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Covered in Grease: The Build-Up to Cycling Around Sri Lanka

Covered in Grease: The Build-Up to Cycling Around Sri Lanka
  1. Over the last 3 months, I have completely shifted my focus on training for this tour. Having spoken to a lot of touring cyclists, I now knew that without training, the tour could very soon change from being a holiday leisure ride to a torturous three weeks in hell. For the beaches to look comforting and the constant sight of the ocean to look pleasing just from  a distance – whilst riding my bike and lugging 15 kilos of supplies – my training has to be top notch. 1400 km stretching across the flat borders of the island and the enticing climbs of the mountains in the centre of the island; all under 15 days. I don’t brag when I say this, but I have spent a fairly good amount of time on the road and trails to know enough about what it takes to be fit for a long ride. This blog is about the short weekend rides I took , week long trips halfway across the country and a summary of my training plans.

Once the idea of a long tour had germinated in my head, i just took it upon myself to rigorously train. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know where I was headed. That issue would be resolved very very soon. A quick glance over Google Maps was enough to pick out Sri Lanka. I wouldn’t delve too much into why Sri Lanka as there’s an entire blog describing just that (click here for the link). So there I was, waking up every morning at 430 am and sleeping at 10pm. Social life had come to a screeching halt; my only friends were the authors I was reading and the artists I was listening to. Once in a while a good movie would entertain me but I would usually be too exhausted to sit through an entire movie. Pre-ride would comprise of a peanut butter sandwich, a glass of milk, 5 almonds and a half-hearted attempt at stretching out.

The route itinerary

I hadn’t ridden my bike in nearly 6 months, so I started with short and slow rides like the Faridabad toll or Sanjay Van. Anything between 25-35km. Once I gained some momentum, I shifted to a regular routine of 50km/2 hour rides. Damdama Lake, Mangar village, Asola Forest, India Gate, Bhondsi Ashram, Pathways School, Mum’s House and the Faridabad Highway were my favoured routes. Halfway into September, I decided to fly to Bombay for a week, for a change of air and a chance to explore the Bombay tarmac. I rode everyday and made it to Yeoor Hills, Marine Drive, Vihar Lake and Madh Island. For anyone reading in Bombay, I highly recommend a ride to Yeeor Hill, a small hilly village tucked away behind Thane.

Madh Island: a much needed escape from Kaali Peelis and buzzing autos

On returning, I tweaked my earlier schedule. Though I still rode 6 days a week, i introduced climbing sessions, intervals, trail riding and a mix of squash and running. All this was just to keep it interesting and have a new schedule every week. Over the weeks, I started feeling fitter and more importantly, more confident of pulling this thing off! A 2 hour ride would be followed by volunteering in Manesar with an NGO, a short nap and an evening session of running or a game of squash.

Never quite made it

On one of the group rides with the Pedal Yatris, an idea of riding in the hills above Chandigarh was floated and I was one of the few to raise both my hands. One for Morni Hills and the other for chai (someone was ordering at Chote Lal’s). The weekend was spent in failing to scale Morni hills. On both days I made it to the same point on the climb. It got too dark on Saturday and we had to turn back and my chain snapped on Sunday. Though I got in the elevation, Morni would have to wait.

I became more interested in trail riding after coming back from Morni. 7ams would often be spent on top of The Ramp, trying to see past the smog and get a good picture. Puncture probability is very high in the trails and that soon started ticking me off. It was a lot of fun to enter the Aravallis and go looking for hyenas and mountain cats but ultimately I wasn’t clocking the hours. The urge to explore had to be withheld and I was back on the road.

Once November started, it was time to increase the riding time. The speed or elevation didn’t matter anymore. I just had to learn to be able to ride for 5 hours in a day and be able to sit on the saddle for two hours without a break. Though my thighs and bum were complaining, my confidence had taken a huge leap and there was no reason to complain. I called it the Superfast Jellyfish week, after the Gorillaz song about a breakfast item of some sort being advertised made with freeze-dried jellyfish. Anything to keep it interesting, really. 100 km rides became the norm, extending up to Sohna, the KMP expressway and a huge loop around Delhi. All these rides are stacked up on my Strava, for the more inquisitive.

Pahadi relaxing after a steep climb

In my second last week of training, I decided to take a bus to Chandigarh, to celebrate Anya’s 21st and make a final effort in the hills. The key to be a successful cyclist is to climb as many mountains as you can, and as a fellow cyclist, I am sure you will agree. I rode to Ropad, Mandi (not the one near Manali) and a never ending road leading to New Chandigarh. While riding to Anya’s farmhouse, my front lights conked off and I was blindly daredevil-ing on this super fast highway. The cross wind was of no help and I was struggling like a cat in water. I heard a shout from behind me ‘Who is ET! Where is ET!’ It was Arjun and Mayank. They had just driven in from Saharanpur. The rest of the week was fairly enjoyable. I forgot about cycling as I was highly consumed in the hackey tournaments we were hosting every thirty minutes. Since I didn’t have a functional source of music, I needed something to occupy myself besides a novel. The hacky sack was put to some good use; we were all masters of the sport by the end of it. Anya was not pleased to find the boys in the bathroom – the size of my living room – all day playing with a ridiculous cloth ball. I complained of nerve damage and that it helped me relax the nerves of my palms but no one was amused.

Undisputed King of the Hacky

The last week has been very relaxed. I biked a couple hundred kilometers and took it easy on myself. Beer consumption has taken a massive leap and I’m happily downing cartons. I read somewhere that days before a tour, one should reduce the biking and increase food intake. This should be in the form of carbs for increasing gluten storage for a later use. I have conveniently misread it as consuming copious amounts of beer for its calories and wheat concentration. Silly, but lots of fun. As I sit and write this last sentence, I wonder if that would be my folly. That, or multiple cuts in my tires. A broken knee or a broken derailleur. Anything between a scratch to the frame and a bloody slash across the eye. While I have trained fairly hard, I have to be conscious of other variables. Though they won’t be as harsh as the ones above- hopefully, I must add – it’s best to be prepared for the worst and expect the best. My bike, a 1982 Specialized Sequioa AKA Pahadi is currently wrapped up in a carton, waiting for the smell of the ocean. Cruising along the ocean and being greeted with tail winds has been on top of my bucket list and its just a few days until I’m reunited with tropical weather, naariyal paani and a whiff of the deep blue sea.

Lots of carb and protein and some dinner on the side

Come along and follow my journey as I ride all around Sri Lanka and document my tour in the form of photos, videos and blogs. I will be speaking to the locals about mental illness, planning the layout for a new cycling magazine I wish to publish and furiously discovering new music.  Wish me luck!



Date Ride Description Distance/Time
19/09/2016 – 25/09/2016 Mum’s house, GFR toll, Marine Drive, Yeoor Hills 1, Colaba, Vihar Lake, Yeoor Hills 2 339km/17hours 40minutes
26/09/2016 – 02/10/2016 Madh Island, Mangar, Khan Market, Faridabad, Raiseena Village, Khan Market 309km/15hours 30minutes
03/10/2016 – 09/10/2016 Crusher Zone, Mum’s, Lost Lake(trail), Asola trail, Bani Dham, Pathways(trail) 239km/13hours 30 minutes
10-10/2016 – 16/10/2016 Pathways, Hill work on GFR, Bani Dham, Bhondsi Ashram (trail) 156km/6 hours 30 minutes
17/10/2016 – 23/10/2016 GFR, Hill Work on GFR, Asola Sultanpur GFR loop, Bhondsi Ashram, Morni Hills 1, Morni Hills 2 281km/16hours 15minutes
24/10/2016 – 30/10/2016 Damdama Lake, Intervals on GFR, Baba Baladas Ashram 106km/4hours 45 minutes
31/10/2016 – 06/11/2016 GFR toll, Superfast Jellyfish 1, 2 and 3, ISBT, 357km/15hours 10 minutes
07/11/2016 – 13/11/2016 Ropad, Mandi, New Chandigarh, Back from ISBT, Surajkund, Mum’s 307km/12hours 30 minutes


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