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Man celebrates 70th birthday cycling 280km from Gilgit to Khunjerab Pass

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ISLAMABAD: Founder of Early Bird Riders (EBR), an organisation set up with an aim to promote cycling, Zaheeruddin Khawaja has a passion for cycling and he has been doing this for almost five decades.

The 70-year-old ‘young’ man is based in Islamabad and has registered hundreds of women in the EBR club with a strong belief that by doing cycling they cannot only find a healthy physical activity but they can also remain mentally and socially fit.

One example of Khawaja’s passion for cycling is he celebrated his 70th birthday on 5000-15000-ft above sea level in Pakistan’s scenic northern district Gilgit and travelled some 280-km to Khunjerab Pass.

While talking to Gulf News, Khawaja said, unfortunately, cycling has been associated as a conveyance of gardeners, drivers and poor people.

In fact, it is an ideal vehicle not only of transport but also a cardiovascular exercise.

It is the mission of the EBR to promote cycling among the schoolchildren and ask them to convince their parents too, to use it as medium of transport, he said.

In his club, there are members from the age group of 10-12 years to 62 and these women are active part of the club as they keep organising cycling events, camping, etc.

“I think women can be empowered if they simply begin with cycling,” said Khawaja. “They will not only be physically active, mentally alert but also socially responsive,” he says.

While bicycling, you can say hello to another bicyclist even exchange some words or information. This you cannot do while driving a car.

Khawaja has amazing health and is super fit. He calls himself an ‘age-defying’ cyclist and is working also as a mentor and motivational speaker. He has coined a word ‘sheroes’ for female cyclists of his club (like heroes). I often give message to my club members they can do whatever they want if they have the resolve to do so.

Khawaja is against gym culture and says the inside atmosphere of a gym is stale and monotonous while cycling in the fresh air is something that gives you a complete physical activity.

“I believe cycling is an environment-friendly activity,” he said.

“I am 19 and have been cycling for the last 51 years,” he joked.

He has been in technology business in the US and after his return from the US a few years back, he founded EBR and so far, he has trained over 100 girls and every Sunday the club spreads announcement in the group about next cycling event.

He believes that youths are the only asset we have got and they should be protected from the dangers of 21st century, which can only be achieved by acquiring love for Nature.

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