A sunday in hell: The Morni One Day Classic
845AM. Saturday Morning. I find myself at Chote Lal’s tea stall at the Faridabad toll, sipping bubbling hot tea and chilled Sprite at the same time. I couldn’t decide which I wanted more and now here I was. Option A Option B. Hit hot, then cold. Right. A plan was floated around by Manjot about going to Chandigarh and riding our bikes there. Tentatively, we would drive to Chandigarh early in the morning, ride in the evening, ride the next morning and head back by early afternoon. This seemed very exciting, and I happened to be free over that weekend, so I opted to come along.
930PM. The night before. We discussed the essentials, I greased my bike (or maybe not) and set an alarm for 330AM. Before sleeping I went to fill in some air, only to find a flat front tire. I had no extra tube, so the only option was to get fresh tubes in Chandigarh. This was horrible planning on my part, rather reckless.
430AM. The day of. Jayant was at the gate of my colony right on time. I removed my tires and fit in my bike at the back of his Thar, a very impressive looking vehicle. So it was the six of us going: Manjot, Manpreet, Arun, Jayant, Prakash and I. I happened to be the youngest, but fret not. I had found a cousin in this miniscule group. Jayant happened to be related to me from my aunts family. It was a rather bizarre situation. Arun and Manpreet were already in Chandigarh. The four of us made it to the city by 11AM. I headed to Zorawar’s house and got treated to some lovely Spanish omelettes his mum had made. We were going to ride to Morni(the only hill station Haryana has claim over), just off the Shimla Expressway. Manjot had instructed us to not eat anything too heavy, but I went on to have two more meals after that, finishing off with a cold coffee from Uncle Jack’s. The four of us met at the Police Mess Jayant and Prakash were put up at, and pushed off around 330PM. The way to Morni was very scenic, as was promised by Manjot at Chote Lal’s. It was a gradual climb initially, with lush farms on both sides of a single road.
The climb got steeper over time, and the farms started to disappear. Soon I was on a 1×2 gear combination, struggling to keep a steady cadence. Prakash, the iron man among us humans, was miles ahead of us, with Manjot following closely. Jayant and I were huffing and puffing a few minutes behind them. This was a no nonsense climb which I wasn’t prepared for. There were no curves like a normal hill. It was straight through and through, with the road just getting steeper every 300m.
At about 540PM we decided to turn back from where ever we were. Morni was 8km ahead but we would try to summit tomorrow. None of us had front lights so we had to reach home before sun down. Tragically, we were all lured by the smell of maggi and a dhaba 20m ahead of us and no one seemed to be complaining about the light anymore. We gobbled that maggi as fast as we could and hit the road once again. It was the scariest downhill ever, simply because the road barely bent and I couldn’t see much. It got darker and steeper at the same time. I had a few close saves i.e. I saved myself from crashing into trees on the side of the road; the strong beam of cars blinding me did not seem to help at all.
We stuck together right till the end. I had my eyes on Jayant’s back light right upto the Expressway, where the street lamps seemed to calm us down a little. The ride back to Zo’s from there on was easy and well paced. My legs hurt and I was starved. I could only think of that cold coffee we’d got in the day. Dinner was at the Chandigarh Golf Club. I came back and hit the sack immediately for tomorrow was going to be a long day.
I was out of the house before the break of dawn. I wasn’t very wersed with Zo’s kitchen so had to settle for a spoon dripping with peanut butter. I’d have liked a toasted PB-Honey but there was no time to complain. We left from the Police Mess at about 630am; Arun and Manpreet had joined us and we were now three cars speeding across the Himalayan Expressway with bikes rattling away in the back. Jayant was still half asleep and played some kadak Punjabi music to get his freak on. The cars were parked on top of Nada Sahib, an empty parking lot. Bikes assembled, selfies taken, Stravas switched on and sucking on the water pipes, we slowly rolled down the ramp of the lot. As usual, Manjot decided to set the pace for the group, and Prakash closely followed his lead. The road took a hard left and we were suddenly greeted with rolling hills. There was no slackening as this led to a very steep climb onto Morni. Arun and Manpreet were somewhere in the middle while Jayant and I struggled at the back. Or if not struggled, just floated around the back.
Morni was about 32 km ahead of us and there was no easy way out through this misery. Its at times like these when I wonder why the hell am I in this situation. It seems like a complete mess and everything is in shackles. Sitting at home one can keep dreaming of scaling a mountain, but put in the spot, it all feels like hell. And this was soon turning out be A Sunday in Hell. Things got worse when Jayant noticed a loose chain link on my bike. Each link is held to the other with two bolts each, and on one of the links, one of the bolts was missing. We kept on riding, occasionally i would whack it with my foot but nothing could be done. I just had to wait.
We reach the top of one hills, from where we had to turn right. This was where we’d reached last night. We didn’t care if the others waited for us or not, we needed some food in our stomachs. We happened to be in the company of 4 bikers who’d overtaken us an hour ago. They were all clad in fancy leather and all had a fancier Royal Enfield to swear by. They initiated conversation and we got carried away with sweet talk about the Chandigarh Cycling Club and how wee the real King of the Mountains and the motorbikers weren’t. Once our maggi, two cups of tea and biscuits were over we bid goodbye and started riding again. I was really beginning to thank the stars for the chainli…SNAP! There. Done in. Beaten by the last climb. There was nothing I could do. No matter how hard I pedalled the bike won’t move. It was like pulling the plug on a recovering patient. I smiled at Jayant. We both knew the next step. There was no need to panic and cause havoc. He pointed to the dhaba and I nodded. I pointed to the climb ahead of him and he nodded. I would wait until the rest of the pack return and hopefully Manpreet could help out.
I ordered more maggi, a motorbike repairman tried his hand but I was insistent that Manpreet was the man, him having no idea who I was referring to. Soon everyone was back and I was feeling very optimistic about the soup I was in. But first, business had to be taken care of. Manjot ordered 5 paranthas and asked the owner to keep ‘em coming. I patiently watched as they gobbled down fatty paranthas. Soon enough, my bike was upside down, the tools were out and we all surrounded Manpreet. Prakash decided to take a power nap right next to us and Arun tended to his mail. Manjot seemed to know what was going on and was playing co-pilot. Jayant and I took turns between holding the derailleur as far back as possible and sipping on warm Fanta. A churn here and a tweak there. Some whacks to the link with a stone and an intricately used chain tool later, we seemed to have it figured out. Manjot had already treading back as he was the fastest downhill. If I got stuck again he could drive up and rescue me.
Barely 1km later, the chain was beaten by a below average climb. It just didn’t hold. The others sped on and Prakash decided to move at my pace. What followed was a bizarre 30 minutes. I could be seen running with the bike, running without the bike as Prakash rode two bikes at once, walking with the bike, being pushed by Prakash whilst on the bike…and a few more combinations between the two of us. No matter how many times Prakash raised the idea of hitching a ride, I seemed to mumble something and follow it up with a few grunts. I was beginning to really enjoy this. Just 3 km from Nada Sahib, we spotted Manjot’s Scorpio. I was out of water and this was perfect timing. We rode back to Nada Sahib, everyone packed their bikes and we headed back. Manpreet and Arun had already bounced to which Manjot commented, ‘Arey, woh nahi rukte. Woh ISB waale hain.’ I didn’t understand the reference, but I’m hoping you might.
In the ride back to the main city, I was sitting silently with Manjot. I was thinking of what I should address the older PYs as. They were mostly my father’s age or lesser, but all in the father category of adulthood. I didn’t call my dad by his first name ever, and it didn’t seem right to call these guys Sir or Uncle. I had carefully picked out first name, last name and full name as my choices. Full name seemed odd and last name rather cheeky. It was settled, first name. And I had my first target in sight. I was about to utter the word, but before I could form the letters on my lips Manjot had started talking about something irrelevant in this moment. For now, I would have to work with nods, grunts, laughs and any other noise. Name calling would have to wait.
I packed up my things and we drove back much the same way as we came. I got dropped right under my lobby for I would have been a hopeless hobo walking on the road with a bike without a chain. This had been a fairly interesting weekend. It wasn’t much needed as there was more like this in store for me. But then, it is like that for any cyclist. One free weekend and you find yourself climbing some random mountain, almost wishing you stayed home and watched the tele with your family.