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TOA Day 2 – Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat


So we conquered Mount Abu on Day 1 and it is Day 2 at Tour of Aravallis on 2nd September 2016.  I wake up even before the wake-up call today and soon get ready and pack bags, which again need to be deposited in support vehicle so that they can reach our next hotel. I borrow chain lubricant from my roommate Mayank and go and apply some to my chain. It was necessary after all that washing yesterday. I briefly think about the day ahead and realise that I just need to eat and ride all day today and then sleep and repeat the whole thing again tomorrow. I feel like a professional racer and think that I can get used to this lifestyle 🙂

Jonty Rhodes
Jonty Rhodes

As soon as we leave rooms with bags, we notice that it’s raining and visibility is really poor due to thick fog, but I choose to focus on the immediate task on hand, which was to have a hearty breakfast. I eat as much as I can and then come into lobby. We are told to stay put till organisers assess the riding conditions. After sometime organisers rightly decide that descending down the Mt. Abu would be dangerous due to low visibility and rains, so our ride would be started from the base of the Mt. Abu instead. Our bikes are loaded onto truck and we board our bus. Jonty Rhodes, ex- South African cricketer and greatest fielder, world has ever seen was going to ride with us on this day in capacity of brand ambassador of Montra, tour’s title sponsor.

Drive down the mountain proved to be equally tough for me as mid-way I started feeling nauseous due to all those bends and turns. Bus didn’t have any windows, which would have allowed me to do my business if it came to that. Sheriyar and Jonty were immersed in some conversation on the seats on other side of the aisle. Everybody else looked calm and I didn’t know what to do. My mind started racing to find some solution. I needed a vomit-bag, but there was none. Soon I realise that I had my saddle bag and helmet on my lap and my saddle bag contained a small plastic bag with cards and some cash. I reach for it and soon empty all it’s content on the vacant seat next to me and grab the bag in my hand and start breathing deeply and try to control it just a little longer. I look out the window and realise that we are almost at the base. Maybe a few more turns now. I was right and soon bus is at the base and my motion-sickness subsides. I put coins, cash back where they belonged. At the dhaba at base, where our bikes had already reached and were waiting for us, I was welcomed with one real yummy Lassi and I started feeling a lot better.

I top-up the air in my tires and we line up for the start of day 2. It’s 10 AM, instead of scheduled 7 AM start and we are flagged off by Anuj. Today was different and as soon as we were flagged off, a lead bunch of riders was formed and they were riding together in a peloton really fast. I tried to go after them and was trailing them for first few KMs, but gradually I slipped away and couldn’t catch up with them. Devang came from behind once again and started riding with me. I soon realised, he was not as tired as me and was riding at better speeds than mine. I had to let him go ahead and he too slowly slipped away.

Before start of CS on Day 2

I decided to just ride comfortably from then on and enjoy the scenic route and it was indeed the most beautiful day of the tour with breath-taking landscapes, meadows, greenery, tunnels and what not. After sometime I reached the starting point for the Competitive Segment of the day, which was 24 KMs long. After resting and refuelling for sometime, I decided to go for the segment. It was a lumpy road and at times, you were not sure if you are climbing or descending. I tried my best for about 10 KMs but then fatigue caught up and I became slow and only accelerated when there was a descent. Just when I thought, there is some 5-7 KMs of segment still remaining, I notice a huge crowd on both side of the highway. Thought of some accident, possibly involving one of our fellow riders did cross my mind, but as I reached near the crowd, I realised that it was actually the end of the segment and I slowed down to a halt. I again misjudged my segment and also I really didn’t come charging up till the finish. Anyways I was done with the segment and realised that huge crowd was actually to see us cyclists.

TOA Day 2 route in it’s full glory

After everyone was through with the segment, we were offered packed lunch. After lunch me and Devang again started together for onward journey, but again he gradually slipped ahead. I was really tired and didn’t want to work hard, so I kept on riding at slower pace. After riding for sometime, We turned left from highway to take road for Ranakpur, our destination for today. As soon as we turned left, route became really beautiful. I never expected Rajasthan to be so beautiful, green and full of little water-bodies along the route. I also noticed that in these parts of the country even women were greeting you, when you passed by, by saying hello. This is not something which you experience in other parts of India. May be Rajasthan gets lots of foreign tourists and people here are used to saying hello to them. Kids also said hello and kept on saying hello, bye-bye even after I responded back. I enjoyed it most of the time, but at times, some kids were pretty annoying as well. They will say hello and when I will reply, then will start asking for some money. At times kids will just obstruct the road ahead and want you to stop to chat with them, they even threw small stones at some of the riders.

This is not Europe 🙂

We encountered some light rain and drizzle enroute but it was all fun. You can’t be really sad when you are in the midst of such beauty. As we neared towards the end of the day, we went through some crazy and scary descents. Toughest descending I have ever done in my life. We were descending at 50+ speed and negotiating some real tricky turns as well. My rear break gave up and even after I left the lever, it will remain stuck to the rim and I had to press the lever in opposite direction to remove it from rim. This went on for some 10-12 KMs and finally we were closing in to our destination for the day – The Mana Hotel but we were greeted with some real bad patch of road for last few KMs. Slowly I made through these last few KMs and finished a very exciting Day 2.

TOA Day 1 – Abu Pe Kabu

abu-pe-kabuSo it’s 1st September, day when much awaited Tour of Aravallis (3 days, 350 KMs, 4500+ meters of elevation) finally begins. How I prepared and how I reached to the starting point is detailed in my previous post.

It’s 5 AM and we get a wakeup call at room by a volunteer. I spring up from the bed, worried that if I don’t hurry, I will get late.  My room-mate Mayank seems chilled out and in no particular hurry. While he spends some more time lying in bed, I get into bathroom. I try to be as quick as possible and change into cycling clothing. I pack my bag, pick-up helmet and other bike accessories and walk out of the room. Walking with cycling shoes on hotel’s marble floor and descending down staircase was scary but somehow I managed to reach the lobby without any drama. We deposited our bags to be loaded onto support vehicle and then went to take breakfast. It was drizzling, but tour has to begin.

Tour Director Anuj was on megaphone giving us instructions and details for the day to come. After that we warmed up under guidance of physiotherapist accompanying us on the tour. Soon it was 7 am and we were flagged off. I forgot to wear my gloves, so I stopped briefly to put them on and off I went again. Everybody was riding easy so I quickly caught up to the bunch. I noticed, most people were chatting and riding casually, most of them knew each other. Since I didn’t know anybody, I decided to keep moving ahead. Kishan said hi to me, when I caught up to him. We talked briefly and I kept moving ahead. Soon I caught up to the lead bunch of 4 riders from Team Montra (Rudra, Sheriyar, Madhu and Ryan). I decided to follow them, they seem to know, what they were doing. Soon Devang joined me and we started talking. He gave me good company throughout the tour.

First 20 KMs or so were flat and went by without any real effort. We soon reached the base of Mount Abu and here started my first HC climb of life. It was just 18 KMs from base but with an avg. gradient of 5%, it took us 800 meters up. Soon I started slipping away from front bunch of Team Montra, but I knew you can’t fight with mountain, so I slipped into lowest gear and just kept pedalling at a comfortable cadence. My only aim before coming to the tour was to climb Mt. Abu in one go, without any breaks and I was working my way up towards that.

It was drizzling when we started the day and as we climbed up, it turned foggy. It was difficult, but I was enjoying every moment of it. Many times, I thought that I won’t be able to keep riding without break till top, but I kept pushing for a little more distance. At times gradient climbed up to 25% making it really hard to keep pedalling, so I revised my aim to reach at least till the first support station, which was a a few KMs before the top and I kept riding. Sometimes I tried looking at the road in front of me and I had to literally look into the sky to see the road after next bend. However after sometime gradient eased up a little bit and I felt better and support station came, but I kept going without stopping and finally I stopped on top of Mt. Abu. only. What a feeling!! Ya it was back-breaking and ya Mayank and Marco came from behind and passed me with ease while I was fighting my way up, but I was very pleased nonetheless.

img_1976After riding through outer Mt. Abu town for sometime, I reached the start point of Competitive Segment (modeled like an Individual Time Trial). Ya after climbing up the Mt. Abu, they wanted us to now sprint with all our might up a Category 2 climb to reach Guru Shikhar, which was at the top of Aravalli mountain range. I rested for sometime, drank water and electrolytes, ate chikki etc and then decided to be done with the CS. Tour Director Gaurav recorded my time and off I went. I was expecting this section to be easier than the Mt. Abu part and also it started with a descent, so I pedalled with all my might but soon gradient started climbing and fatigue took over and I couldn’t really pedal as fast as I wanted to. I gave up on my CS ambitions and settled to just finishing it somehow. I kept pedalling through fog and mist somehow and after sometime, which really felt like an eternity finally encountered Anuj coolly sitting on a camping chair on the side of the road. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was finally on top of Aravallis and I climbed all the way up on my bike. I was definitely feeling proud and satisfied.

Ever helpful Avishi was there with all the snacks supplies, glucose, water and soft drinks. I rested for sometime there. Devang soon joined me at the top and we decided to start our journey down to Mt. Abu where we were staying for the day today.


Descending from Gurushikhar at really high speed was very scary for me. I kept pressing brakes really hard most of the time. I soon reached the Mt. Abu town and found my way back to the Hotel. It was a beautiful heritage hotel and we were there right on lunch time.

However our bikes were completely dirty after riding in rain, so we decided to first wash our bikes. After cleaning up the bikes, it was time to clean ourselves and then enjoy a much deserved lunch. After lunch I wandered around the hotel for sometime, but I was feeling really tired and wanted to recover before the start of next day, so I decided to go and take a nap at the room. After the nap too, I just lazed away most of the time till dinner.


After a sumptuous dinner, results for the CS were announced with Kartik, Mayank and Rudra taking the honours on first day. Women category was won by Eva and veteran category was won by Marco. We all soon retired to our respective rooms to rest and be fully fresh and ready for a big day tomorrow.

Tour of Aravallis – Prep and Day 0


Since I started cycling a little more than a year back, I have always tried to find about various events happening in India and try to attend a couple of events each year. While last year Deccan Cliffhanger was a great experience, this year in March I did The Impossible Race and plan to do India Gate to Gateway of India ride in December, so I was not really planning to do anymore events this year. However my friend Yash told me about Tour of Aravallis and I really liked the route. Climbing famous Mt. Abu on Day 1 was really tempting, but I didn’t register right away. I kept following the event on social media. Their website looked quite professional, soon they announced hotels where participants were going to stay and they all looked really luxurious hotels. Regular updates on social media and on their website gave me an impression of a very professionally managed event.

Nagpur is really a plateau and on our daily rides, it’s really hard for us to even do a 100+ meters elevation. Toughest climb we have nearby are only Category 4, so doing an HC climb was definitely very-very tempting to me and finally I gave in to my inner voice and registered for TOA. I thought it will be a good experience to test my climbing capabilities. I wanted to be ready for the tour so I tried to do repeats of local climbs whenever I could. I fell sick during early days of August for a few days but since TOA started in september, I didn’t worry much. After I got well, I decided to do 300 KM brevet on 14th August to test my recovery and do some endurance training. I have already finished 300 and 400 KMs brevets earlier, so I was comfortable going for it. I started ok but after sometime headwinds made the day really tough for me. I suffered a lot that day and took lots of breaks to rest and recover, but finished well within allotted time of 20 hrs. I took a few days rest after the brevet and then resumed my usual daily riding and as the TOA approached, I felt that I was ready to do my best.

Next challenge for me was how to travel to Ahmedabad with my bike. I first thought of travelling by train but they all were taking a long time and I didn’t want to tire myself before the tour, so I booked flight. I got my bike serviced, unassembled and packed in the box at Ncyclopedia a day before leaving and was all set. Thankfully I have booked my flights with Air India and Jet Airways both of which don’t charge anything extra for over-sized boxes, if you are within weight-limit and box is for a sports equipment. So I landed at Ahmedabad on 31st morning and was a bit apprehensive about bike box fitting in a taxi. I called up an Ola Cab and found out that bike box actually fits in most small cars (hatchbacks) after folding back seats. I deposited my bike box with organisers and went to visit an NGO called Jeevantirth, as I was free till evening. It was nice to get some rest, home-made food and see some of the projects being run by them. In the evening they dropped me at the departure location.

Our luxury bus was already waiting for us there and was ready to take us to Abu Road town, from where the Tour was scheduled to start next morning. Delicious snacks and drinks were offered during the journey of about 4 hours. Our bikes had reached before us and were waiting for us at the Hotel. Mine was still in the box though and I was a bit worried as I had not assembled a bike on my own till then. I wanted to check if it arrived safe through it’s air and road journey. I also wanted to eat and sleep soon so as to get enough rest before the tour starts. I started opening the box myself, but was really struggling to even cut the zip ties which held together bike parts. Thankfully Montra, title sponsor of the TOA, had also sent 2 really good bike technicians to accompany us riders for the full tour. One of them came to my aid and quickly opened and assembled my bike. I was relieved.


By that time dinner was ready and I went and did some much needed refueling for the days to come. After the dinner I rode my bike inside the hotel area itself, just to check if everything was fine. Thankfully nothing seemed amiss, so I placed my bike in the bike area and went up to catch some sleep.

How the tour unfolded? Watch out for my next post.

A Giant Escape for My Kind

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.

Giant coming home
Me and Gaurav taking bike home.

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.

Me on ride of 7th June
Me on ride of 7th June

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.

saoner ride
85 KM Ride with Mohit before Brevet

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 🙂

Overhauling IT Education in India

I feel that level of IT education is really pathetic in our country (except in maybe top 20% colleges like IITs and NITs). It may seem funny coming from a non-graduate like me, but running my own software company for over 10 years gave me enough exposure and interaction with programmers coming out of colleges and also teachers teaching them. I visited colleges often to give seminar, workshops etc.

I have observed that in most technical fields, everybody first wants to join a great company and earn big bucks. Engineers, MCAs want to join Microsoft, Google, TCS, Infosys when they come out of college. Students who are not selected by big companies, try to get job with small software companies and students who don’t get job with any software company end up finally applying for teaching positions with colleges. So basically we have failed programmers teaching programmers of future.

How can we expect this system to work? We need to change the system at many levels. Here are my thoughts in brief:

  1. We need to attract good bright people to become teachers.
  2. We need to partner with Software companies and involve working professionals to teach in colleges part-time or over the weekend.
  3. We need to make competitive coding contests compulsory to attend. Google Code Jam happens once every year. Should be mandatory for every IT engineering and MCA student.
  4. Every student should participate on challenges on websites such as HackerEarth, Codechef, Topcoder etc.
  5. Many courses from Harvard, Stanford etc. are available online and even free in many cases. May be they can be taught as it is to whole class-room with teacher just acting as facilitators.
  6. MCA is a Master’s program, but it’s considered inferior to engineering which is a Graduation program. It needs to be improved with greater stress on industrial training which is part of 6th Sem.
  7. Colleges should open incubation centers and encourage their students to become entrepreneurs. Maybe college can even have a stake in the formed company. Not all such startups will succeed, but even if a few do, govt. will easily make up the investment in other failed companies.
  8. Teachers normally don’t upgrade themselves with the time. They should be regularly asked to take courses and appear for exams themselves to keep improving.
  9. IT Teachers should also be allowed to pursue some programming related profession. Not teaching or private coaching business, but some real programming with some software company or independent programming work. It’s allowed for Architects and Doctors as they are quite practical intensive fields. It should be done for the IT teachers as well.
  10. Students should be made aware about open-source resources such as Github and made to participate in resources like StackOverFlow
  11. New and Emerging programming languages/ frameworks should be included in the curriculum – Ruby on Rails, Python, Node.js & of course Swift

Update: 27th May 2015 – Google has just published it’s own guide if you are looking at a Career in Software for yourself.

If given a chance, I would love to talk to Colleges and even Government in detail and explore how can we work along these lines and overhaul the IT education scenario in the country. Looking forward to hear thoughts from readers of this blog.

Update to iOS8 Over the Air without deleting Photos/Videos

iOS8 is here and everybody is in hurry to update to the latest iOS on their iPhones and iPads. Not sure if it’s something to be excited about or not but we can finally make a phone call from iPad (if iPhone and iPad use same iCloud account and are connected to same wifi).

Anyways so as soon as iOS8 released for public a few hours back, it sent a shockwave among all the enthusiasts as they saw a strange message on update screen asking them to free up about 6 GB (most people use 16 GB model) on their iPhones. Lots of people took to Twitter to express their anger or joke about it.

Most media houses ran a story about this and also offered a simple solution to all such users, which was to connect iPhone to PC/Mac via iTunes and update. This approach only requires about 1 GB free. While that’s a good advise and will come in handy if your family members also use iPhones as once downloaded same update can be applied to any iPhone (same model of-course) by connecting it via iTunes (Be careful about canceling sync when you connect a new iPhone though), I am guessing some people may not have their connecting cable with them or can’t wait to get to their PC and want to update OTA right now.

Well if you are also one of the users who want to update OTA without deleting all those photos and videos, I have a solution for you. Well you still need to delete some stuff so I am not suggesting something super-special here. My suggestion is don’t delete any of your personal stuff, don’t delete photos, videos, anything like that, instead delete most of the apps, all apps if needed to free up those gigs.

Why you ask? Well because:

You will be anyways downloading them again even if you don’t delete them right now. Let me make myself clear, most apps have released updated versions to work well with iOS8 and an update is nothing but a fresh download of complete app so you may better delete and do a fresh download.

There is only one small difference, deleting an app will delete all the app data as well, which won’t come back if you don’t have a copy in iCloud already. But I don’t see any major drama here as many apps don’t really save any useful data on the device and apps which save your personal data, most probably sync it with iCloud so you are not going to lose anything.

So bottom-line is if your iPhone is configured with iCloud and apps synch their documents & data with it, go ahead and just delete all the apps to free up space on your iPhone. Update to iOS8 and download latest versions of all the apps again.

Why I am Inspired by Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal has created history by becoming CM of Delhi after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (Donate Here) performed exceedingly well in state elections. AAP was formed just 10 months before elections and was ignored and dismissed by media and other political parties. It’s really an incredible feet however this post is not about politics at all, this is about an individual and how he has given hope to a lot of people in this country.

Let’s forget politics and ponder what we can learn from Arvind regarding life:

Honesty and Truth can really Win

It’s really refreshing to see honesty and truth win in real life rather than in some feel good novel or movie. Most of us have really given up on truth and have accepted that to succeed in life or business you will need to be unfair at times. We always believed that a fair and honest person can’t really fight with powerful and rich people or company. Arvind proves that you can actually be honest and win.

Looking ordinary is ok

Arvind is an ordinary looking guy, he is not tall or handsome. Even his clothes and dressing sense is pretty ordinary. He is never bothered how he turns out in pictures. Looking ordinary can really be bad for self-esteem and can make you less confident about yourself. But that’s not a case with Arvind, you have to just listen to him talking once and you will understand that confidence and self-esteem are really not the things he lacks at all.

From my personal experience I know how worried I used to be due to how I look and my poor dressing sense and I had to really work a lot to get over that. I am sure many people can now identify with Arvind and feel a lot better about themselves. He has actually made looking ordinary cool these days 🙂

Having a Big Car or Big House is not really a big thing

In Indian society it’s a norm to flout your worldly possessions and a mad rat race on to look powerful and above  everybody else around you. Income levels are rising rapidly in India and people are buying cars like anything. You have to just watch people getting out of those cars, they get out of car like a king and walk like others present around them simply don’t matter. I personally find people walking with such stiff posture really funny.

Arvind uses a pretty ordinary car to move around even after becoming a Chief Minister. I am sure many owners of Wagon R and other small cars will be really happy to see that. I am sure if all of us can really judge people not based on their looks, car or house and instead based on what they do in life and how they conduct themselves, our society will be a lot better.

That’s why I find Arvind Kejriwal inspiring. He can teach so much about life, business, management, entrepreneurship and even startup. Let’s discuss his politics some other time 🙂