I had set my eyes on this brevet for it would help me in pre registration for PBP in Paris next year. The scheduling of this was perfect, during the long Holi weekend which gave us a clear 70 hours away from office for this ride. I had very little practice this season but the last 400 Kms brevet this February was on the same NH1, so I was confident of cracking this.
The start on 14/3/14 from India Gate was full of excitement with riders from all over the country and two riders from Russia. Our cycling buddies from NCR were there to cheers us in good numbers. Viju Verghese who is an ace rider and the Brand Manager for Trek in India – drove us to the venue, thanks Viju – it’s great to have you around. Rajiv Dubey with his infectious energy filled us with enthusiasm and Chiro with his turban looked the look – the smoothest sardar – so Bole So Nihaal and Sat Sri Akaal was the war cry at the start. Shubho, Poonam and all other DR friends - Anurag, Trilok and the GFR gang added to the energy at the send off.
We began at 7:02, the 1000 and 600 kms had a common flag off, so I could see many familiar faces –Adil Nargolwala who was going for his 600 to complete the double SR, his 16 year old Shaun was giving a shot to the 600 and he was in line to be the youngest SR in the country. Gagandeep Bhalla , Ashwani, Prathmesh, Mukesh Sharma, Rajeev Chaddha, Mr. Mohinder Singh Bharaj from Mumbai- about 30 riders started for this epic ride.
The start had strong headwinds so the speed was challenged, we continued against the wind wall and made it to the first control point – Panipat which was about 105 kms from the start, at about 1130 am. A brief halt here, signing of the brevet cards and some refreshments and we continued towards Ambala. The head winds were really strong and tested our determination, I was riding this section solo as I was ahead of Adil and others were ahead of me, at about 5:30 p.m. I decided to take a break in my favourite CCD near Ambala. The cold coffee works like magic on a ride like this, and with some sandwiches I was good to restart after about 60 minutes of break.
From Ambala, I started solo and crossed in to Punjab – Shambhu and Rajpura and soon after Raj Pura Chiro and Shubho helped us pick the stuff from our bags required for further riding like extra lights, wind cheaters and the usual refreshments.
It was completely dark now and about 8 pm, I rode from this point with Mukesh , Gagan and Shaun and we sailed smoothly until my wheels got stuck in a groove in the road and I flew off my bike and landed head first on the cement embankment on the road, luckily the good quality helmet saved me, the knee got badly bruised, I was in a lot of pain but after a brief stop, I decided to continue and see if I can cope up with this, luckily there was no major injury in my wrist, the left shoulder was in pain, I popped a painkiller and continued to the next McDonalds at Khanna, washed all the wounds – had some coffee and was good to take the speed again after half an hour’s rest.
We sailed again with a few breaks, now we were a big peloton with Ashwani, Rajiv Chaddha, Shaun, Mukesh, the 2 Russian friends in a paceline. Ashwani had a flat after Mandi Govindgarh and his tube nozzle screw got jammed, luckily helpful passerbys stopped and helped us sort that – the people in Punjab were really helpful and nice, but the roads were rough and patchy on this section.
We reached the second control point in Ludhiana near the clock tower at about 340 Kms at about 1230 am. Mukesh and Gagan decided to check in to a hotel to catch some rest while rest of us continued to Amritsar/Attari after a halt of about an hour and half at 2:00 am, the headwinds were severe and as we were fighting sleep this section was quite testing. The entire route had Langars for Hola Mohalla (holi in Punjab) with loud music and enthusiastic volunteers asking us on loudspeakers to stop and have the langar. Most were surprised that I spoke their language and I was very proudly boasting that I belong to this very land – Doaba in Punjab. The roads were in bad shape in Punjab and this was really surprising as I thought Punjab would be better but Haryana certainly has better roads. I passed the towns that my parents and other relatives come from – Gurayan, Jalandhar and other smaller ones like Phillaur finally we made it to Atari, this was the 3rd control point at 503 Kms, the time was 2:30 p.m. It felt amazing to be at Atari Border at the starting point of NH-1 with at the Atari/Wagah border - we made it here on our bicycles!! The BSF staff here received us and we were offered refreshments and got a lovely view of the border and the Flag Ceremony area, and I was wondering what hostile headwinds we had from Pakistan!! And these were soon to become friendly tailwinds!!! Just the change of perspective!! Our cards were signed by BSF, we rested here a while. I got stung by a honey bee as I rested under a tree here; luckily Shubho had an anti allergic tablet, which I promptly gulped down
With a change of riding clothes and rest we started back for Ludhiana at 5 pm, Mukesh and the 600 gang – Adil, Shaun and Gagan and I were riding through the Amritsar city, we got a glimpse of the magnificent building of the Khalsa College, and it really was beautiful and imposing. We halted after an hour on the outskirts of Amritsar on a CCD/Subway, the setting was marvelous the sun was setting and the outdoor seating here in the pleasant weather with wonderful people around was refreshing. A lot of local persons came and spoke with us and we enjoyed their talks and pep up messages. The people in Punjab are just wonderful – they are warm and talked to us with concern and they don’t forget to mention as to which relative of theirs lives in which part of Delhi before signing off!! After this refreshing stop at CCD, I and Mukesh made it steadily back to our control point in Ludhiana. My air pump was missing as I dropped it at Atari and my front lights were not fully charged so I decided to ride all the distance with Mukesh so that I can have support in case of a puncture. There were so many flyovers that I had lost the count but my left pedal decided it was time for a break and it just hung loose!! Yes I guess the wattage on the pedals was unbearable while we were speeding up the flyovers one after the other. So I somehow managed to pedal the last 20 kms to the Ludhiana control point with one pedal, and reached the hotel Sarovar at 3:45 am, with total of 670 kms clocked, we decided to check in the hotel sarowar, had a hot showers and slept for 3 hours. I had messaged Shubho about my pedal issue and he being the most resourceful and helping gentleman managed to secure a spare pedal from Prathmesh a fellow rider and messaged me that my bike was sorted. Thanks Shubho you are a rockstar, we can always count on you.
With a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, Mukesh and I started for Delhi at 8:30 am on day 3. The tailwinds now helped us and we covered a lot of ground by 1230 p.m. and decided to take it easy in Shambhu and relaxed for an hour under lovely tree shade in green lawns of a complex on the road. It was indeed refreshing and made us ready for our ride to Karnal control point, in no time at about 2 pm we were in Ambala, had a quick lunch and decided to speed up to Karnal but the tail winds were now cross winds and the sun was severe so we decided to drink the juice available on the road, first some orange and then sugarcane – it was refreshing but the sun was too hot for our comfort so we decided to wait till 5 pm to begin our next leg to Karnal.
We started at about 5:30 for Karnal and were in Haveli at 7:45 which was the 5th control point – Chiro and Shubho were there to sign our cards, we quickly made the best of Havelis conveniences and started for Delhi at 8:00 pm. Since we had 14 hours to do 140 kMS to our 1000 mark we made it quite easily with various chai and parantha breaks all the way to Delhi and Mukesh and I finished at 5:35 am a total of about 70 hrs 30 mins of riding the 1000 kms. Shehzaad who was with us for some distance in between also made it within a few minutes of us. We were warmly greeted by Anurag Wadhwa, Trilok and various other friends. Viju was there again to receive us and with warm hugs from our buddies we felt refreshed for the little holi celebration there itself.
As I sign off let me mention that Rajeev Chadha an ace rider from Delhi set an example for all of us as he took care of the two Russian riders whom he had not known personally, as Rajeev can speak fluent Russian he took upon himself to make the two Russian Riders comfortable and safe, sacrificing his speed and comfort. Rajeev Chadha take a bow my friend, you wore the Indian Flagon your chest during this ride and kept the Tricolour flying high. Kudos.
Congratulations and Cheers to all the friends who rode this epic route, and many many thanks to all the Marshalls and organizers, It was indeed an experience and I’m glad that we made it easily; in fact the last day was more of fun and less of riding!! It almost became the parantha, juice ride to Delhi and we loved the easy pace that we did, with this we will be able to pre register for the Paris Brest Paris 2015, the most famous 1200 KMs ride, which is held once in four years, to be held in France in August 2015. I’m really looking forward to it. Click the link below for some glimpses: