“Do you have an Allen key?” he asked while I was about to overtake him. I slowed down and looked for some shade to keep away from the winter rain. We couldn’t find any tree or bus shelter, so we decided to step down right on the roadside and get the problem solved.
It was about 10:00 in the morning and I was approximately 85 kilometers away from home, participating in a Republic Day ride, the longest distance I have cycled in a day and my first effort in randonneuring. A few breaks from our first check point (54 km from the start), I came across this gentleman who rode in late. Very soon we found out that our riding patterns are similar – slow and steady, with some breaks. Paramjeet and myself were both new to the concept of brevet and neither of us have crossed the 100-kilometer milestone yet.
Thou Shalt be Kind to Other Cyclists in Need
A few more kilometers and Param indicated me to slow down again. I saw that he had a flat tyre. “Do you mind slowing down for me? Honestly, I am not used to changing flat tyres.” I agreed. By then the intensity of the rain has increased manifold. We stopped along the Delhi – Rohtak Highway Corridor to replace the tube. My only experience of repairing a punctured tyre was within the comfort of my home, where I had the luxury of pleasant weather, lot of tools to work with and the support of my teenage son. I didn’t mention anything about it to Param, though. The public who we came across on the road was quite helpful. Before my mentioning that we are on a strict time trial, they understood that we are participants of a racing event and suggested the possible location of a tyre repair center from where we could get the bike back in shape. We didn’t have enough time to explain that brevets are not racing events, and we thankfully accepted their suggestion to find out the shop. Due to the incessant rain, almost all commercial establishments appeared closed, except for a couple of small tea stalls. I rode along and found out a car service center which was closed, but upon very persistent and humble requests, the staff decided to help us. After about 2 hours of running around, we were finally back on the road again.
The second 50-kilometer stretch was tiresome and the road a little confusing. Thank God – LittleTalk had some battery juice left in it, which helped me double-check the GPS location one last time before it died down. I’m lucky, I thought. I could communicate with the Marshalls waiting for us to report at the 100 km check point. I also updated the wife that my phone battery might last another few minutes, and that this shall be our last telephonic conversation for the day, so she shouldn’t panic if I am not reachable on phone. She had promised to visit the finishing point before 7:30 evening, our finishing time. Little did I know how the day was waiting to unfold.
U-Turn of the Day
After updating the marshals about my position and the approximate time I would pedal in to report at the 100km check point which was in fact located at 103km, I pushed through and reached the spot and got my brevet card stamped. I had some snacks from the support vehicle, gulped down some water and initiated the return trip. It felt as though the intensity of the rain is getting doubled with every kilometer I passed through, and the falling of raindrops felt like stones thrown at me. At this point, Param suggested that I keep going. He might not be able to catch up with me, and I shouldn’t miss the next timeline and checkpoint. I flew forward.
Don’t be afraid of the dark
It is winter season, also it was a rainy day. No one knew when day did turn to night. Though I promised myself not to stop again before I see the next check point, I had to pay heed to the cry of my muscles for more energy and some rest. I took a couple of pit stops to munch some home-made cookies of oats and chocolate (Energy snacks from the better half. If you have any questions in that regard, please post it on the comments section below, and she shall answer them for you) before continuing my journey. Rain kept lashing at me, and I was shivering in the wind while I had those pit stops in abandoned bus shelters along the highway. There was no option other than to keep pedaling. I found that pedaling gave me the warmth I needed to survive, and hence shall have to pedal on not just to reach home, but to reach there in sound health.
I switched on the headlamps and rear blinkers before I crossed the Delhi border to return. Most of the roads were water-logged with lots of potholes. In the maddening traffic, I had to pedal really hard to pull through potholes, random traffic and stagnant water to avoid putting my feet down in the water. With full throttle, I pushed through Peeragarhi to enter Delhi’s city limits. I remembered the advice of the marshals – “better get going, you’ll face heavy traffic on the way back when you enter Delhi.” Wise words.
Inside Delhi the rain was lighter. It might have rained all day, because I found that the left side of the road had lots of water, to avoid which I had to ride through the middle of the road in many areas. Since I proactively display hand signals quite early before changing lanes or taking turns, most cars adjusted with me – something I didn’t expect from drivers in that part of the city, and hence I nodded in thanks towards many of them. The ride back was hard and tiresome both physically and mentally.
There were moments when I reflected myself whether I should bother to take more pain to complete the ride. The easier part would be to quit in the middle to deviate and take a shorter route to reach home to rest or to hire a vehicle to carry my bike and me home. It takes a lot of courage to overcome these thoughts and keep riding. Somehow, I managed to do just that.
At 8:38 PM, I finished my ride. All 205 kilometers completed in 14 hours 08 minutes. I am happy to declare that I have exceeded my riding targets, and cross the magical three-digit riding mark. My family was there, patiently waiting at the closing point to welcome me home. After all the ordeal I had been through the whole day, it felt wonderful to be home. I thank the organizers and riders of Noida Randonneurs who put up this effort and helped me overcome my fears on the road.
What is the longest distance you had covered in a single day on a bicycle? Let me know your experience.
Image courtesy: thetyee.ca