Dec 6, 2011

Bangalore to Chennai Ride

It's been a while since I did much of regular cycling. Since Aug 2011, couple of overseas travels, unseasonal and (often unpredictable) Bangalore rains, the time I have been spending lately learning and using cool and exciting cloud technologies and finally plain laziness have kept me off the bike. So much so that it started showing on the waistline as well. 

So when my parents and few other relatives decided to visit my cousin in Chennai, I figured why not ride to Chennai and return in bus along with them. Chennai appeared to be a good choice as I would be riding with loaded panniers and the route did not have many climbs. Thus the plan was born. 

The total distance to be covered was around 342 Km. My gameplan was as follows: 

  • Ride with minimal breaks
  • Start the ride early in the morning and end by early evening
  • Take rest during mid day when the Sun is at its scorching best
  • Ride as much as possible on Day 1 so that I reach Chennai early on Day 2 and spend more time with family. Vellore was the planned target for Day 1. 

Packed my two pannier bags as follows: 
  • Bag 1 - change of clothes at end of Day 1, fresh riding clothes for Day 2, two tubes and puncture kit. 
  • Bag 2 - Extra 1 litre bottle of water, 1/2 litre bottle of orange juice, sandwiches (packed by wife in the morning), air pump, tools, gatorade, torch, wet wipes, almonds and raisins. 
Day 1 - Saturday, 3/Dec/2011
Started from home at around 3.30 AM. Before long passed silk board and then stayed on the service lane all the way till past Electronic city. Stopped at the A2B before Krishnagiri at around 7.00 AM with the Garmin indicating 71 Km. Had a couple of sandwiches and a coffee and re started the ride around 7.30 AM. Saw Chiddu and Parag on the other side of the road returning from their Krishnagiri ride. Could wave and shout out only to Parag as Chiddu had passed me before I could react. We gave each other a thumbs up and moved on in our respective directions. Quite an uneventful ride till around 11.00 AM when the Sun started getting intense. The breeze which was against me was actually quite welcome due to the cooling effect. Passed by a town called Ambur which I later came to know is famous for leather and shoe works. Saw lots of small and large factories dealing with leather and shoes. Also passed by a small coir establishment - Could see some of the processing from road. It's a wonder how every part of the coconut plant is utilized in some form or other. I wanted to break for lunch only after completing half the distance to Chennai and also at a place where I could take some rest during the peak afternoon. Found a temple on the road side which had a resting area. Decided to take a break here for lunch. The Garmin showed 171 Km and the time was 12.25 PM. Washed up, had the remaining sandwiches and slept for some time after securing the bike. Left from here around 2.00 PM for the final leg of travel for the day. While the Sun still fell hot at 2.00 PM, post 3.00 PM, the heat was not that intense and was quite comfortable. Reached Vellore around 4.30 PM but decided to continue onto the next town Ranipet as there was still daylight and I was feeling strong. Reached Ranipet around 5.30 PM and found a hotel right at the edge of the town. The hotel was not so great and actually quite shady but I figured "will just be sleeping here and it is right on the highway" and so decided to stay there. Washed up, went out and had some food, got some water & bananas for next day. Got back to the hotel and after cleaning the bike and setting the alarm for the next day, went to sleep early at 9.00 PM. 

Day 2 - Sunday, 4/Dec/2011
Woke up around 3.45 AM and quickly got ready and hit the road at 4.18 AM. Was riding in a new area in dark so though I was using two sets of front and rear lights, was waiting for the dawn. The hints of daylight started around 5.45 AM but since the fog was rolling in, saw the first glimpse of Sun only around 7.00 AM. After passing Sriperumbudur, got off the main highway and took inside roads to head towards the Airport. I had another 30 odd Kms to cover. The roads were bad in stretches. Passed a glass recycling area - had never seen so much broken glass in one place. Crossed a stream of water on foot carrying the bike - contemplated removing my shoes but since it was only a short stretch to the destination I just walked through the water. Since it was a Sunday and feast day, saw several places selling pig meat - in fact at one place saw a whole pig head next to the meat - wow! Pretty soon I could see planes making their approach to landing - I was close to the destination. Covered the last few Kms quickly and with some directions from a traffic policeman arrived at my cousin's home in Nanganallur. Was received warmly by her family and thus ended my ride to Chennai. 

Some Gyan
While the whole ride was quite uneventful - no punctures or breakdowns, no accidents or altercations, no wrong turns, no running out of water - the ride itself made me come to a few conclusions:
  • While it may sound like a cliché, it is true that the longest of journeys begin with that first step or in this case the first pedal. Till the time I came out of my home on Saturday morning, I was not sure whether I would start or no. But I just told myself "Lets go for it. You can always stop and return.". 
  • While touring, don't aim for speed and higher gears. Keep at lower gears and keep going. I was myself surprised that though I rode for long stretches in 2 x 3, 2 x 4 & 2 x 5 combinations, I still had an overall riding average of over 20 Kmph. 
  • Be prepared - food, drink and tools. Though I didn't have to use the tools, it was calming to know I had the tools to do basic fixes and puncture repair if I needed to. I always made sure I had a reserve of water with me and would stop to buy water before I ran out of it. 
  • It is difficult to keep riding on and on. On this route, the pedalling is not difficult as it is a fairly flat route with the few uphills being only the ramps to bypass the towns and cross the occasional stream and railway tracks. The catch is how do you motivate yourself to keep going. I just kept at it visualizing the bed at the end of the day, the nice food I would have at the end of the day and the get together with the family members after so many days. Visualizing a nice end or a goal is always a good motivation to keep you going - whether it is cycling or something you are aiming for in life. I have myself found this technique work for me many a time. 
  • Day 1 - 238 Km - 11 Hours 20 Minutes riding time, 14 Hours elapsed time
  • Day 2 - 105 Km - 5 Hours 30 Minutes riding time, 6 Hours 10 Minutes elapsed time
  • Intake:
    • Food - 6 2-slice Potato sandwiches, 7 Bananas, 1 Orange, 3 Idlis, 1 Vada, handful of almonds and raisins
    • Fluids - 6 Litres of water, 1 small coke, 1/2 litre orange juice and 6 packs of Gatorade 
I did not take too many pictures on this trip to not lose time but here are a few. Not sure how many of you have seen this type of grasshoppers. They used to be a regular sight in U.P. where I grew up but haven't seen any here in Karnataka, Andhra or Maharashtra. 

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