Dec 29, 2010

The TfN Saga

I figured I could write a brief writeup for each TfN day but internet availability and the tired body at the end of each day prevented me from writing on any of the days except the first one. So here is the consolidated update. 

First off, the overall statistics - 825 Km over 8 days as follows:

  1. Day 1: Bangalore (Koramangala) to Kollegal - 151 Km
  2. Day 2: Kollegal to Bandipur - 156 Km
  3. Day 3: Bandipur to Ooty - 90 Km
  4. Day 4: Rest at Ooty
  5. Day 5: Ooty to Wayanad (Kalapetta) - 141 Km
  6. Day 6: Kalapetta loop - 75 Km
  7. Day 7: Kalapetta to Gonikoppal - 130 Km
  8. Day 8: Gonikoppal to Mysore outskirts - 82 Km
Full route map with each day colour coded

Day1: Today we rode from Bangalore to Kollegal. Fairly well known territory till Malavalli. No surprises on this day. Slightly bad to good roads. Here is Mark and me at the start point. 

Day2: Today we rode from Kollegal to Bandipur. Again mostly flat good roads. Took breaks for coconut water otherwise mostly rode non stop. At the end of the day we had to cross a bit of the Bandipur forest before we got into Country Club Bandipur. The resort is great and is in a fantastic location. Good food and great ambience. Would love to go there with family some day. 

Day3: Today was the day of the climb. We started early around 7.10 AM. My aim was to complete the climb by 2.00 PM. I was quite apprehensive about the climb considering the long painful Yercaud climb in September. But today was different - we were riding only 30 Km before the climb unlike the 200 Km we did from Bangalore to Salem before the Yercaud climb. 

Started the ride strong and reached the first support station (SS1) after Gudalur town, a distance of 37 Km in exactly 2 hours. I had done 7 Km of climb already. My strategy from here on was to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and reach the subsequent support stations without any breaks. Reached SS2, 12.2 Km from SS1, in 1 Hr 28 Minutes. After a short break to replenish fluid supplies, took off for SS2. Same strategy again and it was easier going as the gradient was less steep than between SS1 & SS2. Reached SS3, 14.5 Km from SS2, in 1 Hr 12 Minutes. Had lunch here and left for the final leg of the ride. Covered the remaining 26 Km in a decent 2 Hours. Reached Ooty town around 3.00 PM. The overall climb was much less strenuous than the Yercaud climb. Enjoyed every bit of it. Would love to do this again. 

My family including wife, kids, parents and brother's family were coming to Ooty by bus to be with me over the weekend. Met with them at the bus stand, got them checked in at the Club Mahindra Derby Green resort and then got over to YWCA where the TfNers were staying. Freshened up and waited for the evening's Christmas celebrations and dinner. 

No ride pictures today as concentrated on riding. Hoping to post some pictures once we get the official photographer's set of pictures. Here are some pictures of the family and Christmas celebrations. 

Day4: Today was the rest day. Spent time with the family. Had a relaxed breakfast followed by some table tennis, carrom and TV. Walked to Barista for a nice coffee and a light sandwich lunch. Ended the day with a solid dinner and walked back to YWCA. 

Day5: Today we rode from Ooty to Kalapetta. It was raining in the morning so the start was delayed to 9.00 AM. The descent had to be taken slow. We rode in slight drizzle, fog and clouds. Fantastic weather for cycling. It all cleared by the time we reached the foot of the hills and it became quite warm by the time we reached the first support station past Gudalur. After this it was beautiful scenery - one tea estate after another all the way to Kalapetta. The icing on the cake was the wonderful Green Gates hotel where we stayed at in Kalapetta - would recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Wayanad region. 

Day6: Today we did a loop around the Wayanad region. Pretty much a forgettable day with bad roads and not so good scenery. Most of the folks took a wrong turn right outside the hotel as guided by the hotel guard. The faster guys on the road bikes went so far ahead in the wrong direction that they decided to continue in the wrong direction as the roads were good and they could get some nice riding under their belts. Few of these guys went up to Calicut, a good 70 Km away, had their lunch at the Taj and then returned. I just took the planned loop and returned to the hotel around 2.00 PM, had my lunch, a brief nap and then a nice full body Kerala massage in the evening. Had a light dinner early evening and retired for the day. We were told that Day7 held a surprise for all of us. 

Day7: Today we rode from Kalapetta to Gonikoppal. The day ended up being the toughest day of the whole tour. Check out the altitude profile for the day. 
We were dropping close to 2000 feet over less than 15 Km and then climbing close to 2750 feet over less than 20 Km. 

Reached the first support station just before the steep descent. Received strict instructions to go slow and be aware of the road repairs going on. Within 500 metres of the support station the descent started. I was amazed at the gradient and the steep drop at the edge of the road. At one point I saw several people standing at the edge of the road and watching down the slope. I was concentrating on handling the bike and I moved on. Came to know later on that a 3 wheeler carrying gas cylinders had went over at that point and the driver had died. I did get some pictures of the roads and scenery at this point... check them out. 

Once we got done with the descent, we passed through some very lovely sleepy villages of Kerala. Saw coconut oil extraction and rubber tree farms for the first time in my life. Unfortunately no pictures again as I was worried about the upcoming steep climb. But the silver lining here was that the roads were good. Crossed bridge on a river and entered from Kerala to Karnataka and the climb started with the well laid smooth roads. The going was tough as it was hot afternoon. The respite was the forest cover. Unlike Ooty climb, where we could see the tall mountain we had to climb, here it always felt we had reached the top as we could see the trees at the top right next to us. The climb was linear as opposed to a circular. Started running out of water too. Around half way to the top I caught up with Manju and Deenanath and we three decided to stay together for the rest of the way. This is the only stretch on the entire tour where I had to take help from the mobile support - got the much needed water and juice from them at couple of points. It took close to 2.5 hours to complete the 23 Km climb. Along the way I saw many butterflies on the bushes. Check out the pictures. 

Getting water from mobile support 
After the climb came up to the last support station for the day at probably the best location of all the support stations so far. Check it out. 

It felt great to complete this climb. Had a couple of Kerala parottas with egg curry - the egg curry was almost like Thai green curry - terrific. After this break started on the final leg of of the day to Gonikoppal. Shankar joined me here and he quipped "we have come from tea land to coffee land"; we were in Coorg. We rode together for the last 18 Km of bad roads to reach the hotel at Gonikoppal. The dinner at the hotel was the worst food I had on the entire tour. 
Fooling around on Rishi's Pinarello
Day8: The final day of the tour; rode from Gonikoppal to outskirts of Mysore. A short 82 Km ride. The first 38 Km of road was through forest area; saw a work elephant and a few deer. The next 37 Km on the Madikeri - Mysore highway - beautiful road but hot weather. Got some respite after having a coconut water at the 23 Km mark. Vishnu and I rode together from here on. Took another small break to have a coke and reached hotel Heritage Shelters on the Mysore - KRS road; our final destination and end of the tour. A bunch of folks were already there packing their bikes. Did a bike salute and got our pictures taken. Packed our bikes, freshened up, had lunch and waited for the rest of the folks to come in for our bus journey to Bangalore. 
The Celebratory Bike Salute
The Support Team - Awesome Team!!
The buses left for Bangalore at 4.30 PM. After a brief halt for snack and tea/coffee at Maddur we reached outskirts of Bangalore around 7.00 PM. It took another 1.5 hours to pass through the peak hour traffic to reach the bus terminus. Took another 45 minutes to get my bike off the truck and unpack it. Bid adieu to the fellow riders and support team and started the ride back home. Reached home at 10.00 PM thus bringing to an end the unforgettable Tour of Nilgiris 2010. 

It's been a great year of getting started with bicycling all over. Thanks to Rohan Kini from whom I bought my Cannondale Quick 5; a terrific all round bike. Thanks to my BBCH, CAM and GGI buddies for all the learning and support. Have lost 10 Kgs this year and am feeling great. 

Next year is the year of Brevet and one long (2 weeks+) yet unplanned tour. Bicycling rocks! See you all on the road. 

Dec 16, 2010

TfN 2010 Day 1

The day started at 3.45 AM with the alarm going off. Woke up Mark, got
our two bikes on the rack, took a shower, quick prayer, byes to wife &
kids and we were ready to leave. Left home at 4.40 AM, picked up
Shilpa and her bike on the way and reached Koramangala indoor stadium
by 5.30 AM. Had breakfast, did some posing for pictures, listened to
few speeches and we were flagged off at 7.20 AM.
Rode in morning traffic via Sarjapur road to Hosur road. Crossed Hosur
road and reached the back side of electronic city. From here we took
the road via Jigani to Kanakapura road. This is a very nice road for
biking. It is mostly flat with just few climbs and descents.
Unfortunately Supreeth had a nasty fall at the bottom of a descent
just before Harohalli - got deep cuts on forearm and a smaller cut on
upper thigh. He made it till the finish on the spare bike. Later came
to know that Ram had a worse fall and possibly had a fracture.
The rest of the ride was quite uneventful. Rode with Kavitha for
around 20 Km and Raghavan for around 40 Km. Reached around 4.00 PM.
Oh! and I did not do the Muthathi loop saving around 30 Km.
Got to the hotel, took a shower and had some idli and masala puri.
Dinner is being served at 8.30 PM. Not sure if I can wait till then.

Dec 14, 2010

TfN 2010 - 2 days to go

TfN 2010 is about to start. 2 days to go for the flag off. 8 days of riding covering 900 Km of the most beautiful terrain across Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala. Bangalore - Kollegal - Bandipur - Ooty - Wayanad - Mysore. Excited and apprehensive at the same time. 

Watch this space for daily text updates from 16th to 23rd. Will post the pictures once back in Bangalore. 

Nov 4, 2010

Missing for past few months

So I have been missing for the past four months. A lot has transpired since then on home, work and cycling fronts. Work has been okay but hoping it will improve in the next year. On the home front we are well settled in our new apartment. 
Was in NYC for a couple of weeks in July. Caught up with many friends in New Jersey and Boston. Did some cycling in New York - would have loved to do more but the heat and work load did not allow. 
Got my invite to Tour of Nilgiris 2010 while in New York. That prompted me to do some more bike parts & accessories shopping in US. 
Right after returning to Bangalore did my first real long ride with a bunch of folks to Mysore. Took over 13 hours to cover the 150 odd Kms due to several flats and long breaks. 

First view of Chamundi

Foothills of Chamundi

August was preparation for the Yercaud trip in early September. Did some long local rides including one long 232 Km ride which included Nandi hills. 

Lake near Bidadi
Lake near Bidadi
ISRO Deep Space Research Station at Bylalu Village near Magadi

Nandi foothill

Looking up at the sky while resting

Entering Doddaballapur

First weekend of September was the 3 day ride to Yercaud & back. The 466 Km round trip was a real test of grit and took us all to our limits. The punctures, the short cut which ended up being the worst time killer and the killer 23 Km climb to Yercaud top tested our patience and determination. In the end it took us over 18 hours to cover the 233 Km to Yercaud. The return was even more interesting for a different reason. We left Yercaud at 4.00 AM in the morning and crossed Salem by 6.30 in the morning. We reached Krishnagiri by 1.30 PM and left from here at 2.00 PM. Little did we realize that the remaining 85 odd Kms will take us over 8 hours. The heat and unending climbs all the way to Electronics City made the going just plain hard. Anyway made it home in one piece by 10.30 PM. 
Early morning leaving Hosur

Planning alternate route

One of the group pictures

First puncture

Gundpunglu while waiting to get the puncture fixed

The fateful turn to take the short cut

The short cut turning painful

The silver lining - beautiful bamboo forest

bad picture from a point-and-shoot camera!

Feeling young all over

Beginning of climb to Yercaud

One of the many rest breaks to the top

With my brother Sridhar and his friend Sandeep


End of descent

Passing Salem Steel Plant

Respite after the climbs on return

Bangalore - so close yet so far away

Post lunch ride

October was filled with two great trips - the Commonwealth games inauguration ceremony and our family Goa trip. 
Shobha and I attended the CWG 2010 opening ceremony in Delhi while my parents took care of the kids. My parents attended the closing ceremony of the games. While in Delhi caught up with couple of school friends - Sanjay and Alka over lunch. While I had met Sanjay a few times recently, I was meeting Alka after over 15 years. Shobha and I stayed in Karol Bagh hoping we would get to do some shopping while in Delhi but the unprecedented security for the games meant that all the shops were closed 3 days in a row - 2-Oct for Gandhi Jayanthi, 3-Oct for the games opening ceremony and 4-Oct as Mon is the weekly off for Karol Bagh. We travelled to the games venue by Metro and were very happy with all the arrangements and the comfort with which we were able to make it to our seats at the venue. Post the ceremony, we got back to the hotel again by Metro and reached within an hour in spite of the rush. 
Second week of October we did our long pending family Goa trip. Travelled by our car and lugged the two bikes in the newly purchased bike carrier. The onward journey was via Davangere and return journey was via Shimoga. Terrible roads on the return. The five days in Goa were full of fun - good food, beaches, relaxing and flat-good-surface biking. The bike rides were mainly short rides around the resort but I did manage do do a longish ride to Vasco-da-Gama. On the return, we halted at our village Lakavalli near the Bhadra dam. Did a short morning ride on the MTB to the back of the Dam as well as to the top of the Dam but could not get access to ride on the Dam top. The area looked awesome with the Dam filled to it's capacity. 
Finally coming to last weekend of October. Had been meaning to ride to Lepakshi for quite some time but for one reason or other, things had not worked out till now. So on Saturday, 30-Oct, I decided to do this alone and took off at 4.15 AM from my brother's home. Reached Lepakshi by 10.30 riding thru rain for over an hour after Chikkaballapur. Started the return at 11.30 after visiting the temple and the Nandi statue. Bad roads and climbs made the going slow till Doddballapur. After that it was quite a relaxed ride back to Bangalore and reached home at 8.15 PM. 253 Km covered in 12.50 of riding time and 16 hours of elapsed time. No pictures here as I just kept on riding.