End of the dream ride - Tour of the Nilgiris

Finished my 5 days of TFN, and got back from Ooty day before - rested the stiff muscles yesterday, and caught up on mails - and its slowly starting to suck me back into life-as-usual.

What a ride that was!

Day 1: Flag off and ride to Chamundi Hills

Got up real early and Shubha and the kids came along to St. Joseph's grounds to see the riders off. We got there around 5:30 and there were a bunch of riders and a whole lot of logistical activity on already! Parked, put the wheel on, put the last bit of luggage in the van and had a carb-loaded breakfast as dawn broke. There were guys handing out free hugs (with posters announcing the same :) ) and lots of press, families and high levels of enthusiasm. A lot many people had decided to ride along for a few kilometres - and a couple of them did that all the way till Mysore!

We started off at 6:45 after some media soundbytes and a formal flag-off by KSTDC and other sponsors. There were cops riding along as pilots, and ensuring a clear path at intersections - it was soooo cool to see traffic being asked to pause for cyclists - hopefully the future ? We regrouped near the University entrance, and then started off again - the road bikes first and groups of MTBs, which spread out rather quickly based on varying speeds.

The first 70 kms were mostly downhill, and I averaged 27kmph on that leg! About halfway through, a white Safari flagged me down and I was pleasantly surprised to see Venkat (of AutoService fame) and his daughter Sounjanya inside - they'd driven down to wish me for the ride :) I'm sure I owed at least part of the enthusiasm to this surprise.

It was kind of a longish break at the Petrol Pump - got food, and water. Sukhdev soon joined us and everyone gave him a standing ovation - at 11 years his is an amazing feat.

The next leg got a little tougher - the roads went uphill more often, the sun was harsher and the mornings extra enthusiasm started to tell on most of us :) We crossed Mandya and lumbered up the Srirangapatna inclines, and hunger caught up with me - making the last few kilometres into Mysore somewhat tough. For the last bit, I'd been riding with Sudhir, who had a cramp and just as we got into Mysore, a small run-in with another local cyclist and hurt his hand a bit. He rode on. nevertheless.

We traced our way through the city to the Chamundi Hills base. The others carried on while I rested a bit and had a bun and juice that the support vehicle offered. The climb up was slooow, even though the gradient was mild. The sun was harsh, and the long day and traffic-caused stress was probably telling on me.

With a couple of breaks and a lot of egging on from the road bikers who were already on their way down, finally made it to the top, and had a bit to eat. Rested and chatted a bit with the other riders who were resting there as well.

The downhill was sweet, and the great snacks and tea courtesy the Wild Flower resort near the base even better. Most people were extremely tired by now, and the prospect of the local ride was not too appealing. Nevertheless, we rode to the Palace for a quick snap or two, then rode through Mysore to the YHAI hostel where we were to rest for the night. 170kms for the day.

Got to hear of Seema's accident later - a car had rear-ended her bike on the 37th km itself - taking the rear wheel and derailleur set out :( The helmet helped, and the brave soul switched to an MTB and carried on!

Got a bed only post dinner at around 8:30. Warm water has rarely felt that good :)

Day 2: Mysore to Madikeri

The next day started at 7:30 after breakfast and the day's briefing. I'd checked pressure in the tires - and it'd dropped to sub-40!

The weather was great early in the morning, and the slopes were gentle and rolling, though unrelenting. Down one, and up another. We made good progress, and for the first couple of hours I managed to stay not too far behind the second set of road-bikers. The tarmac was terrific and they were having a ball with petty much no traffic.

I took the first banana-break at the 30km, had water, made calls home and carried on. The legs felt just a tad stiffer after the break, and the climbs were a little slower. I was still averaging upwards of 24kmph, and feeling fine overall. Soon got hungry, took a break for a bun, banana, biscuits and tea, and gave my legs and neck - which was hurting a bit by now - a 20 minute rest.

Sudhir - who rides easy and consistent unlike my blow-hot- blow-cold style, passed me during the break, and I caught up with him over the next 9 kms and more or less rode along right till the end of the day.

The route was pretty, with palm groves, and lakes alongside, and a gentle breeze keeping things cool. After Kushalnagar things got serious - the climb started and the roads deteriorated around the same time. The road bikers - whom I'd caught up with for a cola break (thanks Dicky) - started to have a tough time. A few gave up and took the float option upto Madikeri. We lumbered on. The ascent right after Suntikoppa was a major one, but I'd made up my mind to not give-in to the nanny gears before the slopes up to Ooty, and did not. Took another cream-bun and juice break where Sudhir caught up again, and started off slowly.

A few kms before Madikeri both of us amazingly ran out of water, and at a particularly bad curve with lots of dust and broken roads with a climb looming ahead, decided to wait for a support car to provide succour. One came along in 15 minutes, and a refill later we started off again.

Soon the climb ended, and the road started flattening/descending towards Madikeri for the most part - and I zipped off. From Madikeri to the Kalpavriksha homestay about 6 kms away was a mindblowing downhill, though with intermittent broken surface, and I kept ahead of a car just rolling downhill and braking late and hard (I think I got a lot of rubber onto the rim doing that).

Lunch was welcome, though a little low on veggies, and cold coffee was wow. The homestay was in a very pretty setting, with lots of space in the parking area where folks spread out catching up on the days stories. Each rider coming in was cheered and served.

Got a bed only post dinner at around 8:30. Warm water has rarely felt that good :)

Washed the shorts and jersey and had a nice warm bath. Dinner was around a campfire that felt soooo great.

123 kms or so for the day.

Day 3: Madikeri to Sultan Bathery via the toughest sections of my trip

The dinner last evening was a bit of a letdown, and the egg in the morning was very welcome! I'd been up and starving since 4:30am, and the early morning tea around the fire helped lift spirits too.

The days ride was led by birthday boy Kaushik (the previous day was Sharath's bday and he'd done the honours). We started a trifle late because of the mist, and it was still quite chilly for the first half and hour or so. The road was in decent shape till Virajpet, and I again made rapid progress helped in part by Joshine's keep-at-it-forever riding style. The surface after Virajpet was broken every now and then, and the roadbikes had a tougher and tougher ride every few kilometres. My shoulders and neck started hurting as well, and after the first major break (at 56kms!) after Gonikoppal, I took it slow and easy, with breaks and Gatorade more often.

We'd been climbing up and down rolling hills all morning, but things got serious pretty soon en-route to Kutta. The gradients, quality of roads, dry and sunny (tho thankfully still cool in the shade) conditions did not help one bit, and it took all of one's effort to not get down and walk. On the steeper climbs, I even gave up and switched to 1-1 (and was disheartened when I wondered what I'd do for the Ooty climb). It felt especially frustrating to see the stronger bikers move ahead, especially when my chain slipped off halfway up a climb when I switched gears, and I actually just sat for a few minutes before I tried putting it back on.

Slowly, surely, with tons of mental effort and encouragement from the support guys and the bloggers-turned-support-guys - got closer to the Kerala border. Caught up with Avinash, who was having a horrible "flat" day (3 flats and the guy was still cheerful) and more or less stayed with him till Kattrikulam. The 15 kms or so through the wildlife sanctuary were fun - at one point a falling bamboo clumb and some movement behind it gave me new reserves of energy that did my acceleration through the stretch a lot of good :)

Lunch at kattrikulam was a local Porotta-Egg curry-Cola affair, and what might've otherwise tasted iffy felt great. Was charged up for a few kilometres after lunch and stayed with the flying Italian - lost him at a drink break and carried on alone asking the way to Bathery.

After Panamaram the climbs and the sun got nastier every few kilometres, and I started to wane, especially having forgotten to add electral to my water. I was also convinced I was on the wrong track, since no riders/vehicles crossed me! About 20 kilometres before Bathery, stopped to buy water, and some road bikers and the stronger MTB riders caught up! Amazingly, I'd managed to stay ahead so I guess the pace had dropped for everyone.

I carried on slowly, but the lack of the hydration pack saw me slowing down for more water breaks and I soon lost the bunch. My legs were also refusing to push up slopes and I was doing them at a much lowered pace.

About 7kms before the town, my arms started to cramp - took a break - had a RiteBite and started again. Crossed Iggy who had had another flat - and after a strenuous uphill, stopped again for water, and made calls home.

Within the next half a km I had a flat! This was about 4-5 kms before Sultan Bathery, and I was in no mood to learn how to fix a flat then. Didn't have a spare tube, so started walking. Within a few metres Rakesh Nair stopped by - he'd loaded his roadbike into an auto after some severe ache in his legs - and I was thankful to him, God, the auto guy and life in general seemed to have recovered from the low point of the days graph.

Found the hotel where we were to stay for the night. No warm water meant no bath - and let me just say the TFN organizers were apologetic about the lack of options they had when the recce happened :)

We tried our luck at a glitzier (any thing would be) place nearby but other riders had been quicker on the draw and the place was full! Dinner at the place's coffee bar was pizza, burgers, puffs - loaded with chicken and salads, a couple of rounds of tea, and juices. All of that for 201/- !!!!

Anyhow, slept not-too-well without a sheet, and got up early again.

Did 145kms of the ride this day, plus 5 in the auto :)

Day 4 : Sultan Bathery to Ooty - aka the Big One!

This was the ride many of us were waiting for.

Tea at a roadside place along with a sweet-tasting vadai (?) felt great early in the morning, and breakfast at the WindFlower was nice and nutritious. Iggy managed to find me a spare tube even as the briefing was on, and I started about 10 minutes after the first riders had left.

The slopes were easy and nice, and the weather fantastic. The locals were very friendly too, with one little guy in particular who ran alongside for the better part of a km making as much conversation as possible given my limited Tamil and his limited English and Hindi.

We were soon gaining elevation up climbs that took us higher and higher despite the odd downhill. And given the amazing sights all around, great weather and very decent road surface, we were soon at Devarsholai which was also the first food stop - though I'd had enough "support" that had found its way into my tummy by the time I got up there. Had yummy badam milk and yogurt, and carried on towards Gudalur. This started off with an amazing downhill and then a couple of climbs more.

A little before Gudalur things got a little hot with the noon sun shining bright, and the town was rather bare and the traffic didn't help either. But the climb started almost immediately, and within minutes of switching into lower and lower gears, "Ooty 49" showed up along with canopied, well tarred roads.

One of the support bikes asked me if I wanted lunch and water, and I gladly accepted. Took a 20 minute break to finish all the biriyani and chapatis - and generally stared at the amazing view in front of me. Kamesh passed me - totally focused on the excruciating ascent and working those pedals diligently. Watching another MTB rider grind up the slope put things in perspective - an amazing sight.

Started the climb again - the next 23 odd kms were the steadiest 7kmph ride I've done ever! Mostly in 1-2, and on the particularly nasty ones - 1-1. Did get into the higher gears at the hairpins, and once in a while to just break the monotony of the pace - but usually with not-very-thankful legs begging me to do the sane thing and keep pedalling at a sane cadence, low effort.

It was primarily a mental game - that climb.

Started off amidst pretty pretty pretty tea gardens, and promised to stop after 5 kms for a drink break and taking in the view (and catching my breath). It happened in a kilometre and a half instead :) A couple of road bikers - Dicky and Avinash - who'd started much later - caught up and took a break as well. They carried on quickly while I resumed at 7kmph.

From thereon the breaks became short, but frequent. It was a major effort to tell oneself to "no breaks before the next 1.2kms". Every gift from the support Gods was accepted with gratitude and genuine thankfulness. Reports of a "relative flat" a little ahead became a driving force. Only to become "a little further" ahead as the "end" of each bend in the climb revealed another ascent and another bend, and another higher mountain where a sure downhill had seemed (at least to my tired mind) to exist earlier.

For a while, rode with a couple of other MTB riders. Took a longish break for snaps amidst the tall eucalyptus where Nelly, Iggy seemed to be merrily picniking :)

The flat stretch did come, and lasted all of a half kilometre. Felt real tired after that and took a good 10 minute break just to stop fretting. The mind had started doing some calculations by now about what the speed was, how much time I had and when the sweep vehicles would come pick me up. So no scenery and nothing gained for about half an hour, except worry and tense muscles.

Then, magically, a nice rolling downhill, past a small town by the prettiest lake you've ever seen. Speeds went into double digits, and then upto 30+!

Past the lake, ran into a fellow rider - took a breather and took it easy for a while - with a few metres of walking and slow riding. Pradeep met us in between and injected a huge dose of optimism when he announced the main climb ended after about 2 kms, and the roads were rolling with generous downhills and flat sections included.

The average speed went up quite a bit, and thoughts of getting picked up by the sweep slowly ebbed. The shadows had grown longer by now and the air had a chill in it - so all the breaks were now in the sun!

It was amazingly pretty all around.

There were a few more climbs which I did real slow and easy, and maxed out on the downhills (with my brakes fading very quickly now). One Tourist spot after another passed by, though the beautiful everything-in-between was the even more glorious bit. Crossed a huge lake (dam?) and thick woods before being welcomed by a decrepit looking signboard announcing the "Queen of the Hills - Ooty".

Traffic and enthusiasm both increased, and caught up with a couple of riders who'd gotten "floated" to the 5 km mark and were riding the last bit. Reached Charing Cross eventually and asked around for the Youth Hostel - there are three and we inevitably landed at the wrong one. More enquiries ensued and we walked past the main market where someone suggested hot bhajjis and chai - much needed succour.

Getting back onto the saddle was ruled out by my suddenly-severely-in-protest-mode rear, as well as completely ineffective brakes - so walked the last couple of kms through Ooty to the YHAI hostel beyond the bus stand. A couple who were riding across India - the lady on a Merida! - greeted us and asked about the ride, some route suggestions and wished us the best.

The YHAI hostel was real pretty, and the food was great as well. There was a sense of accomplishment all around, and that showed when we gathered around the campfire and sang, danced (Seema's steps to the item numbers were awesome :) ) and generally bonhomied late into the night. There was also a somewhat candid feedback session that I hope both enthused the organizers as well as provided some useful feedback.

The night was brrrrr - and the huge holes in the blankets did not help :) The mercury apparently dipped below zero!

This was a 95km day, a couple more on foot.

Day 5 : Rest, Walk, Run and Adieu, riders ....

It sure was the rest day, but the cold ensured everyone kind of got up early - especially aided by a few early risers in the dorms :)

Avinash, Hari and I went for a cuppa, and a walk towards the Fern Hill Palace in the morning. Got back to another round of tea at the hostel, and headed out for another walk with a different group along the railway tracks. It was amazing to meet so many different people, their stories, yet bound by the single joy we were all revelling in.

Breakfast was a Nilgiris Idli-Vadai-Sambhar affair - and the piping hot stuff felt soooo good that pretty much everyone had a bit too much of it. The runners who'd decided to jog up to Dodda Betta decided to push the plan out by an hour, and I had a warm bath, changed and packed.

Thejesh was headed to Bangalore as well, and we headed towards the bus stand to make reservations. Got a bus to Mysore leaving at 1:30 - so decided to go buy some handmade "Ooty Chocolates" and tea, and made an early lunch of some nice heavy dosas.

Got back to the hostel, picked up our bags and had one last run-in with the videographers :)

The bus ride back was slow and easy and caught a nap or two. Got a Volvo at Mysore almost immediately, and saw a horrid movie - 1920 - that they were playing on the bus. Got another Volvo to Koramangala at Majestic (my first ever bus from Majestic! - and a very decent experience). Shubha and the kids were there to pick me up.

Got home more or less fine, except a light niggle in the left ankle. Still persists.

Day 7 : TFN rolls into Bangalore

Went upto Bangalore Univ (in BMTC buses - good experience again even with 3 bus changes) and met the TFN caravan which had paused there to regroup, and for a drink. Got my bike down from the support truck, and rode along in a group behind the cops and support cars. The cops once more cleared the intersections, and even the Mysore Road flyover for the riders to ensure a smooth ride!

The ride ended at Cubbon Park - with an additional lap around the park. There were hugs, exchanged phone numbers, triumph, joy, sorrow, cheers, snaps, stories recounted, jokes made. Pretty much everyone just wanted it to last just that bit longer.

[ There was a sour note as well - in the melee Sangwan's bike went missing :( I'm hoping the cops are able to trace it quick - its not a bike you can hide anywhere too long. ]

But it had to end. The first edition of the Tour of Nilgiris finally got over. Like the end of a beautiful dream. So many friendships forged. Things learned. Places seen. Experiences lived. Wounds endured. Hills climbed. Fears conquered. Demons quietened. Minds opened.

TFN 09, here we come :)

[ There's a dinner get together tonight for TFN riders and all others in the cycling fraternity around Bangalore. One last cheer for this amazing trip! ]

Update :

Sangwan got his TFS-100 back - it had somehow gotten left behind at the Blore Univ stop - and the sugarcane juice guy there had handed it over to the Railway Cops, who handed it back right away - I like stories with happy endings :)

So next time you cross the place, do stop there for cane juice and tip the honest guy!

DH covers the TFN

Thats me in the center - tho its a little tough to make that out in the online edition :)

The Ride Song

Was having a chat with Vasu of the Bangalore Bikers Club, and something he said triggered this :

Furrows on your forehead
And a sigh in your breath
Think you need a little inspiration

A dull ache in your muscles
Sick building syndrome ?
Get out - get some invigoration

A little bit of sunshine
You'll be just fine
Hit the pedals and feel alive
A gentle rush - hey
It's made your day
Go the distance,
C'mon, do the ride

Push, ache
Give, take
Feel the things
That are never fake
Everything is the way that it should be
Thrill, tears,
Unconquered fears,
Demons shout
But no one hears,
You slowly get over the hill, and see

The little bit of sunshine
Its filled your mind
You plunged and you are now a-live
The gentle rush - hey
You've found your way
Did the distance,
And you spread the light.

Of a wonderful life.

The TFN site has it too

Even More dreams for Bangalore ?

Got this in my Inbox. Could we please just get started in Bangalore?

Bicycle now used more often than car

16 December 2008 – Amsterdammers now travel by bicycle more often (on average 0.87 times per day) than by car (0.84 times). In the early 2000s, cars were used on average 1.02 times per day and bicycles 0.90 times per day.

Seventy-three percent of Amsterdammers over 12 years old own a bicycle, up from 68% in the early 2000s. The percentage of Amsterdammers who have a car available has remained stable.

Car use dropped in all districts since 1990, on average by 14%. Bicycle use increased only within the ring road, by 36%. Centrum is the district where bicycle use is highest and car use lowest, which the municipality ascribes to stringent parking regulations.

Source: Fietsersbond / dIVV / O+S. Photo FaceMePLS

Critical Mass December

The next Critical Mass is happening on the 26th of Dec. A lot many riders will be out on the TFN, but there are probably enough in Bangalore to get the point across :)

Do turn up, even borrow a bike. It's a good statement to make - cyclists and pedestrians share the road-space with cars and buses and bikes, and need right of way, in many situations.

Bangalore's Traffic Solutions ?

A nice set of slides discussing various obvious ones.

If we don't start thinking NOW, and wake up from the sexy sleek-car-on-a-highway dream and short term convenience-of-a-car-myth, we will choose a very scary future.

Increasing road space is surely not the way to go. A network of smaller sub-cities, fewer long commutes, buses to connect the networks, wayyy more lung space - those are the options to focus on. Even at the cost of a short term pain for car users. Come to think of it, does their pain have any scope for increase ? Its horrible enough as is.

The Tour of Nilgiris Video

TFN's documentation partner - Flaunge - just uploaded a lovely video. See it here:

Tour Of Nilgiris - Experience Nature from Tour Of Nilgiris on Vimeo.

Of course the groans and puffs and pants of the Ooty climb are missing from the soundtrack, but its a beautful, beautiful place.....

Longer TFN Ride

Was earlier planning to do the Tour of Nilgiris days 3-5 but just decided to do days 1 and 2 as well! Thats a total of between 450-500kms - part of it I may do in support vehicles since I want to really really do the Ooty climb and not get too tired before that.

Now I'm not sure I've trained enough. A short 60km ride last weekend felt quite easy, but multiple days of sustained long distances is a totally different deal.

The reasons for doing this ?
  • God knows when next
  • 25th is a holiday, and I'd have taken a bus on the 26th morning anyhow
  • I have done 2 150km rides.... (touch wood)
  • The road tyres have given hope
  • Shubha said "do it"
  • The Ambulance, Physio, the promise of the "sports massage" and Dr Chandra's words which assured they'd keep us going :)
  • Company - you often can do more
  • Support vehicles - plan to not push too hard on days 1 & 2. Esp day 1.
Let's see how this goes....

More dreams for Bangalore ?

e² | transport | paris: vélo liberté | PBS - a good quick tour of community owned biking efforts in Paris. Narrator : Brad Pitt!

Imagine a 2 kilometer radius around Cauvery Jn (M.G. Road and Brigade Road) off limits to ALL private transport - and open to
  • electric buses
  • a few electric Taxis (Revas)
  • cycles
Now imagine there being a pool of cycles - available at each entry/exit point to this city core. Imagine enough cycle lots, a standard "fare" for the bikes with a part refund when you drop it off. Imagine a standardized bus prepaid fare for this zone. Imagine less road space in the town center and more of the existing roads converted to tree lines boulevards and gardens.


(We might actually start visiting that part of town again!)

(If not Bangalore, who else? We're progressive, or are we?)

Someone please save us

Everyone I know is worried about climate change. But as this article points out - the disconnect in what we do as individuals and its impact on the environment, and on the polity which is responsible for affecting changes to policy for reducing this impact, is so high that most people shrug their shoulders, and, in essence, collectively continue to wait for environmental-doomsday.

I've personally started cycling, and am avoiding "upgrading" appliances, the car, etc for the heck of it. At home we try and reuse as much as possible. I try keeping the showers short and the buckets have shrunk in size. We're now also reusing the "waste" water from the RO filter.

Yet I so easily "forget" to switch off appliances at the socket - lots continue to run in standby. Our apartment's per capita consumption of energy is probably closer to levels in the developed world rather than the rest of India.

Why should fossil-fuel derived energy be cheap and plentiful (not a murmur when petrol prices dropped!)? Why should plastic be handed out with everything that comes wrapped in plastic at the store ? Why can't we calculate the real cost of these ? It should really really hurt to commute long distances in private cars - especially 1/2 people in a car.

I quite like the idea of growing some food on your own - as the article urges - and reconnect to the less specialized roles human civilization used to have. "But I have no time" is the easy one.

I guess human beings really have little time as a species - but looking beyond our noses isn't something we've gotten good at. We'll learn when the flooding happens even more often, and the hurricanes, or the out-of-turn snow, and droughts. Or maybe not even then.

Maybe its ok - whoever said we should never go extinct.


For a while we've happily pointed fingers west saying "oh the US contributes 25% for 5% of the world's population" - no more - look at our meteoric "growth" on the pollution charts here.

Bangalore needs this debate, at least

Copenhagenize.com - The Copenhagen Bike Culture Blog: Bike Licences Are Stupid

Well, what we really need is more cycling. The lanes, debates, etc will follow. My recent trip to Delhi presented a scary vision - would hate to see Bangalore go down that path. The city exists for its roads, and getting things moving from point X to Y - and the costs for that are very very high. The Netherlands model is something far more desirable, but to start with the debate about discouraging private cars on public roads needs to be sparked.

That link above has some great reasons for cycling - from the city's point of view. The comments also bring forth a whole bunch of information that was new and illuminating to me personally. Good read.

Edit : Found a paper discussing the sprawl, the automobile and alternatives. To me its a pretty simple equation, we need to focus on getting carbon fuel powered vehicles to travel as less as possible - and the form, flow and design of the urban landscape should just follow this thought. Make it painful to travel long distances, park in crowded centres, or even drive a privately owned vehicle. The clamour for better buses, trains, cycling lanes, shorter commutes will just happen. The first requirement is to build consensus for disincentivising private transportation outside of, say, a 5 kilometre zone of one's place of residence. Parallely, develop smarter bus routes, bike lanes. Make sure its better to walk or ride or bus than drive.

TFN Training Ride #4 : Nandi Hills X 2!

A lot of riders started from Hebbal around 6:30. Joshine and I left from Kgla/Sarjapura Road respectively at 5:20 to get there in time, and we did.

Eventually, the fragmented groups of riders were Ram, Alex, Joshine, Sharath, Saurabh, I and another guy on a roadbike (sorry - forgot the same). Nupur had driven upto Nandi's base and was riding up.

It was good going today and there were few stops - the first being for breakfast just before the airport turn, and the next a short one at Nandi base. Joshine climbed with no breaks, and I took 2. Sharath had a fall and aborted the ascent a a little before the top - and Saurabh did the last 3 kms again while we got to the top :) Sriram, who was running today - met him and Nupur on their way down - they helped Sharath out.

Flew back down - and there was a nice little gathering of all riders there, whom Vasu had joined too - he rode nonstop from Kgla to Nandi base!

Joshine and I decided to try the climb again, while the others left for Bangalore. The sun was nice and bright and hot by now. This time I remembered to lockout the suspension, but, in hindsight, should've eaten before we left. Stopped after 5+ kms once, and in another km and a half, felt a bit of loss of control. Stopped for a longish break, and realized I needed food. Finished the ride with superhuman will :) and immediately announced my alimentary intentions to Joshine, who'd again done it without a break - some willpower the girl's got!

Numerous biscuits, popcorn, juice, cucumber and chikki bites later, we started back. The downhill, as always, made it all worth it :)

Refilled water and started back for Bangalore in terrible heat. That sapped us of energy real quick - especially on the main highway. By the time we crossed the airport trumpet exchange, the consensus was to break for lunch, and wait it out till the sun was less harsh. We attacked the food with relish - tho I'm sure it wasn't the best around ;)

The heat was less of an issue when we started again, but it was slow and easy going from thereon. We were tired, clearly, though still pushing hard on descents. Eventually Hebbal came and the rush of the city traffic helped in a way. Did Hebbal - Sarjapura road in an hour! bid adieu to Joshine at viveknagar and rode slowly home, which I got to by 6:15.

The speedo showed about 156.5, but given that at Nandi top it wat 72, and the extra climb would have been 16-17 kms, I figure I actually managed 160! The speedo does stop working intermittently, and is a trifle pessimistic anyhow. In any case, its my century ride, 160 or not ;)

Feel much more ready for TFN, after this one. Learnt how to manage the heat a bit - gotta drink more often, take breaks evert 10-15 kms. The knees are just fine, though the shoulders need some more work. And I should probably get the cycling shorts anyhow....

Fitness Advice and Tests @ Manipal

919 kms, eh ? Sure, some of the TFN participants are seasoned riders, and many have done 100+ rides numerous times. Even so, doing such distances across mountain terrain day after day is not something that one's body usually takes to kindly.

It was in this context that Dr. Chandra, the doctor of sports medicine at the Manipal Hospital, the official Medical Assistance Partner for the TFN, had organized a session on advice related to nutrition and fitness for the participants today.

About 14 participants attended the session today. It was great to meet fellow participants, many of them with impressive histories.

The first session was on nutrition - conducted by Dr.Jyothi Prasad.

Nutrition (We start with the Cake Festival!)

Dr. Jyothi started off with a gem of an analogy about nutrition for endurance sports - paraphrasing here - "You are like a sports car, you won't go far on and empty tank or do too well on cheap fuel". So eat well, eat often and rehydrate all the time.

The total energy expended must be replenished, and this mostly comes from carbs, proteins and fats, and fluids and salts lost must be accounted for as well. While the exact amount of calories expended varies a lot per person and with effort, the replenishment should follow a 70% carbs, 20% proteins and 10% fats guideline.

- about 7-10g of fat per Kg per day
- about 1.5-2g of proteins per Kg per day

The average Indian meal has enough carbs to take care of your needs, and more often than not you do not need supplements of any form.

Its a good idea to stack up on carbs the night before a long ride, and unless you have breakfast 3 hours before the ride begins, go with a not-heavy breakfast and keep munching on quick release carbs - sugars, juices, energy bars - every now and then.

Hydration is of paramount importance to avoid fatigue and keep performance levels up throughout the ride. Drink 400-600ml before you start, and 150-300ml every 15Fitness-20 minutes as you ride. Its important to keep repleneshing salts as well, so an electrolyte (Electral/Gatorade or even water with some salt and sugar) will do much better than plain water. Include salt rich snacks as well.

Biscuits, chikki, bananas found pretty much everywhere make for good snacks. Its important to eat regularly. Its also important to replenish carbs, fluids, salt after the ride, so you're all set for the next day as well!


Dr. Chandra has deep experience with sports medicine, and was with Machester United for a while as well!

We were initially introduced to the pre-ride issues - cycle fit techniques, riding positions, things to watch out for.

Its important to get the saddle height correct. One method discussed was

distance of crank to top of seat = 0.88 x inseam height of barefoot rider

The correct fore-aft position of the seat :

Sit on the bike, with both pedals parallel to the ground. In riding position, a plumb line dropped from the edge of the knee should ideally pass through the axis of the pedal. Else you're putting too much pressure on the knee.

He also discussed the muscles that get used most while riding, and training them well for achieving symmetry and balance in effort during the ride. The gluteus - buttock - muscles are the ones that provide maximum strength to the pedalling motion. These were the ones we all got tested later as well.

The importance of chained kinetics and hence strengthening the other 'helper' muscles as well was also highlighted. Doc especially pointed out the impact of weak scapula - the muscles between the shoulders - that can cause neck aches and overall fatigue and imbalance.

On the Ride

Dr. Chandra assured us that the medical team travelling along with the riders would be able to handle all aches, pains, strains and cramps, and keep the riders going. There's also Magesh - who will be available for specialist sports massages as needed - for peace of mind and muscle!

He did ask the riders to lookout for out-of-the-ordinary symptoms inclusing excessive sweating, dizziness, loss of control lasting a few tens of seconds, numbness, and rest, and seek attention. A process for keeping emergency contacts handy, and clearly outlining the name, location, nature of the problem, as well as getting a clear acknowledgement from the person at the other end, was also spelled out.

We were asked to not lose focus on recovery after the rides - stretching, resting with elevated legs, a decent massage, icing sone properly were some techniques described. Proper food and even psychological rejuventation are part of the recovery process itself, as is a good night's sleep!

We then got our blood grouping done, and Ravi kept all the cards. A test to gauge the strength and balance of our buttock muscles was also done, and I will completely avoid getting into the details of the results of my specific readings here for evident reasons :)

We had a very informative session, and the confidence it inspired in us about being is safe, experienced hands and having acceess to excellent medical facilities will surely help in a much more fun ride.

Thanks Doc, thanks Manipal and thanks Ravi and the TFN organizers!

Look forward to a terriffic ride.

How many riders....

Have been trying to collect details about how many people ride to work etc in Bangalore.

Now that the numbers of regular commuters who've responded has hit 50, sharing - the surveys still open and hope to see the numbers hit 100+

From Blogger Pictures

The ride without a because

Why am I riding the TFN ?

I'm a 34 year old desk-bound guy who's hardly gotten any exercise in a decade. I'm certainly not the athletic kinds, reasonably sedentary, in fact. I've just started cycling only a few months ago. My legs aren't that strong, and my knees howled in protest on the first long ride a couple of weeks ago. My parents will be in town, and I have a wife and kids who would have ideally joined me in a car on a trip to beautiful places like this.

Why does anyone ride ? Especially such a ride ?

I dunno - maybe its the idea of being up in the mountains with the December chill getting deep into your bones - with the only internal combustion happening inside your cells trying to counter the temperatures. Maybe its the silence of the wind whistling past your ears as you wheeeeeeee! down a slope. Perhaps its an escapist dream one wants to live for a few days, where all that matters is getting to the next milestone, or round the next bend. The company of like minded people to share stories with, and learn from, is surely part of the deal.

Is it the likely battle with ones own self as one struggles up the Ooty switchbacks, or when the muscles scream for rest ? About crossing personal barriers, overcoming demons ? Is it the adrenaline rush of the long distances in the most fun terrain around these parts ? Or the fear of the rapidly increasing numbers on the right hand side of columns in forms which say "age:", and a rush to do something before that number gets too big ?

What ?

Its a beautful place, and tough climbs, cool fresh air, great coffee, fun company. All of that. I could analyse this forever and ever. But at the end of the day, whats true is that I just want to do this ride. Perhaps I'll find the answer along the way, perhaps not. Perhaps I'll not even finish the legs I plan to do.

But - I'll have tried to do what I wanted to. Maybe thats the big one .....

C'y'all on the Tour of the Nilgiris.

Secure! Sanitize! Lockdown!

What is this ? The 21st century ? One might have predicted the obsolescence of armed forces as we knew them around WWII by now. Nopes, now target/hostiles/rdx etc are part of everyday vocabulary. Common citizens, and even kids, are familiar with the tools and methods of terrorism, and counter-terrorism, and counter-counter-insurgency, and warfare.

Whats wrong with the human race ? Our grey matter seems to manage way more negative than positive. I cannot understand for the life of me how that little mass of tissue inside the cranium can generate and carry around so much hatred - towards something or someone, that you can merrily destroy whatever crosses your path. Pretty effed up.

And the reaction now is equally scary. Yeah its necessary, but its already terrible to get frisked, have your bags checked at airports, and at malls, and for movies, and perhaps the neighbourhood grocer next. Its stressful, and a little irritating, and the lack of trust everyone has of everyone else slowly starts eating you from within.

Sure its required, and the enemy has forced it upon us, but see, the enemy is already winning.

Of course, its dumb to not take these precautions - after all every life is worth saving at whatever cost.

Is it ? Sure, sounds correct. But I don't really know upto what extent. The loss of innocence, the militarization of civilization, the omniscience of suspicion and "security-checks" - its all depressing. Stick to your friends, stay at home, retire to a small nondescript hamlet which is hopefully not a "potential target" - these seem to be the options.

Freedom ?

Used to love the carefreeness I've always associated with the word. I see it going, slowly.

At the same time, we claim to work towards freedom for those who have it not, and are chained by a variety of means. We're inventing a few ourselves now. New bottle, similar wine.

Damn the terrorists. Damn the fear. Almost damn the human brain.

Sorry, felt like a little rant this morning.


Now that I got that out of my system - the thought occurs that hard policing - including the heavy duty frisking and metal detectors and checks are probably the least effective methods of countering those seeking to strike terror. I cannot imagine the metal detectors at Forum, for instance, being of much use against someone determined to destroy lives and property.

The oft repeated "better intelligence" and "co-ordination" are probably less visible and more effective methods that avoid keeping the "terror" alive.

Though, given the complexity and size of the country, a few will slip the fingers. Oh well....