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On my first bicycle populaire

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A new experience on my bike. I’ve been to touring-style CAM rides, random commutes, but a timed, marathon-like populaire was a first.

Populaires seem to be a starter course to their longer versions called the brevets — which are timed, marathon-like rides starting at 200km.  The time-limit for a brevet is based on a simple formula which assumes the rider to be able to maintain a 15km/h average speed for the entire distance. Populaires organised by the IISc randonneures group are of 55, 100 and 150km.

I woke up at 4AM yesterday and was ready to leave by 0430 to reach the IISc gymkhana gate which is approximately 17km from my home. We were expected to be there by 0530 in order to start off at 0600 for the populaire. The previous day I had commuted to work just to make sure my cycle and I were in a state fit for this populaire. Instead of riding to the start point, I decided to put the bike into my car and drive instead. Wasn’t sure about the route and the time it’d take and not to mention, the dogs. Had I company, I would’ve chosen to ride along as a group.

I was handed a populaire card where the details of the check-points and timings had to be written. A stamp would be pressed and actual arrival times would be written at adjacent boxes when one reaches the checkpoints in the “PLACE” column below.

The final populaire card stamped at various checkpoints

More details (the route-map, the cue-sheet, etc.) are located here.

I started off on time and tried to keep up the folks in front of me until the first check-point. A few roadies who were ahead of me (and the one that went past me in the initial 5 minutes) were nowhere to be spotted hereafter. I noticed in the checkpoint official’s record sheet that some had reached that place at least half an hour before the three-person group I was closely following as to not loose sight of them.

I didn’t have a printed cue-sheet but I had a copy open in my phone’s browser. The populaire website warned that the route-map is not “official”. And best of all, we weren’t on city roads at all for the bulk of the ride and trying to look for landmarks was pointless.

We went past a lot of government research institutes that researched on poultry of various kind: emus, ostriches; and even frozen semen. There was a research institute for poultry feed too. A younger co-rider who was on a BSA mach flatbar roadie showed me an ostrich in one of these compounds.

The route was very scenic. Flowers on the trees of various colours, grasslands, comfortable weather (I guess this is largely owing to the fact that were riding these stretches between 0600 and 0800 when the sun isn’t fierce.) This wasn’t a tour but a timed-marathon. I saw nobody stop to take a break of more than a few minutes. And breaks weren’t taken in locations that were photogenic. So the best I could capture was when I got a chance to slow down because of the terrain while still trying to keep a group of cyclists in sight in front of me whom I was relying on to know the routes.

grasslands at hesarghatta – 1 (also, the guy who showed me the ostrich)

grasslands at hesarghatta – 2

grasslands at hesarghatta – 3

realising that this flatbar may not be ideal for long rides

I had lost track of the people in front of me after the 40km mark when I entered some controlled farmlands which had fields of various kinds of vegetables growing in them. Luckily, I found the 3rd checkpoint, got the stamp and moved on. But at the fork, I took the wrong turn and lost quite a bit of time before I got on track to head to the end. I think I realise the importance of being fit enough to keep with those who have a clue or be lost with at least a company.

Loaded my bike back into my car and left the gates of IISc gymkhana by 1010. Took me close to an hour and forty-five minutes to reach home cruising through the traffic as if I was carrying a heavy load. My bum was sore and I couldn’t sit still in the car. After I got back home, I took a good shower and headed to the nearby Cafe for a brunch and finished up Edgar Burrough’s “A Princess of Mars”.

I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing more of these. There’s something about this brevet-style of riding when compared to a relaxed trek. There are 100 and 150km populaires in the coming months. If I conquer those, I’ll definitely be eyeing the brevet. Hopefully, I should have a roadie with me by then.

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Written by Naresh

May 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Travel, Worldly Matters

My first day to work in a bike

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Public transport that is fast, reliable is still a far-sighted goal in these parts of the world. The local government has probably lost its chance to increase the number of buses or other forms of public transport because if they do it now, there’s simply not enough road space for them anymore. There are as many cars these days as there were two wheelers in the 90s. But, no, the road space hasn’t increased.

Ever since I got back to B’lore last November, I’ve been commuting to work on a car. It’s a 2006-07 Hyundai Getz and still works quite well. What makes it an unpleasant and at times depressing ride is when one is stuck inside it in B’lore peak hour traffic. One can’t hit the second gear for an hour or more. So much wasted time sitting idle on a seat waiting on slow minds – who don’t realise how traffic rules are meant to help them be efficient on the road – to make way. Oh, but the rules themselves are harebrained in certain scenarios: for instance, traffic lights in a junction that turn green in a round-robin fashion with equal time intervals for all roads on that junction.

Last week I acquired a Trek 7.1 FX. It’s a hybrid that’s supposed to roll well on city roads. I took it out for a test spin to work on Saturday to test the waters: to see if the goal of riding nearly 12 kilometers is doable at all without sweating too much. Turns out that it’s possible.

Two years ago, at around the same time, I had acquired a Hercules ACT104. It’s supposed to be an MTB. But I didn’t know at that time that good MTBs don’t come that cheap at all. That cycle was a deadweight to ride with. The weekend before last, I had taken the ACT104 out in an attempt to see if I could ride all the way to office. I had to give up at one-third the distance. It was too heavy or just didn’t roll well. Previously at college, I was a proud owner of a BSA Mach III. I could literally glide on it at times. All this made me start looking at cycles with narrower tires.

My ride to work is nearly 11 kilometers and the ride back is almost 18 kilometers (I ride to NGV/Koramangala and then toward home). I’m not sure how tired I am as I write this, but being just the first day, I’m looking forward to improvements.

P.S. The Trek cost me my 6 month petrol bill (assuming the petrol price doesn’t increase in the next 6 months)

P.P.S. The Nissan Leaf isn’t available here. The Prius is twice the amount it costs in the US.

UPDATE on 22nd:

Some of you might be looking for details such as:

  1. I wear a dry-fit jersey while I ride and carry a casual t-shirt (which I change into while at office) in my backpack along with my laptop. I don’t sweat as much thanks to the awesome weather of BLR and I don’t have a shower at work. (Among the metros in India, I believe only BLR has this weather advantage.)
  2. The time to commute on bike almost equals that of the car. Varies a bit now and then depending on the traffic. At least with a bike one can pull it off onto the footpath and walk it up until there’s road to ride.
  3. I park the bike at the basement at work. I use a coil-like lock and lock it to something.
  4. Being the second day now, I think goggles for eye protection and a decent pollution mask are necessary.

Written by Naresh

November 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm

On Bangalore’s Road Traffic

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I’ve been observing the road while I ride my old bike between my home and office (good job right?) and I’ve come to the conclusion that the autorickshaw drivers are almost always responsible for slowing down the rest on the roads. Unoccupied autos are even worse. They loiter around on the road driving in a jovial, not-really-busy way which comes to those of us who’re in a hurry as some sort of a mockery. Previously, I thought the new (and rising) breed of car driving population (many a time with just one person in the car) were the real culprits.

Bangalore is riddled with one-ways and “speedbreakers”. The one-ways are sort of understandable; they not only double the (band)width which helps in “ironing” out the traffic over a long distance, they rule out the accidents that may occur in a two-way road without a divider. The speedbreakers on the other hand, suck big time. They slow down four-wheelers (like cars) a lot. Think about all the gear-switching, the fuel consumption and most importantly, time wasted. It’s terrible.

I started hating autos more after seeing what they’re capable of. Apart from the sort of inconsiderate driving mentioned above, they’re a dangerous in a “worst-of-both-worlds” sense. Autos are three-wheelers (here in India): their width is slightly less than that of the substandard Maruti 800 and instead of a steering wheel, they have a two-wheeler-style handle. So, what this means to you on the road is, there’s this three-wheeler almost as wide as a car that’s going to invariably (if you’re used to it) or unexpectedly (if you’re new to it) perform sharp sideward movements (abrupt right or left turns) like the ones two-wheelers are capable of. Such awkward, dangerous movements are to be expected from an auto in front of you when there’s a red-signal up ahead and the vehicles in your flow are all slowing down and that auto tries to fit in (as if we’re all in a best-possible-packing competition (filesystem fragmentation reference >_>)) with the vehicles around it.

So, yeah, autorickshaw drivers are the first set of roadusers to hate. They’re way too many in the first place and safe autorickshaw drivers are just as rare as the availability hygienic fresh juice parlours in Bangalore.

Next, four-wheeler drivers who’re driving alone (come on!)

And then this is something mostly autorickshaws do, but I’ve seen two-wheelers and four-wheelers guilty of it too: Parking in the most inappropriate locations which causes traffic slowdown. Jeez. Outright stupidity or socially-inconsiderate: usually a combination of both.

Lane driving is something almost nobody respects. Some four-wheeler drivers do, but they’re rare. That short-term gain one might get by taking that abrupt turn or cutting someone else off from his course on the road drastically affects the general flow of traffic on the road. Long-term throughput is affected. I’m not going to talk about the benefits of using public transport. It’s something that should be fairly obvious (Of course, the lack of sufficient public transport isn’t an excuse to not do something about it. It’s your tax money. Oh, do you even pay taxes?)

Many a time, I’ve felt like stopping right there and blasting the offender on the spot. Alas, I’m neither that courageous nor patient nor capable of putting my message across successfully enough to actually make the person stop being a douche on the road in the future. Here’s to hoping that this blog post is going to help. Cheers!

On female drivers in Bangalore

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Two accidents involving women driving the car and men on the two wheelers who were the receiving end of the damage.

One happened on last Saturday – around 10:30-ish in the morning; and the other, this morning (10:20-ish).

The woman doesn’t look who’s closing in along with her and takes blind or uninformed turns to the right/left. In both the cases the men who drove the bikes had their bikes on the floor. Fallen. Today’s case was most likely a high velocity impact! The glass of the windows of the car had shattered. Poor guy couldn’t really fight back at the woman. Things like these reinforce popular stereotypes such as “women can’t drive”. Come on! How can someone who’s driving a car not pay attention to who’s driving around the car? Huh?

Written by Naresh

September 14, 2009 at 11:27 am

Updates as of 23rd July, ’09

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It’s been a long time since my long post and unsurpisingly, I’ve hardly had anyone enquire about my blogging status – barring a workmate who told me I should continue blogging. I was going to anyway. It’s just that the sweet pleasures of having a 1Gbps internet connection isn’t available anymore.

I landed in Bengaluru on 2nd June. For about a two weeks there was no internet. I looked into the various options that were available – the usual ADSL connections from BSNL, Airtel, TATA or the CDMA datacards from TATA, Reliance. I signed up for TATA’s ADSL and after getting a demo on TATA’s Photon+ (CDMA datacard), I decided to cancel the ADSL connection and go with Photon+. Pros: Good speeds for the price, cons: no scheme with unlimited downloads available.

Anyway. On 18th Jun Tirupam and I left Bengaluru for Thrissur. The occasion being Vishnu’s marriage! It was good to see familiar faces in a setting such as this. Lalit, Mitesh, Ankit: it was good to see you all again. Thrissur, as a place, wasn’t half as bad. Kerala as a state seems to be gifted with plenty of natural resources – the greenery, water, weather. Given such naturally endowed excesses, it probably makes the society somewhat mature and financially pretty well off compared to the neighbouring state – Tamil Nadu – which continues to be a large exporter of ground-level labourers (I realise that it’s not that simple, but, yes, Keralites are lucky).

Moving back to Bengaluru now, I’m still identity-less. My College’s I-card has expired, and more importantly is of no use here. I have no driving license yet. No PAN card or any of those fancy things yet. Recently, Nilekani has taken up a role in the Indian government to work on an nationwide ID card for all. I wish him all the luck and I hope I get one soon. I’ve even postponed buying that TATA DoCoMo SIM for that!

Oh, and, I’ve started working in a Free Software company now. I’ve still got a long way to go before I shed my lazy lifestyle that I had so gotten used to in college. Work needs to be done.

Lately, my blog posts have become less technical. Those Howtos and whinefests have seen a decline. I’m hoping to fix that soon as I can. I’ve been looking at how Kerberos, LDAP and ejabberd are expected to work together and since it’s taken me more than a week I think it deserves a blog post. Well, Kerberos is optional at the moment, but it’s something I’m hoping to understand why and where it’d be useful. Makes me miss Gentoo now – where I’d know exactly what’s changing. dpkg-reconfigure, although friendly, does things and assumes certain defaults which I have no idea if they’re sane or not. More on that later.

Work place is a really cool place. I had an image of cubicles and serious faces but this is kind of homely and somewhat relaxed. We even play some football on the rooftop once in a while. I miss some good folks whom I spent a lot of time with during the last few months at college – Settem, Basit, and co. and Shanks.

Last Saturday, I caught up with Tirupam and we went to visit UB City. It’s a fabulous, albeit affluent, supermall. We looked around, window shopping mostly and settled with having a close-to-authentic pizza at an Italian restaurant up there. As it turned dark, some live music lightened up the place. It’s good to see Bengaluru getting more and more musical.

A couple of days before that meet, I was looking for a music store that dealt with double bass. Lucky me. There was a place right behind my work place. Unlucky me. It costs quite a bit (he quoted 16K – which by international standards is very cheap and probably not even worth it; but I’m just a beginner – and I told him that I’d be back when I had the money). I’m having trouble deciding if I should go with a modern bass guitar or with a somewhat large and bulky double bass. Bengaluru is kind of crowded too, moving around with such a thing, in a bus, would be interesting, if not dangerous. Oh, and boo at all the affluent folk who travel alone in their cars on every-busy streets of the city.

Must get back to work.

Written by Naresh

July 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm

An afternoon in ISKCON

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Three days ago my parents brought up the idea of visiting the ISKCON temple just beyond Yeshwantpur in Bangalore. Apparently, neither of them had seen it before and we had to take two U-turns on a pretty long road (that God this was a two-way) to climb up the hill and park the car. Yes, this temple is on a hill and it overlooks the Bangalore beyond Yeshwantpur and it looked really cool.

This is a new temple. Built in the late 90’s. NRI-funded, I heard. As it appears, a *lot* of money is spent purely on the building itself. I though gone were the days when kings foolishly spent on temples when they could’ve done a better job with providing civil-amenities. I remember having a somewhat heated discussion on the IITK newsgroups during my second year. That was fun 🙂

There were two ways to get the darshan:  either we stand in the long winding queue chanting hare krishna hare krishna hare rama hare rama hare hare on each step or pay 150 Rs. and get an instant entry (good if you’re running out of time or don’t like the people in the queue or want instant attention from Lord Krishna). Once we entered the first check-point, we saw the venkatEShwara avatAra. We were given some bUndi to eat and had to return our recitation card which had that “hare krishna” chant in 6 languages relevant to Bangalore – English, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil. (We don’t need a *single* national language for this country, please) – I’m glad ISKCON sees what’s right 🙂

The next check-point we saw the vamana avatara and another idol. It looked almost like the on at Tirupati. So much for plagiarism 😛

The final check-point was the main area itself where Krishna, Balarama, Radha et al stood tirelessly. For the prasAda right there an amount had to be paid, we hardly saw anyone do that. This particular area didn’t look too much like a real temple for some reason, the architecture I mean. It looked more like some Roman chapel with paintings on the ceiling and stuff. I’ve been told that Krishna is an extremely dark-skinned dude. I’ve heard of people naming their dark skinned kid “Krishna” (or “Krisna” rather :P). Except one portrait the rest were all Hellenic and light blue-faced. Next we were presented with an array of books about Krishna in various Indian langauges – for a sum, of course. We didn’t buy any. We stepped down to the next “floor” (this is a hill), and there were all sorts of stuff my mother would’ve like to buy for the dEvara mane which made my father stand a furlong away and call us away using sign language from the items we pondered on buying. There were numerous items on sale. It looked like a holy market. I wondered where the money would go or if any part of the profits went anywhere at all. We did come across a section which explicitly mentioned that the money we put in this particular hunDi (cash-pot) would go to a mid-day meal scheme for public schools children.

Finally we entered this food area where food of all types that would cater to most Indians were there. Again, for a fine-sum 🙂  I enjoyed the best puLiyOgare in a long time. We even bought two laddus part of which still lies besides me (my sister doesn’t seem to eat much (sweets) these days, dieting?) Was this all about money? What about the poor people who come here? I took the safer path and assumed that the profits went in to help the poor in some way – the haves would spend money here which I assumed would somehow reach the havenots. And we stepped down to another floor and guess what? There was the prasAda I was expecting! It was probably some sort of hot pongal. Took a couple of pictures and got into the car. It got dark soon. Did we spend almost three hours looking at things we didn’t want to buy?

Written by Naresh

December 15, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Travel

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