The Road Trip - A rewind
If my memory serves me right i think it was after reading Nat Freidman's cycling trip or it must have been after reading about This. It sure was one of them ! I decided that there must be a kick to what i am doing in my everyday activities. So why not cycle from bangalore to madras for starters to gauge how good my stamina levels in cycling are ? (In case you did not know, i am also a marathoner (three times full one completed)). I was then biding my time waiting to see what kind of company i can get for the trip. I did not want to do it all alone as i knew i would go bonkers at then end of the trip. Also doing it as a group means you have someone to pump you up when your energy levels come down.
For quite a few months after that me and Kribs started talking about it without anything concrete happening. It was at then end of the Barcamp Chennai that while kribs was giving me a lift back home we kind of decided on the dates.
For one the dates we decided were on "Agni Natshathiram" (Fire Star, the time when the heat is at its peak) and we ourselves we kind of jittery. Secondly, both kribs and myself had never done such long trips. My best prior to this had been a mad 150km cycling dash in 10 hours sometime mid/post August 2004. We initially wanted to do a Madras-Pondicherry dry run to guage our comfort levels. Then after some thoughts, we junked that idea. As kribs was telling me, people in his office did 80km in a single day without any kind of practise. So finally it was decided that we would do the trip in May and it would be a full trip from bangalore to madras. We also wanted to do a Bangalore to madras instead of a madras to bangalore. This was becuase Bangalore is on a higher altitude. So in case you do a madras-bangalore, you need to climb up the hill on the second day when you are already tired. Secondly we can make use of the altitude to save some energy while cycling.
So the necessary postings were made Here and Here checking how many more madcaps like us are out there !
The response was not all that bad. In fact as i later learnt, some guys got to know of this from some other friend and so on and so forth. It's a small world after all right ?
On May 4th i spent some time getting my cycle ready. You know changing the tubes and tyres, brake shoes and stuff. My cycle is a gear-less Hero Hawk and i changed the standard seat to a "Ranger" seat and also added a cushion seat cover. Even if we have nothing but fat up our butts, cycling for 20+hrs would definitely give you a sore-ass :-). I think at the end of the trip i was thankful i did this change coz i did not feel a thing in my butt. I also spent some time at the gym cycling and tryin to reduce my weight. I knew that at my current weight things would be a bit messy (you know around the love handles:-)). I did manage to loose a few kilos over the week prior to the trip(i think it must be two kgs).
On May 5th KK had couriered his cycle through professional couriers from madras (they charge 250rs per cycle) and i went to pick it up. Thankfully they had not done any damages to it and it was still in pristine condition. KK and Kribs flew down to my house. They were later joined by Abhinav who just drove down from madras on his yamaha and was planning to give us company on his yamaha while we drove back. In hindsight, i think we managed to complete the trip because of him and his towing of cycles whenever someone felt real tired ! Thanks da abhinav. You were simply great !
Finally the D-Day dawned (Or rather we woke up coz we started much before dawn to make use of the conditions and escape the heat) and we all assembled near Sony world Junction in koramanagala on dot at 3.45am. We did have Shreekumar along with us (ya the same guy whose earlier trip from madras to calcutta was an inspiration for me!). We were joined by Ajay, Sandeep, Guru and my brother sathish. At around 4.15am we started off. I was asked to pace the group and i started off at an easy pace warming up my thighs and knees. I kind of pump my cycle(increase speed) by applying pressure from the thighs and hence i knew i need to warm them up (all these warming up stuff courtesy my marathon practise) ! Even when we all started off, i was pretty sure we will finish the trip. It was just a question of finishing it before 8pm the next day, coz the guys from bangalore had their bus tickets booked from madras to bangalore.
The first three hours we did manage about 50 and odd km with a break or so. I did manage to set a decent pace (guys will kill me when i say decent pace coz some of them were like a few kms away including sathish who gave vent to his fury over phone to me "why the hell are you speeding up this much ?"). Luckily my thighs and knees were still able to withstand the pressure i was subjecting them to. As it happens with running, after a few kms your legs are practically dead and you just keep running. Similarly after about 30kms the thighs went dead and i was just cycling ! We stopped at Kamat and had some breakfast. As usual after a heavy breakfast, my bowels gave way and had to be emptied (must have been the previous nights late night snack of scrambled eggs and maggi noodles that i had to empty my bowels two more times on the highway. Luckily there were no snakes or insects trying to, you know get affectionate to my backside).
Post breakfast, was when all the fun started. First KK's cycle had some kind of flat, so we had to go inside a town for a few kms and get the valve tube changed. Once that was done, we all started off. The next hour was good. KK and myself did some power cycling and finished another 15kms. It was now sathish started feeling real tired. The next few hours were a crawl. We just managed some 20 or less that that km i think. I called up KK ahead and asked him to send abhinav back so that he could tow sathish. I think the problems for sathish were just lack of practise and a very bad cycle choice. Ya the cycle choice could have been overcome with better practise.
We all met up near Mulbagal. Lunch was about 10 and odd km away. And with guys becoming more and more tired, we managed that in distance in about an hour. Lunch was pretty good with lots of rice and some decent sambhar and egg curries.
Post lunch session i decided to bring up the rear and hence i was now coming along with whoever was coming last. Sometimes kribs, sometimes KK sometimes Sandeep but yes the pace was pretty ok. By about 5pm we reached palmaner with another 40km to go for chitoor where we planned to halt for the day. Guru and myself stopped for a cool tender coconut and boy it tasted heavenly. Once that was done, we started back and now KK and myself were pedalling away. We had to cross a real steep incline. Once we did that for the next 6 km it was just downhill all the way. Kribs was telling me that at the end of the incline he was ready to kill me but changed his mind after the 6kmm descent :-). In case we had done madras bangalore doing this 6km incline and that too on the second day would have caused some serious casualties :-)
Still at 7pm we were about 15km or so away from chitoor. So we kind of pedalled in the night in a single file. That was some real fun. Shree and KK had lights on their cycles and Abhinav had his bike. So we cycled for about an hour more and reached chitoor really exhausted at around 9pm. In hindsight the exhaustion was more because of lack of sleep. I had just two hours of sleep the previous night and that was the reason. By now sathish had decided that he will take a bus back to madras which was actually the most sensible thing to do. Already his cycle chain was coming off and he was also feeling real tired. Sathish and myself had a masala dosa for dinner and made arrangements with the local tea shop guy for putting the cycle back on a bus bound for madras. At about 10.30pm we crashed only to wakeup by 3.30am. I think the best sleep is when you are dead tired. I had not slept that well in a long long time.
Second day May 7th we started off again this time at around 5am from chitoor. The golden quadilateral (means 6 lane roads and pretty much flat ones) were about 60km away. If we get there before it is too hot, we could then pedal away pretty easily. For this day i decided to stick at the rear just in case someone needs some help. Breakfast was near ranipet. Plates of idlis and puris disappeared into our stomach. Best part was that we got all that for just 70rs ! Another hour of cycling across ranipet and wallajah and we reached the golden quadilateral. By now kribs and sandy started feeling the heat and KK and myself decided that we would fall back and come as a group. Hence Shree, Guru and Ajay went ahead and we four came behind. We took breaks almost once an hour and had some maaza and slice (i think this is when coke and pepsi guys are showing their real worth :-)) every time we stopped. By lunch time around 11.30am we reached kanchipuram outskirts. Madras was just 50km. Atmost 3 hours. But the exhaustion made us take around 5 hours to reach it :-). After having a good lunch of rotis and egg curries and tomato masala, the same gang pairup continued. So Guru, Shree and Ajay went ahead and myself, kribs, KK and sandy and abhinav came behind. I think i lost count of the number of times we had to stop because of the heat ! Anyway by the time we reached ponamalle in chennai outskirts it was close to 7pm. Jacob our co-marathoner in bombay (it is a different matter he was along with us in the start line and finished it in 3.15 hrs while i finished it in 6hrs :-( ) took a bus to sriperumbudur and ran to madras from there !
Now from ponamalle to my house kribs, sandy and myself started off (we still had about 8 km to finish). After reaching porur kribs and sandy decided to eat while i carried on reaching home by about 8.15pm or so.
Best part was that at the end of the trip, except for a numbness in my thighs (which thankfully did not translate into pains over the next few days) i did not feel a thing !
I think someday i should try to attack the same distance in say 20 hours or so. I mean the total distance was 326 km. Most of the time our average speed while cycling was close to 20km. That means 16hrs of cycling. Add another 4 hours for breaks and stuff. Is it not do-able ? I think the last 90km can be done in 3.5hrs. Let me see.
It would of course be a mad dash, but i think it is worth giving it a shot ! Only thing is if i start by 4am in bangalore, i would be reaching madras only by 12.00am.
Head over Here for some pics.
PS:i think i need to attach a speedo to my cycle so that i can measure my speed and distance etc.
Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 6:09 PM