Friday, May 13, 2016

Kalhatty love - Part 2

With the first team excursion on 6th May 2016done and dusted, we discussed on the possibility of 'when next' during the return drive. Kalhatty is a climbers delight. The urge to repeat started a couple of days after the body and mind had switched back to Bengaluru mode. Checked the feasibility of one more resource joining the ride, the plan was confirmed by mid week. Now the painful process of wait starts and there wasn't much planning to do nor packing as it was just the two of us so logistics wasn't an issue . More good news awaited as I got the confirmation from Putta that we could start by thursday night thereby getting a chance to drive to and fro with least disruption from the crazy traffic on the Bangalore - Mysore highway. Come thursday, we started by midnight and the first pitstop was at Cafe Coffee day after Maddur and an uneventful drive till Gundlupet CCD. We stopped for a nap for about an hour and started for the Bandipur checkpost. There was a long line of trucks and cars waiting for gates to open at 6. Then the madness starts and cars trying to overtake trucks with the incessant honking. I pity the truck drivers as most are helpless due to the heavy loads they carry, narrow roads and usually oblige one's request to overtake with just a honk from cars trying to pass. The Mudumalai checkpost had a considerable line of waiting traffic. However, not as bad as the one we experienced the earlier trip (a weekend). Like a moth that is amused by the light source, we roadie scum are quite similar when it comes to hill climbs and Kalhatty in particular stands out. We park at CCD, order a double Espresso and finish it off with bread butter and orange marmalade. I thought it was perfect considering an all night ride and caffeine should help stay awake for the entirety of the climb. But the beauty of nilgiris is rather experience best than put in words. Right at the first couple of kms, the heart rate shot upto the 180's and stayed there for a good bit and slowing down to try and reduce. There are no flat sections for recovery at kalhatty which made matters worse. Yet I wanted to attempt a non-stop so continued the climb. I was so tempted to stop for a masala tea at 4kms to the summit. Yet spurred on with a few thoughts and the music that kept me good company for the last few kms to maintain tempo. The bread butter and jam vanished in thin air. I waited to Putta sipping sprite and considered riding down to accompany him. Rode down and he was just a few hundred mts away. Reached the climb and the customary photoshoot started. As the Viper (Polygon Helios 500) cooled Putta too chilled at the summit. Since our only task planned was complete we decided not to enter ooty and just ride to the nearby lake Sandynulla. The winding road are road bikeable towards Gudalur. We stopped for a couple of photos by the lake and continued to ride on to find nature's balcony. Found it 2kms on a left curve right opposite to a small church. Unlike the ride on 6th May, this ride was a hard one and surprisingly the cadence computer did record and the stats are uploaded to Garmin and Strava. 
Garmin activity ::
Finishing the Kalhatty  ::

A good amount of wildlife was spotted with this trip and the list includes:

Barking deer
Wild boar
Indian Bison
Herd of Deer
Herd of elephants

Waiting for gates to open by 6AM - Bandipur

Enroute Thepekadu

Gate timings

 Lovely roads to Thepekadu

Kalhatty Backdrop

A Selfie with Lord Gans

Putta finishing the climb

At Sandynulla lake 2kms from the gudalur - ooty- kalhatty junction

The road on the right is the Gudalur - ooty highway

Basking in Natures Balcony a mighty relief from the climb

The Pro-Lite chakra :)
A Harley meet at CCD Masinagudi


Friday, May 6, 2016

Kalhatty Love - Part 1 - Team CW

Kalhatty in May, are you nuts? One question that pops into most minds. For riders who love Climbs things can't get better in terms of gradient as an option here in the south. I was a little skeptical of the climb with a 12-28 cassette as i've always rode the Flite 300 which has a perfect ratio for climbs 11-32. However, looks like the 12-28 is a good deal to tame Kalhatty. A meme that sums up the situation with travel plans:

I think there are many that could relate to this :). Anyway, the turnout held strong till the last hour so with all the excitement, as always, with hardly any sleep, Kiran, Putta and I started 3hrs earlier and we planned to stop at the checkpost for a nap till the gates opened. The second group (Opendro, Anantha and Chidambaram) had agreed to start much later after some early sleep. Putta, Kiran and I reached the CCD at Gundlupet by 3.45 and attempted to get some sleep but there were bugs that didn't allow much rest. While I sat in the chair at CCD and gazed upon the sky thinking about road bikeable routes around,  the lights turned on and CCD was awake. Got myself an Espresso and waited for the other two warriors to wake up. Soon Putta was awake and we were joined by Opendro and team. We started after an hour and managed to find some great traffic at Bandipur exit. A traffic jam for about a km. It took more than half hour to clear this stretch due to extended checks at the checkpost. We were on our way to CCD Mavanalla/Masinagudi but didn't spot much wildlife. Soon we reached CCD and since we had breakfast in the car (chappatis and jam) during the traffic jam, we didn't have to stop for breakfast. All 6 started riding at a steady pace to the base. With the Garmins ticking and pedals clicking we started steady climb. It was a steady climb with Opendro as he had been unwell. It was a ride to take in the sheer beauty of the ghats. Traffic was relenting and most giving way to us and slowing down on seeing oncoming traffic. I got to do my part of informing drivers at the hairpin bends that they could make the turn by gesturing a go ahead or slow down. The relief that one gets right at the summit is indescribable. One by one the entire team was present and Opendro had carried the brevet pack (handle bar bag) with breakfast which we finshed and headed towards Kotagiri. Ooty city traffic was nasty with packed intersections but enough room for road bikes to squeeze through. Once we made it to Doddabetta we decided to turn back as Kotagiri was another 23kms and we had very little time to do 46kms and might end up not exiting the checkpost on time. We stopped for lunch at a hotel at Ooty. Post lunch we descended the ghats. Opendro and I were fully fueled and just raced downhill at some good speed in less than 30 mins.



Monday, April 11, 2016

The Silver Shadow - Polygon Zenith FX

The Life Cycle of my 'Cycle'. 
It has been a little over two years since the time I started commuting. The initial thoughts were a barrage of 'what if's' just like any curious startup commuter :). The evolution to a day or night / rain or shine attitude took a lot of trial runs but  now there are no more doubts but just a lovely commute every single time. Even the non-commute rides are enjoyable. Don't believe me .. try riding on open roads at noon and then stop for a tender coconut/ice cream/butter milk. An eternal bliss descends. Perception matters so you think its tough its going to be tough. There are lot of welcome distractions. I've had so many motorbikers cheer me when I overtake them and many autos giving a smile. Lately, even the Volvo buses seem to be either bike friendly or I've been in a terribly good stroke of luck to meet some of the most friendly ones who don't overtake you and pull up right after, when there's a bus stop ahead. So the motto goes, live and let live :). Inner Peace !! 

A trip to Singapore from office for a training back in 2014 and a casual stroll back to hotel and my eyes drift to a bike shop and lo behold, Colorful fixies/single speed bicycles on display. The only thing that caught my eyes are the deep section wheels and I have been a sucker for owning a wheelset with deep section rims. They truly add that finesse to the already kitted rider. Having two bikes in the stable already the third was an unwelcome guest. Yet I purchased it for some casual city rides and never thought I'd end up using it as a serious commuter. close to 2 years and some 16000 commute kms, two set of tyres, many tubes, and multiple iterations with quality component updates to the bike it has finally come to a point to switch to a better and a lighter commuter. On a casual visit to WheelSports Experience Center Marathahalli, I ended up test riding the Polygon Zenith FX. ( Mind at unrest with juggling about the options available, quickly made a deal. with Tusker (Kiran from WheelSports). With a Scolarian wheelset around, this seemed to be the perfect time to update to one bike for an all weather commute. Many thanks to Venky sir and Kiran in helping me with my journey through the bikes :). 

The several Avatars of my commuter:

My new Steed for my future commutes. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Satisfaction Guaranteed - Bliss in Hills

A few FAQ's to understand this blog better. 

What is a Brevet?
A brevet is a non-competitive cycle ride on a fixed route to be completed within a specified time. It is not a race.

Why 'Bliss in the hills' ? 'Inner Peace' .. 'Inner Peace'
I hope you can spot more reasons to the 'why' below:

Bliss at Kalpeta Control

River crossing Bliss just before Iritty

The Chikki Bliss

Training Plan:

Preparation for this Brevet started many months ago and I strongly relied on commute miles to work as a key training. Each day riding about 56kms rain/shine. One specific training was an over nighter at nandi with 4 repeats between 11pm to 4AM. But just a little over two weeks to the start, I caught pneumonia and in a pretty bad state. It was none other than Major Srinivas who put me on the expressway to recovery. So all my training plans down the drain and with some mild cough persistent a couplet of days before the start I wasn't so sure if I should even make it to the start point. This ride was supposed to have been attempted last year but had to cancel for an emergency. So not riding it this time would linger for many months until I attempted the same. So I managed to prep the bike a day in advance and it was almost ready for the road trip. A long brevet checklist was followed and I managed to pack most of the necessary stuff and the rest went into the backpack that was to be dropped with the support car and we'd get to see the same only at the halfway point at Kalpeta. Here's the Rubie all set to roll for over 1200kms. 

The start was delayed by 20 mins. Dodged crazy city traffic which is the norm. Once we hit Nelamangala we turned onto the Hassan highway. Menacing cloud cover as we head towards Hassan. But luckily no heavy rains and we did away with some super fine drizzle. A comfortable reach to Belur. Relished the packed/parceled fried rice from the earlier dinner stop to propel us to the next leg, Belur to Balupet. It was midnight when we were crossing the section Attempted to rest at a temple early hours of the morning but sleep wasn't a choice due to mosquitoes and tiny tree frogs. The roads were road bikeable with surprise patches appearing all of a sudden. Soon we reached the turnoff at sakhleshpur highway and we stopped for Tea and masala bun. The rest of the bunch feasted on boiled eggs either to recuperate for the climbs or prepare for the ones that lay ahead :). 

A rolling terrain via shanivarsanthe, sowmvarpet. Targets/milestones were set for every next town as per cue sheet so reaching the same was a priority made easier rather than look at the entire route or the distance. Breaking things down to smaller goals felt way better. We didn't spot any wildlife but many curious people as they see lycra clad, colorful riders wondering 'motorbikes struggle at places and these guys are on cycle'. The silence, low traffic, good tarmac turned out to be a very good combo for that 'Inner Peace' that I mentioned earlier and this was the start of project "Transformation Bliss". 

Sowmvarpet/shanivarsanthe road

Towards Madikeri beautiful Twisty roads

Opendro checking to see that the group is intact

We reached Virajpet by late afternoon and the idea was to head to Iritty and clear the downhill section and the next target was to clear the panamaram mananthavady and Kalpeta to rest. The night was dark with orchestra by crickets and it looked like it had just rained a short while ago as we were still riding on wet roads. Periya climb was a long and steady one. All the while we could hear what sounded like rapids beside the valley and the clouds had cleared so a view of stars boosted confidence that we could expect a rain free climb. Post the climb we stopped for the pics at the control. The Hotel Highway served meals and i was content with the same. However, the next section was to be the worst when we expected a fast descent. We struggled hard to figure a path to ride and utilize the downhill but my vision was distorted by intermittent fogging and the headlight from oncoming traffic only amplified the effect. Putta and I rode much slower compared to Opendro who just rode way faster and was more like on a second recce mission on bike. After this dreaded descent, we started riding towards Kalpeta. By Panamaram Putta started struggling due to some issue with food served at Periya. Opendro too seemed to have issues with bowel movement once at Kalpeta. I felt fine as my engine seemed to have just burnt any food ingested. The pace got way slower and Opendro and I had to take a quick call whether to slow down for Putta or ride like mad men to make it to control. We decided on latter as he could rest at Kalpeta. It sure felt bad to drop Putta at that time in that condition but reaching control was just too tight. The speeds at which Opendro pulled we made it to the control 2 mins to closing time. The sight of familiar faces was truly welcoming and they soon took our bikes so we could then get refreshed and catch up with some sleep. After a refreshing shower and change of clothes i just hit the bed for a 3hr sleep. Precious time and precious little sleep. By the time I woke up I got to know that  Putta had been rescued by organizers as they had to find him about 8kms away from Kalpeta in the dark. I managed to get more packs of Enerzal from Putta's stock and stuffed in the Decathlon's handlebar bag. Batteries replaced, we were now ready for the second half of the journey. We bid adieu to organizers and Putta. He was now to just get rest and take a bus back to Bangalore. 

The superb team of organizers. Kudos to you guys to make the stopover a luxury

We proceeded towards Peravoor and then turned towards Gudalur section. Here's where the scenery changed yet again. Beautiful misty mornings and winding roads through many plantations. We stopped to have tea and finish the cream buns purchased last night at Virajpet. The lady at the stall offered sweet appam. We gladly loaded our tummies for the long and arduous (so we thought) climb to ooty.The ride was beautiful and the roads were very good. Once we reached Gudalur we stopped for lunch at a hotel specializing in Parota. Hot and delicious, we also managed to pack a couple of them so we didn't have to stop enroute for another break till mettupalayam. Soon we were joined by Chidu, Deepak and Major. We bid adieu and started the climb at our own pace. My intention was to listen to music during the climb and mp3 player was sitting snug in the bag and remained there for good. Opendro and I had a chat for the entirety of the climb and before we knew it the climb was over. It passed through some beautiful eucalyptus forest. 

Gudalur to Ooty section

The Eucalyptus forest

Enroute Gudalur - Major and Opendro enjoying the twisty roads

Deepak and Chiddu mashing it to Gudalur

My tourer

Putta's Sidewinder

Deepak Mhasavade's fully equipped Tourer

We reached Ooty comfortably and now had the task of reaching Kotagiri. Many reviews from cyclists was that it was very steep. Nah. Not even close to what i had on mind. So that took another short while to clear and then it was mostly downhill to Kotagiri. Not as crowded as Ooty and lot of beautiful views all over. If you've been following my earlier blogs then you must be missing the climax. Yeah.. where is a flat  Mr.Flat Pandian :D. 10kms to Kotagiri the front tube decided it didn't like air anymore.  Time to remove the liners from the front one too. Inspected the tyre, put the new tube and pumped it up to bout 60PSI. then coasted all the way to the town where Opendro was waiting on me. Our next target was to finish the downhill stretch to Mettupalayam in daylight. So we quickly took snaps and headed to clear the stretch. The speed was way too good and the cornering was superb with 60PSI. More traction. We were only held up by other slower cars/bus. It was a fast downhill to the base of the clim and we stopped to finish the packed parota to propel us to the next control towards Avinashi. We took it at a brisk pace till Annur and stopped to have a lime soda. Suddenly, Opendro asked about control closing time and it was 8.36. and the watch revealed 8:02. So we had 20 kms to cover in 34mins. So we quickly gulped down the soda and it was back to time trial mode. Heads down and mash at a high cadence. The average would've certainly been >35kph on this flat highway with hardly any winds to disturb our momentum which sure was a saving grace. We did make it about 2 mins to control close. Only after we passed this point did we realize ther still was 20 mins added as a buffer. This was due to the roads switching to a non existent stte at Periya when compared to the recce that was done just weeks ago. We had Tea and continued our journey to Salem. We tried to rest at a couple of bus stops but due to mosquitoes we simply couldn't get any. So we decided to continue riding. The pace was increased and we tried to reach Yercaud base as early as possible so we get to climb in the pleasant morning weather. After having a couple of bananas we started the climb where we noticed a lot of people walking the initial 5-8kms . A steady pace was set and we continued riding. We managed to make it to the Yercaud control well within time. We stopped for breakfast at Hotel Shevaroy. I didn't fill up my tummy even though we'd been informed that it was all down hill till Kuppanur. But there was a nasty nasty surprise. There were some steep walls to climb before the actual downhill starts to Attur. Opendro mentioned that in a car one fails to realize the gradient and we were laughing at the thought of other rides who must have topped up their tanks to the brim considering the "downhill only" sections. Yet another fast and speedy downhill only to be slowed down by a 'Small bus' that wasn't really small. I had to stop to top up air in the front tyre as i felt them very low. While cornering i felt the tyre almost give way. Opendro did agree that it was less so we continued to the base where we had to change the tube due to a flat due to a stone hitting the tube due to super low pressure. Swapped the tube yet again and we continued. It was noon and I didn't want to ride anymore after looking at the road condition from Attur to Uthangarai. It was a sufferfest for the sore back, neck and wrists. After riding for about 5-6kms I had to stop for some cold drink and found Citra. Didn't know that this  was still in production. Refreshed and tired, we continued till uthangarai for lunch. We stooped once more for a power nap for 10 mins which worked wonders. We continued to Uthangarai where we stopped for lunch. Great meals at a small hotel was just needed to replenish and prepare us for the climb to Yelagiri. We started climbing late evening and soon we had drizzle and short bouts of rain as we headed to the summit that was 11kms ahead. The last climb of this journey and we were very excited. An undramatically slow climb but we managed to reach the top and while searching for ATM, we ended up running into Slush. This clogged up the brake pads, soiled the rims and the braking only worsened the situation. So Opendro ot a 20 ltr can to help clean the bike and also top up on supplies before we head down and continue riding to Vaniyambadi where we turn towards Krishnagiri. Enroute we stopped for a power nap of 15 mins  that turned out to be a powerful nap of 1.5hrs :). I simply followed Opendro until we could clear the nasty pothole ridden section. Oh, and did i mentioned that I veered off the road into the gravel due to hallucination? :) I regained control and we soon connected to the highway. We had T and i was now refreshed and took the lead for the next 50kms. This was by far the fastest leg of the journey as we were riding it like a time trial. High cadence workout and It worked perfect for both. 50kms covered in 1hr 40 mins that included 2 breaks of 15 mins. When i gestured Opendro to take over I thought he'd set a relaxed pace but that ws never to happen. He too mashed at nearly the same pace and i only just held on to his wheel and managed to rest on flyovers sections. Once at Krishnagiri we stopped for another dose of Tea and Opendro suggested that we take it slow so we reach just in time when there are volunteers and friends and family waiting at the end control. The only other stop was at coffee day for some Cafe Americano where Opendro had a powernap while i was chatting with some mobikers.

1200 kms in 90 hrs... did I just complete it? I had goose bumps we rolled into the end control. And the best part was that it was a comfortable finish and I relived my first Brevet memories with my brevet buddy Oepndro. I dedicate my finish to this Superhuman Samurai with a never say never attitude. 

My brevet buddy. What a superb ride it turned out to be !!

The finishers from Cleated warriors

End credits:

Major Srinivas -- This ride wouldn't even have seen the light of the day had it not been for your help in getting me recovered from pneumonia 2 weeks prior. 
Putta Narasimhaiah -- Thank you for the timely assistance and the training for BITH with hill repeats. One of the good times where I thoroughly enjoyed the training sessions despite breaking a lot of sweat.
Opendro -- You truly are an inspiration to many and to me this 1200 was more than double the fun and a great learning similar to our first Brevet 600 back in Apr 2011. 
Rajesh (My team manager) -- For approving leaves. Hadn't mentioned the reason behind the same but it sure will be a surprise one when he gets to read this blog :). Thank you Rajesh.
Shivraj (Wheelsports) -- Who toiled long hours on my bike to get it back to glory, the Flite 300 with 2300 groupset. Compact crank with a 11-32 casette. Pretty much the perfect one for this ride. 
Kiran (aka Tusker) -- There's a whole lot more to just this ride as the assistance I've been getting doesn't pertain to this ride or just this bike. 

Organizers --  Saying you've done a great job is an understatement. You were simply superb and the efforts taken to ensure riders are at ease and comfort I suppose is partly the reason for the renewed motivation and energy levels to ride the remaining miles. Kudos folks !! 

Elevation         13887 mts 
EventBrevet of 1200km
StartBangalore, BTM Layout Pizza Hut
EndBangalore, HDFC ATM, BTM layout
Start Time
Time Limit
OrganizersBangalore Bikers Club (601002)
Fuel:                Fried rice, Parota, More fried rice, Bananas, Enerzal/Gatorade in
                       generous quantities, superb meals at Uthangarai and most of                            all, the motivation from fellow rider Opendro. 

The entire route: 

Here is a one line synposis of the route
Bangalore — Ring road — Tumkur road – Nelamangala – Chennarayapatna bypass – Hassan – Belur – Belagodu – Balupet – Shanivarsanthe – Somwarpet – Madikeri – Murnad – Virajpet – Iritty – Peravoor – Periya – Thalapuzha – Mananthavadi – Panamaram – Kambalakkad – Kalpetta – Meppadi – Gudalur – Naduvattam – Pykara – Ooty – Doddabetta – Kotagiri – Metupalayam – Annur – Avinashi – Salem – Yercaud – Kuppanur – Harur – Uttangarai – tirupattur – Jolarpet – Yelagiri – Jolarpet – Tirupattur – Barghur – Krishnagiri – Hosur – Electronics city – Bangalore