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.
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 – Kotilingeshwara – Bethmangala(~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
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.
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