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The king of the segment meets the King of the Ghats: Kerman Framna, four-time national champion, eight-time state champion, and winner of the Shiv Chhatrapati Award.

King of the Ghats

Legends are rendered immortal in the memories of mortals by the extraordinary nature of their achievements. The greater the list of achievements, the harder it is to forget them. What about a record that has remained unbroken since the 1987-88 season? The record was set by champion cyclist, Kerman Framna, at the peak of his career and it earned him the sobriquet “King of the Ghats”. More than three decades later, even with ground-breaking advances in bicycle technology, the record remains unbeaten and, so far as we are concerned, he continues to be the King of the Ghats.

King of the Ghats King of the Ghats

Kerman has represented India on the global stage multiple times and has won as many as four national championships and eight state championships. His list of accolades also includes the prestigious Shiv Chhatrapati Award (1986-1987). So, when we went to meet him, we decided to take a similarly accomplished car, the Hyundai Creta. With awards aplenty to its name and a five-digit sales figure per month, the Creta is also royalty in its own right; the king of its segment.

King of the Ghats

Kerman is quite unlike the conventional champion. That was evident when we asked him for a few pictures of his trophies from the numerous titles he had won. The veteran cyclist replied by saying that he had not kept most of them. When we asked why, he said, ‘I don’t like to live on past glory. Don’t you think it would be nice to live for today and let the past just slip away?’ Even today, he lives by that philosophy. Years after retirement, the champion cyclist keeps himself in remarkable shape by riding at least three to four days a week for distances ranging from 50 to 100 kilometres. During our conversation, he mentioned that riding through the city to get to his favourite cycling routes was now more arduous than before due to traffic and the urban bustle. I saw an opening there and asked if we could accompany him on the next one, using the capable Creta as his support car.

King of the Ghats

The Creta’s well-rounded résumé makes it an ideal choice to indulge in an active lifestyle and for multiple activities, including cycling. The car’s smooth ride, ability to sail over rough terrain, comfortable and spacious cabin, and the availability of ample performance on tap impressed Kerman so much so that he invited his good friend, Mahayar Irani, to join us for the ride. Mahayar is a hobby cyclist who took to cycling for fitness after being inspired by Kerman’s achievements. The following morning, we loaded the bicycle rack on to the Creta’s tail-gate. In fact, since the car’s rear seats fold down to create a lot of space, we even dissembled Kerman’s expensive racing bicycle and stored it inside the car quite comfortably.

King of the Ghats

Kerman took the wheel and we drove towards the secret cycling location outside Pune. The Creta’s comfortable interior and stable driving dynamics allowed us to conduct an interesting conversation on the way. Even in modern times, bicycle racing does not seem to receive the recognition it deserves in our country, so I was curious to know what inspired Kerman to choose it as a career four decades ago. He responded by saying that he comes from a family of cyclists and he naturally developed an interest in it but that the shift to professional racing happened thanks to Ashok Captain and Zubin Shroff. The former spotted Kerman’s talent, took the youngster under his wing, and trained him. Kerman also said that to this day, he seeks his mentor’s advice.

King of the Ghats

Then, of course, the next question was about the unbroken record. The champ fondly recalled the night before he set the record. ‘My favourite memory is breaking the King of the Ghats record previously held by the late Homi Bhathena. The night before the race, I was at Homi’s house and he jokingly asked, “Will you break my record?” and I said yes.’ The following day, he did break the record!

King of the Ghats

The Creta’s potent petrol engine and smooth dual-clutch automatic made short work of negotiating the crowded city streets and we were at the location in no time. Since Kerman is a road racer, we had picked a route that ran only on tarmac and it had a good mix of gradients and fast, flowing sections with scenery to die for stretching away in every direction. Both cyclists tackled the first steep hill with vigour, climbing at a pace that was well beyond the reach of regular people. With 242 Nm under my right foot, climbing a hill was not a problem at all for the Creta, but the highlight of that ascent was the seven-speed DCT. Keeping pace with the cyclists around tight hairpins and narrow roads was rather easy even though the Creta is a large and spacious car.

 

 

King of the Ghats

The real treat came when we hit the long, straight highway. Kerman put his head down and pedalled away, offering us a glimpse of his mind-boggling pace. As we shot videos and photographs, I stole a glance at the speedometer to find that I was doing nearly 60 km/h, driving parallel to the champion cyclist. At the end of the ride and before going our separate ways, I asked him what he had to say about his record remaining unbroken after so many decades. Kerman replied, ‘Records are meant to be broken. Someone, someday, will break my record but one thing is for sure. I will never ask a young cyclist, “Will you break my record?”’ That was well said indeed. What a way to end an incredible day.

King of the Ghats

Thanks to the Creta’s versatility, we were able to spend the day with an accomplished athlete without any hiccups and we hope that this article inspires the current generation of cyclists to break the record Kerman set in the late 1980s: a blistering time of 19 minutes and 50 seconds.

King of the Ghats

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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