My Kind are guys and gals who have never played any outdoor sport as kids and settled into a profession which meant spending most of their time sitting in an office chair in front of a computer screen. Also watch TV for hours after office, you get the idea right? Well that was me, and what did it result into – back pain, general weakness, indigestion, being sick often. I was trying to change all this and take better control over my health as I was nearing 40.
Then this April we bought a bicycle for my son. I decided that I will also use his bike sometimes as it will help me. I rode his bike for 3-4 times around the neighbourhood and then a chance visit to a neighbourhood bike store called Ncyclopedia, made me aware about a cycling group called Saddle Up Guys and I decided to join them for a Sunday ride of 40 KM on my son’s bike. That ride exhausted me like anything, I could never catch up with others. Somehow I reached home, slept whole day and even got sick in evening with mild fever. I was really disappointed. But next morning when I started feeling well, I thought I should not give up easily. I visited Ncylopedia again and Anniruddha gave me some basic cycle gyan about right frame size, types of bikes etc etc. I took some test-rides and as it was getting late, I decided to come back again next day. Next day again I took some test rides and finally decided to buy a hybrid bike called Giant Escape 3. The date was 21st May, so today it has been exact 1 month of riding my Escape.
I started riding 15-20 KMs without any sweat, I also could ride with my son now. I couldn’t ride with the cycling group on weekend of 23 and 24 May as I was not in town, but I joined them for following weekend of 30th and 31st May. I realised that even though I couldn’t keep up with other riders, I didn’t feel much stressed or exhausted. A good bike made a huge difference. I came to know about the upcoming 200 KM Brevet on 14th June. It looked like a huge challenge but really exciting as well. I said to myself probably it will be too soon to make an attempt but I still wanted to do it. Rohit from Ncyclopedia encouraged me to register for it and I did. I decided to not take it very seriously and just enjoy the experience. I thought, if I get tired, I can always quit and make use of support vehicle. There really is no penalty for quitting and I can always try next time, and there are Brevets lined up each month.
However I still had self-doubts and thought that I will make a final decision after this weekend’s ride. So 6th June came and we went for a speed-ride of about 50 KMs. I started a little late so had to chase the rest of the group. I could only see red blinking lights afar and kept pedalling. In trying to catch up with them I rode with my full might for 25 KM without stopping at all. Though I didn’t catch up with them, that ride probably changed me forever. It was a ride of self-realisation that I could also ride well, if I just ignore temporary fatigue and pain and just keep pedalling. I attained some sort of sync going with my bike, got comfortable with shifting gears and had a lot of fun. In biking it’s probably common to get tired even after first 5-6 KMs of ride, but you don’t need to stop. You can recover by just rolling (coasting on bike without any or minimal pedalling) and after each climb you also have descent which can be used to rest and recover. I realised that’s how you ride, that’s the process. You ride, you rest and recover and go again, but you do all this without getting off from the bike.
So now I was getting confident with long rides and made up my mind to give my best shot in my first Brevet on 14th June, which was only a week away now. I rode only 3 times before Brevet. Once for 20 KM, another for about 45 KM, both were solo rides. I knew I haven’t rode enough but then fellow rider from group, Mohit called and suggested a ride together next day. We rode 85 KM with reasonably good speed and I was happy to get some much needed practise before the Brevet. It was Thursday. We decided to rest and be fully ready for Sunday brevet so didn’t ride at all next 2 days.
Then came the Sunday, I woke up at 3 AM, got ready and reached the starting point and we left at 4.30 AM sharp for our long 200 KM ride. It was a wonderful experience. It certainly was not easy to ride whole day but at no point of time, it felt impossible as well. So I was back to the finish line in 12.5 hrs, with 1 hour to spare. I was ecstatic. I started cycling only 20 days back and now I was a Randonneur.
May be I will write another post detailing my Brevet experience, as this post is already getting too long. However fellow riders Nikhil Kulkarni and Dr. Tejinder Singh Rawal have already written great posts sharing their experiences.
I continue to ride regularly. I am now all of a sudden a morning person, feel a lot healthier and happier.I am also following the in-progress Race Across America, the mother of Ultracycling races. Researching about bikes, different types of bike races, following and making friends with lots of passionate bikers. I am in a whole new exciting world and I am loving it.
I still huff and puff during a sprint or a steep climb, but I just remind myself that I am a Randonneur and keep pedalling :-)