The MTB Foot Soldier
Dattatreya Patil is not just another passionate biker.
In the myth, Dattatreya — the incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar — left home at a very early age in search of the Absolute — the moksha. In reality, Dattatreya, too, left home to explore the world on two wheels.
Elusive as the mythological god is, Dattatreya — popularly known as Datta Patil in the cycling circuit — pedals all the way every year to MTB Himalaya. And like the sage of Dattatreya Purana, he too is barefooted. Whoever has done mountain biking knows it very well how difficult it is to ride a cycle in the terrain full of gravel and stone, dirt and streams, mud and springs. But Datta Patil is different. He hardly cares for his toes, which may crush against the rocky surface any time on a sharp bend. We have specialised shoes, some are imported, for MTB but Datta Patil has no wish to change his way of biking.
At 12, he learnt how to balance the wonder two-wheeler. Thirty years down the line, the grape farmer from Sangli, some 380km southeast of Mumbai, has ridden thousands of kilometres across the country. Last year, he pedalled all the way from Sangli to Panipat for spreading the message of “Saving the girl child”. From the mighty Himalayas to the rugged Sahyadri — he mustered courage to cover on the two wheels. His daily routine remains a bit odd. Waking up at 2am, he warms up for half an hour before hitting the road with the steel machine. By the time the children — he runs a district-level cycling club in Sangli for years — starts arriving at the break of the day, he puts up at least 100km. And, it’s not the end of his morning ride. With the children, he does another 50km at least! By 8 in the evening, he is ready for bed.
Surprising to many of us, but this routine has yielded him results. He has not taken a single medicine in the last 25 years. His cycling club where he trains children aged over 10 years has been organising trips to various destinations — from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. As he prepares them for cross-country rides free of cost, he seeks sponsor for the trips and if he cannot find one, he tries to pump funds, whatever little he has, himself. Every year, Datta Patil confers a “Swami Vivekananda Young Achiever” award to one of the teenaged cyclists also.
His presence at any event, especially in the MTB Himalaya, draws an enormous amount of media attention. But it’s difficult for anyone to confirm whether he would travel 2,000km — that’s the exact distance from his village to the hub of MTB Himalaya in Shimla — this year also. But we all know he would turn up at the Ridge on September 27. As I was doing a research on Datta Patil for the past few days, I wanted to talk to him. But he is still elusive. And, hardly anyone knows his cellphone number, if he has at all any. I shot off a mail to an id but in a fraction of second I got a failure notice. “Failure” might be a popular phrase for the mailmaniacs but I hope it’s not in his dictionary. He will remain as the barefoot soldier of hundreds of MTB enthusiasts.