Thursday, June 24, 2010

3 Idiots on bikes - Sesquehanna River Trail

It was a very memorable weekend, meeting up with my childhood pals and spending a lot of time talking about highways and fairways. It's the season of guest writers on my blog. Introducing my childhood pal and dear friend, Vijay who has this report of the ride in Harrisburg...
The weekend was a hoot and will go in as a fun filled memorable one in my personal history book. It’ll remain etched in my mind for years to come. It was a series of firsts for me. If meeting my chaddi dosts Manoj and Uday, whom I have already known for more than 25 years in my 30 years of life in a foreign land was exciting enough, golfing, biking, playing cricket together in a little known city called Harrisburg in the northern hemisphere was an icing on the cake. Stitching all the events spread over the weekend made a fantastic panoramic mental picture.

It was Sunday afternoon. Manoj, Uday and I were treated with some good food (Thanks to Kalpana et al) at a friend’s baby shower party. After filling our bellies we escaped from the scene to bike the Green belt around Susquehanna.
After a siesta, we left my place in Camp Hill, PA to City Island (a small island in Susquehanna in Harrisburg downtown). We mounted my Giant Cypress hybrid onto the bike rack of my grey Honda Accord and off we went. Just the previous day Manoj had poured in lots of technical details on bikes, tire pressure, psi, cadence, how to mount a bike, how to dress for a bike ride and lots of good stuff. Driving to City Island, I felt the pressure to perform. I was determined to show the Iron man, that I am not a couch potato :)

We reached Susquehanna Outfitters, a bike rental company in City Island around 4 PM, quickly introduced my buddies Manoj and Uday to Steve who owns the rental company. Manoj, was excited and It didn’t take us too long to notice that he was in his comfort zone. It was gonna be a routine drill for him. We rented two bikes; Uday picked up a larger frame Trek and Manoj knew what he wanted. We quickly headed out of the Island to hit the Green belt trail. We biked on the iron bridge, made a steep descent to the trail around the river. It was an exciting moment. While Manoj and I have biked together many times (2 years from Sanjayanagar to Malleswaram) in the past, it was the first time the three of us were biking together. We started nice and easy, clicking some pictures, and headed towards the PennDOT. I picked up a map of the Green belt, as it can be a little confusing in certain parts.

We quickly saw ourselves pretty comfortable on the bikes and headed towards the Cameroon street, under a thick canopy of trees into the Five Senses garden (Uday, would begin to feel his rear sense here). There was one spot where Manoj instinctively was biking on the left hand side of the trail and had to remind himself that he was in the US. As we biked along the trail, we talked. Can’t really remember what we talked about, but I know we were laughing and yelling at each other and we definitely had fun.

We biked past Paxton street, waiting for quite some time for the traffic light to turn green for us pass through. When we reached the Reservoir Park, it was the first of the many uphills we would bike. I was glad that Manoj was around to help me and Uday with the technicalities of gears and we gradually but steadily conquered the first uphill of the day utilizing the granny gears to the fullest…hurrah! Delighted I sure was.

It’s the downhill that makes that salty drop of sweat running down your forehead, those aching muscles that scream at you on the uphill so much worth it. “Don’t be afraid of the uphill, there’s surely a downhill”, I am trying to apply this principle to every aspect of life. So far seems to be working.
We soon hit the State Street, crossed the street to get on to Herr Street, and hit the trail again. Now we were on some 8% -10% grade inclines. Slowly, I was getting comfortable with the bike and the gears. Manoj kept Uday company and encouraged him to push harder. We learnt that of the three of us Manoj is the most patient and I am the least. Soon, we made it Lower field, the Mecca of cricket buffs in Harrisburg. “Whackers” vs “HACC” cricket match was in action. We stopped and caught a glimpse of the match and gulped down a bottle of water.

We continued to pedal, and made our way through HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College). Uday seemed amazed at how I had discovered the biking trail. It was just talking to folks in my office that I came to know about the Green belt.
When we entered the Wildwood lake area, I could feel that Uday was pushing himself harder than ever. After a few steep uphill climbs, we saw ourselves biking on a thrilling downhill trail. Manoj went ahead of us and captured a video of us biking downhill. Finally, we came onto the Front street area, which reminded Manoj and me of Jayanagar, Jayamahal areas of Bangalore. We biked passed the Governor’s mansion (Governor Ed Rendell) and took a few pictures along the way and finally came back to City Island. It was close to 20 miles and 2 something hours of biking. Burnt loads of calories, thanks to Manoj’s fancy GPS watch.
We returned the cycles and thanked Steve and headed back to the car. The experience was priceless. Blessed we were for the wonderful day!

Some boring stats as usual:
Date: 20/06/2010
Time: 02:39:46
Distance: 32.40 km
Elevation Gain: 174 m
Calories: 1,010 C
Time: 02:39:46
Moving Time: 02:21:17
Elapsed Time: 02:39:46
Avg Speed: 12.2 km/h
Avg Moving Speed: 13.8 km/h
Max Speed: 42.7 km/h
More details from my ‘fancy GPS watch’ here

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cycling in NYC

An official visit to the East coast provided an excellent opportunity to bike in the US. The next 3 posts are about my latest exploits from the mouth of guest writers on my blog. Keep Visiting!!

Introducing Srikanth, my cousin from New Jersey, who kept me fantastic company as we cycled on the biking trails and the one-way streets of NYC. Here’s the report straight from Srikanth!!
It’s has been on my mind for quite some time but thanks to Manoj's NYC visit, my bike trip on NY streets became a reality and a pleasant one too. I had bought my Trek7.3 FX just a few days back and was wondering what would be the best way to satisfy the desire to play with a newly bought toy. Right then Manoj called me and said he was planning to visit the city over the weekend. From then on the trip just happened.

Started morning 7 o'clock from home riding on my bike to the NJ transit station. Blame it on my stiff muscles or the early morning chillness during spring, that 10kms turned out to be the toughest stretch of the day!! God I had to do that wearing my jeans, which would eventually end up half way across the globe in Shreya's washing machine in a few days :D. Taking my bike in the train was the part I was most uncomfortable with. Mainly because I had never done it before and I was very skeptical about carrying it on the narrow escalators in Penn station. Escalators that would cramp and suffocate commuters even without a bike. Thankfully I had no horror stories to share with Manoj. 90 minutes gone and I was out on 32nd street, New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of!!

In no time I was there at Bops place and in even less time was out of there too. On FDR drive towards Brooklyn Bridge and a ride across it. Then on to Little Italy where we stopped over for lunch.
This is where I first heard about these weird breed of homo-sapiens who first appeared in the SE Asia region and quickly migrated to different parts of the world. I believe they are referred to as hashers and their religion called hashing. I still remember Manoj's purchase of a unique dress which was designed according to hash traditions. A dress that he was hoping would get him better acceptance within that community ;-)

From there on we cycled across lower Manhattan, along Hudson bay went past USS Intrepid and all the way to George Washington Bridge. We could have gone even further but I had a train to catch back home and we had to plan for that. On our way back we went into Central Park and then on to Times Square. This is where we had to go different ways as I had train on my mind and he had Asics shoes on his.

On my way back in train I shared the coach with a group of Puerto Ricans. Drunk yet sober after their annual Puerto Rican day celebration (it was actually the day before). Some of them were bikers and we traveled talking about our trips. Once at Long Branch it was 14kms ride back home. Back from what would be my best visit to the city, I've visited NYC at-least 10 times before and never have I remembered my trip to such details even after a month. I also realized the best way for me to explore any city. Hopefully, more such bike trips in the US.

Some stats from the ride
Date: 12/06/2010
Time: 04:38:55
Distance: 44.25 km
Moving Time: 03:23:49
Elapsed Time: 07:32:45
Avg Speed: 9.5 km/h
Avg Moving Speed: 13.0 km/h
Max Speed: 37.4 km/h

For the maps, statistics of the ride, visit

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Times Cycle to Work - Green Championship

5th June 2010: Times Cycle to Work
We had to be really crazy to get ourselves (yes, it’s two of us now) out of bed on what was otherwise a fantastic holiday to lie under those comforters. The rains from the previous night had left behind a hangover of a light drizzle and chill. We had registered for the ‘Times Cycle to Work’ initiative, to bike the distance of 60k for men and 40k for women.

It was Shreya’s first ride for that distance and we were both excited. Leaving behind her cousin at home, we both rode 5kms to the start point, off Sarjapur road. It was not pretty getting there, the roads were in a bad shape and there were earth movers at the venue causing more confusion. To add to it, the organizers initially refused to allow participation without photocopies of ID proofs. It was perfect, I wouldn’t care much if I had a bib or otherwise. In the end, it really didn’t matter much.

It was a rolling start and the starting line was a good 3k from the venue. From the start line, we were to ride on Sarjapur road and then towards Varthur and back completing a 20k loop. 3 laps of that for the 60k and 2 for the 40k was how it was supposed to total up. Sarjapur road was not a great choice and the traffic picked up towards the end.

I kept steady pace right from the word go and although, I didn’t team up with anyone in particular, I spent nearly 30k either pulling or drafting behind Yohan & Abhi. I managed to hit the 50k in 1:40hrs and 60k in 2:01hrs. Personal best for both distances.

Shreya was very impressive on her Schwinn hybrid. I caught up with her on my third lap as she was comfortably cruising at her own pace. She herself finished the 47k (back to the venue) and then the 5k back home, to clock a 57k for the day.

She finished the 47k in 3:15hrs and sure looked like she could do more. Am I proud or what!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cloud Valley - A trip that took my trip

The title borrowed from Haren’s ride report, borrowed because, I deserve it more than anyone else.
Life is always about squeezing a little more. No, no I don’t mean to sound like your boss, but hey, my wife is not a HR Manager for nothing. Anyway, what I was getting at is that, there was a helluva lot of traveling happening in the last 10days Bangalore-Cochin-Alleppey-Chennai-Bangalore and then I was off to Coorg again!
But the annual RTMC pilgrimage to Cloud Valley in Coorg is a guaranteed un-winder, I needed a strong dose of that one!
It would also be Shreya’s first overnighter with the bullet club and we started the Saturday, 29th May with gusto. We are both sufficiently cramster-ed now – mutually gifted riding jackets, saddle bags and waist pouch to carry everything from nail polish, comb (new additions to the luggage, or was it eye liner) and the usual – running shoes, sunscreen and spares.
The getting there:
We joined about 25 bullets at Bangalore Univ campus at 6:30 or so. Just so there is no serious problem, I had given my bullet for service last week. First puncture in 20km from the start. In about 30mins with help from Horny, Tampon, Conrod and Dicso we replaced the punctured tube with a new one from Conrod.
The rear shocks creaked like an old iron cot that creaks when you ‘sleep’ on it as you went up and down even on a slight bump.
Group rides do provide a fair amount of insurance against break downs, accidents and other variables on the highways. The entire band of bulleters waited at McD for us to catch up, a quick breakfast later, we were highway bound again towards Srirangapatana.
I totally enjoyed the good roads to Madikeri, cruising at 80-90kmph. We reached Cloud Valley at 1pm and welcomed by Uday and his family. The inevitable pandi curry meal happened over ride stories and some poor jokes.
Those of us who weren’t high yet, made our way to the Cauvery river bed at 5, bathed and rode back. Some more ride stories and papad mama jokes kept us entertained around the camp fire right through the night.
The place:
Cloud Valley itself is awesome. You should see my earlier report on this here. It is a nice report, go read!
Apparently, the best time to visit is when the flowering season when the coffee seeds come into bloom and look like snow! The Jasmine-like aroma also fills up the entire region.

The run:
So, I made quick enquiries in the evening with Uday ‘where can I go for a jog in the morning?’. I have become some kind of a fan of these runs - where you have no clue what’s in store, no idea of how long you are going to take to get back, where (if ever) you will find some water, civilization, etc. But I headed out on the path that had taken us to the river the previous evening. It was 6:30 and it was perfect for a long run. The trail took me on some serious uphills along winding coffee estates. There was not a single soul to ask for directions, you knew you were trespassing when the dogs barked louder. After about 4.5km, the path brought me back close to where I had started. Nice! I ran into the trail again, so I could finish a perfect 10!

The story of a Tired Tire:
One-a-puncture, two-a-puncture, three-a-puncture, four!
I am the rear tire of KA04-EM 1983, you have seen how I was born, right. It is here if you want a flashback. I have nearly done 15000kms on road now and my predecessor had taken care of the rear for about 40000kms. My owner is a nice guy (yes!) and he takes care to ‘fill me up’ with 30psi always. He likes to take me on good roads, bumpy roads and very very bumpy roads, but I like adventure too.
I have been very loyal and have not disappointed him on any of his long rides… so far.
So yesterday, just as I was warming up, something happened and suddenly there was air all inside me and in another moment the wheel was hurting me. That local tube inside me had a puncture. My owner should have known better not to buy a local tube from the “Aslam Bhai” mechs on the road side.
Anyways, my owner, a big fan of DIY, fitted a new tube (Original!!) inside me, and I was happy again.
My owner’s missus is a light lady and I have usually no problems with carrying both of them. But they stopped at this place where the milestone said ‘Hunsur 10’. There were people selling jackfruits. They are those big, heavy, thorny (I hate thorns) things that people like to eat.
My owner should have put this in the front and the that lazy front tire should have taken some load. I must add that front tire is a senior one (55k kms), but had not worn out at all, because he does not do any work. He only takes the load of my owner’s arms and has good suspension to pass on the shocks from bad roads. If you ask me, the jackfruit should have been showed right through his valve.
But, we hard workers are always made to ‘squeeze a little more’. That is life – as my owner says it.
So the jackfruit came into one side of the saddle bag and the rest of the stuff was rearranged.

Now when the owner started to ride, the mud guard started to flirt with me. It started to come so close and rub me in the wrong places. I started getting hot.
Even the original rubber was able to withstand this and our safety was compromised near Bidadi. I tried to hold on as much longer as I could (I am very conscientious tire, you see), so it a while for my owner to realize the puncture. Luckily, I went fully flat near a ‘pancher’ shop. But the pancher guy was drunk and sleepy and despite taking all care, he patched the not-original rubber tube (remember the old one that punctured yesterday) very carelessly.
I anyway didn’t like this duplicate rubber tube.

So far it was still ok. It was still about 4pm in the evening. But we had just started the motions again, some 20k and then bam, one more flat. By this time, the wheel had started to bang me from the other side and it was slightly bent I think. I was feeling wobbly also. This time was terrible. My owner left his wife on the side of the road (very unsafe place) and put all his weight on the tank, standing on the foot peg and leaning in front and road me without air for 2km to get a puncture shop.
This guy was ok, he put the puncture and in about 30mins, owner went back and picked up his wife. There were dark clouds and I am sure he wanted to get home before it rain. But, I like rain!
So we started off again, the jack fruit load was still on me and I think I was dizzy because of the bent wheel. Anyways, it was now dark and we went another 20k and came to the NICE road. It is a very nice road and I was happy because there are no thorns, potholes or nails on this road.

But just after the toll was paid, I went flat again. Promise, this was not my fault. It was the duplicate tube. I was focusing on my job and not paying attention to the mud guard also.
This time there was more problem, it was raining, there were no puncture or pancher shops open (it was a Sunday) and my owner had to do his circus stunt again for 2km. But he was getting good at it, I didn’t feel too much load at all.
I over-heard him tell his missus afterwards that he had only 260 bucks and the tube cost him 270!

Four is too much, I say. But, there was one good thing, that jackfruit went off to the front in the end. That lazy front tire also took load. Then he rode me very very slowly, the last 30kms to his home. I felt very ashamed of myself. I will not do this again. I will not do this again. I will not do this again.