The Pedal Stroke – "it never gets easier, you just get faster"

Last Sunday, my alarm rang with a musical note, I turned it off and saw it’s 4:15 in the morning. Excited, I woke up at the very first sound of it. It was my first test of endurance on a bicycle. I quickly got ready, packed my bag and opened google map to confirm the route I will be following - and the journey started - 5:30 a.m.

Route to Nandi Hills, round trip distance - 140 km

It was still dark, shops closed and the roads belonged to just one being - dogs. Safety was the number one thought on my mind. However, after a while, I started thinking, “when was the last time I rode a bicycle?”. It happened to be close to 5 years ago and the effect was clearly visible. I found myself searching for motorcycle controls sub-consciously. I accidently pressed the gear button twice thinking of horn and indicator lights. While crossing a gas station came, I almost entered there thinking of refueling the tank. At every traffic signal, flyover I was thinking, how easy it felt to zoom past these on a motorcycle. But slowly, I started appreciating these hardships. It was because of the bicycle, I realized the importance of energy conservation. I preferred to slow down instead of applying brakes, especially at the signals.

At around 6:30 a.m, I reached Hebbal flyover. I took a short break, drank some aloe-vera juice which I prepared at home (a big mistake). Feeling refreshed, I started again and went over the awesome expressway flyover. Soon, the aloe-vera juice did its job. I started looking for toilets on top of the flyover. I realized, the stretch of the flyover was many kilometers long before it actually touches the ground. With no option in sight, I continued riding. I was thinking, it is not easy for an amateur like me. I should probably, back off. Finally, the flyover ended at Yelahanka. I searched for available options as the shops were still closed. A security guard was very kind to guide me to a nearby Sulabh International.

At 7:40 a.m, I was a little tired. I took a tea break and continued my journey. To distract myself from the pain, I started looking at the scenery. It was refreshing. I reached halfway at around 8:30 a.m. This boosted my confidence and now I was determined to complete the mission. I pushed myself over numerous mighty flyovers. At last, the highway ended and I was excited to ride on the lush green Nandi Hills road. At around 10:30 a.m, the destination was another 11 km away. Feeling very tired, I took another break. This time, it took me a while to re-assure myself that I can do it. I gently crossed the Nandi Hills traffic check post, 7 km uphill track remained. At 11:50 a.m, 5 km remained. I started struggling and it took around 20 mins for the next 1 km stretch. There was a small roadside stall with few snacks and tender coconuts. Tired and hungry, I had some light breakfast and met few cyclists - Prateek & Abhijit.

After refueling and energizing myself, I continued the journey. The roads were steep, sometimes scary due to loose gravels as well. Finally, I made it at 1:12 pm. It was really satisfying to see the gates of Nandi Hills. Mission accomplished :D

When my legs hurt, I say: “Shut up legs! Do what I tell you to do!” – Jens Voigt

Hair pin curves at Nandi Hills
Hair pin curves at Nandi Hills

I had some chat with my new cyclist friends. We had a brief photo session and then decided to travel back together. Riding downhill was amazing and super easy. We overtook many motorcycles, cars slowed us down as the road was not wide enough to overtake them. Riding back to Bangalore was easier than I thought. It is at a lower elevation. However, to keep up with my new friends, I stretched a lot without breaks. At one point, just before the airport flyover, I was completely exhausted. We took a small break and continued till the next food outlet - McDonald’s. They planned to go on a different route from there. I bid them goodbye, it was 4 p.m.

Completely exhausted, I decided to take a big 30-40 mins break. My full lower body was paining like hell. I had the first real meal of the day and made a few phone calls. It was relaxing. I decided to start again at 4:40 p.m, around 35 km to go. Slowly and steadily, I continued my journey and reached home at 7 p.m.

Looking back, I realize, I made a few mistakes:

  • Carried too much luggage - 2.5-liter water, eatables, camera, headphones, first aid, etc. I ended up emptying my bottles on the road to reduce weight. It’s advisable to carry as little as possible. Most cyclists carry just a bottle of water/electrolyte drink along with few eatables like biscuits.
  • Aloe-vera juice is not an alternative to an electrolyte drink. Coconut water is best.
  • Mountain bike (MTB) is not suitable for highway tours.

Finally, thanks @krishnaghatti for lending your bicycle to me. You are awesome. And as always, Thanks for reading :-)