e-Triking across India

Picture these together: a trike (tri-cycle) and a long journey. A journey from the southern most tip of India to the Himalayas in the north. To this mix, add a 52 year old Indian farmer with limited means. This is Govind Bhat's journey; he also blogs about his efforts.

Govind on his Trike

Govind on his trike

Govind is no stranger to adventure. He has travelled good parts of the world on a bicycle in 1985-86. A hand glider accident in 1992 left him with a damaged spine. To get around this, he has equipped his trike with a power assist. Rechargeable batteries will add to his manual efforts. With 140 units of "borrowed" electricity, he hopes to reach the Kashmir border. Govind emphasizes on the importance of renewable energy sources, most importantly solar energy. He believes powered trikes can be viable mode of transport.

Please read an intro about him, his journey, motivations and equipment at this link.

This will be a fairly unique journey by many standards. Govind has been taking out his trike and putting it to test as much as the rains allow him. I was extremely surprised to know that he does not even know Hindi ! Govind intends to start off in a few days time. I would like to wish him all the very best for this journey !

To get a view of how things look from his trike, watch this video on youtube. Govind is quite tech-savvy, and is planning to tweet (twitter feed), record videos and blog about his experiences.

Govind has been planning this journey with a passion that I can only admire. I know this has stretched him financially as well. For an endeavour like this, I am sure he can use all the help he can get ! If you would like to support his efforts (and I hope you would), then please free to contact him via email at bhat59 AT gmail.com.

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What’s cooking ?

Nothing in the kitchen, I promise. What else then ? First thing : MTB riders rejoice - we are planning a race for MTBs right here in our backyard ! The first round of meetings for this has happened already. Ride-a-cycle Foundation will be involved, and so will CAM. The details are still being figured out. For now, I can tell you these : we are planning for this event in September, most of the riding will be off-road, and we will have a few days of riding. Finally, there will be ample opportunities for families of the riders to get into the action. More details as we finalize them, promise !

Quick change of topic. I have not been riding for the past two weeks. I have some back pain. Nothing major, but it hasn't gone away in the past 5 months. Time enough to be concerned. It started in a very strange fashion. I woke up after a night long ride in a sleeper bus one fine day of november. Bending down to put on my shoes seemed as difficult as lifting a hundred kilo weight ! The pain eased in a few days, but never went away. So I asked around for recommendations for a doctor. Rohan(from BOTS) recommended Mr (and not Dr) Badri, a bio-mechanist. Nothing serious, he assures me. No cycling till my back heals, and no other activities. I hope to be back riding soon !

Many readers (most recently Vishwas Narendra) have been asking me questions about touring. To help them, and as a pass-time for me, I am planning the following things

  1. Write a small article about touring on bicycles in general
  2. Relive my first cycle tour by blogging about it ! This will also contain valuable information for those intending to start touring themselves

Expect to see more updates soon...

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A review of my bike, the Kona Sutra

My current bike, the Kona Sutra (2009 model), is a couple of months old now. I have ridden it for over a thousand kilometers on a variety of terrain : highways, broken roads, and muddy, sandy and rocky trails I also use the bike almost everyday for commute. This post is a review based on my experiences.

For those lazy to read the specs, this bike is a steel frame touring bike with MTB-ish geometry, equipped with 700C 1.25" tyres, Avid BB7 disc brakes, and bar-end shifters. The bike does not ship with pedals or mud-guards(fenders). I have equipped my bike with inexpensive local pedals.

The Sutra looks deceptively like a road bike. Unlike road bikes, it is not light. It weighs in at 30 pounds (official specs), as much as an aluminium MTB !



Very few of my friends have heard of it. In a genealogical sense, 3-4 generations separate me and my relatives living there! Never mind those facts; Kanjarpane(ಕಂಜರ್ಪಣೆ) remains my native place.

I had a desire to visit Kanjarpane during the christmas vacation. On the fourth of January, I reached Subrahmanya at 5:30 PM. I had to stop riding somewhere, and what better place than Kanjarpane. This was my second visit to the place overall. The first one was thirteen years ago, but surprisingly my memories of the place were green. Kanjarpane is three kilometers away from Kukkujadka, which in turn is close to Sullia in Dakshina Kannada district.

Stopping by Doddathota, I peered around. I had been advised to take a shortcut from there to Kanjarpane. The only open shop in Doddathota didn't seem to be selling anything. Three people were discussing local affairs. My head light and tail light provided the much needed distraction. Their enquiries started soon after. It didn't take them long to start asking who I would be. I pondered over the question for a couple of seconds. Hoping for a faint glimpse of recognition from them, I replied, with some hesitation, "son of Abasama". Their reaction was a complete surprise. "ಓಹೋ ಅವರಾ ? ನಾವು ಅವರನ್ನು Englishman ಅಂತ ಕರಿತಾ ಇದ್ವಿ. ದಿನಾ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಗೆ ಬರ್ತಾ ಇದ್ದರು. ಮನಗೆ ಬಂದ ಮೇಲೆ ಐದು ನಿಮಿಷ ಬೆವರು ಒರಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತಿದ್ದರು !". (him? we used to call him an Englishman. He was an everyday visitor to our house. After coming inside the house, he would spend the first five minutes wiping off his sweat!) Dad had a way of leaving an impression on people. He used to be very particular about dressing up. Out of the house, he was always seen wearing a suit and Bata Ambassador shoes. In those surroundings, he would look out of place in these times. Can you imagine the situation thirty years ago ?


Cycling and More!

Two of my friends, Harsha and Vicky (the same blokes who helped me come back from Dwaraka) are on a journey of a different kind : Cycling and More. They are starting off by organizing a two day bicycle ride from Sakleshpur to Madikeri, mostly riding in Coorg.

From what I have observed in Bengaluru, cycling has quickly grown in popularity among the well-paid professionals(many readers of this blog would come under that category), especially over the last couple of years. Trekking as an activity got popular much earlier than that. Most treks I know of happen on weekends. Quite convenient for weekend-happy software engineers and even engineering students! Weekend cycling, I feel, is set to go the same way too. Indeed, some may argue that it has already gone that way.

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A view from the other side

Most of you know this, but here it is again: The Tour of Nilgiris 2009 is an 8 day, 900 km bicycle ride. The dates: Dec 15-23. The TFN, as it is known, aims to provide a different kind of cycling experience. A chance to feel the rush of fresh air whilst you ride among the greens. Free of worries, all arrangements taken care of. Just you and your bicycle. Interested ? The Tour is over-booked, hard luck. If you feel like clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" button, then here it is.

What could you look forward to in the Tour of Nilgiris ? Things aplenty. Coming first would be the joy of riding your bicycle through the greenery of the pine trees and tea gardens of the Nilgiris. The scent of the Nilgiris - ah! have you experienced it yet ? Riders will, no doubt, look forward to the chill of the winter air, the morning mist in the hills and mountains, the streams and waterfalls, and the coffee estates. The pains of climbing the hills would be erased by the joy of reaching the summits. The joys of a descent would be rendered all the more sweeter by the pains of the ascent. Some riders will fight their bodies, some their minds. Hopefully, none would fight broken bones. The distant mountains will come closer, surround you, and as they recede, they will leave memories. The experiences will matter, the outcomes won't. And in a weeks time, these will become memories to be cherished for a lifetime.

Some riders, I reckon, will use the empty moments to ponder about anything. Or perhaps, everything.

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Experiences make the person…

I've seen a lot more reaction to my previous post than I ever expected. In purely monetary terms, without accounting for depreciation, I must have lost about 1.5 lakh rupees worth of equipment. Many of you have wondered about (and appreciated) how I was able to take things as I did. I believe there are two aspects about my reaction to the situation: maintaining composure during the situation and taking the material loss.

I'm not worried much about the material loss, for a good reason reason : I am no stranger to adversity, and have seen prosperity in some measure as well. We were well off when I was a kid. My father used to run a government-funded research project. He had a home-office, and two computers (286 machines, I think. Very expensive in those days). I use to play games on the computers, and started programming in BASIC when I was barely in class 5! Unfortunately, by high school, both my parents were no longer around to support me. For four years, I was an 'inmate' of Bapuji Balaniketana, an orphanage in a village called 'Alike', in Dakshina Kannada district (Alike is well known for its schools run by the Satya Sai Baba Trust, and has a reputation for churning out top-10 ranked CET students). Being in an orphanage has its ups and downs. The good things: you learn to be self reliant and pick up some skills. I have done manual labour, book binding, all sorts of chores. We learnt other skills too, for instance, creating umbrellas from close to scratch. Necessity is the mother of invention. And 80 kids managing a whole year on a budget of 4 low quality footballs is necessity. To keep the show running, I 'invented' a method to flawlessly stitch a football; that's something I'm still proud of. After my Pre-University education, I did Engineering at B.D.T College of Engineering in Davangere. Again, with a lot of help from my sponsors: Dr Nagaraj Rao sponsored half my mess bill, the other half was borne by a gentleman fondly called 'Paddu' (he used to run a tea shop and perhaps a hotel), as also an annual grant from the Sri Krishna Hostel committee, plus fees by my uncle Seetharama (lives in Sunticoppa, Coorg Dist). Towards the end of Engineering, I landed a well-paying campus recruitment job in ProcSys, effectively improving my finances. From all these, I must have learnt that one's financial position can change quite fast. Loss of equipment isn't that much of a setback.

Exposure to adversity leads to development of skills related to crisis management, and that helps people cope with difficult situations. You will be surprised to know that the previous incident wasn't the first time I had very less money, and with a need to travel some distance. The first such incident happened when I was in class 10.

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The Bike

Discussions of a bike tour tend to remain incomplete without a discussion of the bike itself. In the interest of keeping the next posts interesting, let's get this detail out of the picture first 🙂 Here's a picture (click to enlarge).

My Bike

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First post from my new “laptop”

This is my first post from my new E71. My plan is to use this device as the all-in-one during my october tour: saves me from carrying my bulky laptop. Typing is fast and simple on this. I will use microSD cards as a means of transferring data from my camera/GPS to the mobile and then onto the internet. I'm using Wordmobi for blogging directly to my page. That is part of the intent of this post : testing 🙂

Posted by Wordmobi

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Next Tour: Gujarat, Rajasthan & Punjab

I have all but decided on my next trip: wandering around Gujarat, Rajasthan & Punjab in October. I have the whole month. Ahmedabad (hello again!) will be the beginning of the journey. Approximately, I will take the route Lothal, Palitana, Diu, Somnath, Junagadh(maybe), Porbandar, Dwaraka, Okha. The next part is crossing over to Mandvi. travel around Bhuj. After that I'm still gazing at the map. Rajashthan has wonderful places scattered all over the place - so I'll have to choose carefully. Punjab seems to be relatively easy to decide. The Wagah border and the Golden Temple will be part of the tour. In all likelihood, I will fly back from Chandigadh.

Training for the tour has started on a rather slow note, but I have time on my side! My TODO list is still significant; it includes the bike setup, equipment and some software development to aid blogging. More updates on these as they happen.

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