The Long Ride

For many years, I've had this idea of riding for a full day. The recent talk about B2C1D (Bangalore to Chennai in 1 Day) only helped rekindle this desire. The basic idea for me was simple : ride for one whole day. 24 hours, all breaks inclusive. And then see how far I would reach, how far I could push myself. I knew this wasn't easy, but I sure knew it was more than possible. I wanted to ride alone, and without any kind of support. Harsha offered to accompany me in a car for night riding, but I wasn't too keen on that.

My plans firmed up last Thursday, and I decided that Saturday would be the day to try this out. That would leave most of Sunday free for me to rest. I planned to start at 4 AM on Saturday and finish at 4 AM. I planned to stick to the Bangalore-Chennai road (Bangalore-Krishnagiri-Chennai), and turn back at a suitable time. If I ended up home after riding 24 hours, then I could just drop asleep.

I carried a couple of electral packets, Parle-G and a packet of dates. I had cycled for 15-17 hours at a stretch earlier, but anything beyond was unknown territory. Dates have served me well over the years; I typically eat them when I run out of juice. Electral was more of an insurance policy. I equipped my bike with a headlight (Shimano, 300 rupees), and had ample batteries. I also carried Gauthaman's GPS receiver, a torch, spare tube, toolkit, two water bottles, spare clothes and the bike lock. I was prepared for all possibilities !

After 5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 3:28 AM last Saturday, for what would turn out to be the longest cycle ride for me ever. I had set the alarm for 3:30, and was pleased was wake up before that. Getting up two minutes before the alarm showed that I was keen on the ride, I told myself. I had packed my bag the previous day to save time. Prior to leaving, I gulped down a glass of water. In a few minutes, I felt very uncomfortable and ended up vomiting. Now, that's a very bad start to a long day. Postponing the ride looked like a good idea. Continuing with the plan looked like a better one. After all, how many times would I be this close to doing something this "crazy" ?

The ride starte at at 4:25 AM. A strategy for the day was shaping up in my head : ride at one steady pace the whole day. Easier said than done, but no harm trying. In that spirit, I did not push myself. The Silk Board flyover was crossed in under an hour, a distance of about 22 kms. But all was not well. My right leg (near the knee) was showing signs of developing a cramp. The left leg looked to be in better shape. Temporary pain, I told myself. I crossed Hosur at a steady pace nearing 25 km/hr. In the misplaced hope that electral can get rid of the cramps, I emptied one packet into a liter of water.

The morning was cold and foggy. In several places the fog all but blotted out the sun. I was riding at a good pace on the left of the road without much problems. Only once did I have a problem. A BMTC bus overtook me and stopped a little ahead. I was drinking water out of my bottle. Applying the brakes quickly saved me. Krishnagiri, at approximately 500 meters above sea level is 300-400 meters below Bangalore. As you might guess, riding to Krishnagiri is easier than coming back. I had ridden this road earlier too, so nothing new awaited me there.

I stopped for breakfast at 8:30 AM, some 10 km before Krishnagiri. The odometer on the GPS showed 92.99 km, 3 hrs 49 minutes of "moving time". I hadn't stopped for much before that, perhaps 5 minutes. 30 minutes gone on breakfast. Including yummy Pongal in the breakfast was mandatory. Why ? I reckoned it would give me some much needed energy in the afternoon.

I bid goodbye to NH7 at Krishnagiri. Left turn towards Chennai. Another good highway. The road goes up and down at small angles. Chennai is at sea-level, so the overall effect is that you end up lower as time goes. So cycling there should be pretty easy, right ? Not so for one reason : a headwind ensures that Chennai can't be claimed without a fight. The headwind was not continuous, but resisted me in gusts. My right leg also offered good resistance. The electral hadn't helped. I continued riding, albeit at a slower pace. Riding with pain typically means that the rider needs to keep their heads on the job. So, where's the time to look around ? Not that there was much to see. Mostly the distant odd hill.

At 10:30 AM (less than two hours after breakfast), I stopped for coffee at a shop. It was mostly an excuse to rest. I actually slept for about 45 minutes ! I had pushed my legs, and they had pushed me. The only saving grace seemed to be that my legs had lesser pain compared to breakfast time. Less than 2.5 hours of riding (and breaks) and then an hour long lunch break close to Vaniyambadi. Was the head-head getting stronger or was I growing weaker ?

15kms after Vaniyambadi, I had a choice to make. The time was 3:30 PM, 170 kms had gone by, and I had to decide what point to turn back. I had spent 11 hrs on the road, riding for 8 hours and stopping/resting for 3. Going back would take longer, for two reasons : I had to climb to Bangalore from Krishnagiri, plus the more time I spent on the road, the slower I'd get. Returning back at the 11 hour point seemed the right thing to do. The fact that I was riding into a headwind only made the decision easier. I turned back.

Riding back towards Bangalore turned out to be far easier and faster. The headwind opposing my march towards Chennai had now turned to aid me. Quick calculations tell me that I was riding 30% faster. That means that the headwind slowed me down by at-least 15%. Wannabe riders of B2C1D, please take note : you might face the headwind too. Factoring them into your calculations might save you some grief later!

For dinner (7:30 PM, 235km mark, 11.5 hrs of riding, 4 hrs of rest) I stopped at a "high class veg restaurant" near Krishnagiri. I have ridden enough in Tamil Nadu, but have largely been unsuccessful tracing the origin of the phrase "high class". Curiously, I can't recollect having seen a "high class non-veg restaurant" ever. All these "high class" restaurants seem to have found one more way to improve revenues : selling mineral water. Just like the hotels in Bangalore, these guys keep a mineral water bottle on your tables. Most guests seem to oblige of course, even when there is nothing wrong with the "regular" water.

Post dinner, there wasn't much to do. Except ride in the dark of course. Hundred odd kilometers was the remaining distance and I had seven and a half hours to cover the distance. I took ample rest to tackle sore legs and boredom. At midnight, I had finished 285 kms with 5 hours of rest and 14.5 of riding. Tea breaks, general stops, battery changes, all contributed to increase the rest time from 4 to 5.5 hrs by the time I reached back.

The night was very cold. Whenever I stopped, I could feel the pinch. And I was stopped times. Three times by lorry drivers, asking for directions to Hosur and Mysore. Once by a car driver, asking for directions to Hubli. Once by a small goods van driver, wanting to end up at the new airport. I patiently answered their queries.

The most eventful stop happened a couple of kilometers before silk board. Two motorbikes crossed the road below the newly constructed flyover. The road was very well illuminated. For atleast 10 seconds, they were behind me. I sensed they were behind me for some reason. Then the guy on the left kind of brushed the rear pannier. I stopped in alarm, turned back a few meters and started shouting, "thief, thief". Not sure if they really were theives, but they didn't stop. Good for me, good for them. I was very careful on the road after this and was on the lookout for any kind of suspicious activity. Luckily for me, nothing untoward happened. My eyes felt a little heavy at around 3 AM, but not for long.

Anyway, I reached home an hour short of twenty-four. The final statistics ? 23 hours, 340.48 kms, riding time 17:36 hrs, stoppage time 5:25 hrs. I was quite happy to be back, and glad the ride was over. Half an hour later, I went to sleep. And woke up after 7 hours. Thighs felt sore, but everything else seemed fine. I am happy with the seat too. I am soon changing over to a Brooks saddle, but think highly of the one the Sutra came with anyway.

I hadn't trained for this ride, so I reckon 340 kms in 23 hours is pretty good. Could this be improved ? First, I could have ridden another hour for the heck of it and perhaps stretched the distance to 360 kms. But I didn't deem that necessary. Developing a cramp so early in the ride killed my chances, else 400 kms would be done for sure. Some training and improved fitness could increase the distance to 480 or 500 kms hmm. Something to try another day, perhaps.

I'm trying to remember how much water I might have consumed. Perhaps 10 liters. Anything else you might want to know ?

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Comments (33) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Fantastic. Congratulations.

  2. Great Job Shree!!

  3. Inspiring for my freaky ideas for future..

  4. Great going guru!

  5. U r simply amazing… The malaria dude 😉

  6. Good. You guys rock man, and give us humble guys good reference points.

    – Chiddu

  7. Brilliant ride man !! Congratulations 🙂

  8. Great! Thanks for sharing your experience. This helps me to plan my 300+ ride.

  9. @Deepak, Ashish, Bharani, Abhi, Bala, Amrit, Chdambaram, Aditya and Suma: Thanks to you all.

    Also, looks like I forgot to mention at-least one thing : the heat. Shop owners of a couple of shops were complaining about the heat. But it didn’t bother me during the ride. Drinking water regularly must have helped. The pain in the legs could have masked the heat too…

  10. Boss!

    Congrats on returning safe and for getting more freakier 😉

    I hv a question. How come you never mention about bum pain after riding for hours together? Or is it to do with the saddle you use? For me, every time I ride 50+ kms, more than my legs, it’s my bum that hurts…

  11. You are an inspiration and a healthy antidote to the commonly held view that we Indians are reluctant to push the boundaries of what we are capable of.

    Great going, looking forward to hear about your next conquest.

  12. Nice work, Shree! You are a true inspiration.

  13. Ahaaah. Took the lock this time round, didn’t we? Good stuff all around. Where are the pictures?

  14. @Anantha, Jagan, Jace, Rushi: Thanks !

    @Anantha : You’ll find this hard to believe – I didn’t have much in terms of bum pain (a very small amount of pain/soreness was there, but not much considering the duration of the ride). There was a time when I did use to get a lot of that pain. The characteristic of that pain is a reluctance to sit on the seat. Nothing like that happened this time. I was also changing my seating position quite frequently – say once in 10-15 minutes – perhaps that helped. The lack of pain is what makes me say that the saddle is pretty good !! However, as Balu said elsewhere, I’m switching over to become “a** caring” – courtesy my new Brooks B17 saddle. I haven’t started using it yet, but soon I will replace the existing saddle.

    @Jagan: I accept your compliment. However, I don’t think that a few adventurers can raise the perception of a whole populace. We need more people doing similar things for that. Based on what I see, this is a matter of “when” rather than “if”.

    @Rushi: I don’t have a camera now, not even on my mobile. Otherwise, you’d have seen pictures of the misty morning, and some blank frames (of night riding) !

  15. Awesome man……. My mouth was wide open through out ur narration in Surprise…. Neat presentation….. I could feel the journey…. 🙂

  16. This is great. I want to do similar long distances too, especially tour different cities on my bike. Many congrats and lovely report.

  17. Congratulations on completing this landmark. In fact, aspirant cyclists like us can get some motivation and encouragement from this read. Dude I have major plans of doing Chennai once way sometime soon.

    Is there anything else I should keep an eye on which is not mentioned above?

  18. Inspirational Stuff 🙂

  19. Brilliant achievement. Hope you achieve the 500 mark in future.

  20. maga, congrats… amazing effort in all the heat & cold, fluctuating weather thru the day, wind, ups & downs…
    what next & when??

  21. @Sharat, Prasad, Sriharsha, Bibhushan, Ranjan, Sathish : Thanks!

    @Sriharsha: If you are planning to ride to Chennai, then keep the headwind in mind. I am not sure till what point the headwind will hinder your progress. Other than that, can’t think of anything at the moment. Good Luck for your ride !

    @Ranjan: I’m hoping for the 500 mark sometime. But it won’t be easy. I will have to reduce stoppage time to a minimum and then ride fast the rest of the time. If my stop time is 4 hours, then the moving time is 20 hrs. That means 500km in 20 hrs, which means 25 kms/hr. More than 25 % faster than this ride. Without the cramp, I said I could have ridden 400 – i.e. about 10% faster. The rest of the 15% has to come from somewhere. Riding practice, how else ?

    @Sathish: Not much planning happening. Depending on when I get the time, and provided I’m confident of riding a 500km day, I may take off without warning… Of course, I’ll let you guys know afterwards !

  22. Congratulations on another great effort. Thanks for sharing the experience. What an inspiration you are!

    Shree : You might just do it, but 500km a day is stretching it a bit; don’t you think?

  23. Awesome Job. You are an inspiration!!!

  24. Super cool dude…really inspiring..wot cycle were you riding on ?

    roadie or MTB ?


    Wait, i already said that… should say something else…

  26. @Boni, Yogesh, Barani, Anju: Thanks.

    @Boni : 500km a day is stretching a bit, since I’d need to ride 25 km/hr. Not a big deal for an athlete, but definitely for me. As I said, I’d need to train to achieve this.

    @Barani: I was riding my touring bike, the Kona Sutra. It weighs as much as an aluminium MTB, but has 700x32c tyres.

    @Anju : You really need to say something else 🙂

  27. hah ha… crazy ride. Neatly written.

  28. Post 350+ km ride you slept for only 7hrs suggests that you are trained yourself sufficient. Really an inspiring ride and nice article. Hope to hear you reaching 500 soon and wish you good luck for that.

  29. Raghu : Thanks for that. I am off the ride-long-distance fever for now. Not sure when I’d attempt something like this again 🙂

  30. Great article, (and good ride :)) Shree. Thanks for sharing this. Belated congratulations! (I realise it was a while back.)

    I would be interested in picking your brains on touring bikes, as I am considering going in for one in the coming year (once I have some good info about them).

  31. @dhawal : Thanks. For touring, be sure to checkout the links on the right hand side of this website.

  32. The ones under “Earlier adventures”? Will do.

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