Early in the morning at 3:45, the alarms began to ring. It was time. This day was big for both of us. Firstly, we were to cover around 215kms, and secondly, there would be some tough climbs on the way. Also, this would be the first of the many 200+ km days to come. If we failed today, a re-scheduling of the trip would have been in order. We were ready by 4:30, and were out of the lodge soon. For breakfast, we had bread that we’d bought the previous night, along with some tea.
|In the dark, we rode|
We had our first stop at Ambur, around 48kms from start. After about a break of half an hour, we left again. The ride till here had been wonderful. Contrary to our expectations, we hadn’t really come across climbs. All the while we’d been cruising at 32+kmph and the wind wasn’t really against us. Our first proper halt was to be at Krishnagiri. My dad’s friend resided in Krishnagiri, and we were to meet him, as was decided yesterday. So after about 120kms from start, through the city’s noisy and dusty traffic, we reached his residence. His grandmother had cooked some wonderful food for us. We devoured food, almost like pythons, and then there were gulabjamuns! Too yummy, but we made our first mistake there.
|Somewhere on the road. Setting the perspectives.|
Too much food made us drowsy, and the sugary gulab-jamuns kept us thirsty. We simply couldn’t quench it! And it sure was tempting to just sleep there. I bet that sleep would have been wonderful. But we had to go, so about at about 2 in the afternoon, we left. Grandma had packed some lemon rice and juices for our journey, so we weren’t really worried about taking another major stop.
|Too good, isn't it? In the pic: Varun|
As we went ahead, surprisingly, we didn’t feel sleepy and tired as we’d expected. Maybe because it was a bit downhill, or because the food was assimilating inside but we sure were on a roll. Very quickly, we covered 20kms or so and in no time, and soon, were on the flats again. Right when we were to take our 3rd stop for the day, the scenery began to glow. Hills, roads and the climate were simply beautiful. After a while, we started again. Soon, the most dreaded part of the journey arrived.
|The beginning of the grind|
It was a long, steep uphill, and we could see it going right between two hills. And what even more dreadful was, that the way ahead wasn’t visible. What if it were still steeper? But we didn’t really have a choice of circumnavigating the hills so we trudged up on the bike. Starting from a combination of 3-7, going down all the way to 2-2, we moved at a snail’s pace of 12kmph.
|The dreaded climb|
Biking uphill is so different from any other form of cycling. Unlike a flat road, you don’t keep going ahead if you take a break from pedalling; you just stop then and there. Every crank feels like going upstairs. You feel the push as if someone is pushing you by hitting you with a pillow. The music from the earphones falls on deaf ears. All you are listening to at that very moment is your heart beating, nothing else. Sun was high and hot, and we could feel our skin burning. That’s what happens when you forget to apply sunscreen.
But going uphill has its benefits. The downhill ride, that ensues, is an experience like no other! Here’s where I touched a speed of 59kmph, even though for just a few seconds. Riding downhill poses new kinds of challenges. On an MTB, the top speed you can attain is limited by the cycle, even though you may be strong enough to push some more. Aerodynamics plays a crucial role. You can’t really go beyond 50 if you are in an upright position, so you tuck yourself as close to the frame as possible. Even then, you touch 54. After that point, it’s all up to you. The pedals feel as if the chain has been derailed off the gears, and your cadence is well above 200. Yes, at that point you are pumping more than 200 revolutions per minute on the crank! So if you are adept at going faster than that, you go, maybe a kmph faster. You don’t really look ahead; you just see the road below you passing by. The rate at which the cat-eyes pass below you give you an idea of how fast you are going. You don’t really get to see the speedometer at this point. You breathe out hot, moist air, which because of your posture and speed, like a thin film of fluid, you can feel passing out from your mouth, along the throat, some into your t-shirt and some along the arms. After a while, once the downhill is over, you get back to the upright position, you see the speedometer showing you the max speed and smile at yourself. 59.1kmph.
Around 180kms from Vellore, we pulled over after another gradual climb and finished the lemon rice and juice that we’d brought along, 2kgs off the backpack, and into the engine. Soon we were past Hosur, and reached the Electronics City. The velo read 200km. The feeling was epic, 200k and we were going strong. After only 17kms, we reached our guest house, but that distance took close to an hour and a half. That is the intensity of the rush hour traffic. But nevertheless, we weren’t all dead when we reached our place, and that was enough of a confidence booster for the journey ahead. But before that, we had a day off in Bangalore. And Deva would be joining us soon.
Day’s Stats: Distance covered: 217kms in about 9hrs and 30min on the saddle. Almost 14hrs on the roads.
The following day, we met Poorna, one of our college’s ex-aquatics team captain at her home for lunch. Later in the evening Varun’s friend came to meet him at our guest house and I went out to meet mine. Soon Deva also arrived. The wolfpack was complete. After stacking up breakfast for the following day and tuning up our cycles, we crashed.