Adil Teli, a Kashmiri cyclist has achieved the remarkable feat of holding two Guinness World Records. In a span of just eight days, he pedalled a staggering distance of 3,600 kilometers covering the entire stretch from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. In 2022, he again created history by setting a new world record for completing the distance from Leh to Manali in the fastest time ever recorded, he covered the challenging stretch of 470 kilometers in a time of 29 hours, 18 minutes, and 21 seconds. He spoke to Akasha Usmani.
Akasha Usmani (AU): You have set a Guinness world record and you also have a record for being the fastest cyclist, can you tell us about your journey and experience in doing so?
Adil Teli (AT): I am from Narbal, a small village in Kashmir's Baramulla area. I have wanted to set a world record for the fastest cycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari since I started cycling professionally. Belonging to a middle-class family, my father is a daily wager and he inspired me a lot. In 2019, I cycled from Srinagar to Leh in 26 hours, which gave me confidence in my capacity to break world records in ultra-endurance. I trained for the Guinness World Record in Amritsar. During this feat, I rode through many places in India from top to bottom. Every day, I pedaled for over 18 hours. I used to rest very little when cycling, and I slept only 3 or 4 hours out of 24 hours. Riding in hot and humid weather conditions was one of the most difficult parts of the voyage.
AU: Can you talk about the challenges you faced during the record-breaking attempt?
AT: We all have dreams but making them a reality, requires a great deal of perseverance, dedication, self-discipline, and effort on my end. It was a difficult undertaking that required extensive training; also, I encountered various difficulties during this laborious effort. My body began to show signs of weakness and giving up after the seventh day of my adventure. My knees began to swell with excruciating discomfort, making pedaling difficult, yet I focused solely on breaking the Guinness World Record.
Throughout my voyage from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the severe temperatures and humidity got the best of me. Being from the highlands, I'm not used to hot weather but here I was riding in temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. I didn't sleep for the entire 29-hour from Leh to Manali, a Guinness World Record and the road was tougher than planned. It was chilly, even snowing on the upward mountain routes, and my hands and feet were freezing at times. But I kept riding, convinced that I had to make a new Guinness World Record and break the old one by a good margin.
AU: What made you develop a passion for cycling?
AT: I was interested in sports, particularly cricket, until ninth grade, like many other boys
my age. During the same time, however, I became interested in race cycling. Regrettably, I did not have the financial means to pursue riding professionally and had to settle for a standard bicycle. I got my first bicycle for Rs 3000 while I was in eighth grade. I took to it immediately and would spend hours cycling even if my mother only assigned me a 10-minute chore.
In 2012, when I was in 10th grade, I competed in my first inter-school competition. In 2013, I began to take cycling seriously, finishing seventh in the MTB Nationals, in Kerala. Since then I haven't looked back since, despite having to take a hiatus in 2014 for his class 12 exam. My entire training has taken place in the Punjab-Kashmir region, specifically in Amritsar. Between 2015 and 2020, I competed in various national-level competitions and represented my home state of Jammu and Kashmir at senior national levels.
AU: What role do you think cycling can play in promoting tourism in Kashmir?
AT: Cycling is appealing not just to adventurous tourists, but also good for young people's health and physical fitness. Kashmir’s climate is well suited for cycling and the large valley itself with so many attractive destinations. Whenever I have talked to fellow cyclists, they have expressed a desire to cycle in Kashmir. Bicycle tourism may be more appealing to young people. It would be preferable for the government and all other stakeholder groups to involve children of all ages in cycling activities in schools to develop the habit of cycling for health and physical fitness among the young and promote it for tourism as a cycling destination.
AU: How do you hope your achievement will inspire others in your community?
AT: Both rides, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Leh to Manali, will be once in a lifetime and highly special. This adventure will always remind me to continue pushing myself beyond my limits. After finishing this beautiful, difficult, and enjoyable trip, I became more aware of my capabilities. But every pedal was worth all of the risks.
As a young athlete who has represented Jammu and Kashmir in cycling competitions since 2014, I hope this accomplishment encourages other people, particularly the state's younger generation. Cycling has grown in popularity in India in recent years, and we hope that this trend continues. For the last three days, the reaction to my world record has been incredible. Not only have individuals in Kashmir received messages, but people throughout the country have as well, and it feels good.
AU: What message would you like to share with other aspiring athletes?
AT: I always cherish the entire feat and recount it to inspire the youth as much as possible. I want people to feel that if they put their minds to it, no objective is insurmountable. This journey taught me a lot about myself. I'll always be grateful that I didn't give up. Some believe my fortitude and passion serve as an example to the country's youth and a classic example of achieving one's goals by putting one's heart and mind into something.
AU: Can you tell us about your future plans or goals?
AT: I have many future goals. This year, I made the decision to compete in races in different countries. It would enable me to learn from others and network with professionals from across the world. My goal is to compete in additional international endurance races, such as the American race from the west to the east coast. The Race Across America, or RAAM, is a cross-country ultra-distance road cycling race that began in 1982 as the Great American Cycle Race. The RAAM is comparable in length to the Tour de France, although the races differ significantly. The races' courses have changed throughout the years.