It is very confusing to choose a beginning this time, as I have experienced too many things in a short span of 60hours, but for the story to unfold I have to begin somewhere and here it goes….
Initially, my plan was to ride in Delhi on 25 th of this month. In Delhi there is a guaranteed accommodation for me and also I have little knowledge of the place. The riders there didn’t show much enthusiasm in registration and I didn’t want to take any chance about the SR ride, so I have chosen Mumbai for riding the 400.
Going to Mumbai is always an exciting thought. I only saw it in movies, (especially mani ratnam and Rgv) and being the economic capital of India, I wanted to visit it at least once and it is really surprising that it happened this way.
I was excited about lot of things before going. It was the SR ride, accommodation? How to relax after the event? What if something happens to derailleur during transport? too many what if’s and how’s?
I have posted about stay in facebook, after speaking with Anil Uchil ( Ride coordinator ).He then connected me with Ammar Miyyaji from Nashik, who is also coming for the same event. It was a great relief, as Ammar took all the pain to look for an accommodation.
After being relieved with the stay problem, the next concern is packing bike for the flight. To get it box packed? Or to dismantle and bubble wrap it? Being concerned about weight, I avoided box packing. I have dismantled bike, covered all edges and important parts with foam sheet, (I got from bicycle shop) and then covered whole set up with bubble wrap. Boy, it was a tough job.
I have packed everything that is necessary on Thursday and was all set to go.
To Airport and beyond :
Left office early on friday. I was very skeptical about the way I have packed, as I faced problems last time, when I carried bike to spiti in the flight. To my surprise, within 20 minutes, I have checked in and even the security check is completed. Killing three hours of time is not an easy task!
The aeroplane flew through the clouds making it the most beautiful flight for me till date and landed in Mumbai very soon.
Ammar has sent me the hotel address and I have reached there sooner than expected. Ammar was also accompanied by Yamini, a national level cyclist from Nashik, Maharashtra. I was very happy to know about female participation in racing arena. After fixing bikes, we three set out for a small ride , as they both need to get some essentials for the ride. I was shocked to see that Ammar is riding a MTB with 2.35” tires. A rare sight in a 400 brevet. I may never dare to do so.
Mumbai welcomed me with a small and continuous drizzle, a trailer of a full length movie later. Since it was the first day after Ganesh Chaturdhi, all the roads were being echoed with the sounds of drums, cheers and dances of people. In a way, festive season is the best time to get flavour of any place. I enjoyed the chaos completely.
We had dinner as soon we came back. Myself and Ammar have different views on randonnuering and we debated about them during dinner and also about many other things. It was great to meet cyclists from different parts of the country and know their perspectives.
We managed to get only 3-4 hours of sleep. It had a very bad effect on me during the ride. We got ready on time as planned, but nature has other plans to delay us. The drizzle during night has turned into a big rain. We waited for few minutes to see, if it reduces but it only increased minute by minute. The clock went past the start time 6am, and after twenty minutes we set out in the pouring rain.
The ride :
After finishing the formalities at start point, it is a 30-35 minutes delayed start for three of us, Being a average paced rider, I was little worried about the delay. Since the brevet has more to do with mind than physical strength, I tried to maintain a positive attitude and rode ahead.
After 8Kms, we three had tea and from then things started to change. Ammar disappeared right away. Being rolling terrain, I managed catch some speed in down hills to make up the lost time. I removed mudguards long ago, and for saving weight I even removed my rear rack, so all mud was being thrown on my back. There were dogs at many places and some even chased. I was more worried about them in return leg as it will be darker at that time.
Soon, I crossed some riders and was relieved that I was maintaining a good pace. As soon we crossed city, it was all hills, rivers, villages and flyovers. I was surrounded by lush green all around. If it is not a rainy day, I would have maintained the slowest possible pace to enjoy the scenery, sad that it is all invisible, due to rain.
I was having toffees, homemade sweets and bananas on the way. Usually, without breakfast or food I will not be able to ride beyond 70 kms. I wanted to break that in this ride and pushed myself till the 101.5 km mark, the first control point after crossing Charoti. It took 4.5 hours for me to reach there and was my fastest hundred till date. It is five hours officially, though. Ammar was already leaving by the time, I arrived at the control.
I had curd rice, got some packed and went ahead. I rode with a good pace from here. As my speed increased rain also choose to increase and it rained Godzillas and dinosaurs from now.
Crossing borders on bicycle is always fun. I used to be amazed when I used to cross district borders in Tamilnadu, but crossing state borders on a national highway is a different fun altogether, that too amongst heavy trucks and large tolls. At Bhilad,I entered into Gujrat. I had mixed feelings again, happy that I was in a new state on my bicycle and sad that i couldn’t even enjoy the food there.
The suffering :
After 160kms, I started to feel the fatigue, sleeplessness and my stops became more frequent. At a point where I couldn’t ride any further, I stopped at a small food joint. The pav(bread) there is very soft and I had some plain ,then with tea and finally few vadapav.I started after a power nap and went ahead. Now I started seeing many riders coming back. I wondered that even though I’m maintaining a pace above my average, what speeds they would have been maintaining to come back already !
I crossed many good restaurants, subways and even a MC’d and thought, if I could maintain the same speed, I can have a lavish lunch while returning. I reached Chikli around 4.30pm. Again this is my fastest two hundred till date being completed in 10 hours (10.5 officially). Stopping at food joint is a mistake I made, as I couldn’t have a proper lunch and now I’m half hungry. I have decided to ride in a hope to eat at any restaurant on the way.
Life suddenly became upside down now. As soon as I have taken U trun, and when godzillas and dinosaurs are continuing to fall, the cruel head winds added up! They were so heavy that pedalling became very tough and maintaining average speed became a dream! I became very restless and sleepy within 10kms of ride. I stopped at the first dhaba I saw, ordered a dahi and chawal (curd rice ). Slept for a while, refreshed, stretched and was back on saddle again.
I didn’t have a good experience riding longer distances with sandals, so I have chosen to ride with shoes. With the rain never stopping, I have tried all the experiments I can to prevent water from making my socks wet, but all in vain. In the dhaba, I wore a new pair of socks, covered them each one with polythene and wrapped it tightly with tape.
More suffering :
I used to stop for every two, three kilometres. Ride became very tough, and when a uphill shows up, I was more pissed off than ever. I wondered, why am I riding in such worst conditions when I could have been happily laying down on my bed ! I lost motivation, I lost interest and I thought of quitting. Since I began the ride, I hardly saw any passenger vehicle movement, which means going back is a tough job. Damn!!
I’m losing all the time I have saved. I rode for few more kilometres till I have 178 kilometres to be covered in 13.5 hours. 13,5 hours is the time required to complete a 200 Brevet and I have a gain of 22 kms. A psychological advantage! I rode for few more kilometres with happiness. Anil Uchil used to cheer up in the middle, calling my name. It was an encouraging gesture.
The frequent stops continued to grow more and more. The heavy rain is having zero effect on my sleeplessness. The average is falling below than it is necessary and I have no other option only to ride. Whenever I felt sleepier, I used to stop at any shop that had cement flooring and used to lie down for five minutes. All the while, I thought I was completely left behind, but in some places where I’m taking rest children or people used to shout that cyclists are passing by. I used to get relieved that I can catch someone.
While coming towards Chikli, the flyovers were fun and means for gaining lost speed. In the return all the happiness was sucked away by the headwinds and flyovers turned out to be big hurdles. Taking service roads below the flyovers meant, bad roads, dogs and dark paths, which left no way to escape the pain.
I came across Bhilad once again, but this time I was completely sad and despair in hope to reach the finish point somehow. Sleeplessness grew worse and I used to stand aside on the road and sleep on bike itself under the merciless showers! At Bhilad, check post when I was stand sleeping, a guard came near me, to check if I was alright. He told me that he saw a few cyclists in a restaurant few metres ahead. My joy was uncontrollable and I raced there. The blinking rear red rights are a welcoming sign and I was greatly relieved to find a shelter and even see some fellow riders.
I had a long break there sleeping, stretching, and then eating. I set out after feeling comfortable. It was around 40 odd kilometres to Charoti from here, where organisers have taken a hotel for riders to rest and around 140 Kms to finish. The gradient of the road in return is somehow very different. It appears flat or steep and yet we have to pedal strongly. I got more tired.
At Charoti, there was some downhill section and due to speed, I couldn’t see the resting point. I realised that I have missed the resting point after riding 10kms or so! Water in my sipper and bottle were almost emptied. At a point where I couldn’t ride any further, I saw a hotel and stopped there. It was around 2 am then. Saddle sore began to show up here, adding more to my miseries. I have changed to fresh clothes there. I have removed the polythene, I tied around my legs at Dhaba to see my feet were completely beyond recognition! I had the curd rice I got packed in morning and slept for 15-20 minutes.
Suffering continues :
When I started back, I had to cover 80kms in 5.5 hours. It seemed reasonable, yet undoable because of headwind and rain. I thought I was refreshed but, few minutes onto the saddle it was very tiring again. I had to stop at many places, stand sleep and even wash my face in middle of pouring rain .When the sleep is uncontrollable; I had tea from a road side shop after which, I have vomited! I could take only water. Even dry fruits appeared heavy to eat.
It dawned soon and I even saw another rider fighting the odds, We followed each other. I was still feeling sleepy and rain is falling continuously. My front derailleur stopped functioning properly, and I couldn’t shift to granny wheel (smallest chain ring, which makes climbs easier). At a section, where road was climbing, we both had to get down and walk!
The rain and time never became restless and they were constantly running with great enthusiasm, unlike us who are wearing down, every moment! The final one hour is a thriller with exactly 22kms to reach the finish point. A 18 year old young randonnuer, joined with me now. When we were 10 kms and 35 minutes away from finish, he got a flat in front wheel! I couldn’t help him much in that condition and I rode ahead. Even the city roads were not flat and we had to struggle for reaching the end point.
Finally, we reached the end point at Oberoi mall, where Anil Uchil welcomed us with a big smile on his face. We handed over ATM slips and brevt cards to him. The young rider who got flat made it in time, on his road bike. Even many other riders made it in nick of time.
I removed shoes, all rain protection and sat on steps of a flag post and looked at sky! The rain drops falling on my cheeks and lips were so smooth now. It was an endless romance. My mind was absolutely silent and relaxed amidst the chaos of Mumbai. I was in a deep thought, not sure about what I’m thinking but, I was happy, very happy. I have then realized that the ride is finished and I became a super randonnuer. At that moment, I forgot everything that happened and the pain I had to go through.
It was an immense pleasure. A lazy bum like me, riding 1800 kms in heat, cold, rain, dust is something uncommon and I wondered what a sport can make!
Post suffering :
It was sad to know that Yamini had to quit at 360kms and happy to know that Ammar finished within 25 hours. I caught up some rest/sleep in Ammar’s car. We soon went to pick up Yamini and then I departed to airport.
I couldn’t wear shoes and I’m walking barefoot. Rain stopped for a while now. I have packed my bicycle under a tree at parking area. When I was about to finish things properly, it showered again and I had to run for a shade, which is airport !
I couldn’t help noticing too many stares at a barefooted guy, wearing track pant and tshirt with a bicycle on his trolley. Even though it is too early, the airlines, did allow me to check in looking at my condition. It was shower of stares inside, as I was carrying my shoes in hand. It was a weird experience bidding adieu to Mumbai.
I slept as soon as, the flight took off and when I woke up suddenly in the middle, water is flowing on the windows. I was shocked and asked the passenger beside me, if it was a emergency landing? He said we are in Chennai.
Rain followed me all the way to Chennai !!!!!!!!!!!!!