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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.

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!