Sometimes life brings forth opportunities too tempting to let go. And something similar happened with me a few months ago. An idea was lingering around and enticing me for quite a while, which I presented to a strong fellow rider on a century ride and caught her fancy too.
The idea was floated among a small, but like-minded group of riders and got everyone’s instant node (strangely everyone was equally excited to commit to the madness 😉 ). As all of us were seasoned riders but hadn’t attempted anything of the sort ever before, hunt began for someone who could help us plan as well as lead, which led us to an acquaintance who had the experience of various long distance rides behind him and had successfully completed a ride from Delhi to Mumbai (1400+ km) in the winters of 2017.
The idea was to attempt and successfully complete a ride of 250 km (Delhi – Chandigarh) in the month of Feb 2018 (which can be really cold and foggy being in the northern part of the country). Although almost all of us had completed a few century rides to boast of, but were unaware of our limits beyond that. Moreover, despite every challenge or hurdle, we all wanted this to happen and do it in style and speed, hence, the christening of Flying Falcons (what we like to call ourselves) happened.
Planning the ride!
Meet ups and planning sessions were held, routes were discussed, and each one of us got the opportunity of being a leader in our own way.
Whether it was planning the route, deciding on the check points and refill stations, managing the accommodation once the destination was reached, organizing the funds and sponsors or undergoing first aid sessions to be prepared and equipped for any eventuality, every aspect was meticulously planned and worked upon.
Having said that, the task at hand was still mammoth. Numerous practice runs were planned and executed. There were days when we rode against the odds, in almost no visibility (due to the fog) relying on our instincts, pierced by bone chilling winds and with running noses :P, but not one soldier ever flinched. Hats off to the 3 females in the group for leading the way in the wee hours and making us break into a sweat every now and then!
“Any fool can have bad luck; the art consists in knowing how to exploit it.” – Frank Wedekind
I clearly remember the morning, cold and clear, but still a sense of uncertainty in the air. When things don’t turn up as planned, be assured you are on the right path… lol!
To start with, our backup cars never showed up, leaving us high and dry and forcing fellow riders to press their own assets into service. Subsequently the start got delayed but the supporters gathered to see us off (braving the cold and winds) lifted our spirits and mood.
The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war. True to the saying, we were able to complete more than half the distance in 6 hours without any incident (having a flat tire is the biggest setback a cyclist endures). But, no practice run could actually prepare us for what lay ahead on the ride. The biggest task was to negotiate unending flyovers (more than 100) and battling the cross winds, which never allowed us to settle in the saddle.
But watching each other’s back, nursing the exhausted ones, sharing some light moments and harmless banter, pampering the bikes, refueling as and when required, feeling the forces of nature and acting silly at times, kept us occupied and motivated.
The longest Mile
The part I like the most about any long distance ride is, when you are left all alone. This is kind of funny, isn’t it? You need a companion just like everyone else, but nobody is able to match up to each other’s’ rhythm … lol.
I love the longest mile for it gives you the moment to connect with yourself. What you are when you are not pretending for the world. What makes and breaks you is not your strength or weakness in a crowd, but when you are with yourself.
My longest mile lasted for 21 odd km that I rode alone, in a strange silence, capturing the landscapes, battling the winds, cursing the miles ahead, yet living every moment to the core.
- Summer or winter, keep yourself well hydrated. And keep supplementing the lost salts.
- Draft at a safe distance if you are not used to each other’s riding style.
- Ride to the left and watch out for traffic EVERYWHERE!
- Do not ride without the helmet and lights.
- Take a planned break and utilize it well.
- Keep talking to each other, stay motivated.
- Stretching and light massages are the key.
- Food – keep it simple (lentils, rice, and chapatis).
- Enjoy yourself, it’s not a race.
It took us 11 hours of riding time and 16 hours overall to reach the destination, all in one piece ;). Oh! Did I not mention the spell of rain for the last 30 odd km, felt like being in a freezer (literally!). The moment will always remain etched in the memories, not just for being able to complete the decided distance, but exploring our limits and capabilities beyond imagination.
I personally felt in control of myself for the second time in life and the feeling would remain forever, one that I can’t pen down or express through any channel. It felt as if life had an altogether different meaning to it, something more than what meets the eye.
Life will always present opportunities, mind will always lead you to ideas. Grabbing your gear and deciding on your 265 km (the actual distance we covered) is what the most difficult part is. The riders on this ride came from different professions and varied age groups (26 – 45 years), with their apprehensions and doubts, but they all knew when to conquer their fears. We rode strong, we rode safe, passing on the message for everyone to maintain road safety as we all have one life to live and explore.
Do it while you can!