CYCLING


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The Dream, The Journey
Holding The BRM200 Banner In Hand!


STARTING A NEW PASSION

My stint at cycling started when I bought my first bike, this was in January 2018.

In the last 20 years I have spent lot of money on gym memberships, gym wear, gym shoes, bags etc. After all this, my highest attendance at a gym had been 4 days. I believe we all are built on our experiences and mine told me that I was the best at spending but bad at implementing a good exercise schedule. With such an experience behind me I had now decided to go for a new sport and that was cycling. I was not sure whether I will pursue this sport forget the idea of it becoming a passion.

You must be aware that the price of a cycle can start from a few thousand and can go up to a few lakh of rupees. Due to my past track record of lack of consistency when it came to exercise, I was a lot hesitant when it came to buying a cycle. Price of a cycle is not cheaper than a Gym membership and therefore I started off buying a starter level bike.

The picture on the right was taken on 27 Jan 2018. In this photo you can see me with my first bike Montra Unplugged 1.1. As mentioned it was a starter level bike which cost me Rs. 26000 + cost of accessories.In life we have clarity on our interests and what we want to achieve. For this we create a road map, we find our motivating factors; take efforts and work hard to achieve success in those areas of interest. With time as your kitty starts filling with achievements you also like to scale up your likings. Changes keep happening and as they say ‘Change is the only constant in life’. My experience tells me that every individual changes every 3 years. New interests also develop due to your friends or the people who surround you in your day to day life.


Cycling – this was one sport which I never thought would become a liking in my life. One reason could be that during my young years there were many other sports which had easier access than this one. We all have been riding cycles in our teen years but that’s it. Not having exposure to cycling as a sport atleast in my teen years could be a reason why I had never thought about it.

The first discussion about starting to cycle had come up in 2011. This was during one of our friend meet ups. But maybe then the priorities were different and most importantly this was not something which was not thought over that seriously.

 

EXPERIENCE OF A NEWBIE

After buying my first cycle a road bike on 26 January 2018, finally I started cycling. So my first rides were like 5 km and 10 km and it was an OMG moment when I did a 20 km ride. As I write this I am amused at myself, but I believe this may happen to you too. In the very first year I cycled for 600 km and for me that was like a big achievement. Slowly the distance started to increase and so did the frequency of my rides. When you are new to this sport and if you don’t have any friends doing this activity then you don’t get much of exposure. The only option left for you is to learn from youtube and most of it is from your own mistakes. In 2019 I did better than the earlier year by riding for 1868 km. From 600 km in the first year to 1800 plus km in the second was a good growth to me. Exposure & motivation is very important. The change happened when I started recording my cycling activity using a mobile app. Due to this I got to know the performance statistics of my rides and also comparisons with others. This was important otherwise I would have lived in my own world feeling a winner after every 10 and 20 km rides.

REALIZATION
 
In April 2019 I did a small trek cum cycling tour in Phuket. We were 7 riders in all coming from different countries. In 36 degree temperature doing a 25 kms ride and a trek to a water fall in the mountains gave me cramps of a life-time. The guys made a lot of fun and I failed to understand what went wrong. 10 days later when the photos were emailed to me I too laughed at myself. See the pic to under-
stand the belly full of jokes happening on me. On the weighing scale I was 103 kg and that was a big 
disappointment. I was frustrated that cycling for 1 year had not helped me. When I came back I thought about it seriously and started focusing on my activity. With a controlled diet and regular cycling I managed to reduce my weight from 103 to 96 kg. This happened in 3 months. This was a positive development I was waiting to happen. Though I was cycling for 1 year now and was witnessing the change happening in me somehow I still was not confident about what I was doing. I kept feeling that I may not be able to do much in this sport. 
 
MENTOR MAKES A DIFFERENCE
 
My new liking did not hide for long. And this is exactly what brought the most important change in me. An old friend Sachin Dabke became a mentor for me. Sachin was the one who had first initiated this idea of cycling back in 2011. When you have a mentor you don’t waste time on learning things on your own. So you manage to save time, reduce the number of mistakes which otherwise would have been committed before knowing, understanding, learning and implementing the correct things. I am sure these points will help you too, therefore sharing them below: 
How to ride a cycle?, How to ride using cleats?, When & How to change gears?, How to ride on flat roads?, How to handle a flat tyre?, How to handle climbs?, Nutrition, when and how much?, Tracking the HRM?, How to build strength?, How to handle long rides? etc etc etc…
 
 
Many many more questions which will come to your mind or difficulties that you will face as   you pursue your cycling hobby.
 How to ride a cycle? – come on we all know how to ride a cycle. One day I had a crash,   got myself bruised and bleeding.  Called my mentor to update him about it and he told me ‘You ride like a Milk man’. Remember in old days we had the milk man vendor visiting our   homes to deliver milk with those huge cans attached to the side of his cycle. So i went to   YouTube and searched for a milk man riding a cycle and to my surprise I understood what I
 was doing – I laughed out like anything when I realized this mistake. That is the day I had   learnt how to ride a bicycle, again thanks to my mentor. 
 
 Motivation to ride, keep riding is important and a mentor 
 can help you in that area. A mentor can give you the required exposure and help you scale   up the activity. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Who gifts an expensive Garmin device and an expensive light, my mentor did it for me.   What more can you ask for? NOW WAS THE TIME FOR ME TO PROVE… 
 
 In this picture you can see me (left) and my mentor Sachin Dabke (right). This photo   was taken after I completed my first BRM200 on 15 March 2020, Pune – Panvel –   Pune (Challenge - Bhor Ghat Climb).
 
 Thank You Sachin Sir, Thank You For Everything!
 
 Now Aiming For The Next Target ‘Super Randonneur’….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CYCLING AT SKYLANE – HAPPY & HEALTHY   BIKE LANE, SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT, BANGKOK

 

Next time you fly to Bangkok, peep out of the airplane window to have a look at the Suvarnabhumi Airport
down below. As the landing approaches you will notice a beautiful road around the airport painted in blue
and purple. Finally I had this puzzle solved when I got to know that this was a cycle track around the airport.

Having seen that track many times from the airplane window and later getting to know about it via YouTube videos had tempted me to visit it once. This dream came true when finally I did ride at the Skylane in
November 2019. I made a video for all cycle enthusiasts to know about it. The video is available on my
youtube channel titled ‘An Indian Cycling at SKYLANE – HAPPY & HEALTHY BIKE LANE –
SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT, BANGKOK’, 

link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIXRtBKMeic
 
Next time when you plan to visit Bangkok, do visit this place and enjoy a cycle ride on this amazing track.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
DREAM – HOLDING THE BRM200 BOARD
 
I was not aware of Brevets, Audax India, BRM nothing at all. All these words were new to me. I was completely ignorant about all this. The only thing about cycling which I knew was the ‘Tour De France’ that too because of Lance Armstrong. His rise had increased our interest for the sport and his fall shattered many of us. Second thing known to me was the race that happens between Mumbai and Pune city. At age of 45 I had no inclination or interest of getting into a cycle race. I was cycling because it was fun, I was enjoying every bit of it. This is when my mentor told me about this concept – ‘Your Race Against Yourself’. It immediately clicked to me, something which I can think of and pursue too. You will understand that we do best where we have that feeling of love at first sight. 
 
This new information now had got me into the thinking mode. This discussion happened in December 2019, my mentor educated me on Brevets, everything about it and attempting a BRM200 before the start of summer. One thing which I realized which should be a good learning for all the cyclists aiming to go for a Brevet, this is a two step process – one is preparing your body which means ‘PRACTICE’ and second is preparing your mind for the ride which is building ‘CONFIDENCE’. Yes both the points are important but if both these points are put into a weighing scale then the second point – ‘PREPARING YOUR MIND’ would weigh in more than the first. It acts as a fuel for your machine i.e the body to achieve the set goal. I was able to learn these lessons from my mentor. 
 
Drink Before You Are Thirsty, Eat Before You Are Hungry are all the value additions which helped me and may be without a mentor I would have learnt all this after making mistakes and may be hurting myself.
 
I missed the January BRM200 date as I was preparing myself for long rides. Till then I had done max of 20 to 50km of rides that too not consistently. On 29 December 2019 I did my first long ride which was around 100 kms, 20 days later 19 January 2020 I did again a 100 kms ride, 19 Feb again I complete one 100 kms ride. So by now I had completed three 100 km rides but in this process I had missed the date for January & February 2020, scheduled Brevets. Now the next was 15 March 2020, my mentor told me that this would be my last chance to attempt as after that the summer season would kick in and for a novice like me should not make up to be a good idea. He told me after March I should attempt directly in September 2020 as there are no Brevets during the rainy season. 
 
I wanted to attempt the BRM200 and I wanted to complete it successfully. So now I was aiming for 15 March 2020, means I had 20 to 25 days to prepare myself for this challenge. My confidence was again shaken when I got to know that this time the Brevet was scheduled for ‘Pune – Panvel – Pune’ route, the toughest challenge being the ‘Bhor Ghat Climb’. I was not at all a good climber, a novice like me, will I be able to complete this challenge, will I quit, will I fail, will I win were all the thoughts / doubts coming to my mind. I did not want to quit in the midst of the event – I did not want to gift myself an embarrassment.
 
I started practicing, doing 40 – 50 km rides regularly with 1 holiday in the week. One week before the
event I started practicing in the Old Katraj Ghat. I took the route from my home Law College Road to Chandni Chowk via NCL, Bavdhan and then took the highway to Sasewadi, crossing the New Katraj Tunnel, taking a turn at Sasewadi and climbing the Old Katraj Ghat getting down on the other side i.e Katraj, again starting the climb and getting down on the Sasewadi side and then taking the new tunnel via the same route coming back home – this used to be approx 60 plus km ride. This I did for 5 consecutive days before my Brevet scheduled on 15 March 2020. I did this practice in the afternoon, starting the ride at 12 noon preparing myself to sweat out in the sun.
The two photos on the left – first one is taken outside the Old Katraj Ghat Tunnel and second one is taken outside the New Katraj Tunnel
As I was practicing there still were doubts in my mind, as I had never done a 200km ride and it was going to be new to me plus you have to be on your own. But I said nothing doing and finally got myself registered for the event scheduled on 15 March 2020, Pune – Panvel – Pune BRM200 Brevet. 
 
 

 

 

 

ULTIMATE DAY – BREVET – BRM200
 
After 4 practice rides in the Katraj Ghat I took a day off before the actual event. Got my bike and all other accessories, light, tube, nutrition, salts etc ready. The day before the event in the evening had a good discussion with my mentor and we finalized the plan for the event. Had a good dinner and went to sleep early. The event was to start at 6 am and I had to reach by 5.30 am. The starting point was 5 km away from my residence. I started at 5.15 am from home, reached the starting point in time. There we had Attendance reporting, Bike & Safety checks and Collection of the Brevet card to be done. This happened in a very short span of time. Then the most important part was instructions and rules for the ride and now at 6 am we all were ready to go. Total 28 riders had registered and at the start of the event 5 riders had not showed up so now we were 23 riders who were given a green signal at 6 am. 
 
My mentor had told me to go slow, take it easy as this was not a race but an endurance event. We had planned a 5 min break every 30 km to drink, eat something and stretch and immediately start off. So till Lonavala I was going to have 2 breaks of 5 min each. Another important thing which was among the list of instructions given to me by my mentor was not to ride in the topmost gear, do it only when riding down slopes otherwise ride with one or two gears lower than the top. This was one advice which I think helped me a lot. In such events the worst thing to happen to a rider is muscle cramps, for this hydration, drinking fluids with salts, salts tablets etc. This is serious cause during this event there were 6 riders who had to quit due to this issue. Every rider has to take precaution. Once you are hit by muscle cramps then recovery becomes difficult. 
 
We started off at 6 am from Chandni Chowk, cruising at a steady speed, once I crossed Talegaon more than 30 km I took a 5 min break as was planned. While riding the small climb in Kamshet I suddenly remembered that I had not confirmed about the check points, so after crossing the Ghat I stopped to check whether there was any mention about the next check point. Again I started and as I reached Karla Caves intersection I saw some riders and the organizers vehicle, this was the first checkpoint where we got our Brevet cards stamped. The team there offered us soft drinks, water, banana and then again I set off on my ride. I had planned to take a break at Lonavala for a snack but when I reached the place I somehow was not feeling hungry. In the morning before leaving home I had a nice breakfast and on the way I had two protein bars and that made me feel full on the stomach, so I decided to continue my ride. On every break I sent a Whats App message to my mentor giving him an update of my where about. The Bhor Ghat downhill was awesome, but then you also have to be in control of the bike. By 8.30 am I was in the Ghats maneuvering downwards. In Khopoli I had a sandwich and got my water bottle topped up, this is a very important task for a rider, keeping water bottles full all the time. In 15 min I had started back, now for the next stop which was the turning point in Panvel. I was cruising without exerting much of pressure on myself having a sip of electrolytes every 5 to 10 km. 
 
The photo on the left is me at the half way mark, i.e Panvel Brevet Check Point. I had reached at 10.15 am. Half way done Half to go. As per the plan I was to reach by 11.30 am, now I had 1 hour plus of time with me. In these endurance rides time is very important, as there are plenty of uncertainties which one has to face, related to your body as well those related to your bike. A flat tyre can at times consume a lot of time and therefore having time by your side in very important. It is like saving cash for the bad times. 
Here again I took a break of 15 minutes, did some stretching, had electrolytes, ate some almonds, a protein bar, most important gave update to my mentor on my whereabouts, discussed the further strategy. This was important as the real challenge was yet to come – Bhor Ghat Climb, this was to come after riding for 120 km and climb was expected to start at around noon which would mean the hottest time of the day with the sun exactly above the head. Left the check point in Panvel around 10.30 am, this stretch was a bit stressful as this patch had no trees, the day was getting hotter and also humid. By 11.30 am I was back in Khopoli. Was not feeling hungry but then I had to prepare myself for the climb, therefore I stopped for topping up my water bottles, electrolytes, had a banana and red bull plus carried both to help during the climb. I was at the start of Ghat in Khopoli at exact 12 noon. I stopped, looked up at the Bhor Ghat / mountain, pulled out my phone from the rear pocket, opened Whats App and sent a message to my mentor - `Ghat Starts. Ganpati Bappa Morya’, got back a reply – ‘Slow and steady, You are there, Vijeta honar’ (meaning you will be a winner) to which I replied back as ‘Yes’, put the phone in my pocket, locked myself into the cleats and hit the pedal. This is that 12 kms of stretch where maximum riders quit. This was the first time for me to be in the Ghats alone, that too on a cycle. It is a treacherous climb, my thighs were burning but yes I remembered my mentor’s advice of stopping every 1 to 2 km. I took frequent stops and many of them were at shorter distances. This was a good thing that I did, cause any exertion during such climbs is like directly challenging your muscles and if they give up you are done for the day. 
 
The photo in the Ghats was taken by the organizers.
I was going easy with the climb and also myself. The banana and the red bull which I had picked up at Khopoli helped me during this climb. At times you get tired drinking electrolytes and just want something else. Another important thing which I realized during this climb was that when you stop on a climb, starting back is a difficult task, so I took help from small stones put them behind my rear tyre to give support and then start back with all the weight on the pedal. 
 
I climbed the whole of the Ghat section in the lowest gears. It took me 2 hours to reach the top. This was a WOW moment for me, I had managed to do what has been raising all sorts of doubts in my mind for the last 1 month, I had just climbed the most difficult climb so far in my cycling career. As I reached Tiger Point the first thing that I did was to pull my phone and send a message to my mentor – ‘At Tiger Point, Having a energy drink’. Bought a packet of chips, energy drink and topped my water bottles. After a 15 min break as I was about to set off for the final leg of the ride, a fellow rider arrived and was in dire pain due to muscle pull / cramps. He told me that he is planning to quit due to the pain. I shared 2 salt tablets which I was carrying with him and left for the next leg of the ride which was getting back to the check point at Chandni Chowk. 
I still had 5 km of hills to ride before I could cross Lonavala and onto a flat terrain. In this photo on the left you can see me ride on the last in Lonavala. In some time I was finally on the flat road, now the next aim was to go past the Kamshet Ghat, though a small one compare what I had just climbed but still after a 150 km ride and too in the heat of the day. I climbed the Kamshet Ghat, stopped for a sip of electrolyte, stretched my legs and set off. While crossing the Kamshet village I stopped for filling my water bottles and had a red bull. As I was about to leave the fellow rider who had met me at Tiger Hill, too arrived and he thanked me for the salt tablets which had helped him
with the muscle cramps and now he was able to ride his cycle. This was a proud moment for me as a Samaritan I had helped a rider overcome his problem. On this positive note I set off from Kamshet, now as I reached Talgeon Toll Plaza, my Garmin started showing me low battery indication so immediately I turned off the bluetooth and sent an update to my mentor about it. I wanted to record the complete ride, which in a way would become a souvenir to cherish for a lifetime. 
Now only 35 odd km to go and I had started to feel the pain.I reached the Dehu road bypass stopped for a glass of Neera, sent update to my mentor, the time now was 5 pm. Now the next and final target was the end point, Chandni Chowk, with eyes all set on the target I set off. The only worry now in my mind was not having a flat tyre at this final moment in the event. At Bavdhan my Garmin finally gave up and the ride was partially recorded. My mentor was there on the roads to cheer me at the HEMRL corner.
 
Two small climbs to cross and then Chandni Chowk. Reached the end point at 6:28 pm after riding for 12 hours and 28 min with 1 hour and 2 minutes to spare. 
 
All this just to full fill a dream – Take a photo holding the ‘200KMS BRM FINISHER’ board in hand. 
 
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED…
 

If I do not add this photo to the article it will remain incomplete. These friends helped me in achieving the the impossible. You can see them in the photo on the right.

Without their support I would never have been able to call myself a Randonneur.

Thank You Amit, Amita and Umesh…

 

What more can you ask for, then a Beer with your friends and Mentor. 
BRM200 will always be a memory to cherish throughout a lifetime. 
Sachin sir without you motivating me, without you pushing me and also without you giving up on me I would never have achieved this feat. 
In debt for the confidence you bestowed on me. Thank You! 
 

Last but not the least,
Thank You Pune Randonneurs, a wonderful, helpful team and a well organized event.