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      • City: Kanpur


      A word which the dictionary defines as, “the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

      An open-ended definition, which cyclists have stretched to the limits.

      I remember while speaking to Ace Downhill rider, Slade Gomes, he said he needed to improve his endurance. By that he was referring to going from 2-minute-long tracks in India to 5-7 minute long downhill tracks in Europe. For a DH rider, 8 minutes is proper endurance!

      On the other end of the spectrum is good friend of mine, Sumit Patil. An ultra-endurance bicycle racer. Who probably wouldn’t even fully wake up in the first 8 minutes on the saddle. His races lasting up to a whopping 100 hours!

      Somewhere in this very broad definition of endurance lay I. A humble tourer. Riding a few kilometres every day, day after day after day.

      But even after all my many miles of touring, I had never done an endurance ride. And cycling in India means you are mostly exposed to riders who are into brevets, which is endurance. I wanted to experience what it means to go ultra-endurance.

      The only picture from the ride. Before the ride had started!

      And as fortune has it, my luck turned to merde!

      In May while cycling in my hometown during the lockdown, I broke the rear derailleur on my bike. After months of trying to source a replacement, I finally took my bike by car to Delhi and got it repaired there.

      Now the bike and I were in Delhi, while home beckoned in Kanpur.

      The seed of the idea germinated…

      And I spoke with my aforementioned endurance friend, Sumit. He told me that I could do it. He convinced me that I had the experience and the legs to pull off the distance in one BIG single ride.

      Apprehensive I decided, it was a GOOOO…

      Because after all, ‘when was the last time, you did something for the first time’, is a motto I strongly believe in.

      The Office Commute

      No matter the length of this planned ride. It was at the end of the day a commute for me. I was in Gurgaon on work and had to go home from work. With my LAPTOP!

      With advice, pep talk and aero bars from Sumit, it was time to hit the road…

      Except there was a speed breaker even before the ride started.

      Mohit, ace photographer and buyer of beer, landed up the previous evening at 11 PM with the cool brew. An hour later the beer was down and so was I. Unable to get up on time the next morning for the ride.

      Later than planned, the ride was finally underway. The weather was perfect, bike was perfect and when you’re on the saddle, life is also perfect.

      There were a few things I had to do to ensure successful completion. Keep my heart rate at 140 bpm steady, stay hydrated by drinking 600 ml of water an hour and eating enough that at no time should I come close to being hungry.

      The ride went off smoothly for the first 3 hours and while I was on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) expressway, I ran out of water, with no opportunity to refill. Another 10 minutes and there were dhabas aplenty to fill my bottles.

      I learnt the hard way, that you should change the battery on your HRM once a year. I hadn’t changed the battery for 5 years!

      Before my heart could bonk, my HRM conked…

      Instead of focusing on what needed to be done, I focussed on what had come undone. Worrying about the lack of HR numbers, I ignored my empty water bottles.

      Eventually riding for half an hour without HR readings, water and food.

      After the anxiety of not being able to monitor my HR faded, I got back to business. And sat to wolf down a solid breakfast. With my HRM in my pocket still sending out fantastical readings.

      As I was nearing Mathura, I realised that all the dhabas had ‘100% vegetarian’ written on them. And I knew I was in trouble. Without eggs, I would be toast!

      I don’t like north Indian food in general. But I still manage to shove it down my throat at the best of times. But these were not the best of times, as the clocked ticked on, and exhaustion crept in, the food became more and more difficult to eat.

      Lunch was a horrendous affair of dal roti before Agra.

      Then Agra was an even worse affair of maddening traffic.

      Post Agra, a couple of masons on their doodhwaala cycles latched onto me. For 15 km we rode together chatting about the travesty of life and all that!

      After 12 hours of being on the road, I managed to ride 250 km. Half way done. Life seemed perfect.

      Almost immediately after, I unwittingly got onto the newly constructed Firozabad bypass. Because it is relatively new, there are no dhabas on it. I had to ride 20 extra kilometres before I could find a place to grab a quick bite.

      I got waylaid by a truck driver and his masala story as I sipped my milky sugary tea.

      His story went:

      He worked for 30 years for a company based in Delhi as a truck driver. After 2014, when the BJP came to power, the company starting forcing out all the older employees to make way for RSS backed candidates. He was one amongst the many who were forced into VRS!

      As per him, the company runs an NGO, which is filled by young RSS workers, who are sent out on party promotion work, while they get funding for social work from government schemes. The same company then donates substantial figures to the party coffers at election time. The owner of the company is a seasoned RSS man.

      The money he got from his VRS, he spent on buying another truck and now freelances!

      His sons and daughters are now all engineers and work in big IT firms in NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore.

      I asked him, how difficult was it to educate his children on a truck driver’s salary, he laughed.

      He told me when his salary was a few hundred rupees three decades ago, he made 45000 rupees a month illegally! And when he retired his salary was around 30000 a month and couldn’t even manage 10000 rupees illegally. He blamed the cutting off of surplus funds on computers…

      In his 30 odd years of service, he made enough money to buy multiple plots of land, build 3 houses in 3 different states of the country and ensure his children had enough funds to pursue their dreams.

      All the while, listening to his gripping narrative, I forgot to eat. Only one cup of chai and the story went down.

      Soon after getting back on the saddle, my stomach growled again. At 10 PM, I stopped for dinner and managed to get my first soft drink.

      Crazily none of the dhabas in Uttar Pradesh stock Pepsis and Cokes. Since the dhabas are frequented by truckers who don’t like junk food.

      I normally don’t have fizzy drinks, but desperately needed the sugar rush after 14 hours on the saddle.

      I tried to sleep after dinner, but was still too buzzed with the adrenaline. I lay there on the cot, staring at the stars willing myself to sleep. After half an hour of an unsuccessful attempt at sleeping, I got back on the saddle and pushed ahead.

      At around half an hour past midnight, I felt my eyes shut while riding and immediately pulled into a dhaba and ordered a Pepsi near Etawah. Two sips of the cola later, I put my head on the table and was out like a light.

      After getting 1.5 hours of solid sleep, the octogenarian dhaba uncle shook me awake with his unsteady hand. He asked me if he should spread out a proper bedding, where I could sleep comfortably. I didn’t want that, because I felt fresh and ready to move on.

      Finished off the rest of the flat Pepsi and left the dhaba invigorated. But soon started feeling hungry again.

      By then I was unable to eat any proper food. The sight or smell of daal, roti, sabzi, chawal, was enough to make me nauseas. The heart wanted meat or eggs or something similarly palatable. But the stomach only got salted peanuts, potato wafers, chocolates and soft drinks. Nutrition was running low and so were the energy levels.

      At around 4 AM, I stopped at another dhaba for food and was their first customer for the day. They were as surprised to see me cycling as I was to see them cooking at that ungodly hour!

      I forced myself to eat an aloo paratha with dal. It was possibly the worst experience of the entire ride.

      And then it hit me like a fused bulb! I hadn’t been to the loo for almost 24 hours and my stomach was all bloated and funny. I could barely stay on the aero bars for a few minutes at a time before the pressure on the stomach made it uncomfortable.

      I started hunting for a suitable dark spot, away from human eyes and hidden snakes! Only to run into a bunch of early morning revellers.

      Early in the morning there was half the village on the side of the highway. The young boys and girls running in the dark. While the older folks were walking and praying and chatting. Not the most suitable spot for my requirements!

      By the time I found a bit of empty road, it was daylight.

      I trudged on surviving on soft drinks and chips.

      Just like that it was 24 hours since I had been riding and caught the sunrise from the saddle. A glorious way to start the day and just a century more to do.

      With less than 100 km to go, I stopped again and relaxed a bit. And fell asleep with a potato chip in my mouth! I woke up 20 minutes later when I heard someone fiddling with the gear shifters.

      As I neared Kanpur, urban traffic and all its aggressiveness irritated my fatigued mind and body. To add to my sorrow a light headwind picked up and the sun was beating down with temperatures north of 40 degrees.

      With just 20 km to go, I stopped and took another hour-long break. Just to eat chips and drink Coke! The end seemed a lifetime away.

      29 hours 45 minutes and 3 seconds after starting from Gurgaon, I reached home, having covered 482 km in twenty-two and a quarter hours of saddle time. Later I was asked why did I not complete the 500, the answer was simple, I reached home!

      Ride Stats. If you’d like to see the Fly By, check it out here.

      The first thought that entered my head as I walked into the house was, how can I improve my riding on the second attempt.

      The second thought was, oh the luxury of a working toilet!

      Along the way I met countless motorists, who would slow down and chat with me. There was a common thread among the responses. The young were left with their jaws hitting the floor. Middle aged folk, just thought it was stupid and a bus journey would have sufficed. And the grey-haired uncles all had a sparkle in their eye, as their remembered the stupid things they did in their youth!

      Riding from Gurgaon to Kanpur, was indeed an incredible journey, endurance ride and commute…


      Things that I carried on this trip:
      1. Pump, tube, puncture repair, multitool.

      2. Headlight, tail light.

      3. Camera, GoPro, Phone, Power Bank, Chargers, Wallet, Toilet Paper.

      4. Laptop and charger.

      5. An extra pair of padded shorts and towel.


      Things I wished I carried:
      1. A jar of peanut butter!

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