3/365: Accomplishment

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Cycling, Heart, People, Places, Weather
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today’s topic is in and I shall try to stick to it.

Given that the year just gone by was a dud in terms of professional life and family relations, there is only one thing that I can look back to and be glad of when I think of 2010: Cycling!

Like most kids, I use to love cycling as a kid. Our gang of neighbourhood kids use to have ‘expeditions’ to other parts of town as explorers. As I grew older, it became a mode of transportation. Going to school on a bicycle back then was as independent a thing you could do. Specially when majority of the class, and the neighbourhood, traveled in school buses. Cycling through the 4-5kms of wilderness, taking short cuts through unpaved fields on my road bike was an adventure. Something I looked forward to twice a day.

Then came youth, and college. The bike was forgotten as new priorities took over life (yes, girls!). Fortunately, the enthusiasm didn’t die there. The plenty of holidays in college year provided ample opportunity to keep exploring. A long enforced break at end of college provided an opportunity to turn things up a notch. I practiced daily 40-60km runs for a month and then took off – my first real expedition. Started at 4AM from Chandigarh. 17 hours later, landed dead tired at Shimla bye-pass. Did it all on my single-speed, already more than 10yo BSA Mach 1. Well, almost all the way – had to walk the ~10kms of Barog heights with my bike. About a week later, did the reverse journey – Shimla to Ambala in around 12 hours. Much easier, except that I ran through 3 sets of brake pads on just that leg.

That trip was a high. It gave me the confidence to go out and get what I wanted – a lovely girl (ahh D!), a job I desired (One97) and, unfortunately, a motorbike :(

Thus, from that success came the source of my distancing from cycling. The next I really got on a bike was 8 years later. This is where the story of this blog post actually begins.

I’d already been in touch with several people on twitter about cycling and how to get back to it. Soon, the Bombay Cyclothon appeared out of nowhere and, after much dithering, Rags & I registered for it on the last day. Girish, who’d been one of my key backers w.r.t. cycling, lent me his bike for the event. Truth be told, till that event I’d been a skeptic – unsure if I’d like cycling anymore, if I’d have the energy anymore, if I’d have the skill to cycle in a city like Bombay at all and if cycling in the city’s infamous humidity would be any fun at all. A short 12km ride changed it all. It may have been crowded, hot and way too early in the morning to be comfortable. It didn’t matter. I was sold.

Soon after Rags and I got our bikes. In fact, Rags was the first one to get a bike and even joined the cyclists.in gang for an anniversary ride from Aarey gate to Bandra. A few days later, I developed some courage and joined another cyclists.in group ride from Bandra to Gateway of India (and back). While the cyclothon ride had given me inspiration to get back to cycling, that ~42 km ride to/from town gave me the confidence that I still had the legs to take it further. While I’d intended to keep the rides to town a one-off feature, constant encouragement from Amit & Girish led to them soon becoming an almost weekly feature.

As Rags, Shakti and B50 too had picked up cycling recently, a group of twitter-cyclists quickly developed and short (15-25km) group rides on Saturday morning almost turned into a ritual. A ritual that I still miss as much as the company of my fellow riders. We even crafted a name for it – Saturday Morning Cycling Club or SMCC – inspired from the already popular (& elite) SMBC. Between rides to town with Amit & Girish and these SMCC rides, I was back to cycling and loving every km of it.

Meanwhile, life intervened and landed me & Rags in LDN. Despite a 2 month break while the cycles were shipped over from Bombay, this turned out to be a huge blessing. Cooler weather, longer days, better traffic discipline meant my cycling simply rocketed up. I quickly doubled from the average of ~100km of cycling/week back in Bombay, to 200-250kms/week. A few weeks I even averaged in the target 300-320kms range before winter set in.

Even better were the weekend rides with Rags – to the cyclothon, to Wimbledon, to Greenwich, around the parks and more:

But the best of these 4-5 months of cycling in UK were these 3 interesting ‘expeditions’:

The Inquisitive (one of her names) on canal towpath as Rags cycles away in the distance

First. We visited Scotland in August for a vacation and took our cycles along. And on a cold, rainy day, we set off from Fort William to try out the Great Glen Route. We may have cycled only about 60kms that day but it was one of the most beautiful 60kms I may ever ride. By the time we came back, we and our bikes were covered in many layers of mud and were drenched to the core. Yet, we both had huge smiles pasted on our faces. Smiles that said it all about how wonderful that ride was.

A marker in Cromarty, 1/3rd the way into ride around Black Isle

Second. Later on the same trip, we decided to cycle around the Black Isle on which we were staying. The ride, for most part, was much easier than the earlier one. However, the short section that was not easy, was very very difficult and we suffered quite a bit from it. Still, as we glided back home on our bikes after riding 65kms around the island, the smiles were back on. Better still, this time there was no mud to be washed off or wet clothes to be dried.

The Inquisitive in front of Primrose hill before the ascent

Third. The final ‘expedition’ took place just a few weeks ago as LDN experienced its earliest snowfall in some years. Bored of having had to sit at home in biting cold, I decided to take off with the bike and camera. The ride around SJW was easy as on any other cold day. The one inside Regent’s Park was anything but. Yet, it was inside Regent’s Park that the most fun was had. Imagine a white winter wonderland with no cleared out paths and no traffic – pedestrian or vehicular. Add a mostly frozen lake with lots of water fowl, a short Primrose Hill with enthu folks sledging down its slopes and a canal path barely clear of snow. Cycling in that snow was such a wonderful experience that I barely realised I’d spent almost 4 hours out there.

So, there. I’ve laid it out – my accomplishment of the year: Falling back in and continuing to stay madly in love with cycling.

Before signing off, I’d really like to thank the people responsible for it – Amit, Mehul, B50 and Shakti. An even bigger thanks to Girish for not just encouraging and accompanying me, but for lending me his bike for that second, first ride. And the biggest thanks to my partner in crime, Rags, for encouraging me to ride, planning the two Scotland rides and joining me on so many of them. Looking forward to riding with you all again this year.


  1. melodydemone says:

    I enjoyed your story and great pics as well. good luck with the challenge, check out my newly inspred site if you’re studk for ideas on the ‘how’ how2wrienow.com. hope it helps :-)

    • raven says:

      Thanks. So far I’m following the topics suggested on postaday blog. Will definitely pick up tips from your blog for when I get bored of there topics ;)

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