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Best Day at G2G

Day 3 – Bhilwara to Kherwara, 19th Dec. 2016

We woke up again at 5 AM, got ready, had breakfast, dropped the luggage, checked the bikes, topped-up the air in wheels and started Day 3 of G2G around 6.45. While I enjoyed the Day 2 a lot in the company of Maggan and we rode really fast at times and it was a lot of fun, I was afraid that I can’t really keep up the same tempo on all the 6 days of riding involved in G2G. So I had already told Maggan during dinner the previous day that, I won’t be riding with her next day. I was thinking of taking things a little easier today.

As soon as I got on the saddle, I could feel my bones touching the saddle and it felt like there was no flesh between my bones and saddle. Chamoi butter was obviously not helping much. There was no choice but to ride on and hope that it will subside. Bhilwara is some kind of industrial town and I could see factories lined up on both sides of the road and many trucks parked to carry manufactured goods from them. I just wanted to get out of this city as soon as possible. It was difficult to ride but I decided to just focus on first couple of hours, after which I decided to stop and I was looking forward to it. We bypassed Chittaurgarh and some riders even managed to catch a glimpse of famous Chittorgarh fort, but I somehow missed it. I was continuously watching every minute pass by and I stopped as soon as 2 hours were over. I drank some water and was chewing on my energy bar, when I saw Maggan approaching. She saw me and stopped and we were just trying to figure out where is everybody else and suddenly we see Anubhav, Manoj, Divyesh and Dev riding in a formation. They wave us and ask us to join them. I was still eating my energy bar so I tell Maggan that she should go ahead and join the Gujju train (that’s what Divyesh and Manoj were referred to as). She went ahead and soon joined them at the back.

I quickly finished my energy bar and pedalled ahead, I thought it will be less boring and easier to ride with them, so I rode fast and after sometime joined the train myself. Anubhav had opted out of the train by now to wait for his riding partner Henry, so now there were 5 of us in the train. We all were taking turn for a few minutes at the front. It was very efficient and person leading the train used proper hand-signals always so it was helpful for people riding at the back. Manoj and Divyesh were riding as par plan, they never rode too fast and took short breaks every 25 KMs, they had their own support car, which helped them keep breaks short as all the food and drinks were already in the car, so they stopped where they wanted instead of finding a suitable dhaba or restaurant.

Whenever I rode even a little faster, Manoj will ask me to slow down. I am not used to such disciplined riding. I ride fast when I feel good and I ride really slow when I am not feeling good. So although efficient, I was not enjoying riding like this. However it was a long ride, so I played along as it was practical and beneficial to ride like that. After sometime however I started feeling really tired and was unable to sit on saddle. It is difficult to ride out of the saddle when riding in a group as it will disturb the riders behind, so I used to wait for my turn at the back of the group and will then go out of the saddle so that I can have some minutes of relief. This continued for sometime and around 11.30, we turned right at Mangalwada towards Udaipur and I started feeling really tired and it was really uncomfortable to sit on the saddle, so I decided to take a break and let the group pass me by. However Maggan also stopped a few meters ahead of me, I walked upto her and inquired what’s the matter and she said she wanted to have lunch around 12 if possible and not between 1-2PM as the rest of group were planning. I also like to eat early so we agreed to have lunch together whenever we spot a suitable place.

After riding for just a few KMs more, I spotted a good looking Dhaba and we decided to have lunch there. We had covered 110 KMs for the day in about 5.30 Hrs. We started again after an hour or so. Now me and Maggan were working together, however I was really tired, so Maggan was kind enough to let me ride behind her most of the time and take advantage of her slipstream. Occasionally I will feel an energy burst and will come in front for sometime. However it was still a struggle and I couldn’t sit comfortably yet. I was already looking forward to next break. That’s how I coped with riding all day for 6 days continuously. I just looked forward to next coffee or lunch break.

After riding for about 15 KMs more, we spotted Poonam on the roadside waving at us. I was so happy to see her and get an excuse to stop again. I got down and helped myself to some cool Lassi she had in her car and also got some more supplies from her to take along with us and we again started riding. After an hour or so I started dreaming about coffee and after a few KMs, I noticed the sign for Udaipur Airport and I became really happy to know that we are nearing Udaipur (Found out later that airport is actually 22 KMs before the city) so soon and excitement led to me again getting an energy boost and I came in front for sometime and rode fast. Me and Maggan even considered going to Udaipur Airport in the hope of finding some decent coffee shop but we were not sure how much of detour that would be so we just stuck to our road. When after sometime we couldn’t spot any good coffee shop, we decided to make do with a small road-side shack which has some tea, coffee and snacks. It was 3 PM now and we had done 145 KMs so far.

After having a long coffee break, we again started and soon we encountered first real climb of G2G, which has been flat so far except for the unending series of flyovers. When we reached at the top, we found many other riders stopped there, they were taking photos, we also stopped for sometime there but then downhill from there looked too tempting so me and Maggan decided to just roll down from there. Soon traffic got real crazy as we neared the Udaipur city and Maggan asked me to come at the front to navigate the traffic the Indian way and she just followed me, occasionally shouting and shaking head at motorists making close passes or cutting us in abruptly. We were asked by Chiro to go through the city but somehow we got confused and ended-up at the bypass and got stuck in the middle of a long line of trucks. Somehow we rode on and finally were out of the Udaipur city and were again on very wide National Highway 8. We were relieved and soon we encountered, what was definitely the craziest and most thrilling downhill of G2G. Both me and Maggan forgot about all the discomfort from riding so far and started having some real fun. We both slid on the highest gear and pedalled with full might and descended at some crazy speed. It was a lot of fun and definitely my best G2G moment.

Downhill was really long and we had lots of fun but then we encountered some climbs as well. That’s how rest of the route was for this day, lots of climbing and descending. It was getting dark so me and Maggan thought of capturing today’s awesome day, so we stopped for a few minutes at the top of one such climb and clicked this photo and continued.

We were really tired after all this climbing and descending now, but we were so close to finishing the day, we had already done about 230 KMs and thought only last 10 KMs are remaining. We kept ticking each KM and we had done 10 KMs soon, then 11, 12, 13, but still couldn’t find the ‘Jai Bhawani’ guesthouse where we were supposed to stay. Maggan decided to stop and call Divyesh, who along with Manoj and Dev has already finished the day. That’s when we got the bad news that we need to ride about 20 KMs more, as there was some miscommunication. We were told that today it’s gonna be 240 KMs, but it actually was 260 KMs.

We both were so frustrated by this and felt like stopping there, but we had no choice so continued and kept hoping that maybe guesthouse is not that far and will come soon, we kept riding but couldn’t really see our stop. Maggan was visibly upset and expressed her unhappiness quite clearly. However what she said after a few minutes, I will always remember, she said – “Maybe we should not be frustrated, we should be happy, that we both are fit and have got good legs and have already ridden 200+ KMs today, we sure can ride another 20”. I liked that she found way to remain positive even in that situation. Still it looked like the day is never going to end. We will look with all the excitement at any hotel or house with lights on hoping that, probably this is our stop for the day, but we kept getting disappointed. Finally after some 20+ such disappointments, we finally saw the ‘Jai Bhawani’ sign in it’s full glory and I can’t really express in words, how happy we were to finally end this day 3 of G2G. It was very dark already as it was about 8.45 PM we reached there. Now to quickly change, have shower, dinner and then rest. 3 down, 3 more to go.

Maggan, Satan & Devil

Day 2 –  Jaipur – Bhilwara, 18th Dec 2016

Both me and Dev thought that we were little fast on Day 1 due to excitement or we being fresh  so we decided that we should ride real easy for 2-3 days now. So we begin our day 2 ride slowly. We were riding at a comfortable speed and then suddenly I hear someone saying something in Hindi, but with a strange accent and I see Maggan (A journalist who has come all the way from Sweden for G2G and knows a bit Hindi) passing us. She and Gaurav Wadhwa were riding together and they pass us and I keep looking at them. I tell myself – “Let them go, we are riding as par our own plan”. I am still looking at them and thinking that they will slowly disappear ahead of us. After a few minutes, I can still see them and I increase our speed a little and soon we get close to them and I think maybe they are not riding that fast and it can be fun to ride with them and we can work together and not get tired even at a faster speed, so to hell with the original plan, I accelerate with full might and soon catch up with them and pass them. But to make my intentions clear that I am not really competing with them and want to work with them, I slow down and let them come in my slipstream.

Dev aka Devil and Maggan at our Coffee Break

I could see that Dev was behind me and Maggan probably behind him, judging from our shadows which I could see easily on our sides without turning my head. After riding at front for sometime, Dev comes at front and after sometime Maggan says, she will take some of the wind, so she starts riding at front and I get into her slipstream. Dev is still behind me, but I can’t see Gaurav. Maggan is riding really fast and I try to stay with her, it was not easy but it was fun and thrilling to ride with her. After sometime Dev fades away from behind and I decide to stay with Maggan. Me and Maggan kept taking turns at the front and another hour just flew by and I wanted to stop, so I tell Maggan that maybe we should stop for a coffee and she says yes. Soon we see a restaurant and stop, Dev it turns out was not really much behind and soon joins us as we were getting off from the bike. Maggan compliments me for my riding and asks my name, I tell her, my name is Sachin and she obviously doesn’t understand it at first, so I tell her a few more times and I hope she understood. But later I actually found out that she didn’t and in her mind she kept referring to me as Satan and to Dev as Devil :-D.

Waiting for Aloo Parathas

We ate some biscuits and Dev and Maggan had black coffee and since I wanted my coffee with milk, I had to wait as there was no milk at the shop and we had to stop for more time than we planned as milk came after a long time and finally I got my coffee. We left together after coffee and Maggan again set a fast tempo and we followed, after sometime Dev told us to go ahead as he was having some issue with his knee and wanted to ride slow. Me and Maggan rode ahead and after sometime probably coffee kicked in and I felt an energy surge or maybe it was a favourable wind pushing us and I really started enjoying riding fast with Maggan. But this lasted only for a few KMs and we had to turn left to bypass Kishangarh and go towards Chittorgarh. I caught a glimpse of Shaktivahini volunteers at the junction, they were clapping and cheering for us. That always helps on such long rides so big thanks to them. But as soon as we turned left, I found out that it were winds which were propelling us and now started punishing us. Also the route was lumpy now and we slowed down considerably but this section of road was really quiet with hardly any traffic and we could also see some beautiful mountains to our right, so that was nice. Still I was tired but kept pedalling without thinking too much. On such rides sometime you just need to keep pedalling no matter what. After some time it was almost 12 PM and I started feeling hungry and told this to Maggan and she also wanted to eat something so we started looking for a place to eat and soon came across a dhaba in front of a beautiful sandy mountain and we stopped.

Dev, Maggan and Me at Bhiwara

We resumed after having some aloo parathas, soft drinks and wafers, after riding for another 20 KMs we saw Chiro and Poonam waving us down at a dhaba so we again stopped and had some Roti and Daal. We filled our water bottles, got some Wild Water (It’s really refreshing) and Whole Foods energy bars (Probably the only energy bars which don’t taste awful) to carry with us and proceeded ahead. We took another coffee stop and a rest stop before we finally entered the Bhilwara city. We were asked to stop at some resort and we freshened up there. Dev and Anurag rolled in after sometime. After having hot Pakodas and tea, Chiro took us to main city where lots of local cyclists and district magistrate welcomed us. Manoj and Divyesh also joined us there as they have reached before us and were resting at hotel. We rode through the city with local cyclists and then went to a hall where Lions club of Bhilwara and Vivekananda Center felicitated us and we all shared our experiences with the people present there and after that we finally rode to our hotel and had dinner and went to bed. People from Bhilwara were nice, but I still would have wanted to reach hotel as soon as possible and go to bed a little earlier to be fully rested for another long day to come.

G2G Day 1. Delhi – Jaipur

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Day 1 – Delhi to Jaipur (275 KMs), 17th Dec 2016

Today was the big day, when this epic journey will finally begin. I was happy to get some good sleep as we went to bed early. We still had to wake up at 3.30 AM to be on time. Our alarms rang and both me and Dev were up. Dev got ready quickly and I took my usual long time. Due to some confusion last day, we couldn’t submit our bags to be taken to our next stop. There was a little tension and some frantic calls were made. Chiro was already at Gurgaon and he couldn’t help. As a last measure, I shared our predicament over our G2G WhatsApp group and thankfully Arko responded and offered to take our bags in his car next day. We were relieved. THANKS AGAIN ARKO.

So we got ready in time and came down with our bags and bikes by 4.30 AM. Slowly bikes and riders began to trickle in and energy began to build up near The Bike Shop. Arko came as promised and took our bags and assured us that they will reach our next stop. Now it was almost 5 and nobody was making a move. We were new and didn’t know the route to India Gate so we waited. Suddenly Mona Budhraja appeared on the scene and said – “Come On Guys, we should go” and everybody got on the bikes. Her husband, Gaurav and elder son Yash were also riding G2G with us. We reached India Gate around 5.15 and were greeted with band and garlands. We were wished luck in traditional Indian way by Tilak on forehead and were offered some sweet as it’s considered auspicious. Mona cut a cake standing in front of India Gate at 5.15 in morning, as it was her birthday.

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Chiro (Event Organiser) gave us briefing about the route and finally we were flagged off by Himanshu Kumar (a para-cyclist who had earlier done the Mumbai-Delhi by cycle with his prosthetic leg) and an official from Lava Mobiles (Event Sponsor). Some Delhi riders rode with us till a little beyond Gurgaon. After that we were on NH 8 and it was straight highway, from then on. Me and Dev were riding together. It was 11 degrees when we started from India Gate but mercury kept going down till around 8 AM I think, where it went upto 8 degrees and then started finally rising. Thankfully I had a baselayer, jacket and leg warmers on.

My plan was to try and ride at a speed of <25 KMPH and maintain HR <150 so that I can be comfortable on all 6 days. Atleast that was the plan, I tried to stick to it for first 20-30 KMs and then suddenly Manoj and Divyesh from Surat (both Double SRs this year) passed us by. I decided to accelerate a bit and maybe take advantage of their slipstream, so I latched onto them. It was good riding with them. Manoj and Divyesh were taking turns ahead. I didn’t want to be selfish and wanted to work with them, but so far we didn’t know each other well, so I just kept riding at the back with Dev. They stopped at some 50 KMs and we stopped with them. After sometime I wanted to move ahead but Manoj was waiting for their support car so me and Dev moved ahead. However soon they came from behind and passed us. I again started drafting behind them. I was feeling bad taking all the advantage so I decided to move ahead, so I passed them and slowed down so that they can ride behind me. However there was no clear communication among us till now, I am not sure they understood it or not. We hardly went a few KMs ahead and saw Maggan, Yash and Anurag having some breakfast at a Dhaba. I stopped but we soon found out that our scheduled breakfast point is a few KMs ahead, so me and Dev rode on.

At about 70 KMs, we found Chiro and Shaktivahini (social service partner) volunteers waiting for us with packed breakfast. We had breakfast and pedalled ahead. It was getting warmer so I took off jackets and baselayer after riding for some more time.  Somehow we kept pushing through pollution, crazy traffic and unending series of flyovers. We stopped for lunch after doing some 150+ KMs at a Dhaba. After riding for a couple more hours, we stopped for coffee and then continued but very soon, we again spotted Shakitvahini van and our official Ambulance parked. We again stopped to munch on some snacks and another cup of coffee. Why waste any chance to take a break and have some coffee right?

Some 60 odd KMs were left for the day and we were excited to finish off the day now. We kept riding and soon could see the Jaipur city which we bypassed and continued on the highway and finally reached our stop for the day at around 7.15. We changed, washed ourselves and waited for others to arrive. At around 9 PM dinner was served and we ate whatever we could and soon retired to our rooms. Both me and Dev were very satisfied with first day and we thought to ourselves that we should go a little easy next day to preserve ourselves for remaining days.

But could we follow the plan and finish rest of ride comfortably? Find out in posts which follow.

G2G Here We Come!

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It was in March this year that Delhi Randonneurs announced India Gate to Gateway of India ride, a ride which would start from India Gate, Delhi and finish at Gateway of India, Mumbai after covering a distance of 1450 KMs in 6 days. Ride was planned for mid December and they announcing it 9 months ago, gave lots of time to train and plan. I was not sure that I should do it or not, but then fellow rider from Nagpur, Dev called and said that he wants to do it and wanted me to accompany him. After some discussion, we agreed and registered.

I knew I had to build up my endurance so I did multiple brevets, got my first Super Randonneur title and also did one multi-day bike event- Tour of Aravallis. I also tried to do 100+ KMs rides whenever I could, once a week minimum and sometimes twice or thrice a week. I was not really confident about Dev’s practise and kept pushing him to ride more, but he had his own plan, which I was not very sure of.  I was feeling confident about my endurance after doing 400 KM Brevet twice and 600 KM Brevet once.

Maximum we needed to do on a single day during G2G was 270 KMs. So I knew I could do it if I take it easy and mostly ride in my endurance HR zone. Still I needed to recover at night and be ready next day to repeat this all over again. So I decided that I need to reach Delhi with some good sleep reserves and also try to sleep early during G2G. Beside that I was really worried about saddle discomfort, from doing this for 6 days continuously. I decided to invest in some good bike shorts and also bought some Chamois Butter for the first time. From our G2G WhatsApp group I came to know that some riders are using Infinity seats (seats with more hole than seat) or real comfy seats for saddle comfort. I was not sure about any of those, so I decided to not really experiment with my saddle.

I also changed my cassette and chain some 15-20 days before the event as you should not change components just before the event. I wanted to avoid punctures so I switched to Continental Gatorskin tyres. I also bought a Cateye Volt 50 back light to provide me good visibility even during daytime.

We packed our bikes in boxes on 15th December and flew Air India (They don’t charge for oversized baggage) and landed in Delhi on 16th December, morning. We had 2 bike boxes with us so our plan was to hire an Ola SUV. Network congestion at terminal resulted in very patchy internet on my phone, but after sometime I was able to book the taxi and we reached the guesthouse where we were staying without any problems.

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We unpacked and assembled our bikes, had some lunch and then joined 22 other G2G riders at India Gate for some photo opportunity in our official event T-shirts. After that we again came back to our guesthouse.

Ride started next day at 5.30 AM from India Gate and we were asked to reach by 5 AM, so we had an early dinner, had a short walk and went to bed by 8.30. In my future posts I shall cover each day of riding in detail, so do watch out for them 🙂