air filter. The whole experience was very rewarding will recommend it to anyone and would love to do it again - am hoping to be able to go to China in 2000".