I still remember every word of my conversation with Sonia, a Spanish girl who was solo travelling India sometime in February 2015. She had plans to buy a bicycle and ride across India for the next 6 months. I actually made fun of her for even thinking of cycling and doing something so insane! No one does that. A couple of months later, I was exploring Orchha and I rode a bicycle for the first time in last 20 years. It did hurt my bums terribly but then the adrenaline rush that went through me while riding in the forest of Orchha made up for everything. It was sheer joy cycling in the forest, taking in the fresh air and exploring the place at my own pace!
Things I’ve Learnt about Cycling in the First Year…
My First Bicycle
For me, it was an instant love with cycling. I got back home and a few weeks later, I bought my first single geared $100 bike. It was the best $100 ever spent by me. And a new love affair was blooming.
I used to weigh 92 kilos and never bothered about my fitness before cycling happened. I started riding 5 kms every day and I continued cycling with the sheer idea of getting fitter. I realized that cycling was not only making me fitter physically but was also making me fit mentally. I started staying less stressed, had more positive attitude towards life and work and stayed happier in general.
I used to ride 5 kms every day for almost 6 months and then Cyclothon happened! It was January 2016 and I decided to participate in 21 kms category. I performed horribly but then I completed the 21 kms ride and also surpassed my best score. The feeling of completing the ride and the sense of personal achievement was priceless. Ever since I completed my first 20 km ride early in January 2016, I got fascinated with the idea of long distance cycling.
My First Long Distance Ride
During a work trip to Bombay in June 2016, I decided to rent a bicycle and ride all the way from Bombay to Lonavla and back. Lonavla was 105 kms from where I was staying and I had never been on a bike for more than 40 kms before that. I was definitely testing my limits. But then I was so determined that no one could have stopped me. I had a sleepless night and was ready at 4 AM to start my ride. I was scared and skeptical about riding all the way to Lonavala, all alone, but then something in me kept pushing. I wanted to experience the joy of cycling alone for hours and test my endurance level, too.
The ride to Lonavla was interesting. It rained for most of the time but got sunny later when I had to climb the valley. Haha!! The first 88 kms was easy but then my back screwed up in the next 2 kms. The thought of riding another 15 kms to Lonavla seemed impossible. The next 15 kms was a steep climb and something I was not ready for!
I kept pushing myself but would give up after every 10 mins. There were moments when I gave up completely and tried hitchhiking with my bike. But with no luck, I had to ride all the way up to Lonavla. It took me over 2 hours to cover the 15 kms distance wherein I walked with my bike for 5-6 kms, slept on the sides of the road and kept asking for a lift.
The joy of reaching Lonavala was certainly priceless. Something I have never experienced in past. I ordered a Sangria for myself, raised a toast and patted my own back. Well, I smiled and told myself that more such madness shall happen in days, months and years to come. I never stopped after my first long distance ride from Bombay to Lonavla. I came back to Ranchi and started doing long distance rides regularly. I would generally do 25-30 kms ride on a weekday and go for longer rides covering 60 kms to 100 kms on weekends.
My First Brevet
After a gap of almost two months, I decided to participate in Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux “BRM” 200 Kms event in Delhi. Brevets or Randonneur are long distance cycling event organized by Audax Club Parisien (ACP), a French club, who works with other randonneuring organizations worldwide and in India, it is represented by Audax India Randonneurs (AIR). Successful completion of BRM event certifies you as a long distance cyclist and it is also the first step if anyone wishes to participate in Paris Brest Paris ‘PBP’ 1200 km cycling event which happens every 4 years in France. And I do dream of being a part of PBP in 2019.
Everything seemed like a dream, from my first 20 kms ride in January 2016, to my first BRM 200 km event in August 2016. I have definitely come a long way in the last 8 months. I’ve never been on a road bike earlier but then I decided to ride it in BRM 200. The ride was from Delhi to Panipat and back – a total distance of 220 km which needed to be completed in less than 13 hr 30 mins. When I reached “The Bike Shop” in Delhi, the owner laughed at me for thinking of doing the BRM on a Road Bike considering I’ve never been on one earlier. But like always, somewhere inside me, I knew I can do it. I wanted to use the Road Bike considering the good paved road to Panipat and it would have certainly helped me with speed.
I rode for 220 kms in 11 hrs 30 min @ 26 km/hr. It was surely an experience I will cherish for a lifetime. The first 100 kms was really good but thereafter it was never an easy ride. The major downside was the sun and the heat waves. I was getting dehydrated instantly, my skin got burnt, had really sore bums and back which would make me stop every 7-10 kms. I managed to pull through the next 50-55 kms but when I saw a dhabha with a khatiya (bed), my body gave up instantly. I soon found myself taking a power nap.
Nothing can be more relaxing. And then, this trip was special because of people I met and conversations we had. It is so nice to meet awesome people, who are just like you.
Ride to The Abode of Clouds
It is turning out to be a habit for me. Every time I go on a work trip, I would try to spare couple of days, rent a bike and go exploring places around ?
October 20, 2016: On my recent work trip to Guwahati, I managed to spare one day entirely for myself and decided to make the most of it by renting a bicycle. Thanks to Warmshower, I managed to connect with a couple of local cyclists who helped me with renting a bike. It wasn’t the best of a bike but was good enough for me to ride.
Shillong has been on my bucket list for ages and I really didn’t want to miss this opportunity. It is approximately 100 kms from Guwahati but it takes steep climbs to reach there. You gain a total elevation of approximately 2000 mts while climbing up. I knew I won’t have much time to spend in Shillong but then I still wanted to go there, breathe in and feel the vibes of Shillong.
I started my ride at around 9 AM when the sun was already up and strong. But then the lush green mountains, rising altitude, changing weather, lakes, sunsets and views made up for all the hard-work. My body gave up after riding for some 78 kms and then managed to hitchhike with my bike to Shillong on a tractor. The ride on the tractor was even fun as it moved almost at the speed of my bike. I reached Shillong at around 4 PM, a bit more relaxed as I didn’t have to ride the bike in that last stretch.
Like any other big city in mountains, Shillong also disappointed me with traffic, commercialization and concretes. There were people everywhere and you can see locals running after tourist money. But then there is this little Shillong (Laitumkhrah) within Shillong which is worth falling in love with. It was my kind of place, full of hippies, small alleys, cafes, music, conversations and great food. It instantly reminded me of my days in Old Manali and instant love happened with little Shillong. I knew exactly where I had to go and relax for few hours before I head back to Guwahati. Sunset at Living Roof Cafe, coffee, and food at Cafe Shillong and music at Dylan Cafe. Haha.
I left Shillong at around 8 PM in a Jeep with my bicycle loaded inside. Yet again an amazing experience came to an end with me craving for more!
Do you want to start cycling? How To Start Recreational Cycling is the article for you. Build up the passion, and start Livingit!