Christmas eve ride to Panchapalli dam

Basically , after last week’s brevet ride, wanted to try out a new ride on the following weekend. Didn’t want to lose the habit of doing weekend rides,just because of a 300k ride. Panchapalli dam has been on my to-do list. I had chanced on a blog sometime back, and have been thinking of this place.Located this place on the map, and given that it was a little off our regular Anchetti route, decided to give it a try. My 1st instinct was to just ride off over there all alone , but of late, folks from BBC have been requesting me to post my rides. So figured , why not? Generally , this means taking along a bunch of guys with varying speeds, and while being used to deal with newbies, the prospect of additional time spent on the road and less with family, had conspired to stop us from announcing regular long rides on BBC. This, incidentally is the 4th Saturday of the month,and the last full weekend of the year. I pronto announced the ride on BBC 3 days back, and waited for the response. I was surprised to get a response of 8 potential riders.Eventually a total of 6 riders other than me started on Saturday morning. Rajanikanth wanted to go to Anchetti, but I told him that it couild be a backup option, and I was quite convinced that this route would be nice too. Talked to Manjula on a thread in Facebook, as she was not following up my mail thread on BBC. Initially had planned on a 5am start, but Rajani’s concerns about the distance from his house pushed it to 5:30. The push added to my laziness quotient and we started at 6:48 from Silk Board.
The following guys started

Chiddu -myself, probably an inveterate cyclist now.
Rajanikanth P – Strong and compassionate,as his famous namesake.
Ashutosh Tripathi – Young and energetic, planning to not buy a motorcycle, and keep cycling.Bless you ,the world needs more people like you.
Manjula Sridhar
-a) the sole roadie,who humoured us by riding at our pace,
-b) Prevented this ride from being an all-male ride, should be able to convince more women of the route
-c) Only current ironman on the ride today?
Vijay Appaji – Couldn’t finish the 200k brevet,but completed the ride in good time today.
Sohan Sintre – One of the brave just in time finishers of the brevet last week,and completed the ride despite cramps today.
Deepak Malempati – Self confessed newbie ,who as well,did an amazing job of completing a serious ride with a non-trivial climb today.

Yvr Vijay dropped out,I didn’t see Arvind at the starting point, and he had said *maybe* so I didn’t bother calling him.So the chosen seven started towards Hosur,in the *bloody cold*. The temperature was cold, and I felt a sudden big drop after crossing the Nice road. The initial plan was to go via Hosur, we decided to go via TVS road seeing the traffic on the main road.

Image of Hosur road as we start off early morning
Hosur road as we start off early

Photo of a rider,inthe amazingly heavy traffic
Photo of a rider,inthe amazingly heavy traffic
Mist- The Chandapura intersection. We missed the flyover in the mist
Mist- The Chandapura intersection. We missed the flyover in the mist

My hands were freezing throughout the ride on the highway and continued to freeze as we went off it. After passing Attibele, we headed towards TVS road, where we had a few trucks for company. Not a whole lot, just a few.

Off Attibele
Off Attibele

A tale of freezing hands

Photo location.Just in the early morning ethereal light. Before we enter TN, on the Attibele – Rayakottai road.

At the ‘Ramakrishna Lunch home’, 5 of the guys had breakfast, while myself and Vijay made do with tea. After a 20min break, we headed towards Denkanikottai.
Rajani mostly rode ahead, followed by me, tailed by Ashutosh and the rest of the riders following. The 1st timers told us that they were blown away by the route. Though a little surprised, I just guessed they have not gone to any of the more scenic routes around town, so getting off the main road for the 1st time ,they found it exciting. Also the Hosur – Denkanikottai is full of very subtle valleys where your horizon is vast, and then some gentle rolling hills. We took the Denkanikottai – Panchapalli dam route.For regulars around Denkanikottai, this is at the arch just opposite where Sankar’s cafe used to exist a few moons ago.

Insert random thought here – With the closing of Shankar’s cafe and Jayaram’s cafe, it feels like a mini-era of cycling in Bangalore has come to an end.

Anyway, nostalgia aside, we took the turn and awaited the loooong downhill. Turns out, map data can be misleading because they compress the experience of 15km into 1 cm of width. So yes, there are long downhills,but they are quite gentle, and actually interspersed by a few uphills. The steepest downhills were near the dam, and they were about as steep as the lower levels of Nandi hills, or more like the inclines near the Art of Living Ashram in Kanakapura road.
After the final long downhill, the dam comes into view , and man ,it is beautiful. As we stood there clicking photographs, Vijay and Ashutosh joined, followed by the restof the gang.

First view of the dam, my camera.
First view of the dam, my camera

First view of the dam, Vijay’s camera.
First view of the dam, Vijay's camera

Second view of the dam, me in front of the camera
Second view of the dam, me in front of the camera

Looks better in the real world.
Looks better in the real world.

Panoramic View.
Panoramic View.

We went down to the banks via a mud trail with our cycles, while Rajani stayed up on sentry duty to direct all down.
Once we went down, I and Vijay went to the water for a swim.The rest of the folks relaxed on the banks. Later on Manjula and Sohan wet their feet as well. Just before leaving the place, I went for a second dip and wet my T-shirt to reduce the heat on my back.
The dam is quite big, and amazingly, there is no habitation near the dam , save a temple and a function hall. The place is not commercialized, and I believe will be a big hit with cyclists. Amazing , not many have gone there, yet it is pretty close.I chanced on a blog a year+ back, and have been thinking about this dam for a while. The road till the base of the dam is roadbike worthy,though the stretch from the dam to the village is quite miserable. After a show of hands, we decided that we would head to the village to eat before starting the climb up. Some of the guys were apprehensive of eating and drinking from the hole-in-the-wall hotel in the village.I and 2 others had an onion Dosa from the morning’s left over dosa batter , and by the time we started eating, food became ready, and Rajani and Manjula duly tucked in to the mid-day meal.

Lunch at Panchapalli.
Lunch at Panchapalli.

Meanwhile, Manjula had to leave early and had asked her driver to get her. He was waiting at the dam. I was tempted by the idea of hitching a ride,butI wanted to complete the climb to Denkanikottai. My urge to climb was more than my dislike of the mid-say sun, and my urge to return home (since I had indicated I should be home by 3!). We finished the bankside rendevous at 11:30 and the lunch/brunch at 1:00. As I started the climb, I reached Rajani, and overtook him. I was expecting to reach a couple of other riders, since I believed I was the last to get out. After about 3-4km I guessed I might be ahead of everyone,since Rajani looked like the strongest climber and I was ahead of him. Basically I had put my head down and just wanted to complete the climb.Once the climb at the base finished,the rest was a breeze, even though you could guess that it would be an overall uphill. I reached D’kotai at about 2:08, and checked with Rajani.He apparently had a cleated fall and a bad bruise. He suggested waiting and relaxing at Denkanikottai.I waited for a few seconds, and got bored and anxious,not knowing how bad the fall was. In any case , the ambient temperature was pleasant but the sun harsh, so staying put was worse than pedalling.I just headed back and met Rajani and Vijay 3 km from the town. We exchanged pleasantries and Rajani showed his wounds. It wasn’t a major bruise but an oblong section skin roughly measuring.5 inch *2 inch had completely come off. We headed back to the town,had a cup of tea, and were about to continue when Ashu caught up with us. We could not reach the remaining two (Deepak and Sohan). We continued towards Hosur.I went ahead of the others.

Elephant being transported
Elephant being transported

Rajani caught up with me, when Sohan got into coverage mode and made a phone call. So I and Rajani relayed instructions on
a) Reaching Denkanikottai
b) Route to take reach home.

Kudos to Sohan and Deepak for continuing despite struggling with cramps.
Given that I had not showed up at 3:00 pm, got a call from home. Angry with myself with a little bit of guilt, I decided to speed up towards home.
We continued further, I stopped at our breakfast intersection and fed myself at a bakery, feeling really famished.I wanted to stuff myself to have a go for one straight run.Flagged Rajani and Ashu as well who followed after a while. After a 2 min rendezvous,bid bye to them and told them I’m going ahead.Home was about 45km and Silk Board 35km from this point. The guilt pangs worked such that I managed to complete the 30km distance in a little over an hour, and reached home by 6. Got a msg from Rajani that he had reached Silk Board at 5:52 , and another from Vijay Appaji at around 6:32, who could complete the ride this time,havingfailed to complete the 200k brevet.

Felt really good that had gone on a new route on a hunch after a long time,and that too, a route with a swim spot in the middle which generally rank up very high in my list of favourite routes. Awelcome break from the Anchetty stream,a wonderful dam, but less crowded than Manchinabele. Recommend this spot to the folks to head to. Given that this was a new route, was not sure how it would turn out,and whether the dam be worth it,whether the roads would be easy,etc. But all of us liked the route and the destination. A stright line trip from Silk Board is about 150km. A detour via Rayakottai would add another 15km. I am sure adding the Rayakottai – Krishnagiri link would push up the ride to above 200 for a brevet! Last observation, courtesy nudging from Sreepathi

PS :The climb part of the ride is not as difficult as Nandi or even Harohalli-Jigani , I would rate it slightly more difficult than the Krishnagiri-Hosur climb.

PPS : Ride stats : A total of 181.30 km on my MTB. My cyclocomp doesn’t record average speeds and riding time, so don’t have that information. Photos are courtesy Manjula,Vijay,Ashutosh

Link to Vijay Appaji’s pictures on Google Google web album Vijay pictures

Three states 300km brevet

Having missed most of the brevets last year ,and of course the 200 brevet this year, wanted to try and take part in as many of the remaining as  possible. I don’t think I plan to go to France and ride in the once-in-4-years ride there,but the brevets look like a good opportunity to  test your riding skills on long distance rides  where at some point ,you’ll get tired. As it is, Shreepati looked like he had selected good routes for the brevet.He mentioned that some stretches would have potholes but most of the roads were roadbike friendly. So decided to take my roadbike to this particular ride.  Given that I’ve never been a very good handyman in fixing punctures , bought two new Bontrager tubes from BOTS, fixed another tube with me. Fixed a rear light and headlight on the cycle using cello-tape. Tire pressure looked okay, so didn’t bother pumping more. Wiped and lubed the chain. Took some Khoa-groundnut chikki as an energy pack , and 2 liters of juice (with appropriate salt/sugar) and 2 electral satchets to hydrate me.  Had asked Parag to be ready at 4:45, but took my time to get ready in the morning. So asked him to go ahead, and started from home maybe around 5:10. Reached the  Metro station at around 5:45.

As promised,the brevet started @ 6 am. I barely avoided getting into the storm water drain railing as we took the left towards Ulsoor lake.  After joining OMR, rode at  a little speed towards Hoskote.  Took the right at Hoskote , waited for a while,Sreepati and Parag caught up.Reached Malur and found the ATMs non-existent or non-working. On the other randonneurs suggstions,took a photo of myself in front of the locked SBI branch.Continued towards Tekal , and notified Parag of my co-ordinates.

Road(rt) towards tekal. Small board hidden behind the bushes in the middle.
Fork towards Tekal

Malur – Tekal ( 43 – 62 km ?) :- Probably a precursor to the bad roads ahead, but since this was the beginning of the ride, I tolerated it well.The constant beatings though get a little painful.   A lot of our discussions centered around Gujarati cuisine. The roads were quite patchy hereon, most of the road was pockmarked , making it difficult to ride on the roadbike. Initially tried riding the rough patches standing up to protect the seat of my pants, and was quite slow on these stretches. But the constant battering did take a little bit of toll on  my lumbar region.The route continued, and yes the surroundings  were quite good, especially the rocky outskirts of Tekal,but the predominant feature were the bad roads.

Tekal – Bangarpet (~74km): Roads slightly improved. I think we completed this section fairly quickly.However, on the outskirts the roads became patchy, and I actually walked for a stretch to avoid the repeated beatings.

Bangarpet – BEML Nagar – KotilingeshwaraBethmangala(~93km): I was looking forward to the stretches near Bangarpet/KGF, having spent a small holiday there 4 years back. After we passed Bangarpet and took the left at BEML Nagar towards Kotilingeshwara temple, I was a bit disappointed since I knew the right turn would take us past a few of the shafts.  But I was hoping to catch a couple in the distance,since I knew the place was littered with them. After we passed the market area, we reached wide open dry areas that dominate the area.  And yes  , I found a mine shaft in the distance. I caught up with a few riders and  pointed out the shaft to them. I actually had driven in the past in this stretch all the way to VenkatigiriKota (called locally as V Kota). The road was quite smooth but sudden burst of potholes meant that had to be defensive and ride slow to avoid sudden poundings. The section till Bethmangala was quite bad, lots of potholes. We went through the town asking for directions, and realized later there was a bypass.

Road before V.Kota. Nice roads random digging up, sudden potholes
Left towards VKota
Bethmangala – V.Kota (~110): This part had fairly nice roads with trees on both sides, but right on the main road,there simply was no shade. The sun had by now started making its presence felt. I think we were pretty desperate by now to get to V.Kota knowing that we would have some downhills after that. The over riding memory so far has not been any difficult rolling terrain or the scenery but the rather bad quality of the roads. At the start point, we had strategized on finishing the 1st 150km by mid-day, but by now it was clear that this was impossible. The roads just weren’t upto it.

V.Kota – start of the downhill:(~125) This part actually was the toughest, Mentally we were expecting a downhill but instead there was rolling terrain with really bad roads.By now, it became quite miserable. I seriously regretted not getting my MTB on the ride. Given the condition of the roads, my speed would have been same or even slightly better. On an MTB with shocks, we can easily go roughshod over few patches , tough on a roadbike(at least mine)

Downhill – Pernambut:(~142)When the downhill finally made its presence, it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. I ain’t no have guts to go down at 70kmph, so I was holding on to the brakes for dear life. Plus the sun was seriously beating down, and being on the road meant feeling the heat. On top of that, I was suspecting potholes at every turn, so I was going down as slow as possible, meaning more pressure on the fingers and shoulders.
The worst part was when we reached rockbottom(literally and figuratively), we expected the town, but we had to navigate a few km and a couple of steep uphills to get there. And all this while, the Sun God was relentless in his pressure on us. At Pernambut, I decided I had it. I wanted to break for lunch and relax for a while. We duly did that, in the only vegetarian hotel in town. We split a mid-day meal between us, since that was the only item on the menu available. Ordered a couple of omelettes as well, realizing its availability. I almost reluctantly got out from the town,and along with Parag, started ambling towards Ambur.

Pernambut – Vaniyambadi:(~178)The roads connecting Pernamut and Ambur is probably one that every  town planner or road planner should go and take a look. Even in the unrelenting TN sun, hardly a speck of sunlight sneaked in beneath the canopy. At this point it felt like we had wasted a lot of time eating at Pernambut. As promised a yellow sign in Tamil proclaimed Vaniyampadi.

Board in Tamil that says Vaniyambadi. Only indication.
Right towards Vaniyambadi I spotted it and a couple of folks followed. Wonder if anybody missed this sign. My food must have digested around now, and  I felt a little energetic and went ahead. The stretch after Pernambut is my favourite.Undivided highway, wide enough yet  immense shade and the roads were well laid and pothole-free. The roads started getting bad just outside Vaniyambadi. We had to ask our way through the town to cross the railway line and cycle through to the approach road that merged into the highway through an underpass.

Highway – Tollplaza( Mufasa diner) (~182) : I crossed into the highway and reached Mufasa at 4:05 or so, ended up taking a break. Met Gana and Kiran. Parag followed, and I ended up with a 1 hour break, chatting up, relaxing and eating. In retrospect, I should have continued riding , since I had sufficient reserves.

Mufasa diner – home (~315) : Given that I had dumped more food into my stomach, I probably rode ahead on a full stomach , and again went fast. We were now about 130km away from the destination. About 35km into the solo fest, my body must have just broke down.
Took a tea break,and waited for Gana, Rajani, Kiran and Parag to arrive. Didn’t spot anyone,so continued after some time. After a while I spotted a rider on an MTB taking pictures, who waved me ahead. Then ahead I spotted another rider, I caught up, and realized it was Parag. He must have passed me when I was looking away from the road. The Chai place were quite curious about the cycle and the cycling and I was happy to regale them.
We rode together, but by now by body just wasn’t up to it. I preserved some energy for the main climb before Shoolagiri, and managed to complete the climb in a hurry. But my hurry must have again pummelled my body, since I found it difficult to go ahead. A few times, I sufferred from blurred vision and couldn’t focus. Finally the Kamat appeared, and Parag went in, I followed in. A dinner of Onion Uttappam, Sugarcane juice, Lassi and Coffee followed.
After a longish dinner, we started at about 10pm. From this point it was about 50km and we made it uneventfully at about 00:30 am.  A couple of times Parag waited for me and vice versa. We reached the end point, and Gana, Kiran and Rajani were shocked to see me land in just behind them. I told them that I had overstretched myself and had to take it easy.

From this point just cycled slowly with Parag towards home. Just as we entered the road adjoining Puttenahalli lake, my cell phone ear phone wire got entangled in my frame and got down. There were about 20 dogs of various hues sleeping on the side.All got up startled seeing me stopping, and started a chorus, soon to be joined by their distant cousins all around the lake. To their credit, none of them chased me,they were just spooked by an alien stopping next to them and were not sure of its intentions. So reached home , and unlike Parag, no cold water bath. Put some oils on my body, massaged myself, and had a slow hot water bath.Went to sleep,got up at around 6:45 am. Belatedly realized that I could have gone to the race since my wife was not going out riding.  Had a relaxed Sunday, and just cycled around 22km with Vedant on his seat doing some errands, as my recovery, apart from stretching.

At the start of the ride ,  I had set myself a target to finish it by 10:00 pm. I woefully missed it, and reading Surya’s report, realized that reaching at 10:00 would have been a  next to impossible task. On the way, my thoughts vacillated between wanting to do the next 400k brevet and skipping it. For sure , I won’t be able to handle so many  bad roads on a 400k stretch. However , unlike my last 300k ride, I made sure I had some solid food left to me at the end in case all shops were closed (which is typical inside the city)

Lessons learned from the ride.
1) A few bad roads , and all roads paved : Could mean anything, really bad roads, or somewhat bad roads. Be prepared for the worst.

2) On my hybrid last year,  I was exhausted as well, but this time, there is no lingering pain.So yes, I didn’t push myself to the limit,but I did push myself.I still have to find the sweet spot where I am pushing myself but not bonking.

3)I was vacillating towards the end about whether or not to do the 400. My heart is there , but I do need to train and manage my time better. A 27 hour ride means some sleep, so I should be aiming for 23 hours ! Hopefully circumstances and my body will co-operate. And I probably would be taking the MTB if the roads are this bad.

At the end, I believe a 300k ride is not a trivial ride. I am not saying because I accomplished it. You need to be a good rider, mentally strong, and more importantly plan ahead. We did the Krishnagiri-Hosur stretch 2 weeks back, so mentally it helped ,as this stretch was not difficult for us in our minds.

PS :All the photographs are from Sreepathi’s recce. Here is the link
Recce photos

Short cycling experiences in Mumbai aka Bombay

A short collection of experiences on my usage of the foldie during the last week of Nov

Surprise begins at home
Day before the trip, I was asked – so you are taking a taxi right. I say-no I am biking.

Surprise continues in the train.
Folks who meet me seem intrigued by the cycle under the seat. Sometimes I think the train authorities don’t object because they believe its a wheelchair.

Surprise continues on the road.
The taxi drivers looked at my luggage , and as usual started soliciting. Curious look on their faces as I opened up my commute vehicle 🙂

On a Ride from Khar to Borivali on the Western Express Highway
Pollution,pollution,pollution. The alternative was to ride in the local train.I chose the former. the roads were far worse than JC Road in Bangalore. It became better after Malad when the traffic was less, and was quite okay in Borivali,possibly due to thenationalpark nearby. Borivali, I swear was a good 2-3 degrees colder than the western suburbs. I faced a glare from  a Traffic Cop. He wasn’t happy that I was using the flyover(s). I gesticulated that there was no board around, and he let me continue.

Then there was this gent with a pillion rider who came close to me.
Motorcyclist:Wow  you are fast boss. How much do you ride?
Maybe an average of 20km.
Motorcyclist:That is not much.I’ve been seeing you forthe last 10km or so. That doesn’t explain that you are riding like this.
Me: Most regular cyclists ride much faster. Guess you are probably stuck in traffic that makes you think I am fast.I do  do weekend rides of 100+km.
He wished me the best and moved on.

Another lady came by and asked me , how much I ride everyday, and was curious about the unusual cycle. I explained that its a folding cycle that I can carry around. She hadn’t seen me on this road, and my cycle does stand out.I explained that I was visiting Mumbai.

The foldie’s adventures on a local train.
Sharad Pawar’s party apparently had a lot of supporters around Mira Road. So a lot of trains were cancelled. I bought a ticket and wanted to take my cycle on the train. Ended up waiting 30mins for a train.And to top it, Borivili Platform 7 is at the end of platform 1,so had to walk and lug my cycle for half a km. Another gent who was going to Malad got in, and so did a few vendors. Once inside they got quite curious about my foldie,and I offered to do a demonstration, once the train left the platform. Given that the train was not crowded, after the train left Borivali, I showed them how the whole thing folds and unfolds. This started  a conversation. One man, who happenned to be a street vendor in Borivili was going back to Mahim.He told me that he used to cycle a lot in his hometown Thiruvannamalai.  He wanted to buy a cycle for his young son, but the tag of Rs 50k was not affordable. He had gone to a shop that sold high-end bikes. The guy who got into the compartment behind me confided that he had entered the luggage compartment hoping to see how my cycle works and thanked me for showing it to him.

At the  bus stand in namma Bengaluru.
Auto rickshaw driver asks me why I am  denying the likes of him a livelihood and the chance to earn 200-300 rupees. I reply that he would probably see a max of 2-3 persons in Bangalore getting around like this.

Random queries about the bicycle.

  1. Sir aapne koi alteration kiya kya isme? (Did you alter/remodel the cycle)
  2. Sir, does this belong to your son?