Google CodeJam

Cycling has taken a backseat for the past couple of months. Exercising for my back, and waiting for it to heal are more important.

Life without some activities can get boring. So I am participating in Google's online coding competition, CodeJam. For those of you in the know, the qualifying round is already over. 8523 qualified for the next round, including me. 10492 participants had a crack at the problems.

This is perhaps the first time that I am participating in a competition I do not expect to win. Earlier I have avoided competing in certain competitions fearing failure! So this is a big improvement for me - and it took me some effort to force myself into this. Advancing to the next round would be good for now.

I am embarrassed to find myself placed in the 5839th position. I got 43 points - 33 for problem A and 10 for problem C. I knew I hadn't been solving problems of late, and this is just an additional confirmation. My score shows me how negligent I have become. A very bad mistake cost me 23 points for problem C-large. I had to use a 64 bit integer to avoid a numeric overflow. But I overlooked such a simple thing! Problem B, "Fair warning", was IMO the most difficult of the three problems. For some strange reason, I didn't write a single line of code for this. Naturally, I missed out solving this.

By now you are perhaps wondering why I should be ranting about this, and that too in public. Most of you guys are here for articles related to cycling. However, I consider myself a geek first ! And for a geek to realize that he has gone bad w.r.t. coding can be very bad indeed. Many of my readers are from the IT industry, so I am hoping this rant is is relevant to at-least some of you.

Filed under: Updates Continue reading

Wheat Halwa

While in the kitchen, I like to use traditional recipes. These typically take more time and effort, but the results are typically worth the extra trouble. Cooking is a great stress buster. The more detailed the recipe, the more the fun!

My aunt (ಚಿಕ್ಕಮ್ಮ - wife of my father's younger brother who stays near Sunticoppa, Kodagu district) is my favourite cook. She has a knack of describing difficult to make items and getting me interested in making them. I typically let the easy recipes pass in favour of the difficult to make ones. One fine day she mentioned wheat halwa. And that it would take 3-4 days to make it. Enough information to add it to my TODO list.

Office potluck lunches and difficult recipes, I have observed, go hand in hand. Everyone tries to make something special, so is worried how their dishes would turn out. We do it for fun mostly, but what's fun if there isn't a challenge in it ? That's where the wheat halwa came into the picture. An audience of 25 people or so is a fair size to cook halwa for. I've always liked feeding people, and here was another opportunity.

Yummy Wheat Halwa

Yummy Wheat Halwa

It was fun cooking the halwa - and the results were satisfactory. If you are interested in just the recipe, then skip forward to the end of this post. Those interested in learning about my travails, read on !


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...

Filed under: Info, Updates No Comments

Attempt #2 for 500 kms in a day

I had written in my last post that I hoped to ride 500 kms in a day, perhaps after training. Secretly, I believed that this was possible without specific training. As always, there was no way I could prove myself wrong without trying!

I backed myself to scale the 500 km peak. This was possible, I told myself. Maintain an average of 25km an hour over 20 hours - and that's it. Easier said than done : my regular speed is somewhere around the 20s. The temperature was rising with each passing day. So, any attempt had to be made soon. After a week of dilly-dallying, on the evening of the 19th February (that's two weeks ago), I finally made up my mind.

Mentally, I had broken the march to 500 to three parts : the first 300 in 12 hours of riding, and the rest in two batches of 100 kms consuming 6 hours each. 20 hours of moving time @ 25km/hr, 4 hours of "stoppage time" breakfast, lunch, dinner all inclusive. An aggressive plan, but 500 is no small goal either.

Filed under: Updates Continue reading

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" ?

Filed under: Updates Continue reading

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 ?


Happy New Year !

I'd like to wish all my dear readers a happy and happening 2010. My two-week long vacation ended a few days back. My bike aged by over a thousand kilometers on a variety of terrain: road, off-road, no-road, downhill. I found enough time to visit many of my relatives, including a short stop at my ancestral village after 13 long years. Getting out of the holiday mood has never been this difficult.

In the coming days, I expect to post some stories about the vacations. Plus the long promised review of my new bike.

Filed under: Updates 4 Comments

Kona Sutra

That's my new bike! I have been riding the Kona Sutra for a couple of weeks now. Purchased from BOTS.

The Sutra has a steel frame and weighs approximately 14 kilograms. It is equipped with Avid BB7 disk brakes, strong Mavic rims, and bar-end shifters (front: friction, rear: index/friction). For the rest of the specs, look at the official site. Note that the bike lacks pedals and mud-guards(fenders). I got the 2009 model. The newer 2010 model has mud-guards and a different colour/graphics.

Me and my Sutra (click to enlarge)

Me on my Sutra(click to enlarge)

The pedals in the picture are local pedals. I paid 60 rupees for them. Small change compared to the cost of the bike : 52,620 rupees only.

Wondering why this bike was chosen ? I wanted a reliable, all-purpose bike. Disc brakes were high on my wish-list. I have been riding MTBs since 2003, but I was looking for an easier ride for a change. Plus, I wanted a bike which was available in India. The Sutra fits the bill, with a name that is hard to beat!

The Sutra feels very stable during the ride. This feeling is hard to explain; it needs to be experienced ! I just love the way I can modulate the brakes! I'm still getting used to the riding position and bar-end shifters. The bike absorbs some amount of road bumps. Nothing like having shocks, but that was expected anyway. She climbs pretty well too. I did the last 15km of the ride to Somwarpet in 50 minutes. I'm not in the best of shape, so it is all about the bike 🙂

My pet peeves : few things I do not like about the bike (these characteristics are shared by most of the imported bikes, and can all be remedied using accessories)

  1. No side-stand. Makes this a pain to park
  2. No guard for the front chain-ring. Need to be careful while I'm riding the bike and wearing jeans.

I seem to be going faster on this new bike. Much faster than my older bikes for sure. To me, this represents a problem. Other riders on the road have a certain assumption about bicycles : how fast we can move, the position of the reflectors on them, not to mention the cost of causing an accident! This bike breaks these assumptions, and I better be wary...

I'll post a review of this bike and my experiences in Jan, 2010. I want to ride the bike before posting anything that looks like a review. I'll soon be upgrading the bike to include the B17 Brooks Saddle, and perhaps 1.75 inch wheels. Happy riding to me...

Filed under: Uncategorized 19 Comments

First CAM Ride: Riding & More

I mentioned a couple of posts back about Cycling & More. I joined this ride too; basically helping out my organizer friends. This turned out to be a fun-filled two day ride, with 36 riders riding from Sakleshpur to Sunticoppa (near Madikeri).

For most riders, this was an initiation ride into touring: some had ridden 20 kms max a day, and most less than a 100 kms a day. There were road bikes, mountain bikes, two "single speed" bikes, and a Kona Sutra, my new touring bike (more about this in my next post!). There were two couples riding as well : Divya & Chinmay(Chaitanya. Thanks Harsha for the correction. Sorry for the goof-up. I hate getting names wrong!), Madhavi & Sampath.

Bringing up the rear was my responsibility on day 1. Secretly, I was glad that I could ride easy on my new bike - no need to spend energy chasing the road bikes and other speeding bikes, see ! Greenery surrounded us everywhere, but mountain views were scarce. The road was mostly nice, there were no bike malfunctions, and no punctures; no real 'excitement' ! Only three riders gave up and opted for the support vehicle. The last rider reached Somwarpet, 65 kms away at 3 PM, having started at 8:45 AM. Slow and steady finishes the ride 😉