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BSA-TFN 2010: Day 8 – Adios Amigos, Its Over – Just for Now!

December 25, 2010

Rosanna Nitti and the 9 year old Rishi Nair: The mother-son pair of BSA-TFN 2010

After 8 days of hectic cycling, loads of great efforts, heroics, ignoring pain barriers, making friends, exploring amazing natural riches and riding through 900 kms through the lush Nilgiris of South India and climbing some 8500 meters by the 100 riders and with the inspiring support from 30 odd volunteers- India’s biggest and most coveted biking event the BSA-TFN’s 2010 edition came to an end today.

At Gonnikoppal, the 100 riders were flagged off for the one last time this year. The route was short- only 84 km to KrishnaRajSagar Dam and the mood was that of festivities. People exchanged their bikes, took lots of pictures, slowed their pace to just stretch the day a bit but finally it had to end 😦

The ride could be divided into two distinct parts. The part one was through the state highway till support station 1 which had shocking road conditions and the second part was through the super smooth and lightning fast expressway with lots of headwind till the destination.

The riders were pleasantly surprised when a huge tusker appeared on the road to the support station 1. Some of the riders stopped by and clicked photographs and some moved on towards the destination. It was an interesting start of the day.

The tusker who stole the thunder on the last day

Naah...I am not in for tusker trouble, I am going past this now!

I keep going, I have seen enough elephants in zoo

One more angle....

However, soon the road conditions of the state highway turned to hell. The surface quality was shockingly bad and heavy traffic on the route slowed the riders down. One of the riders Vandit Kalia, a famous MAMIL (Middle Aged Men In Lycra), who is an expert downhiller (superfast downhill record from Ooty) suffered from loss of sense of humor owing to the road conditions and fumed “Now I know how the dinosaurs got extinct; the space-rock that killed them had landed on this state highway otherwise how do you explain the size of all these craters”?

The road was filled with slow moving bullock carts and bully bus drivers and insensitive mobikers. To make things worse there were speed breakers on an already broken tarmac. “Why do you need speed breakers on a road that is back breaker by itself” said Priyesh, one of the riders who was finding it uninteresting to negotiate the conditions.

Potholed, Cratered, Broken.......

Check out the width of the road- hardly as much as a seal!

some open sections were relief but that would be ephemeral mostly

Anand Sinha: Apparently he risked his marriage to come to TFN 😉

yeah how can you travel in Indian roads and not see a bullock cart?

Traffic snarl caused by two bullock carts- thats how wide the road was!

Siva and Rakesh Nair was seen ambling on the road in a much less intense pace that they are well known for- what the heck it’s the last day of the tour, right? Rishi Nair, the 9 year old kid and already a celebrity among the riders toughened it out with his mom Rosanna Nitti. Mark, the rider from USA, found the roads as minefields but negotiated them well to reach the one and only support station for the day.

The support crew was efficient as ever. These guys made the tour happen. They put in days’ and nights’ of efforts to ensure that the riders get what they wanted at all times. Great job guys, it is a tough job and you guys did it with some panache!

The BSA-TFN 2010 Volunteers: The guys who made the whole event possible. Super effort people!

 

Support staff ensures all these bikes are transported to Bangalore without any scratches

and they ensure luggage is tagged and that they reach the to destination each day and then to the rightful owner!

Neeta Shankar: The official photographer and my partner in crime in covering the whole event. Our days would start at 6:30 am and end at 4:00 am. Hectic but enjoyable!

On duty photograph of yours truly. Run from this place to that and capture the event, take notes, interview folks and reproduce it in writing

 

Post the support station, the ride went to the National Highway to Bangalore and the conditions changed instantly. It was a smooth dual carriageway that carried on for next 40 km and the riders sailed through this to reach the destination in an upbeat mood.

At the destination, all the riders got an amazing welcome from friends and family that had gathered to cheer for their loved ones. The cell phones kept ringing and the guys kept congratulating each other.

yeah we did it!

The sight was heartening. People exchanging contacts, hugs, handshakes, broad smiles, laughter- filled the place with a vibrant energy. It was hard to believe that from tomorrow onwards there would be no rides with 100 riders in the beautiful Nilgiris. The BSA-TFN 2010 is officially over.

So, how did the riders feel? Here is a quick assortment:

Item Riders’ Views
Overall experience of BSA-TFN 2010 Awesome
Scenery Great
Length of Tour Good
Road Conditions Patchy (Good, Bad and Ugly)
Food OK (a bit too spice laden though)
Accommodation Good (a few great ones, a few average ones)
Support Staff Awesome
Medical Care Awesome

It was a great experience covering the event and I had great time writing about it. Yes, it was a job that makes one work late nights but the friendships I carry back from this event would be for a very long time. If I close my eyes, I still see a pack of riders in their striking colored outfits coming down at express pace through the mountainous loops of Ooty in the great backdrop of lush green tea gardens and a clear blue sky. I hope you enjoyed my coverage as much as I enjoyed doing it!

thats me- yours truly

Would you not like to be a part of this great event in 2011? Would you not like to be involved in India’s most coveted bike tour? I bet it would be a great experience the year next as well.

Adios Amigos, Its Over-Just for Now!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

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BSA-TFN 2010: Day 7- The Ride Rajnikant Would Fail to Do

December 24, 2010

There will be days when things would be easy and it would be all about smiles and sunshine. There would be days it will be tough but there will be inspiration around to keep you cheerful and focused. But a real rider and a winner is one who does not need anything. You throw a daunting uphill, uninspiring vistas, road surface that acts like landmines, heat, humidity, lackadaisical traffic, exhaustion, fatigue- whatever you got and the rider would utter nothing but produce another pedal stroke towards the goal! Day 7 of BSA-TFN 2010 belonged to the hero cult as it brought out the best of the riders’ character.

The morning air was fresh and nippy. As the riders gathered around Santosh, you could sense a palpable tension in the mega-herd of 100 strong riders. This is supposed to be a killer day. It would be hot and humid, it would be long and hard, it would have long back breaking ascents and extremely steep descents and above all the tarmac at many places would have been obliterated by nature. And all this would continue for only 140 km from Kalpetta to Gonnikoppal!

Riders lined up to start the Day 7 of BSA-TFN 2010

Naturally, in a day like this you need some guardian angels looking after you and sure enough one of our eclectic riders, Bernard Randall, showed up at the start line with a Santa mask on his face- as if all one wants the Santa to deliver was an easy ride!

Santa bring us lots of downhills and good roads please.....

Santosh: The guy who takes the support job to a perfectionists level. Hugely respected.

So, the day’s start was pretty much as everyday’s. The riders gathered around Santosh who tells what to expect en-route and the riding conditions plus the safety instructions. Santosh is a hugely popular figure and he always has the last word before the ride begins. The riders roared into laughter as Santosh said “and beware of the craters on the road”. Finally, after the daily briefing, the riders rolled out of the resort. Check out the procession in the following video.

The first 30 km of the ride was through nice Kerala village backdrops. The thing that amazes everyone about Kerala is that how it is a continuous succession of villages all along. Rider easily rolled through this part and it looked to be a relaxed day.

The Army Connection: YVR Vijay

BSA-TFN 2010 had 10 women riders....way to go girls!

Ride on Pritish.....BTW his surname is not Nandy!

Then a mad downhill greeted the riders. It was super duper steep and unlike the Ooty downhill which had an excellent tarmac, this one was bad roads. Loose gravels and sand beckoned the riders on a steep incline. There was no scope for an express descent and one had to be extremely careful to negotiate the perils. All the riders passed the long downhill without any hiccups. T was not so lucky for a trucker whose vehicle fell some 100 feet off the road in the same downhill a few minutes before the riders passed.

“It was the steepest and scariest downhill of my life” declared Prem Sagar and many riders echoed the same sentiment. Well done guys!

Downhill all the way....

The route was through the picturesque Waynad tea estates and the views were as usual stunning. One could see the green tea shrubs all along the mountain faces and the riders had great views. The riders found it a great opportunity to relax and pose for their facebook profiles and get themselves captured on camera with their new found friends.

Captured through the lens of the Official Photographer of BSA-TFN 2010, Neeta Shankar (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Beautiful views of the tea estate as you go downhill (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

yeah pose for it guys, now that you are friends!

Soon after the downhill, the 1st support station came up. The support guys who provide the much needed relief to the riders start their day at 4 am. They split up in group of 4, each group in charge of each support station on the route. They load the provisions, the paraphernalia for erecting temporary structure, water and medical equipment and head out before dawn. By the time the riders sail into the support stations, the unit is fully ready to cater to the riders’ needs. Impressive, isn’t it?

Near Support Station 1 (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Support Station: Time for some stretching (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

And some yoga may be.....

Post the Support Station, the tables were turned in a jiffy.  By now the riders had crossed the Boys’ Town and a massive climb began towards the Makoot forest. To make the things worse for the riders, the mid day sun was out full blast.

And then the climb began- 15 km of pure close in bare knuckle fight with the gravity! The day time temperature soared to 37 degrees Celsius and the climb was on a steady 5-6% gradient. Only solace, the tarmac was of good quality. The hot sun made the climb an unbelievable suffer fest. Unlike the massive Ooty climb, the scenery was not great in this climb and it was a pure test of the riders’ will against the tugging gravity. It was a slow painful climb and every rider suffered through it. But, no one gave in. No pull outs, no retirements! Everyone climbed to the top of the massive 800 meter climb.

Climb starts on good roads

and it continues for 15 km! The organizers were right, this was a TFN of the climbers

gravity vs determination

Fight...fight...fight....Never give up!

Heat was the major killer in the ride and soon after the uphill, the surface quality turned shocking. It was rutted, potholed and completely un-ridable but the riders were still not throwing in the towel. Interesting tid-bid events kept happening to make it an interesting ride.

Shreyas, one of the speed daemons, was flagged down by another rider of similar kind Sunil Menon, who apparently wanted some plain water and before Shreyas could bat an eyelid Sunil had emptied the bottle down his throat! Rohitash was seen begging for water from passing by vehicles. All the guys who had cut down on carrying excess bottles to save on climbing dead weight suffered as they started to run out of water before the support station. By the way, everyone was not thristing for water. Ankur chased a motorbiker with beers for a drink but the bad roads made it a futile effort. He made amends at the day end though! Amit Mukherjee had unbelievable 4 flats during the day taking his overall tour count to 8. He is surely the “Flat Champion” of the BSA TFN 2010.

Finally the riders reached the Support Station 4, the last one of the day. Soon after 5 pm the sweep truck swung into action collecting riders on the way. It is a sad thing for any rider to get swept. Pramod looked absolutely shattered at the end of the day. “This was the first time I got swept” he said shaking his head. Namit Nagia was equally dejected. “Had it been less hot or the road would have been wee better, I would have been a finisher”.

Ride, walk, crawl, roll but finish anyhow..... thats pure spirit

Heat- no problem. Climb- no problem. All is possible in company of friends

The day’s ride had two major heroic acts. Jagannath Raju or Juggy, the oldest rider of the event at 61, had a fall and it was suspected that he had a hairline fracture on his little finger. But Juggy chose to ignore it and continued to ride and finished strong! Navin Thangiah, an ultra marathon runner who was riding initially with Sudarshan and Anjana was caught up by the sweeper truck at 6 pm. It was already dark and he was asked to give up. He refused and said that if he is swept, he would run the last 10 km. Finally Deepak and Santosh rode their motorbikes ahead of him and Navin finished the tour in pitch darkness.

Jagannath Raju: The oldest and one of the most inspirational riders of the tour- rode with a hairline fracture in his finger. Inspired enough?

Overall, it was a day which was universally accepted as the toughest day of the tour by the riders. Sarvanan, who was involved in a photo finish with Amrish today said “This was no ride, this was punishment”. But then there had to be a day which would bring out the real hero out of each of the riders. Day 7 did that for it was an incredibly tough day and even Rajnikant would fail to do this ride!

The mood in the camp is upbeat as tomorrow is the last day of the ride of BSA-TFN 2010. It would be a short day but would be high on emotions and camaraderie.  Alas all good things come to an end.

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

An unusual place to rest. Make most of all opportunities and finish strong!

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 6 – Roasted, Potholed but Highly Spirited

December 22, 2010

Waynad Loop of 80 km: BSA-TFN 2010 Day 6

Take a tangy bit of Kerala, Gods Own Country’s backroads, get a few bananas, add a dash of coconut water, barbeque it with potholes in high humid heat and garnish it with bike riders and Jhonny you got the Day 6 of BSA-TFN 2010!

It all started at 8 am on Dec 21st, the 6th day of BSA-TFN 2010 from Kalpetta in Kerala. The plan was to take an interior of Kerala village roads and do a nice and short 80 km loop around Waynad, Kerala and return to the base camp. The morning air had a slight nip as the riders started the day’s odyssey.

Soon enough the quaint Keralite villages appeared with all the goodies Kerala has. One could see numerous banana trees and huge congregation of coconut trees along with miles of expansive cultivation fields crisscrossed by many small murky looking rivers- Yeah baby you are in Kerala!

Morning roads with a few locals

coconut and banana everywhere- well what do you expect otherwise in Kerala?

and lots of rivers here and there

Initially it all looked quite alright. The morning traffic was light, the surface quality pretty decent and the air cool enough to make it an enjoyable outing. However, Mr. Murphy had other plans for the day. As the day progressed, the traffic increased on the roads with drivers of suicidal and homicidal tendencies. The weather turned hotter and humid and finally the surface quality went from decent to bad to worse to @##%&*#. However, the riders toughened it out on those roads which looked like lunar craters! It is tough to bike on a hot day and the effort takes whole new proportions when you add bad roads and traffic to it. It requires skill, determination, tenacity and resolve to live through. The riders showed it brilliantly. One rider, Sandesh wanted to quit on wake of the circumstances but he pulled himself through. Thats what you want to see, people overcoming odds.

a biker in stand out colors looks really striking

thats the wisdom tree and now that Vinay has gone through its overhang, he is surely a wiser guy

Rekha Menon: One of the most versatile women in the trip. She is a livewire 🙂

Biker in a rustic surrounding. We love it as it is such a refreshing change from the cities!

all smiles despite broken tarmac and heat- spirit is a great leveler

Soon enough the sight of the 1st Support Station gladdened all. The support station served the nice refreshingly cold beverages and some refreshments. It was a very short day and the riders were all relaxed and enjoying the outing despite the odds.

1st Support Station of the Day

People exchanged notes on what all they have been eating on the way. Keralite Porota and Appam Curry seemed to be the choice of food many had tried to sink their teeth into. Gaurav, one of the support crew, narrated the incident of being called Harry Potter by a kid (he looks quite close to that for sure). But the most hilarious incident happened with Abhinav Munshi. He was flagged down by a guy and before Abhinav could fathom that he was in an inebriate state, the guy had taken the hydration bottle from the bottle cage and emptied it into his throat!

Post the 1st support station, the surface quality turned good and the views became nicer. The riders were now passing through massive banana plantations through an undulating terrain. Every now and then they would be going over a small river and descend into enchanting village settings.

enchanting banana plantations

the surface quality became very good after the 1st Support Station and the riders were back in rythm

rivers and irrigation canals are plenty in Kerala

hunting in pack

It turned quite warm by the hour and the riders were seen scurrying to get back to the base camp. It was indeed a short day as all the riders came back before the lunch gong could sound.

It was little different story for the racer ilk today. They decided to ditch the village roads and went ahead to the Kozhikode beach by the bikes. It was nice 140 km paceline for the faster guys and they came back all pumped up.

lets push hard and reach the destination quick

I smell food and I got to hurry to reach it early enough

bye bye fellas, I am outta here

looking back, it was not really a bad day at all. you saw the rural Kerala, banana plantations, rivers...

One interesting incident made up for the hardship of climbing and grinding through the rutted potholed roasted ride of the Day 7. Yogesh and Vishnu were lured into a local eatery with the fragrance of coconut curry and hey presto they landed on a lunching camera crew of City Plus television channe!. So, in full glare of 100 onlookers, Yogesh and Vishnu had their share of celebrity moments. So, that is another benefit of riding a bike- you get famous!

 

Hi viewers, I am Yogesh and this is my friend Vishnu. We are riding for world peace, gay rights, saving tigers, conserving rainforests, promoting friendship, saving environment....blah blah..... In short I am now a new celebrity who believes in everything is worth savin

The evening at the resort was made memorable by an assortment of Keralite delicacies and the riders enjoyed the great cuisine.

Tommorow, the ride has a long grueling day in which the riders cross some 140 odd km to sail into Coorg, the coffee plantation heaven of Nilgiris. It promises to be a great scenic affair once again with lots of uphills and downhills. It a coffe plantation and as you know a lot can happen over a coffee so stay tuned for more drama.

-Manasij Ganguli

Manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 4 and 5- The Real Nilgiri Scenic Treat

December 21, 2010

 

Boni Gopalan- The Single Speed Champ comes to make a corner with his 1000 watt smile

 

Yesterday’s pain is tomorrow’s gain- no other saying conveys the spirit of Day 4 and 5 better than this. The Day 4 of BSA-TFN 2010 was the perfect day to bring smiles to the faces of the tired riders who fought the daunting demon of gravity to reach Ooty.

It was a rest day and the riders largely chilled out. Some went to Cunoor, some went hiking and some just lazed under the fleeting clouds in the rolling grasslands. In the evening the riders sang and told stories and made the most of a well earned rest day.

The Day 5 of BSA-TFN 2010 proved to be one of the best ones a cyclist can imagine. Long sweeping downhills, beautiful natural vistas and great food and it all continues for a long 146 km to make it an unforgettable day. It started a little late owing to a short rain spell but the damp start did not come anywhere near dampening the spirit of the riders.

Start of Day 5 in rainy conditions

 

But the spirits were high!

 

The speed guns were out as the riders just went for a pure adrenalin rush by taking their bikes for a fly in the downhills. The surface quality of NH 67 was excellent and it was a great opportunity to effortlessly roll under the gravity’s influence and enjoy the nature.

Some of the riders however decided to make it a fast affair. They just whizzed past everything and rushed headlong downhill on their mean machines. It was hard to glimpse them as many of them clocked 70 kmph on the descents! The riders bending at a curve would be the most dramatic snaps of the day.

Downhill...yayyyy!!!! Now lets stretch some legs and clock some serious speeds!

 

Amrish, the uphill champ. May be he lamented the fact that it was a downhill 😉

 

At USD 10,000 thats the costliest bike on the tour- Paul the proud owner

 

Roopak Suri making it a light work on his LiteSpeed

 

Nitish: An unsung hero. Finished Day 1 as 3rd rider, climbed Ooty with a twisted ankle. Way to go!

 

Check out the bank angle of the rider....fantastic to watch!

 

Life @ 70 kmph, faster than motorbikes and cars in turns makes the bikes tracer bullets in downhills

One guy is racing another one is camera facing!

 

All these shots were taken from the same spot in less than a minute's interval. It was breathtaking to see these guys kill the curves at high speeds.

 

A word about the natural beauty would be surely fitting here. And, beautiful it was. The green trees, still fresh from the rain, merged with the tea estates and the beautifully contoured grasslands. The sights at the spectacular lake were again at its best. The fog played a great hand at augmenting the beauty. It would all of a sudden engulf a part of the hill and then magically lift off opening the curtains to the distant views. The riders would push the downhills and stop frequently to pose in these surreal natural backdrops. Now you know the mountains punish you on an uphill but reward you with spectacular spellbinding views in the descents. The BSA-TFN delivered that promise with aplomb.

Views of the lake. All smiles today for there is no uphill 😀

 

The road surface was nice all along making it a dream downhill with excellent views

 

Magnificent Vistas..... (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

 

Beautiful clear view of the winding roads of Nilgiri

 

Now the roads get enveloped by fog making it surreal (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Tall trees kissing the blue sky in a lush tea estate- what a sight!

 

Fogged up tea estate...

enjoyable biking experiences through the beautiful Nilgiris

 

Come to BSA-TFN if you want to be amidst this fascinating natural backdrop

 

To matters more enjoyable the road was marked by the BSA-TFN marksmen with interesting quotes. These guys work incredibley hard to keep the tour on right tracks. They go out each night at 2 am and cover the whole tour route and make markings on it and also add a dash of humor and sensibility. Great job guys, without you the BSA-TFN would go nowhere!

An excellent example of the BSA-TFN 2010's marksmanship (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

 

The food was again in the high priority list today. People stopped at many eateries to try out the flavors of Nilgiri Tea. Impromptu stops for egg rolls, paranthas, plum cakes made it an interesting descent from Ooty from gastronomical perspective. Broad smiles and laughter filled the air. That’s what you want to see with an eclectic bunch of people, don’t you?

An impromptu tea stop (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Vishnu cooking egg roll for TFNers.

 

Finally, as all good things come to an end, the wonderful downhill ended in Gudalur and a short climb ensued.  However, this part proved to be great for nature lovers as well. Lush tea estates flanked the road and the moderate climb ended up being another high octane scenic treat.

The last leg of the day was also beautiful making it a great day for nature lovers

 

the great blue sky adds to the drama

 

going through a beautiful tea estate

 

Finally the BSA-TFN 2010 entered “God’s Own Country”, Kerala. For next two days it would stay in Kerala. The final section from Devala to Kalpetta was a route hugging a ridge and again had rich vistas. At the end, the whole jamboree of BSA-TFN descended into Kalpetta, a small town in Kerala and ended what was the most amazing scenic platter in the offering to the riders.

The Day 6 of BSA-TFN 2010 promises a superb loop through the beautiful Waynad. Looks like the tour is surely making its marks felt. Stay tuned for another lipsmacking day’s account from the God’s Own Country.

 

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

 

A full Bike Salute to BSA-TFN's most scenic day

 

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 2- 155 km Day and a 9 Year Old Rider – A Child’s Play!

December 19, 2010

Rishi Nair: The 9 Year old Marvel at BSA-TFN 2010 (Credit: Neeta Shankar, http://www.neetashankar.com)

Somewhere between the leisurely morning tea and the newspaper in the local tea shop, in the regular day’s activities of Kollegal, a tiny city of Karnataka, was this proverbial storm in the tea cup as the 100 lunatics of BSA-TFN 2010 stormed out into the city roads to commence the day 2 of the ride.

The mood was upbeat after the 1st day’s 185 km’s Herculean effort of each rider as they embarked on a somewhat shorter day of 155 km to Bandipur, a small town in the foothills of the Nilgiri’s darling Ooty. The route for today was through some enchanting village roads with lots of undulating terrains. The promise of a scenic route made for a joyous start. The occasion was more than joyous for Haresh Amre who celebrated his 40th birthday.

However, the ride started in a terrific tempo as Roopak, Paul and RACF’s Managing Trustee and TFN’s very own Ravi Ranjan brought a dramatic very early break off from the peloton.  The group stormed into the excellent National Highway’s tarmac in a formidable pace-line that was averaging above 40 kmhr! It was a treat to watch the serious riders turn on the heat and the best moment came when these guys drafted behind a bus for a little over 3 minutes covering 3.5 km at an average pace of 65 kmph! Hats off to you guys, you have muscles of steel!

Ravi Ranjan, Roopak Suri and Paul. Missing from pic - Rajesh Nair!

Roopaj Suri: On attack

Ravi Ranjan- One of the most respected bikers in the group (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The ride continued on rolling hills and undulations. The smooth highway was flanked by tall trees and with greenery around the riders had enough inspiration from mother nature. Speaking of Inspiring figures, the ride saw a mother son pair of Rishi Nair (9 years old!) and Rosanna Nitti ride together. It was a brilliant sight and everyone was all praise for the “Junior Nair” (son of legendary racer Rajesh Nair who had to miss out the tour because of Visa issues). With Rakesh Nair also holding the Nair flag high, the TFN looked like Tour of Nairs 🙂

Rakesh Nair (Credit: Neeta Shankar, http://netashankar.com)

Rossana Nitti (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://neetashankar.com)

The 1st Support Station came up really quick at 45 km from the start line. It was perched right besides a sugarcane factory that produced jaggary and sugarcane juice.  That generated a lot of interest in the riders and some went all the way to learn the tricks of the trade. One such guy was Vinay Bhatia, who went into the factory probably hoping to get them to sign an MoU or something! At the same time, a fresh coconut water vendor had himself swarmed as riders opted for the natural revitalizer.

Sugercane for energy (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

Vinay Bhatia with jaggary maker (Credit: Neta Shankar @ http://www.netashankar.com)

The cocnut vendor was much in business and the riders flocked him

The Support Stations are important nervous centers for the tour command as each rider is required to sign against their names so that the tour directors can keep track of the progress of the riders and their last positions. The tour has a plethora of volunteers on motorbikes and cars to keep track of all riders and their safety. With the safety assured, the riders ride at their favorite pace and enjoy the tour to the fullest.

Support Station Drill. You are not going anywhere without signing that paper. (Credit:Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com )

Also the Support Stations are a point where riders engage in a bit of in-ride socializing that ranges from light hearted banter to giving massages to each others to even grooming each other. The camaraderie between the folks was a heartwarming thing and more so when you contrast the friendships with the most frequent question in the tour “Hey I missed your name, it’s kinda hard to keep track of the 100 names….”

massage, grooming, chit chat- story of support stations

Post the first Support Station, the ride took a dive into the back roads from the billiard top of the National Highway. This brought about two changes. First, the route’s scenic quotient went up many folds as now it was steep ascents and descents of short length on a route that was punctuated with several ponds and water bodies and second, the surface quality dropped dramatically and now included a bit of broken tarmac and packed gravel and soil. To make matters a bit more challenging for the riders, the sun was out in full blast and it got from warm to hot to burning by the mid day.

The backroads for riding on Day2. The heat was on as the sun beat down hard. The ride was however on a refresing natural patch

 

Was the route beautiful? Oh yes!

By midday, the riders made it to the 2nd Support Station which was pitched by an enchanting water body. It was a great hang out place. The place exploded with laughter as Kavitha was leisurely applying some ice over her shoulders when someone remarked “It looks like you are posing for the Lux soap advert”. Yeah it had all to make it a soap advert- A babe, a water body except that the bar of lathery soap was replaced with ice!

 

However, everyone was not smiling. Nitish looked a bit off color from his usual upbeat self and we got to know that he had dropped his Garmin Forerunner  somewhere in the way 😦  Dr. Kumaraswamy’s problem with not smiling was however caused by a fall from the bike that needed a few stitches on his lips.

By midday, the ride was now going on under an unforgiving strong Sun. However, it still brought out some cool gestures from people and the riders. Vishnu and Pramod had stopped for a small hydration break and struck a conversation with a local who was so impressed with BSA-TFN story that he invited them for a stay at his home and promised to provide local site seeing! Somesh, on the other hand, was offered with an option by a local motorcyclist to trade their machines for some time so that the guy could try out Somesh’s sleek bike! But the top honors went to Rohitash who laid a lavish buffet of biscuits to a crippled puppy.

A perfect snap for PETA folks! Should marvel the photographer's eye as well (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The lunch was served at the 3rd Support Station, 55 km from the Country Club, Bandipur, and the final destination of Day 2. The lunch was well received by the riders but our friend Randall Bernard’s stomach did not agree well and that meant some dumping of some natural fertilizers for some impoverished flora. The only thing this dude lost, which he rued, was some precious glucose water (you know for what purposes,  right?). The riders were exhausted by the heat, suffering from the surface quality’s erratic nature but never short of enthusiasm. That makes a rider, isn’t it?

Ride with a Smile (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

or ride with a style (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

or ride with grimace

or ride with grimace (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

but ride after all..... (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The Day 2’s monster laid its teeth bare after the riders crossed through the Bandipur National Forest gates. A monster gradient of 10-12% for the last 10 km or so made a bad breaking climb after already pedaling through 140 km! The mountainous terrain meant an early darkness and the sweeper vehicle picked up a few riders in last leg of the climb. Those who escaped the sweeper vehicle by a whisker had that cunning smile on their faces that said “yeah…beat that!”

just before the end- its all smiles (Credit: Neeta Shankar @www.neetashankar.com)

The dreaded Sweep Truck- Your time is up! (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

The Country Club, Bandipur proved as an excellent final pit stop for a hard laborious day under a scorching sun. The riders were greeted with great food and a well deserved break.  The day’s elevation-distance stats looked like this:

The Day 3 of the BSA-TFN is supposed to be the hardest and the most scenic of all. The riders are supposed to do a 90 km day with a 40 km unbroken climb to Nilgiri mountain’s crown jewel Ooty. It promises to be an epic as the climb is monstrous. Expect more drama, more heroics, more show of character from the 100 lunatics. The 9 year old kid Rishi Nair showed today that all the things that are considered difficult and perceived as impossible are actually a “child’s play” if one is willing to hang in and deliver the best. It will be a serious test of character on the long laborious Ooty climb tomorrow.

Go for it guys, you rock!

One of the many road signs that the Marksmen put. The Marksmen get out on road at 3 am and mark the whole way for the riders. What a tough job! (Credit: Neeta Shankar @ http://www.neetashankar.com)

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Day 1 – A Cracker of a Start

December 17, 2010

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After 19,000 km’s cumulative riding in some 8 frenetic hours, the 100 lunatics of BSA-TFN 2010 have descended into this one horse town of Kollegal, Karnataka to draw the curtains on the eventful Day 1 of India’s most coveted biking event! What a day and what a result!

Today, at 6 am in Bangalore when the morning mist was still lifting and the metropolis was springing back to life after a dark winter night, the Koramangala Indoor Stadium National Games Village of Bangalore was awash with sleek bikes and folks wearing striking cycling gears with dream and determination in their eyes.  It was the start of BSA-TFN 2010!

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A stage was set up with the beautiful BSA-TFN 2010 poster as the backdrop just to let anyone crash-landing from outer space know- what this whole early morning thing was all about.

The support for the event was overwhelming. With riders from every part of the country and abroad and many biking enthusiasts and family members of the 100 lunatics (read participants), it was a great start of the event.

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A few encouraging words from the (our) sponsors- Mr. Vinod Menon (AGM – Performance Bikes at  TI Cycles), Dr. M A Balasunraminya (CEO SVYM)  and the philanthropic gesture of donating new cycles to  deserving kids, a quick dash of breakfast later, the Chief Guest Dr. H Sudarshan( Padmshree, Right to Livelihood Award Winner and the founder of VGKK) flagged off the 100 lunatics.

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The sky was overcast and it threatened to rain anytime but the 100 cyclists braved the winter chill and the crazy Bangalore traffic and descended into the serene Banerghatta National Park’s road. The road is well known for its many Elephant crossing paths and the riders formed clusters to ride together.

However, this was precisely here where the first mini-disaster of the day one occurred. On a long sweeping seductive downhill, Ram had a fall. The co-riders stopped and immediately called the ambulance. The ambulance came in double quick time and he was picked up.

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The same roads claimed Rohistah but he came up with a bloody forearm and bruised ego only. He got up, nonchalantly fixed his bike and sped off- so much for the injuries.

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After winding curves and tricky downhills , the platoon of brave bikers reached Harohalli and the super smooth NH (give the number of the NH) and what a relieved lot they were! This buoyed the spirits of the racer ilk like Roopak and  Paul and they went on a great pace line of 40 kmhr and broke away from the peloton.  The pace was relentless and in pace lines they sprinted at a power output of 600W! Sprint mode was on and many other riders just cut loose.

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Some more astute riders extended the legs of their mean machines and all the background turned blurred while they killed the distances with remarkable ease. Soon backgrounds blurred. Distances shrunk.

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Somewhere in all this madness the 1st Support Station came up at Sathanur, 85 km from the starting point. The riders rehydrated themselves and feasted on refreshments and nutritional supplements. It also was a time to exchange notes and general tips and tricks for the upcoming 100 km till the final pit stop for the day.

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After the 1st Support Station the riders had to choose between two options. One was a direct road to Kanakpura  or take a circuitous route through the picturesque Cauvery River loop to the same destination. As expected the majority of the riders chose the harder of the options and went for the Cauvery Loop which was some 40 km longer. Some did it for the kick of cycling and some crazy bunch decided to take a dip in Cauvery and made the most of the detour. “That was the whole idea for that loop” said Chidu and Ravi with big grins on their faces.

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The choice would also prove to be an excellently rewarding in term of scenic beauty. The road climbed beautifully through some lush green forests and descended to the magnificent Cauvery river valley. The beautiful green trees on the reddish colored soil with the black tarmac and blue sky painted an amazing colorful easel. The route had its share of excitement with a lot of monkeys and jungle fowls running on the road all the time. If that was not enough, the riders would occasionally get stuck behind the blockades of the bovine kind. And finally, the steep uphills and downhills had pretty much broken tarmac that tested the bikers’ concentration to the fullest.

Just out of the Cauvery Loop , the route was dotted with some awesome quaint villages. The highlights of the villages were the kids. The school kids would line up and cheer the riders at the top of their lungs and give them high fives as they raced by.

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However, amidst all this beauty and excitement, the support staff was kept busy by two more falls of Vinay Bhatia, the guy who came to TFN with an 8 month lay-off from biking and still completed the 185 km and of Supreet. However, both the riders had minor issues and they finished the day on their own and on their bike!

Meanwhile, just beyond  Kanakpura, the lunch stop was a welcome sight. The riders were greeted with Veg Biriyani and juices. The group delved on food as a pack of hungry wolves and everyone was at splits when the Raghavan, a rider from Bangalore, quipped “If my wife knew I had Veg Biriyani, I am done”. Amidst this laughter and light hearted banter arrived Boni Gopalan, a greatly respected rider from Pune.  People were shocked to see his bike missing the rear derailleur! Apparently a rogue motorbiker developed a liking for it and knocked it off. Boni, however, appeared unfazed and announced to a crowd with dropped jaws that he would do the 2000m Ooty climb in his broken bike which was now single speed!

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Post lunch, there were two distinct moods that set in. One the riders who had fallen back dreaded to be swept off the road by the sweeper vehicle. And the riders who were still going like diesel engines had broad smiles on their faces as the end was just 60 km away.

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Stay Away from the Sweeper Vehicle that picks you up from the road if you are slow and beyond a cut off time. Wonderfully depicted by out very own rider Malvika Jain!

One this last leg one more interesting thing to note was the crowd reactions. A cycle always evokes emotions and Neeta did a fabulous job of catching those amazing reactions to the fullest. Check out some of those great reactions caught by her. For all the days days’ exhaustive pictures, please visit her website and feast on the treat on BSA-TFN 2010‘s  day 1.

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Finally, the 185 km bike Day of BSA-TFN 2010 ended at Kollegal Yatri Niwas. The riders poured in victorious. What an achievement! See the day’s elevation profile as captured by our ace rider Roopak Suri.

Stats of Day1

Tomorrow another grueling day of biking awaits the 100 lunatics. A day when they are supposed to ride 170 km  to the foothills of Ooty with lots of climbing. What to expect? Expect more drama, more heroics, more amazing moments captured through Neeta’s lenses and my words. All I can say is a cracker of a day in the offing for tomorrow. Ready for it?

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA-TFN 2010: Pehchan Kaun? (Identify Yourself)

December 12, 2010

Few more days and the BSA-TFN 2010 starts from Bangalore on Dec 16th 2010.

There are 100 bikers and 40 odd volunteers making it a colorful group.

Blame me, butcher me, blast me but I am gonna try broad brushstroke-ing the 150 odd people in some categories.

Which one is you?

Speed Junkies

——————-

I fly past you kicking dust on your face

For every darned ride is surely a race

Who has the time to look at the trees?

The mist on mountain, the flying bees?

Heart rate, lactic acid threshold and the vo2 max

Wattage of pedaling is paramount, no time to lax

I am out to kill all racers- with some luck

Move all you slow movers, you guys suck

Anthem: Deep Purple-Highway Star

Geek on Bike

————————–

I ride hard and I ride long

On the tech front I sail strong

ipad, gps, ipod, camera- yeah gadgets galore

I am hungry for accessories, give me more

Paranoid about the UV ratings of my fab sunglasses

You should take lessons from me – you lads and lasses

Wanna know all the data? bike by my side

Drooling for TFN- see you all at the ride!

Anthem: Pitchshifter- Genius

Leisure Pleasure

————————

Speed or numbers don’t appeal as the feel on bike

I ride nice and easy guys – its the vistas that I like

See the places, meet the people, bask in the sun

Taste the local food and drinks – thats the real fun

I stop every now and then and take a lot of pics

Watch the villagers, see the locals, check out the chicks 😉

I see all the birds, the mountains, the trees and the bees

Racers and number freaks- with due respect- rest in peace!

Anthem: Eagles-Take it Easy

The Last Minute One

—————————-

Mirror Mirror on the wall….

Am I fit to ride after all?

1000 km with 10km climbs- that sounds tough

Procrastination hurts- I haven’t trained enough

I will be slow while everyone zooms past me

But I will be at the finish line- how slow it be

There is no record to set- so it should not pinch

My attitude will earn me the every f*****g inch!

Anthem: Lakshya- Main Aisa Kyon Hoon?

Support Staff

——————

We are all the jokers in the pack

But we keep the tour on its track

Planning, executing, doing all- come what may

Its more work than the office- that too on holiday!

We carry all the food and drinks and also the toilet rolls

Pause a minute to appreciate the goodness of our souls

All the “getting done things”- we keep a grip

Once you finish the tour- don’t forget to tip!

Anthem: Kraftwerk: We Are The Robots

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

BSA TFN 2010: The 100 Lunatics!

November 26, 2010

The Official Blogger is a heavy tag.

It is supposed to be the guy/gal who does have all the information about the event and can produce it best in writing so that the event is covered fully and no details are missed.

Makes me nervous and makes my palms sweaty a bit.

All these days, my cycling blogs have been about me doing a trip and a simple casual write up of those. If I missed something- no big deal- nobody would complain.

Now, it is a different story.

Now there are 100 other protagonists on their bikes!

These 100 folks are planning to cycle some 900 km in 8 days through the beautiful South India for the biggest and the most coveted cycling event of India, The BSA Tour of Nilgiris.

TFN 2010: Distance - Elevation Profile. 900 km riding in 8 days with 3500 meter of ascent and descent- It is a blockbuster!

One look at the altitude distance profile looks pretty scary and challenging anyway. This is what these folks are up against. Yeah, it may not have the refinements of the GPS coordinates, but it is the closest approximation of what to expect in the tour as far as terrain is concerned. The final recce is on and the final route profile would be up soon.

It would be an amazing challenge to do this pedal powered. These riders must be lunatics! So, I thought to dig a little deeper and find out who are these mad men/women who want to do something like this?

So, I did a bit of earth shattering data interpretation on the participants to find some more about their backgrounds.

Well no prizes to guess, it is still a male dominated event with 90% men and 10% women making up the pedaling contingent. But it is heartening to see the women coming out on the bikes and push the boundaries. Way to go girls!

It is interesting that the average age of the riders is around 37 years. This tells us that it is an event for the people who have started to ask more from life. These are educated, smart people who see the world as a playground of challenges and they are out to surmount those barriers. The youngest rider is 23 and the oldest is 60! After all youth was never measured by number of springs and autumn you have seen, it is measured by how much spirited you are.

Now, that tells you that these 100 lunatics are mavericks in their own way. Mostly employed with great brands and many of them are self-starters and entrepreneurs. The “Others” are the exotic breeds that range from yoga instructors to scuba divers (beat that for a profession!). It is sure that the company would be of great fun loving folks!

A large participation from South Indian states confirms South India as the capital of Indian Cycling movement. A few folks partaking from out of India also give it an international angle and I am sure in years to come the riders’ location distribution is going to get much more scattered than the one here. Rooting for a rider from Antarctica in next 3 years, anyone betting?

And finally, the most interesting of all- the distribution of bikes! It appears a Road Bike dominated event closely followed by the MTBs and some Hybrids also peeping their necks.

All right, so now we know how the ride is going to look like from the terrain’s perspective and also we know what kind of folks we might encounter. Looks like a lot of fun is in the offing!

Thankfully a lot of folks have found it worthwhile to support the BSA Tour of Nilgiris. The title sponsors BSA, the healthcare partners Himalaya (who will also be providing ambulance support), Magazine Partner Outlook Traveller, Travel partner getoff your ass (what a kick-ass name!), Radio Partner Red FM 93.5, Design Partners netbrahma, Print Partner printo, PR partner Galvanize, Online Content Partner MetroMonkey.

The BSA Tour of Nilgiris is supported by the most amazing footrace on planet earth “La Ultra – The High”, a 222 km ultra marathon through the high arid cold desert of ladakh (the highest ultra in the world!). I had the privilege to cover the 1st edition of this wonderful event as a blogger  in July this year. Read the blog here.

In all, it promises to be a great event. With the support of so many fabulous people and organizations, it is headed for a great ride. I will be with the riders covering their great feat at all times. If you are riding, you should spread the word. Tweet about it, post on social networks- let people know who are you biking with, let your friends and family know what are you doing.

If you are not riding (too bad you are missing a lot of fun mate), follow BSA-TFN through my blog or through Neeta’s camera lens (she is the official photographer mind you!).

The stage is set for the BSA Tour of Nilgiris 2010 edition to embark on a great journey. A journey through the beautiful blue Nilgiri Mountains of South India with a crazy-funloving-maverick bunch of 100 lunatics!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

TFN 2010: It is About the Bikes and the Numbers

October 21, 2010

What it promises to be: A photograph from TFN recce (courtesy Rajesh Nair)

 

45, 3, 100, 40, 8, 2.5, 1!

By the time you start thinking that you have landed on a page of a mad mathematician going to bowl you over with his silly mindless rants on some bi-quadratic, sinusoidal, esoterically cynic number series, let me set the numbers with some description to create a meaningful context.

So, here it is…

45 million revolutions…

3 million calories…

100 Homo sapiens…

40 ascents and descents of Mount Everest…

8 days…

2.5 times around the globe…

1 ride!

Yeah, I agree it is an odd countdown. Lacks the drama. Totally boring! Right?

But then when you factor in that we are talking about the most anticipated and celebrated biking event of India, the numbers start to fall in place and make sense.

The TFN 2010: India's most awaited and cherished biking tour

 

Yes, the Tour of Nilgiris is just 7 weeks from now. And hell yes, it is about the bikes and the numbers!

In 7 weeks’ time 100 cyclists from all over the country are going to reach Bangalore to ride for 8 days through the lush green Nilgiri mountains doing a total of 90,000 km (that’s 2.5 times around the globe!), burning 3 million calories in the process (that is the equivalent of keeping a light bulb switched on for 15 days!), climbing 350 km (40 climbs up the Mount Everest!) in some 45 million turns of their wheels – all in the name of one ride: the TFN 2010.

There are no rules what is allowed and what is not as long as it is self-powered and on two wheels. So, expect MTBs to ride alongside super specialized road bikes, hybrids, bamboo framed bikes and what not. It will be a great bike show at the same time being a great bike tour!

So, how does the ride look like? Thanks to Google Earth and the recce details, I was able to piece together a simple route profile. Here is what these 100 guys planning to do. Yeah guys, you saw it first here :-). Take the days marked in red with a pinch of salt, as the organizers are tight lipped about the days’ route- so expect some real drama!

Click on the picture to see the full sized image.

TFN 2010: Distance - Elevation Profile. 900 km riding in 8 days with 3500 meter of ascent and descent- It is a blockbuster!

A look at the rider community is also interesting. It comprises software engineers, lawyers, doctors, ad-world guys, big corporate honchos, self employed, unemployed, students, teachers, businessmen and even scuba divers! The same is true for the volunteers who are making this wonderful event a reality.

And they come from every possible parts of the country, even from Andaman! No, I do not think the TFN guys were trying for a national integration of some sorts, but inadvertently that’s what it is going to be – a perfect symbol if India’s amazing diversity.

Yes, I am also going to be riding this time. And I am going to blog about it. For past two years, the bike has given me some amazing memories and touched my life to some fabulous places in the country. The charming outdoors of this wonderfully diverse country is a goldmine to excavate through- on a bike. You are just fast enough to see it all, slow enough to observe it in details. Nothing beats the serendipity of laboring up a hill and passing through a sleepy village teashop and hearing the boiling tea and smelling its aroma and making an impulsive stop! You just cannot fathom it unless you have biked!

I have done a few multi-day cycling events and put a few blogs around them. Latest was my stint at the world’s highest ultra-marathon blog from Ladakh this year and my own cycling sojourn from Manali to Leh and then to the world’s highest road the KhardungLa pass, last year. I am sure this time it will be fun to report!

So, check out this space from Dec 15th to Dec 25th for daily dosage of what happened at India’s most cherished bike tour. Yes riding and writing do not mix. So, I will be careful not to write when I ride. And it will be fun to write for it is all about the bike, the amazing folks, the great enchanting Nilgiris and above all India’s most cherished bike tour- the TFN 2010.

Cheers,

Manasij Ganguli

Manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

+917838237844

Yours Truly- in close up..........

Riding the Russian Ridge: The Fall, The Sickness, The Fun…..

September 25, 2010

The ride on the Russian Ridge in the Portola Valley near San Francisco

They say it is sacrilege to go to Tres Agaves and not order for the fabulous Margaritas and the sumptuous “Carne en su Jugo” (Jaliscan Style Beef).

Yes, I did not know that because I was a foreign visitor to San Francisco’s one of the most popular downtown Mexican restaurants. But then since I did commit the blasphemy, I had to pay.

The only difference is the payback happened the morning after, while I was doing an otherwise great mountain biking trail in the Portola Valley near San Francisco.

To cut a really long story short, I was in San Francisco for a week long high octane techno-week with some serious geeks and we went to this Mexican joint to celebrate living through a grueling but highly enjoyable stint and ended up ordering Slow Roasted Pork with beers. I neglected the must-have dishes of the restaurant and traveled to Amit’s place the same night for he had promised a great mountain bike ride. Offer a beer and a drunkard follows you home, quite similarly offer me a mountain biking ride and I would do the same. Amit made the same mistake!

Amit owns a really enviable real estate. An exclusive neighborhood perched in a neat hillock overlooking the Silicon Valley, home to many corporate honchos and some really extravagant vehicles.

getting ready for the ride

On the nice and sunny Saturday morning of Sept 18th 2010, we reached the trailhead of Page Mill Road. Our bikes were quickly dismounted from the bike carrier of the car and we were ready to go.

My bike for the day: A full suspension cannondale.

Amit on his custom made MTB

I was riding one of Amit’s dozen strong bike fleet. It was a full suspension Cannondale, weighing almost half as much my Trek 4300 does. Amit was on his custom built bike.

The plan was simple. Amit was leading the way. We were to ride up the Russian Ridge by taking a great singletrack that would climb up the mountain to a high vantage point offering great views of the Valley.

Ride starts: good weather, nice sunshine, clear blue sky......

The weather was great. It was nice and cool and full of sunshine with blue skies- perfect for a day on a mountain bike. The gradient was very moderate to start with and it looked like a great day ahead.

We had done barely a few hundred yards when I first felt a bit of unease. It appeared that I was not breathing well and thus not producing enough power. I dismissed it as “Oh, I am on a new bike, in a different country and I have not slept well enough..etc-etc….no big deal”. And just the same time Amit proposed that we ditch the fire road and hit the singletrack. “No problem, lets do this”, I said. I wish I had said otherwise.

The singletrack’s entry point was on a precarious edge with thick tree roots on one side and a real steep section to take you on the biking trail. I tried to up my cadence and build up some speed and I hit the incline real hard. The next thing I knew was- I saw my bike do a wheelie (front wheels off the ground) and then I saw the high tree branches, then the sky and then “bang-whack-crash…..” I was on the ground and milliseconds later, to add insult to the injury, the bike fell over me.

What a great start! Amit came back and realized I was not doing great. We abandoned the idea of the singletrack and went back on the fire road. I was still not feeling a 100 percent and it appeared that there was some weight on my chest. Yes, the bike was different and was a little big for me and that I had to lunge a little too much to grab the handlebar but ergonomics was not my biggest problem. I had trouble breathing.

Clicked moments before I got severely nauseated and threw up

A few hundred yards ahead, I stopped for a hydration break. And as we discussed what was wrong with me, I suddenly felt a bursting nausea within and before I could get a grip, I was throwing up! As I had three bouts of throwing up, I remembered the look on the face of the waitress last night at Tres Avages. “What? No Margaritas? No Carne en su Jugo? You should try them”. Yeah lady, I get it now. Next time I will make amends for sure.

After a few minutes of dizziness, all brightened up. I was seeing colors again! The hop on the bike felt great and suddenly it all started to make sense. Amit was very supportive and was purposefully cutting back on his pace to accompany me all this time and now that I was feeling good- made him relax and enjoy his ride too.

Amazing that when you feel good colors seem brighter and all seems cheerful

I started to notice the scenery around me now. It was an enchanting surrounding. A beautiful trail with trees dotting it and leaves strewn all around. Silence of the woods was mesmerizing and all one could hear were one’s own breathing and the rustling sound of the bike tires going over the dry leaves and stone chips.

The air was fresh and the nature was in its bountiful best to reward you for your hard earned climb on the inclines. The trail was easy and gradient was moderate and I was loving it.

The Alpine Road: We rode through this enchanting trail for most of the time

Amit told that this was the Alpine Road and it leads up to the Skyline Road. We would take that route and reach the Vista Point from where one can see the whole valley below. He also showed me the Poison Oak thorns and cautioned me to stay away from them. We also heard coyotes howling at a distance. Amit was leading the way and I was happy following. Now that I was feeling better, I was back in my chatty form and the ride seemed so much more fun.

We took a small singletrack section and I was fine this time. The tree roots and the stones did not seem like minefields as before and we scaled effortlessly to the paved Skyline Road.

Reached the Skyline Road

Cruise on the paved road

The cruise on the paved road was easy and I felt great. The air was fresh and the biking seemed effortless.  Occasionally a few exotic cars would appear and Amit told me that this road is used by many speed daemons to test their machines. Quite right, I saw Bugatti Veyrons and Jaguars streak past me!

Vista Point reached

Finally after a short ascent we were at the Vista Point. I have suffered in all my hill climbs- they are never easy. The feeling of reaching the top is always the most gratifying and this was no different. True, the climb was short- somewhere near 1300 feet or so and the route was not long either, may be 10 -15 km but hey I added my share of drama to it, didn’t I?

Reached the top after all the drama

The view from the top was just amazing. I could see the whole valley below. The San Mateo Bridge was visible at a distance and a sheet of fog was fast engulfing the view.

We did not have enough time to sit there and admire the beauty as I was flying out the same day and had to get back to San Francisco.

The downhill was a fast and enjoyable affair. Amit was going down at a superfast pace which spoke volumes about him being vastly experienced while I took it with lots of caution.

The scenery again was extremely rewarding.

View on the way down: Thats the kind of home one needs to own, right?

And some more views....check out the color schemes here- just fantastic

We stopped at a point which had a very interesting cautionary information board.

The board warned us about the hazards from the flora and fauna types. It had a great assortment from tiny blood sucking ticks to rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

Potential hazards on the trail. We just heard coyotes howling thats all......

I would have liked to add the Slow Roasted Pork and Beer to the list that gave me the biking tattoo other than a permanent one that I had got in San Francisco’s tattoo district.

My bike tattoo: that one for falling from the bike

After a nice and fast pedal free downhill, we reached our car and packed our bikes.

Every climb has been different and this climb was special. At halfway mark I had felt defeated and deflated and had to draw on my will and my fellow rider’s encouraging companionship to live through the storm. The second half was so much enjoyable and scenic that it made up for all the hardships. Yes, brick walls exist and they do exist to tell us that if you do not give up good times are ahead.

I learned one more lesson. I have been more or less a mountain climber on paved roads till now with very little experience on unpaved trails. This ride told me that mountain biking is far tougher on these singletracks and dirt routes. So, whats next? The answer is ridiculously simple – more hill climbs!

-Manasij Ganguli

manasij.ganguli@gmail.com

+91-7838237844

Keep Pedalling.....thats the only way forward!


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