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Like every other monday I open my laptop at my work station. A friend of mine stops by at my bay to drop a note about what he felt about my previous post which potraits an incidents that happened during the my cycle trip.

As I worked through the day I kept recollecting memories of the trip. On a big picture what I felt was the adversity that I had been through. The constantly changing challenges, the hard route getting hared due to unpredictable extreme weather, the silent roads of Tholpetty forest which make you realize that you are a tiny spec in the vast abundance of nature and many other adventurous yet soothing memories. Below are some of those memories.

Stage I – Rain

Day 1, we cycle from Banglore to Mysore, close to 180km. Neither my partner nor I have cycled such a distance during our training. We had our breakfast 40km down the route and soon entered Banglore-Mysore express highway[NH 275] after facing a some resistance from the toll gate guards(since we were cyclists). Both of us were excited, it was this day we had been training for almost 6 months. I asked my friend to take his GoPro out and mount it on his bike. He started recording small chunks of stretches and a few clips of me cycling front and back. Just around when we reached 65km, it started raining. For sure, it sounds relaxing, who does not like to go on a highway ride during rain while listening to melodies. But all that is good if you are in a cozy car, on a cycle the whole scenario could be life threatening. If you have not cycled on highways during rain, let me explain how it feels.

I have a road bike, a ACR(All Condition Riding) bike, with 25mm tubes. I have a bag that weighs close to 8kgs on my cantilever pannier rack, I was also wearing a 1kg backpack that consist of things that I could quickly reach out for in case of emergencies (first aid, spare parts, tubes, lights etc.). I had forgotten to keep my rain coat in my back pack and packed it in the rack bag. So I do not have a choice but to ride forward since there was no place to stop for shelter. We kept going, hoping the rain would stop soon. My glasses were covered with water droplets I could partially see through them. Fog and mud particle from the zooming heavy vehicles covers the vision. I had no idea what I was riding into.

Blurred vision being a challenge we had to fight through other things too, like wet clothes and uncovered wounds. Within minutes from when it started raining my clothes and bags had completely gotten wet and heavy. Everything suddenly became slow and sluggish. I stood up and aced through the immediate downhill reaching a speed of 68kph. The best moment of the whole day. I guess the wet cloths and bags would have increased the weight and in turn increased the road grip of the cycle compensating the lesser traction due to rain. But whatever, I had never cycled at this speed and my heart was pounding heavily.

Just when I was climbing up a small slope I looked down and saw that the cohesive nature of my tyres had carried and thrown all the small mud particles mixed with the water on my legs. He halted at a McD few meters away, we had our lunch just when the rain stopped. I was completely drained and had mud all over my body. After having lunch, I took bath at was basin in that McDonalds before we took off.

Stage II – Fear

Day 2, Coorg is our stop. We started off from Mysore after a long deep sleep. It was drizzling an we were already wet, at least this time I had my raincoat and other necessary things out with me. This time we faced adversity not in daylight, but late during night.

We had a few unplanned stops to rearrange my friends bags since he faced backpain. We ran out of sunlight sooner that day. We had to cycle through a small stretch of forest to reach the resort we booked. We could not find help from the locals since they were all afraid when we approached them in the darkness and avoided us. The 120 minutes I spent roaming in that dark forest with my cycle was one of the scariest experiences in my whole life. When we finally found our the place we had booked to stay in the middle of no where I felt so relieved. We found a group of people they who were drinking and partying. Those guys were kind enough to provide us some dinner and invited us to party with them. We danced, but did not strain much since we had 6 more days to go.

Stage III – Speed

Day 6, Ooty to Erode. I started this day wearing 3 shirts due to cold weather. We had our breakfast provided by a humble family at Ooty. 45km of downhill. Downhill is fun. Me and my friend started early at 6am. His breaks were loose and he could not risk speeding downhill, he stayed behind just like the routine. I never went below 50kph the whole time. Tackling through heavy government buses, quick bikers and tourist cars.

Slowly I bend my cycle road-ward to carve the upcoming right bend. I heard a sudden snap. The hook of the elastic chord had slipped off some how and hit the spokes of my back wheel. Within a blink of a second many things happened. I applied the breaks. My break shoes would not stop my tyers immedeatly due to the moisture on the rims. I slow down and eventually fall and the cord gets wounded into the wheel. I scratched my knees badly. I see blood pouring down my right knee. Strangely I liked the pain I made me feel alive. I quickly looked into the chord and removed the twined parts out. Looks like a jerk had undone it to snap. Bad luck. I started pedaling with no other option.

Stage IV – Heat

Day 6, we reached Mettupalayam after my accident. I took care of the first aid. The climate changed drastically from 12 degrees to 34 degrees celsious. I took off my additional t-shirts and kept heading ahead. This time we felt different we felt slow. We weren’t riding uphill. We weren’t tired cycling, in fact we had just started our day. It was the sun, the heat, the dehydration it cause. The sun is your second worst enemy while cycling while wind being first. We stopped at any places to take fresh juices and coconut water. We kept ourselves hydrated.

Soon we entered a man less road where I couldn’t find any help. I was tired and I have also had a couple of false alarms for my tube puncture. Around 1pm as I crossed a railway crossing I was pushed to my limits where I absolutely ran out of all the motivation to go further. I stopped looked back for my friend. Sat and leaned my back towards the parapet of the highway road. I wanted motivation. I was running low on my phone battery, low on edibles and water. I took out a pack of ENO an antacid relief powder you can have with water to cure indigestion. It had different flavors. I mixed it with the little water left. I kept sipping it once for every one kilometer. I did it for the next 15 kilometers burping all the way to the near by town to rest.

My Learning

As we all grow, we all some how sub consciously start learning how to deal with life. We learn how to make money, how to feed ourselves, how to stay out of trouble etc. This puts us in a routine which blinds us through the ever spirally loop of repeating actions/ habits. We live everyday just like the day before. We simply repeat. When you manage to break this routine and do something different, like travel, you get to face the adversity out there, unlike the same repetitive life that you are used to. The intensity with which you live increases, decisions you make become significant, mistakes you do counts big time.

Thus every man needs a break. A break in which he not only break the routine, but also collects memories and grows as a person.

It was around 11 am, surrounded by tall trees of pine forest on the way from Gudalur to Ooty. It was Day 5 of our trip and we had already ridden 570 km from home. As I cycled the elevation of Ooty mountain I looked to the sides of the roads and noted that I was just passing through the 33rd bend I had 56 more to cross. I looked back and realized that I had created a huge gap from my friend. He is falling behind, but I could not do anything about it. Each of us were fighting our own battles, after all he would have been only meters away from me, I thought.

State Road surrounded by tall pine trees of Gudalur Forest

My muscles were numb, I could feel my body temperature was higher than usual, I am struggling to climb this beast mountain. Who doesn’t. I convinced myself that I know the route for the next 15km and I wouldn’t get lost, I wanted to listen to songs badly in order to keep pushing myself forward. I switched off the GPS and put my earphone on.

Half an hour later I realized I hadn’t noticed the temple that I was suppose to pass by. I turned my GPS on again and found that I had missed a right and gotten stranded 5 km inside Mudhumalai forest. I was told by the locals to abscond that area as soon as possible, since it was mating season for the elephants and they would behave furious around that time. There aren’t electric fences to safeguard yourselves in that area. What am I going to do?

I hopped on to my saddle and started sprinting through the forest to get back on track. While pedaling hard through the ups and downs to flee that scene my tire hit a pothole and my back wheel got punctured. Cursing myself I quickly started carrying my 20 kg cycle and ran to the closest electric fence. It took me 5 minutes to change the spare tube and fix my flat tire. I told myself these two words “DON’T PANIC”.

Once I got back on track I kept cycling through the rural parts. I felt dead, my legs wont move anymore. Hunger had stricken. I only had 10 Rupees in my purse. We had spent all the cash at Wayanad for dinner and didn’t find any ATM to draw money. I found a small grocery store at Devarshola, smaller than the cabin in which I work. I explained my position in a language the store guy could only partially understand. He knew I needed food. He got that 10 rupees handed me a pack of biscuits worth 30 rupees. I thanked him, and tied the pack with a towel to my hip. I started eating those one by one, making slow progress in the distance. All I had to do is NOT PANIC. I kept pedaling for the rest of the day and reached Gudalur, where we had proper supper before we found ourselves a descent place to stay.

There were many instance as such during our 1200 km trip. And at these times where you loose your shit and start crapping your pants all that you require is to say yourself “DON’T PANIC”. I remember these instance very well and will not forget the learning I get. One learning I got from these experiences was that all the decisions that I took during this intense endeavors has attained a new level of significance. I had the need to decide properly where to eat, sleep, draw money, listen to songs etc.

On Day 7 when we were on the highway moving from Dharmapuri to Erode. I was stopped by a Police man. He asked me about my trip and why I was doing it. I told him my story and expected him to motivate. On contrary he told something that broke my confidence. He told that an old man with his grand son had been cycling on the highway. One of the huge trailers had loosened it’s side rivet and slipped off and crushed them. Both old man and the kid had died then and there. I didn’t know them personally, but the story shook me. It is when I realized that how much ever you precisely calculate and make decision, there are few things you can’t control. This uncertainty exists universally and cannot be manipulated. It was neither the old man’s mistake since he was trying to drop his grandson at school and taking only his regular route nor the driver’s mistake that the rusted rivet would break apart and topple the whole trailer. At this point I started strongly believing that all the decision that I take could only be the best. I am where I am supposed to be. Hence forth I never expect anything to be absolutely controlled in my life, and while facing situation that makes me crap my pant I don’t scream and cry for help I simply smile and say to my self “DON’T PANIC” !

Watch this: Learn to Travel. Travel to Learn

Distance: 150km [includes10km uphill]

Duration: 8hrs-10hrs [includes breaks]

Location: Banglore Whitefield – Nandi Hills [to and fro]

” Is it lack of imagination that makes us come  to imagined places, not just stay at home? “

As a small prototype, which should help us train for our big Project 1200km.

Key Learning:

Uphill is a different ball game compared to flat road riding. It took us near to 2 hours just for the last 2kms of uphill riding. Both my partner and I have beaten the pulp out of ourselves by the time we reached uphill. The attention, cheer and motivation of other tourist biker definitely motivated us.

After this uphill riding experience we decided to treat the uphill day a little different from flat road days with respect to target distance to be covered, diet, body conditioning etc.

Experience: 

  • Started around 01:20 am to cover the trip
  • We were chased several time by stray dogs. If we had to count the number of dogs we were chased by last night while doing this, it would be higher than the total of the number time I was chased by dogs in my whole life time
  • I lost focus for a split second. Fell down and hurt my thigh. It was a scratch open wound. Used my hand sanitizer to wipe off the dirt and clean the wound since it was 3.30 am in the morning an there were no medical shops near by. Got help from locals in the later part of the day to get it treated and dressed
  • Uphill took 2 hours to cover. Downhill took 7 minutes
  • Reached a new maximum speed in my cycle 53 km/hr
  • Auro lost his shit, felt very tired on the way back, suffered from extreme body pain. This was because of his lack of sleep from previous night. Bad planning/ discipline affects team work

Into the clouds

Thoughts:

There were a lot of thoughts that sparked during this trip. Some were:

  1. Why must everyone start a difficult personal physical project?
  2. How being competent is being the default mode?
  3. Goal setting vs System setting: What approach is good for what?

These thoughts are the currency that I get out of these activities. I love to think deeply. In fact, this is the whole point to starting this project. Check out “Why I decided to go on a 1200km cycle expedition”

You can expect posts on the above topics soon. I have let it incubate in my mind for some time. While these are in progress, I am trying out an new experiment of meditating for 10 minutes everyday after waking up. Check out other experiments. 

Left: Auro Lakshman Right: Naveen Virinchi


Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,

You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far, it is within reach,

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,

Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

                                                       -Walt Whitman

Equipment List

Modify the following list depending on your personal needs and past experiences. Keep in mind that you generally won’t need any more gear for a hundred-day tour than for a fourteen-day tour. This is what we have needed so far on Indian roads for short trips.

On-the-bike Clothing

  • Cycling helmet
  • Touring shoes — good for walking as well as riding, i.e. some flex in the sole
  • Cycling gloves
  • Cycling shorts (1 to 3 pair)
  • Socks — wool ]c (2 or 3 pair)
  • Leg warmers or tights for riding (rain pants could substitute)
  • Short-sleeved shirts (2)
  • Light, long-sleeved shirt for layering and sun protection
  • Rain gear, jacket and pants

Off-the-bike Clothing

  • Comfortable shorts
  • Underwear (1 to 3 pair)
  • Sandals, flip-flops, or lightweight shoes
  • Hat/ Cap
  • Rain Coat/ Sweater (depends on the season)

Miscellaneous

  • Toiletries
  • Towel
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Lightweight lock and cable
  • Water carrying bladders or containers – at least 650ml
  • Basic first-aid kit with emergency numbers
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunblock
  • Camera and journal (optional)
  • Bear spray and cords to hang bags

Tools and Spare Parts

  • Tire levers/ patch kit
  • Spare tube (and tire, depending on the trip)
  • Mini-pump
  • Electrical tape
  • Spoke wrench
  • Spare spokes sized for your bike’s wheels
  • Allen wrenches
  • Screwdriver
  • Chain tool (or substitute a good multi-tool for this, allen wrenches, and screwdrivers)
  • Brake cable
  • Extra nuts, bolts, and wire (particularly for racks)
  • Assorted plastic zip ties
  • Bicycle light (optional)
  • Rearview mirror (optional)
  • Hoseclamp
  • Spare brake pads
  • Spare clipless-pedal-cleat bolts
  • Duct tape

Camping

  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Ground cloth
  • Personal eating utensils (fork, spoon, cup, bowl)
  • Stove (optional)
  • Cooking equipment (Small pots and pans – optional)
  • Boxes (to carry food if excess)

If you have been following the post. You be informed the I am planning to hit the road this December along with my friend and cycle for 1200km as a test of endurance and feed for newer experiences.

But now that is one big scary task to finish. We started freaking out when we realized we had only 3 months to train. So, here’s is what we are doing. First thing first, we already have cycles so we just hopped on and started pedaling. Apart from cycling they are a couple of things we have to take care of. If you see cycling as a sport, as per many long distance travelers,you need not train a lot. You stamina improves as you keep cycling day over day. But the challenge we have to face was to pedal 100km each day consistently without lag. Along with cycling we also have to take care of our diet, sleep and little bit of our knowledge about our cycles and filming (since we were planning to vlog out way through the journey).

So we split the preparation in to three sub-tasks.

  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Stamina
Diet

We have to increase the protein in our intake along with little bit of carbs. We have to take carbs in order to burn them and use carbs as fuel during our cycling. That’s lot of protein related food like: eggs, milk, protein shakes, nuts (almonds, cashews etc.) and stuff like tofu. We majorly got carbs from rice and rotis.

We strictly have to cut any kind of extreme sugar, salt or spice. Since this will cause insulin hikes and trigger hunger for more. We shouldn’t end up eating more than what our body needs. I also practice intermittent fasting one day in a week, which will trigger “ketosis” to burn up the fat in the body and make it use fat as a source of energy. We have to keep our body very much hydrated to keep it functional. Remember fasting means no food. And no food mean no coffee, no expresso, no snacks, no fruits. Only water intake allowed for hydration.

This sort of strict diet helps me cut my weight from 60kg to 55 kg in a month and helps me burn all unwanted fat.

Sleep

We not only have to plan our sleep cycles. We also have to develop some good habits around it. First thing we change was to plan our next days before we got to sleep the previous day. This seems easy thing to do. But people do not realize how much energy your brain consumes in order to plan the day ahead. All this planning should not consume the valuable time you have at the staring of your day. So, we plan what we do the next day, it could be normal planning like what am I going to work on tomorrow of that sort. During the trip it will be about the trip itself.

Apart from that we must sleep half stomach full and need to get 7 to 8 hrs a day. Half full stomach because while your body is resting your digestive system shouldn’t be busy burning all the food you load. This will only make you more tired when you wake up. 7 hrs of sleep for the cognitive rebooting. This freshens up your mind and improves the memory. Moreover you get good rest.

Stamina

Most cyclist have strong legs, but very thin upper body. This is because there absolutely no exercise for the upper body when you cycle. We need to take care of this because we do not want to end up in a situation where my legs could do a 50 more kilometers but my arms. neck and back starts to ache. This requires good food. Food for nourishment and exercise. So, we hit the gym on alternate days doing some weight lifting for back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. This kinda got myself ripped. Read more on how I got my body ripped and look more sexier.

Apart from the above three aspects of preparation we have smaller tasks on our plate. Auro (my friend) takes care of the filming part. He started studying photography, film making and story boarding. I did all the planning like where we head each day, how much we complete day over day. At what places to rest and eat. I also have to take care of “know hows” of maintaining cycles. I am almost a good cycle mechanic now.

We have two more months of training and we will hit the road. We ride for 100kms on alternate days (the days we don’t hit the gym). You will be reading more on this as we keep training for this epic journey.

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