Cycling, Sports, Sports & Adventure
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Going the distance!

Going the Distance

An account of a 400km ride covering Bangalore-Vellore-Bangalore in 26 hours and something minutes, as a part of the Bangalore Brevets.

My cycling journey continues and gets more interesting as the years go by (at least for me). At times, I wish I’d started earlier in life (I wasted a lot of good years!), but I’m just glad I did finally get onto a saddle. Though I constantly get reminded by my well meaning parents, especially my dad, that I might be a little too old to be running and cycling the way I do now, I hope to prove him wrong and continue this for a very long time!

Photo courtesy: The Bangalore Brevet Organizing team

Some of you might remember my early posts about my baby steps in cycling. This was what I had written in Feb 2008, about how I finally managed to get onto a cycle and not keel over!

I got a taste of long distance cycling and touring in December 2008, when I did a 5 day Goa trip and discovered that I enjoyed it thoroughly. There’s a certain pleasure in discovering the countryside on a cycle at a slow, leisurely place, taking your time to stand (or pass by slowly) and stare. William Henry Davies would be proud!

In June 2009, I got myself a nice Trek hybrid bike. Till then, I had been riding a single speed gifted by the dear hubby.

In December 2009, a few days after tying the knot, I went off on a 8 day tour across the Nilgiris, a ride that I will always remember.

Somewhere around May 2010, I bought myself a new bike – a Giant roadie. In November 2010, I attempted the longest ride of my life. Bangalore – Chamundi Hills (Mysore)– Bangalore, a distance of nearly 300 kms and completed it in around 12 and a half hours. It was quite an experience and I didn’t think I would repeat it again.

But then, you know what they say about people. They rarely stick to their decisions! And so I thought, why not?

The Bangalore Brevets are a series of events being held in Bangalore this year as qualifiers to the prestigious Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) to be held later in the year. By doing a series of 200, 300, 400 and 600kms, you can qualify to apply for PBP. Helping organise the 200k was a great experience for me personally. It’s the other side of the coin to participating and is always a different, but welcome perspective. And then I missed the 300k and opted to run the Auroville half marathon instead in Feb. The route was the same as the 300k I had done earlier and I’m not a fan of riding on the Bangalore Mysore highway.

Come March, and with the 400k looming large, I made a last minute decision to participate. With the decision made, hubby helped in getting the bike ready (my Trek, which I chose over the Giant roadbike, mainly due to comfort considerations!). The fact that hubby was riding this was also a bonus. At least, I would try and make sure he was somewhere close by during the ride!

Last month, Divya Tate from Pune became the first Indian woman super randonneur to finish a brevet series – the 200, 300, 400 and 600k. Quite an achievement!

So there I was on Saturday morning, March 12, all geared up for the longest ride of my life yet. The weather was going to be a killer. Bangalore is already reeling under the heat, by the time we reached Vellore we would really feel it. But besides mentally preparing for the eventualities, there was little else to do.

The first few hours of a ride are always painful. It’s when you’re settling into your rhythm – and either you find it or you don’t. I hadn’t done such a long ride on the Trek hybrid before so it took me a while to get used to it. The other factor we hadn’t considered was the headwind on the way. By the time we reached Krishnagiri and were heading towards Vellore on the Chennai highway, it was quite bad. At times, even the downhills seemed like uphills!

I wonder constantly why people do these long distances, whether it’s running or cycling. In fact, when I’m out there, alone in my thoughts, the sun burning a hole through my head (or so it feels like), I have to wonder about the purpose of what I’m trying to achieve.

Am I trying to test my physical endurance? Am I trying to push my body out of its comfort zone? (And this is way out!). Or am I just doing this because I have nothing else to do on the weekend? Hah!

I have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. So I think of other things. On these rides, instead of thinking of whether I can make it, I take it a few kms at a time. So I think of the next 50 kms and keep going till the mind or the muscles give up. Or both.

It wasn’t an easy ride for me. Firstly, though I keep reasonably fit by doing something or the other, I would have liked to have been a little better prepared. Was it going to be enough to take me through 400kms?

Thankfully, I survived. After a hard day’s pedalling, evening set in and the air cooled down considerably. I reached Vellore a little before 6 pm in the evening. It had taken me all of 12 hours with around 4-5 breaks to reach the mid-way point. On the bright side, I wasn’t tired and my legs felt fine so that was good news since I still had to make the journey back.

Climbing back from the 311 km mark – Krishnagiri towards Shoolagiri – was where I started thinking that this was the last time I was going to cycle such a long distance. Even trucks were slowing down and some nearly grinding to a halt on some of the slopes! What was I doing exactly?

Between 1-4 am in the morning is a strange and slightly eerie time to be out on the highway. It’s the time when you’re usually fast asleep in the comfort of your bed. Instead, there I was pedalling as hard as I could at that unearthly hour, struggling up yet another slope trying to get to the second last time station at Shoolagiri.

There was a certain pleasure in finally catching sight of the McDonald’s large looming yellow M at Shoolagiri. The first thing I did when I reached was order myself a fish burger with fries! This was at 330 am in the morning – we had been out there for more than 24 hours now non stop. And had another 50 kilometres to go.

The last few kms I must say are always about willpower than anything else… 350kms down, and there was little else in my mind besides the fact that I had to get back to MG road. On time. The cut off time was 830 am in the morning and we were running pretty close to it.

Finally, at 750 am in the morning, hubby and I entered the end point on MG Road. Relief, exhaustion, and some amount of disbelief were some of my emotions. A lot of folks (including me) didn’t think I’d complete it!

But there are no two doubts about it, Bangalore is fast becoming the cycling capital of the country and I’m glad to be a part of the community here. There were 40 people who attempted this ride and 34 who completed it. Which is a really great number for the distance involved. It’s very unlikely that I could have done what I’ve done today, if I’d still been in Mumbai, for example.

Do I want to go back and attempt a longer distance? As of now, I’m not very sure. I really like long distance, but I prefer them in touring style. Where one can take your time and stare at the daffodils (or whatever is there to stare at).

What next? I’d love to journey through Europe on cycle – I’ve seen the roads and the cycling infrastructure there and I am quite envious. And the scenery. Maybe cycle across France, Germany, Switzerland and of course, the cycling capital of Europe – Copenhagen, Amsterdam!

I seriously believe that it’s the best way to see a new place or country. At your own pace. Taking time and enjoying every bit of the ride in a way you can’t do if you’re in a motor powered vehicle. Try it out sometime! You won’t regret it 🙂

Experience cycling!
Tour of the Nilgiris
Go Green
Bangalore Bikers Club
Velo in Village


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