353.49 - Thats the distance (in kilometre) that i covered between Bangalore and Chennai
2 - No of days taken to complete the distance
150 - Money paid by each of us for a comfortable stay in an AC room in Chitoor at the end of day one
20.1 - Thats the no of actual riding hours it took to complete this "expedition" [bangalore to chennai]
1- The no of hours it took Kiruba and me to reach Bangalore from Chennai [ We flew Air Deccan!]
50.6 - Max speed (in kmph) reached ,during this ride
185.4 - Thats the distance in kilometre at the end of day one
17.91 - The Avg speed (in kmph) during our journey
8 - The no of cyclists taking part in this fun ride
17+ - Litres of fluid consumed during the journey
1800- The cost of the digital speedometer that gave the stats.
1 - The bike[s] used by support crew[Abhi, you rock]
3 - No of times my cycle tyres were topped up with air.
6 - Thats the number of new pals i made during this journey
Thats the vital stats of the ride.
Weeks before this ride, i was motivated and determined to complete the bangalore marathon [ was to be held on may 14th]. I was hitting the gym regularly - 4 days of gyming, cricket match and10/15km running on the next 2 days and resting on the final day of the week. Am in the best form physically. But the bangalore marathon organisers had other plans and postponed the marathon to September. I was on a low, the following week after the announcement and was losing the motivation to wake up early morning at 6 AM day after day. Thats when i came across this cycle ride from bangalore to chennai. Next day on and for 2 weeks, i was up on the bike at 6 AM for a 20 km practise ride on the cycle. Things were back to where it should be!!!
Later i would realise that all the stamina i had built up over the months during the marathon training and the "acclimatisation" to the chennai heat [by playing cricket matches] were of great use, especially on day 2.
The team doing this joy ride (left to right):
Kiruba - The organiser, oldest man in this group, dad of 2 and wait... he cycles 20 km to work! each day!! He rows and runs marathons as well. Willed himself to finish the ride despite the pain he was in on the 2nd day! He rocks!
Satish - The marathon man, has completed 3 marathons. Except for the wrong choice of cycle for this ride [an offroad bike], he did everything well. Unlucky not to have finished, for he seemed to be one of the stronger cyclists.
Shyam - The IISC geek, the marathon runner, he finished the ride very strongly. Women out there, he is still [not for long] a bachelor! Rode strongly on both days! we rode together most of the times. Also, this guy rode a "non-geared" Hero Hawk - The only cyclist in this group to do so and comfortably at that.
Shreekumar - He is the "craziest" among the 8 cyclists - He has cycled from chennai to.. er... calcutta!! Bangalore to ... er... Ahmedabad. He is the inspiration for all of us. He just never seemed to tire. He pedalled the bike at the end of the ride , at the same ferocious speed he started off the journey.
Sandeep - He went through a lot of pain during this ride. To his credit, he completed the 2 day journey. Perfect example of how one can push beyond limits to do something if one wanted to.
Ajay - Another of the pedal pushers. He is a strong cyclist - rode in front most part of the journey. His calm demeanour belies the inner strength.
Me - Was quite happy to complete the ride in good shape! Had a lot of fun!! The pic below shows it all.
Guruprasad - He is the most special of the cyclists. He is a very strong guy, but doesn't look it. He was born with his ankles twisted. His own words " I still can't beleive i can cycle this distance". His operated and now normal ankle stood this endurance test!!
Abhinav (he took the team pic) - The man who did a job most won't - He rode in his bike to be our support crew. He was of immense help as we went into the journey. He did the "tough" job - Tough coz the cyclists had a "goal". His "goal" as he revealed later was to ride his bike at the cyclist's speed, tough it is considering he rides a yamaha and usually the speedo doesn't dip below 80 kmph unless it is a road intersection. He also captains my company's cricket team! [I hate to put it here that am the vice-cap!!!]
Kiruba and I flew from chennai to bangalore on friday night [May 5th], to get a good night's sleep at Shyam's place before we kicked off the cycle ride at 4 AM on the next day. As Kiruba put it " We fly an hour to reach bangalore, to cover the same distance on the return in 2 days!!". Another pal put this differently - I "couriered" my cycle to bangalore - and he couldn't resist a dig at this ride and said that i must be mad to first courier my cycle to bangalore and spend more time and energy and money to go get it back from there!!!
4 AM - May 6th - Saturday - Sony World in Koramangala,Bangalore : Helmets on, lights on, speedo reset and off we go. We slowly ease into the cycling rythm. All of us are in great shape now and we pedal the miles away. We hit old madras road and eased into a 20 kmph speed. In a short while, we came across this really long bridge [a good uphill climb] and that was the first real test. Cycling to the top and down was fun and the climb woke us all up. Meanwhile, having come from Chennai, i couldn't help but notice the moisture in the wind in Bangalore. It aided cycling by keeping us cool and also drying up the sweat. The weather felt like Chennai's during the January month.
We took the first break at 30 km mark [Thats when the team photo was taken]. All of us felt comfortable, we did a 19.something kmph for this distance. Also, during this part of the ride, we tried to break the ice [when we started, none of us knew more than 2 in the group] with the others and tried to cycle in "pairs". Bonding over an activity, as i realised, gels people together very quickly.
The next major break we took was near the place we had breakfast. We were slowing down , when we noticed an Omni van inching to a halt coz of a flat tyre. The vehicle was driven by 2 senior citizens and immediately the "youngsters" were playing with the "jack" to replace the tyre. The jack has some problems and we realised that we need to "lift" the omni ourselves to fit the tyre. So, 8 of us lifted the omni's front and the "stepney" was fitted to the wheel disc. When we finally sat at the breakfast table, we had covered 50+ km in a little over 3 hours. Most of us feasted on masala dosa (carbohydrate rich potatotes being the reason!) and the sweet dish "kesari" (for the sugar content).
We then checked our gear and got ready to start the journey. But to my dismay found that my cycle's front tyre had very little air inside. So, we quickly used my mini-pump [was patting myself for bringing the mini-pump] to fill in some air and we took a detour through a village to reach a cycle-repair shop. After spending 20 mins at the shop, we figured out that the air has "mysteriosly" escaped out (weak tube might be the reason) and just filled in air in the front tyre and restarted our journey.
The next part of the journey is my favourite. All of us did good speed in this stretch of the road. The average speed for the next 20-30km was about 22-23 kmph. Shyam [who was setting the pace right from the start of the day] and I took off and were leading the "peloton" for about an hour. The smooth roads lined by trees offered some comfort to the cyclists. But the road being a 2-lane highway caused some problems. The truck drivers were generally very helpful and a lot of times they braked for us, when they were right behind us. But the impatient bus drivers were the troublesome kinds. They "pushed" the cyclists off the road a number of times. Probably, the bus rides being "timed" as compared to the relatively lesser time focus of the truck tranportation might be the reason behind the "impatience" of the bus drivers.
By now, we were close to the Karnataka-AP border and were approaching Mulbagal. The water "breaks" were slowly increasing. We could feel the heat as well, but coming from Chennai, i was not too affected by the hot weather in this part of the world. Shree and I setting the pace now and we were close to hitting the 100 km distance since start. Shree suggested that we stop for a break now but i wanted to carry on till we hit 100 km. So off i went, now i was riding alone, with Abhi in his yamaha, right behind me.
The road to "bypass" Mulbagal was a deserted one. For some miles, we couldn't see anyone or even some sort of "shade" from the hot sun. In the middle of nowhere, we hit the 100 km and i was celebrating that with Abhi. Ajay joined us soon and after waiting for the rest for a good 10 mins , we decided to leave , hoping to find a dhaba to eat at, in the next "big" village. I stopped in a while to refill my "sipper" and stock some water. This stop meant that i'll be riding the next 7-8 km on my own, for the first time [till this point, all of us always had someone in sight]with Ajay some distance ahead and the rest of the "peloton" some distance back. I did a 22-23 kmph average, till the stop at the Dhaba. We had done 110 km in about 9 hours since morning and close to 6 hours of actual cycling.
The route from bangalore to chennai was chosen since all the cyclists were from either of the 2 cities. Actually, this road trip was initiated by Kiruba and Shyam and the rest of us joined the fun. Also, we did Bangalore to chennai instead of the reverse, since chennai is at a lower altitude! and hence would require lesser pedal pushing... or so we thought. The many "up's and down's" that we came across so far and the millions more we will cross in the remaining part of the journey clearly proved us wrong. Personally, i loved the "climbing-up" - the changing of gears, the intense pedalling and finally, the little joy of reaching the "summit". This was supplemented by the "free ride" we got on the way down. Many times, my cycle did 40 plus kmph on the way down with a minimum effort. I looked forward to the climbs the road offered.
We feasted at the dhaba. All of us were hungry, to say the least. The legs [especially the knees and the thigh] required the much needed rest. My knees were screaming in pain and i finally decided to use the pain killers - I sprayed "Relispray" all over the knees and thigh. The pain magically disappeared!! We stretched ourselves at the dhaba - each of us taking a cot, and sandy even better - the back of a mini-van!!!! After a 30 min nap, we we ready to hit the pedals but not before my "brush with the bush"!!! I checked with the dhaba owner for the availability of the "restroom" and in his own words " we do have a toilet [pointing to the fields behind the dhaba] with water facilities [a small stream!]" and off i went with a bottle in hand for that "behind the bush" experience!!
We left the dhaba at 2:45 PM, 75 km adrift of Chitoor, the place of stay for the night. I stopped immediatley after the start from dhaba, to tighten the seat, which had loosened [the problem would resurface later in the evening]. So, i was behind the "peloton" by atleast 5 mins. I decided to use the ipod now, since i was cycling alone and i listened to Al Pacino's speech about "team spirit and winning" in Any Given Sunday. I find this peice very inspiring and i listen to this one whenever i need some motivation. I caught up with the last man in the next 30 min and then on was with the "peloton" till end of the day.
We were tired but determined to reach Chitoor. The number of stops and water breaks increased. Soon, Abhinav got a chance to join the fun - he was riding Satish's cycle and Satish took to riding the Yamaha. He did an awesome job - Cycled close to 50 + km without any cycling experience for the past 6 years!!! It was during this stretch of road that i did the max speed of 50.6 kmph. I saw a truck starting off and that sight enticed me to "overtake" the truck. With adrenalin rushing, pulse racing, i pedalled as hard as i could and overtook the truck!!! Crossed the 50 kmph barrier!!! This ride offered a chance to cycle the way one wanted and yet provide a "team" experience!! That is FUN!
Shyam and I cycled together through the evening. We stopped at Palmner to "recharge" our batteries, literally. Loaded my cycle lights with 4 new batteries - were of good use later in the night. We were about 45 km off chitoor and it was 5 pm. Shyam and I started off last from Palmner and soon we reached the ghat section of the road. Shyam, who does bangalore-chennai regularly on his Thunderbird, warned me of a climb that were going to take in a short while. I took it lightly but on seeing the sight, i was initially surprised the degree of inclination. A steep and a long climb - the longest and steepest we encountered during the journey [missed taking a photo, tiredness the reason]. Shyam and I, pushed and pedalled, i was on the lowest gear, got myself off the seat and we hadn't reached half the climb. Fun just began. We pedalled furiously and soon reached the top. I was hoping that the downhill to be resonably long to allow us recover but to my surprise, the "down" section lasted 5km!! We averaged 40 kmph on the descent!!! Thats 5 km of free ride and this is where we hit the 150km mark since the start.
Shyam and I joined the group soon. The night grew upon us and since only Shree and I had lights fixed to our cycles, we decided to split into 2 groups of 4 cyclists. Each of us leading a group, with Abhi riding his bike at the end of the peloton [don't know how he managed 15 kmph on his bike] Riding through the night, for most part, was a "shot in the dark" literally. Most of the times, the cycle lights were drowned out by the headlight of the oncoming traffic and other times, were not sufficient for a 20 kmph ride. Also, since the road was a 2 lane one with a heavy lorry traffic , we were lucky to come through without any major incidents. So, night riding, though "sounds" fun, it isn't.
We did the last 25 km in the night time. This was also the worst part of the 2 day journey for me. My neck was paining from repeatedly "looking up" from the bent cycling posture. The lower back was hurting too. Importantly, my butt was screaming in pain. I kept changing the pressure points since the start of the day and by now all of the positions caused pain. Added to this the bolt and nut holding the seat in place were loose and made the seat change its positions. This added to the misery as i desperately tried to focus my mind away from the pain. Whenever i was settling into a cycling rythm with a focus away from pain, the seat's position would change and the subsequent change in the pressue point on my butt would bring the pain back onto my mind. So, i got up from the seat and pedalled most part of the last 25 km in a "standing" position and rested by sitting on one side, once in a while.
We finally reached Chitoor at 9 PM. The final mile was literally "pain in the ar**". Just wanted the day to end. Thanks to Abhi, he zoomed off in his bike to hunt for a lodge to stay for the night. He got a steal of a deal for us - AC room costing Rs.150 each!!!!! The relief i got on seeing the lodge is just too difficult to write here. We were initially planning to stay out in the "open", sleeping on a sheet in the wild to go with the theme [i was enthusiastic about it, before the journey]. But we made the right choice by choosing a lodge.
We had done 185.6 km since the start of the journey today morning.The last part of the journey tested my mental strength and having come through the test successfully gave a lot of confidence.But i was dreading the cycling ride next day. I thought the pain might carry over tomorrow. With this thought i hit the bed. I slept like a log.
Day - 2
5 and a 1/2 hours of deep sleep [loud snoring too!!] and a quick shower later, i was ready to get the wheels rolling on the second day. I wanted to be up on the bike ASAP to check if i was carrying over the "pain" into the 2nd day. I quickly fixed the seat and jumped on it to start off the day at 4:45 AM. We started off smoothly and after cycling a few km, i was happy [much to my relief] that there were no signs of yesterday evening's discomfort. I was amazed at what a good night's sleep can do to the body!!Another 165 km to cross today.
All of us got into a good cycling rythm early at the start of the day, which was essential since we had to tackle the wave-like road profile just out of Chitoor. In the next 20 km, we crossed a number of up-down sections.We took very few "water breaks" in the morning session but the breaks would increase exponentially later in the day. Talking about "water breaks" - Some of us had a "sipper-holder" fitted to our cycles where we had the water-sipper or bottle fixed. Shyam calls the invention of the "holder" as one of the most thoughful since it helps to drink water on-the-go. I think that "sipper" is a thoughtful invention too since it allows just the right amount of water to be taken. The bottle "floods" the mouth with water!! Sipper is more like "drip irrigation"!! So, the ones who had the sipper/bottle fixed to the cycles hydrated on-the-go. The rest had to "stop" to take in water.
We cycled at a good pace [20-21 kmph] in the mornings since we wanted to cover as much distance as possible before the sun came out.
Soon we crossed the TN-AP border into TN. We had about 133 km to cover before we reached Chennai. Shyam estimated that we might reach our destination by 4:30 PM.
In just over a day, we had cycled through 3 different states. Weatherwise, Karnataka was cool, AP was ok but TN as we would later realise, was a hot furnace.
We started off soon and 7 hungry cyclists were pushing hard to reach the nearest breakfast joint ASAP. We were warmed up by the ride so far and were pushing hard. We covered about 12 km in the next 30 mins to reach the wayside restaurant. We had a rather heavy breakfast - hot poori, idli and vada and some had all of these couple of times. The real surprise - the bill!! A good meal for 7 hungry cyclists costed only Rs.76!!! Made me realise the "overpricing" of the Chennai restaurants. Maybe, i should explore these type of food joints in Chennai. Will not do any harm to my astronomical credit card bills!! Sprayed "Relispray" over my knees and thigh for the last time during the journey. All of us got ready for the final assault - another 120+ km to go.
We were off the blocks quickly. By now, the sun was slowly making its way out to the open. The ride speed was slowly reducing. We had done over 19 kmph [riding time avg] since the start of the journey. This avg was dropping slowly. The first sign of heat taking its toll was when the trailing group comprising me, kiruba and shyam [and sandeep] had to stop by and wait for sandeep to join us. The heat was getting to the bangalorean and it was just 9:15 AM. So, we decided to ride as a group and motivate the others to keep pedalling. Luckily, for all of us, there was a breeze blowing [slightly hot and a headwind at that] but the breeze kept us relatively cool. The peloton then rode through ranipet and walajahpet to reach the expressway.
The ride through the expressway was "safer" than the roads we took till now - The wider road along with the "service lane" was safe for the cycle ride. But it lacked the "scenic beauty" factor. The vast space bordering the expressway didn't offer any respite to the sore eyes. All of us could almost predict what the next mile can offer - monotony and boredom. This boredom was fuelled by the fact that the road was flat. With the start of the expressway, the road had flattened out. It was only here i realised that the wavy road profile we encountered till now was a lot more fun. Guess, only when there are "up's and down's" in our "path", the "journey" is enjoyable!!!.
While we were slogging it out in the hot sun, the biker Abhinav [read lazy one!] was yet to get out of his slumber. He was snoring away in the AC room at chitoor. He woke up a good 3-4 hours after we left and caught up with us at about 10:30 AM. By now, the sun was right on top of us. The breeze was getting hotter, the road flatter, breaks longer and the ride slower.
I decided to ride slowly to conserve some energy - we still had about 90+ km to go. In a short while, the breeze stopped and we were left to ride in the burning cauldron. By now, we were consuming a litre of water every 20-30 mins and stopping at most places that offered shade and cool drinks [slice to be precise]. It was here that i thought that all the cricket games i played in the recent days, helped. I was used to the heat and was not affected by it greatly. We inched along and by 12 noon, we had reached a dhaba. We decided to have an early lunch and an extended break to stay indoors. The food was just being prepared at the dhaba and all of took a nap for 30 mins during this delay. We woke up, to be entertained by "Vivek" in the movie "Run". It was hilarious and helped everyone relax. All of us had a slow meal, waiting for the sun to drop its intensity. However, Shree's bus back to bangalore was at 8 pm and we decided to brave the heat and ride through afternoon. The trailing group [Shyam, Kiruba, Sandeep and me] decided to take things easy and ride at a slower pace. This meant that we may not see the leading pack again during the rest of the journey. Time for a team photograph !!
After applying "make-up" [sunscreen over hands and face!], we restarted at 1:30 pm, still about 75 km away from Chennai. The heat was intense and the complete melting of Vaseline and its leaking from the container into all parts of my bag is an indication of the intensity of heat. The "peloton" moved slowly and in a while, the leading pack disappeared into the horizon. We did an avg of 15-17 kmph, stopping every 20-30 mins. A bottle of slice was consumed at every stop besides stocking up a litre of water.
There was absolutely no breeze and the riding was getting increasingly difficult. All of us tried to engage each other in conversations. We rode in "pairs" and that certainly helped to keep the boredom and the dirty thoughts away. Besides, the humour shown by the group made this last part of the journey very light. Despite the pain,tiredness and dehydration that everyone was under, the guys had their sense of humor switched on at all times!!
By 4:00 pm, we had about 35-40 km to cross. The heat was slowly relenting. There was a good breeeze flowing, which was good to cool us after a sustained intense burning period, but happened to be a headwind. We were pedalling hard into the wind almost all of the time and at other times, wind was at us on our sides. By now, the expressway had come to a simple double lane for movement both ways and this caused a lot of trouble. We had to watchout for vehicles coming behind us. This close movement helped us though - I learnt what "drafting" is for real. With the wind was blowing sideways, when a vehicle [bus, preferably] passes by the cyclists, it blocks the wind from the cyclists for a moment and for that small moment, the cycle feels "light" and easy to ride with minimum effort. Tour de france riders [workers!] do this to "protect" the group leaders [best rider in a team] and help them save their energy [workers and leaders are both cyclists in a team, thanks to Lance Armstrong's book for this!] - "worker" cyclists coming to the sides / front of the "leaders" and taking the wind away from the "leader".
By now, it was Shyam, Kiruba, Abhinav and me riding together. We were about 15km from Ponamalle [gateway into chennai and point of "dispersion"]. All of us were tired by now and to me, my butt was slowly "making its presence felt"!!. But thanks to the firm seat [compared to the "loose" one on day 1], i could manage to find a "comfortable" position and take my mind away from the pain - only the first minute after a restart from "break" was painful. Also, i felt much better on day 2 compared to day 1, at the same time in the evening. Probably, my body and mind knew what to expect, from the learnings of day 1!!
There were a few climbs in the last 10 km before ponamalle. Those climbs tested me. The tired but willing legs pedalled along. While the rest were thinking about the "last" few miles, i was preparing myself for the lonely last 25 km to my home. The running and cricket had taught me those little lessons, never to give-in easily to the "comfort" thoughts. I wanted to ride home!!
We finally arrived in Chennai [Poonamallee] at 7 PM. After almost 2 days of new experience, we reached the destination, well almost!! We celebrated with the gang - All of the starting group minus Ajay, Shree and Guru were there at Ponamalle. We had crossed 326 km across 3 states in about 18 hours!!!! All the pain disappeared and the high feeling after the journey was truly HIGH!
Just to highlight the intensity of heat - Through the first day we averaged about 19.5 kmph through the time we were on the bike. But by now, the overall average fell to 17.5 kmph. Clearly, heat took its toll and Shyam's prediction of 4:30 pm finish went off the mark.
From Ponamallee, all of us went our own ways. I had to reach R.A Puram, which is about 27 km from Poonamallee. I was suggested that i take an auto ride to my home. But i just didn't feel like it. I wanted to ride home. I wanted to test my mental strength one last time. Though i was a bit tired, i knew i can make it home. I decided to distract my mind for one last time. I started off at 7:15 PM towards Koyambedu. Abhinav volunteered to ride in his bike till Koyambedu.
We were entering into "heavy traffic" - flowing roads. Soon realised that the highways are more suited to cycling than the urban roads. Thanks to Abhinav who was covering for me by riding his bike right behind, much of the traffic was kept out of my way. After a really slow day, i was having some fun with the bike. Did about 20-21 kmph most of the time, till we got close to Koyambedu, where the heavy traffic slowed down the pace. Initially, when i started from Koyambedu, i did think about "quitting" and taking the auto ride to my home. But managed to keep that thought away till i reached home.
Abhinav and i parted ways near Koyambedu. I was entering into my "comfort" zone. I knew the way to my home, i could picture myself going through the road sections in front of me to my house. So far in the journey, i was going through roads that i didn't know existed and entering into familiar territory was a sort of motivation to finish the ride!! But i had some real problems negotiating the trafiic from Koyambedu till i reached Nandanam. Am reminded of the nasty incident, when i stopped at a traffic intersection [road full of vehicles], was asked by a lady sitting pillion on a bike to move my cycle away from her [cycle was already a feet away, a luxury given the traffic conditions and was stationed to the left extreme of the road]. I just asked her to take a hike and this incident further reinforced how chennai urban roads are the last place to be in on a cycle during the peak traffic hours!
I took the road into T-Nagar and i felt like a F1 driver going into his last lap. I knew the stretch of roads in front of me. I could picture myself in each of the roads. But i didnt want to celebrate, till crossed the chequered flag. Crossed the mount road, entered into the Cenotaph lane and i was just a couple of km away. Went to the ATM to top-up my mobile balance and withdrew some cash for that big meal tonight. Just a km away now. Crossed the signal at Kaliappa hospital, then went past Sangeetha Restaurant, where i probably had more then a hundred meals in the past year, then a hard left and a straight section for 400 mts. Took the right here and the left into my appartment complex, rode to the parking space. Got off the cycle, took my bag, unscrewed the light and the speedo and rushed into my empty home.
Into my house, just left the stuff at the entry, closed the door and fell on the bean bag. I HAVE DONE IT!!!!I was happy to complete the ride. An immense feeling of "having done something but am too tired" swept through me. I was probably happy, but coming into an empty appartment to celebrate on my own wasn't too great a feeling. It was 9:30 pm!!! Called my home first - Spoke to mom, dad and bro and slowly the "high" was seeping into me. I messaged all my pals. Soon i was flooded with tons of SMS. I called up "pizzaraunt" and ordered for two 9 inch pizza. Called up a few more pals, answered calls from pals and in a while hogged the pizza too. Switched on the AC and in no time, i fell asleep. I woke up 17 hours later!!!The next day was normal. After 2 days of intense pedalling, i was relaxing at my home. I was not in pain but the legs were stiff. I had not lost any weight during this 2 day ride.
"Pedalathon" is what we called this 2 day journey. It helped me discover new things about myself. Helped me make new pals. A totally new experience in my life. This journey should be cycled to experience...
P.S Thanks to kribs and shyam for planning this ride and Shree, Guru and Sandy for the photos. Thanks to all cyclists and biker for all the memories during this ride.
Also, thanks to all my family and pals who encouraged me - by calling up, SMSing during the 2 day journey and also for the good words before the start of the journey and to you guys for having the patience to read these lengthy ones!