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 ?
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.
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.
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)
- No side-stand. Makes this a pain to park
- 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...
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
I was stumped yesterday evening by a receipt lying on my office desk. It was from the Department of Posts, India, and asked me to pay a customs duty of Rs. 1161 + PF Rs. 100 = 1261 total. The folks taking care of posts at office told me that I'd have to go to the post office, pay the money and collect the parcel. I was left wondering what that could be. I hadn't ordered anything, nobody had told me they were sending me a parcel, and my friends and relatives wouldn't have my office address! Clueless indeed I was.
My teammate, Manju, jumped in to help. He put forward his theory: parcel must be sent by someone in HP, for the simple reason that only they would be able to find my office address with ease. I bought this theory, but deferred the visit to the post office till today morning.
Once at the post office, things became clear. Parcel was from my colleagues in Europe. We work quite closely. The contents: A shiny new, gray coloured riding jersey. Fits me like a skin. Although I had to pay the duty, it didn't break the bank and I didn't have to seek financial advice from one of those sites like lovemoney.com. The note with the gift said
We hope this shirt will accompany you safely in all your bike trips !
A very thoughtful gift, and one that I appreciate very much. Thanks again to Patrick, Philippe, Engelbert, Markus, Jochen & Wolfgang !
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.
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.
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.
As many of you know, I am back in Bangalore already. And, you know it right, I came back sans my bicycle, sans my mobile, SLR camera, three lenses, GPS receivers, bags, ah well. The list is painful indeed, and includes even KP's trusty pannier bags and my sunglasses. Needless to say, I had no choice but to abort the trip. This list is an effort to recount what happened, and how I reached back Bangalore. It's long, but I'm sure you are all curious to know all the details. And, I owe to you, the reader. So here goes.
I woke up on the morning of October 10th (Saturday). I had had a good sleep after the midnight break. But, where was my bicycle ? It was gone! And where was the friend-for-a-day ? He was gone too. His bedsheet and creaky bike were all that were left. I saw his chappals in a few moments, and I knew what had happened : friend-for-a-day (read more about this chap in the previous post. Sorry for the redirection) had flown off with all that I had. How many hours earlier, I couldn't say.
It took a few moments for the situation to sink in : I had lost even my mobile, and my purse. My trust had been royally betrayed. Trusting fool I had become. And here I was : 20 kms away from Dwaraka, not a penny in my pocket, and not a known contact around me either. No cellphone address book to contact people either. To be honest, I didn't feel bad. I didn't feel the pinch of the loss, and I feel it much now, either (at the time of writing). I'm happy I took the loss well.
And what did I have left actually ? The following
- Manohar's sleeping bag
- Shoes, and a pair of socks
- A towel
, a dhoti
- Dirty yellow riding shirt, spanky clean saffron dhoti
- Red shirt with sweaty stains, dirty blue track pant
- Two water bottles, slippers
That's all I have of all my possessions. I push everything into the sleeping back. No chance of taking the slippers. They are too big, and who needs them anyway ?