Pune Karad Pune: 340 Kms of Awesomeness
A 300 km ride had been in the planning for some time. The new schedule of a 400 BRM from Pune on 11 August necessitated the attempt at a 300 km ride before the 400 kms. After the grueling 440+ kms ride to Pandharpur and back under the ICC Cycle wari, my confidence was high but my injury niggles was still a worry. Something in my head told me that I need to see how my body performs under a 300 km ride.
This is my story of how we planned and executed our first 300 + kms ride on the cycle. I say “we”, because the story has two characters, Mayur Shanbhag and me.
Ride Planning For the First 300
I floated the idea of the ride to Karad, roughly 340 kms and shared with Mayur. Mayur is like my soul brother, he confirmed sans any questions. After the Pandharpur ride, we had a special ride bond I guess. We both floated the idea around in our own groups and had a few riders interested. The date for the ride was set as 28th July, a Saturday. We were to start from Chandani Chowk at 4:30 am.
Col Milan Math showed interest however he decided to start early at 3 am. Sagar, from Mayur’s team, was also supposed to accompany us.
Training for the ride
This was one ride for which I did not plan, train or prepare much. The week post the Pandharpur ride was one with pain, saddle sores ensured that I could not ride at all. Office ensured that during the next two weeks I could not get any time for training rides. All I could do was a few 100 kms odd each week in commutes. I was so short of time that I could only devote 3-4 hours during the whole two weeks on my strength training.
A week before the ride I did a long drive to Shegaon with my family, some 900 kms over 20 hours. The roads were very bad and my IT Band injury resurfaced. This ensured that I could not train much. Also had an unfortunate death in my family during the week.
Day Before the Ride
I decided that I would need to get a better mini pump, one that could inflate a Presta valve inner tube to at least 90 psi. Went to Giant and picked up a mini foot pump of Starkenn at 1300. Got my brake shoes replaced, they were at the end of their life post almost 2500 kms in the last 2 months. Also paid a visit to a pharmacy and picked up a few packets of ORS. Picked up some chikkis and protein bar from a local grocery store. With the loss of a dear one in the family, we were on a veg diet, which meant I was off my usual high protein the whole week. In the evening I finished half a packet of ORS with water. Knowing my history of dehydration, the salt hydration the day before was important, also I started having extra water. Carb loading was on the lesser side, however, I still managed to have a banana, and two meals with rice.
With work commitments, it was once again a race to get a few winks. It was around midnight by the time I reached home. To reach Chandani chowk, 20 kms from my house, I had to start at 3:30 am. Which meant I had to wake up at 3 am.
Ride Day: The First 300
I had decided to get some extra sleep. The alarm went off at 3:15 am. Woke up and messaged Mayur, that I would be 15-20 minutes late. Decided to start at 4 am from home instead of 3:30 am. Quickly got my black coffee without sugar and gobbled up two bananas and two pedhas. Hit the road at 4 am, with no rains. Slowly rode towards Chandani Chowk. Mayur reached Chandani chowk at 4:50 am and I joined them soon by 4:52 am. 20 kms at 22.5 kmph.
We were joined by Sagar, Advait, Amol. Advait and Amol were to take the Old Katraj tunnel and head back, Sagar was to ride till Satara, Mayur and I were to touch Karad and head back.
Rains and the mud bath
We started rolling roughly at around 5 am from Chandani Chowk. Slowly the gang got dispersed with the fast rolling section. By Narhe, Mayur and I had started riding together. We decided to stop for tea at Khed Shivapur toll. I took the lead at Katraj new tunnel. Climbs have been my forte and I took off. The rumbling nature of Katraj tunnel shook me up and the bliss of coming out to the chill on the other side of the tunnel was short lived. It was raining on the other side and the road was filled with mud and slush. I was quickly rendered blind by the rain and the darkness. My headlight was definitely not sufficient for rain. With not much traffic at that hour, I did not get any help from any passing car’s light. The decline post the tunnel also posed a threat as the speeds are normally very high in that section.
Reached the toll at Khed Shivapur by 5:45 am. Ordered a cup of tea and Cream roll. It was cold and after getting wet, I was shivering a bit. Also, the biggest surprise was that instead of having tailwinds I noticed that we had cross headwinds. I had an inkling that this day was not going to be as easy as planned. 40 km mark, speed around 23 kmph.
Mayur joined me within 5 minutes. Without his mudguards on his Scott, his back was covered in mud. We waited for others to join. But as we did not see anyone we decided to move ahead by 6:10 am. With daylight, I was not so blind anymore.
Roads? What Roads?
Mayur and I were riding next to each other post Khed Shivapur, it was raining. We were enjoying getting the mud bath from the water being sprayed from the passing truck wheels. The roads were bad in some stretches. Loose gravel and potholes greeted us. We, of course, got slowed down by this and the winds.
With average speeds hovering around 23 we crossed Shirwal Bridge. We had decided on a small snack break pre-Kambhatki ghat to fuel the climb. We stopped right after the bridge and shared a packet of chikki. Started rolling again within 5 minutes.
Kambhatki and the Puncture
As we reached Kambhatki base I mentioned to Mayur ‘let’s target to be back here before it is dark.’ Just as we were speaking we saw Col Math and Neetesh riding ahead of us. Mayur halted to hydrate and I started the climb to say hi to Col sir. Right as I was climbing I saw the road was filled with broken glass shards, probably a beer bottle. Dangerous, I tried to evade the glass. Moved ahead and exchanged greetings with Col. Thought, I would continue the climb and stop for a cup of tea with them post Kambhatki. Just as I reached the flat road post the small climb, I heard my phone ring. The Mi band flashed Mayur’s name. I had a sinking feeling as I fished out my phone. Mayur told me the dreaded thing, he had a flat on the glass. I asked him to come up so that I could fix his wheel. We had a puncture shop where I was waiting, however, I knew with the Presta valve it was useless.
Col and Neetesh moved ahead, I munched on another chikki as I waited for Mayur. Mayur walked in after about 10 minutes. I quickly got to the job of changing the tube. Checked for any damage on the tyre and saw none. Locating and fixing the tube would have taken some time and we did not want to invest that much time. Mayur had an adapter so we thought we would use the pump from the shop to quickly fill the air. The shop guy filled a bit and I checked the pressure with my pump, it was a dismal 10 psi. We asked him to fill again and he stopped after a bit and said that the tube will burst. I was like ‘brother this needs 100 psi.’ We decided to pump ourselves with the mini pump. This gentleman had left at 20 psi. We pumped till 90.
Point to note, road wheels can take in 80-120, read the tyre for instructions. Also, remember the roadside shops can only fill till 20-40, the wheel might look inflated, and however that might not be the case at all.
We spent some 45 minutes fixing the wheel and started rolling again. Sagar had gone ahead by now.
Kambhatki was a slight struggle
We started and noticed that our muscles had cooled down post the long break. The break in momentum was bad. Still I took off and Mayur decided to climb slow. I crossed Sagar somewhere mid-way through the climb, he had taken a small break. I decided to take a break post the decline.
Kambhakti was a different challenge today with lots of headwinds in some sections. Loved every bit of it. After the fast decline on the other side, stopped at a small eatery. Called Mayur to give my location update, ordered an omelete, poha and black coffee without sugar. Washed my bottles as they were covered in mud and it was difficult to drink from that. Also somehow my phone battery was running low, put my phone for charging.
Mayur and Sagar joined in soon. They also repeated the same food order. 90 kms at 23 kmph. A month back I had done the same section at 27.5 kmph, time 8:55 am.. Winds and rains were playing some spoilsport.
We had one more cup of coffee and tea each. Spent close to 45 minutes at this point. Sagar decided to head back from here.
Return of the Knee Injury
Just as we started rolling, I felt some pain in my knee again, the IT band started showing the injury again. We halted and I decided to wear the knee brace.
The next section was mostly uneventful with the flats and declines. We were doing very decent speeds. We crossed the toll just before Satara and received a call from Col sir, he was just 5 kms from Satara. We decided to chase them and pair up. Unfortunately, Satara bypass is a series of climbs, and it started to rain heavy. We again battled the rains, winds and the cold.
Stopped at a small tea shop just post Satara before the ghat decline. We had covered a good 40 kms in this session in some 1:30 hours. 11:15 am, 130 + kms, 25.5 kmph Average Speed.
I was shivering again in the cold, not sure why I was feeling so cold today, I generally I do not feel cold at all. Had a tea, and a chocolate. Mayur wanted a Thumbs up, however, today was not his day. None of the stores till now had Thumbs up. So he too had a cup of tea and made a face at the ultra-sugary tea. Sugar was just the thing we needed. The rain was steady heavy by now.
Oh, Mayur found a shattered mobile phone near Satara. Probably someone must have dropped it from a passing bus. We picked up the battery and the cover from the road. The screen was absolutely shattered.
We started rolling again within 20 minutes in the rain.
Satara Karad Express Speeds- Heavy Crosswinds
We started in heavy rains, I took off my specs as they were useless. My visibility was zero with the specs in the rain. The specs and rain were my biggest trouble today. Post Satara the roads were good, concrete surface, however, they were 4 lanes. The traffic was thinner too.
I decided to take the lead and push my limits with some good cadence. The flat route with some lovely rolling nature aided us. The crosswinds were strong in this section, however, the small plants on the divider were a bit of protection.
We stopped for a small hydration break somewhere and I took out my zip pouch to check my phone Apparently my zip pouch decided to give away and my phone fell on the road. Thankfully no shattering, however multiple scratches on the screen.
Around Umbraj, Mayur wanted to stop. He was hungry, close to his usual lunch break. We both had a banana each. Checked on Col sir and he was just 2 kms from Karad. We decided to move on.
My back was not happy with the extra hard saddle, the rain and wetness were not much of help. As we saw the milestones to Karad show figures in single digits we got some respite.
Col Sir called me when we were some 4 kms from Karad, he told us that they were not very hungry and were heading back from Karad and would stop for food somewhere midway.
Mayur pulled up next to me and we started discussing food. I recommended that we have chicken and rice, Mayur had a big smile on his face. He recommended some Kolhapuri thali. Though I visit Karad very often, however, I always had food at Sargam. But Sargam was not going to entertain two filthy looking, covered in mud cyclists. Saw a board of a Kolhapuri thali place just near Karad Shayadri hospital. We ended up at Laybhari Kolhapuri, pretty empty looking hotel, just the place we needed.
178 kms, 1:15 pm, 25.3kmph average. Saddle time of 7:01. Halfway done.
Lunch and rest at Karad
We both ordered a chicken thali with Tamba and Pandra rassa. Washed up and put our phones for charging. Mayur was wearing sports shoes and his shoes and socks were super wet, he took them off and put to dry. I, on the contrary, was wearing aqua shoes from Decathlon. These shoes were recommended by Bipin(Decathalon employee as a super rider). The shoes are made for a beach walk and dry off very soon. My feet were dry and happy, however everytime I would stop over wet roads these would lose grip on the pedals. I had a bit of difficulty riding on these, however, feet were dry.
The food came in by 1:50 pm and both of us attacked it like we have not been fed in 3 days. Chicken fry, egg, rice, roti and of course soul kadi and rassa.
Mayur wanted to rest a bit post the food. The restaurant owner was kind to allow him to lie down on the floor. The hotel was empty anyway. I decided to just pack things up in the meanwhile. Have never slept during a ride, today was no different.
Mayur was up in 10 minutes, a few photos later we started rolling again at 2:35 pm to be precise.
Some Killer Crosswinds
We started rolling slow, we knew the road back would be more tiring with climbs and winds. The crosswinds were very heavy and we rolled on. I checked and Col sir had also taken a break post Umbraj. However, their break was shorter and they again had a lead.
Some 20 kms into the ride and almost an hour from Karad, we took a small break. Mayur finally found some Thumbs up. We took a 15 minutes break and started cycling again.
The lonely climb and Decent
Somehow I lost Mayur somewhere just before Satara ghat climb. My knee pain was returning and I did not want to break the momentum. I knew Mayur would catch up soon or would call in case of any mishap. I started the climb, at a steady pace, post the climb, I knew it was a nice rolling decline with the flyovers. I decided to push until about crossing Satara and then taking a small tea break. Called Mayur, but could not hear each other. I tried to pass on the plan but I guess he did not hear me. I pulled onto the highest gear and pushed on. My knee pain also increased with the pushing. Stopped right after Satara. Waited for Mayur. He called me soon and was at the location within 5 minutes. We had Col sir still in lead. I could not stop appreciating his consistency. Niteesh and Col sir had some game plan which was superb.
The stop at Satara
We reached Satara by 5 pm. The speed had dipped to 24.8 kmph. I looked at the map, 125 kms to home. I filled up my water, plus added some black rock salt as my ORS was over.
Ordered a cup of tea, cream roll, and a packet of biscuit. Mayur had his favorite, Thumbs up.
Mayur had some stretch pain in his leg and hence had taken the climb slow.
After a rest of 30 odd minutes, we started on the gradual climb post Satara.
Mayur and I were rolling slow and steady post Satara. I was trying to keep my knee pain in check. I did not want to give up this ride. Not as yet.
Post Nagewadi, I saw a decline and saw Mayur take off like a rocket. I was wary of going to the higher chainwheel and invite the wrath of my knee pain. I let it just roll instead of pushing. Decided to just keep Mayur in a visible range. He was belting some great speed on the rolling section. I knew this road from the first BRM 200 ride and knew this section is filled with a lot of small inclines with flyovers and villages.
I would get Mayur in visible range on each climb and by the time I would reach the top, Mayur would have disappeared with the decline. I was constantly riding a 38 chainwheel with a 16/18 cog in the rear. The high cadence was ensuring that I was not putting too much of pressure on the injured muscle and yet was generating some good speed.
Crossed Col and Niteesh on a decline. Enquired about their status. Col sir asked me “who was that express fellow?” I smiled and said, that was my ride partner Mayur. Mayur was off my visible range and I needed to push. I wished Col sir and moved ahead.
My ride partner was running away with it. More than 240 kms since morning and this guy decides to unleash the monster in him. I knew that he was targeting the tunnel before it became dark. We continued the cat and mouse chase.
I caught up with Mayur just around the Kambhatki tunnel base, 6:55 pm. We decided to cover the tunnel and then wait for some snacks. We were on the other side in no time. I put my cycle on the highest gear once again to get through the super decline.
Reached Kambhatki base on the other side at 7:05 pm. Day light. Mayur had just pulled off a blinder again. 40 kms in around 1:20 minutes.
The final Snack break
I was pretty much bored with having the sweet and sugary things since morning. Needed something warm and salty. Ordered some vada sambhar and a black coffee. Mayur chose his Thumbs up again. We spent close to 40 minutes. My phone was charged thanks to the power bank which Mayur was carrying. As we feasted on the warm food, mosquitoes decided to feast on us. I must have killed some 5 of them, all filled with blood.
Bugged, we decided to move on. Got our lights on the bike. 7:45 pm, 80 kms to go. 4 hours was the target.
The extremely painful stretch
We started cycling again, however, my knee pain was significant now. I was finding it extremely difficult to ride. The small climbs were not helping much. I kept telling myself, I want to be back home in today’s date, which meant completing the ride before midnight. The road was also very bad. Post the rains, it was filled with potholes, and the left lane was only loose gravel from the tarmac surface. The diversions were so bad and slippery that Mayur had to walk a few sections. My Schwalbe gravel wheels were holding on good.
Our speeds were rapidly decreasing and I was struggling. Saw that I was running the 20 cog on the rear with a few passing car headlights. I was thinking that the chain must have gone dry and is creating this trouble. I told Mayur that I am riding a gear that I use to climb Kambhatki and still struggling on these gradual inclines. There has to be something wrong.
Around Mc Donald’s before khed Shivapur, I felt my energy dip. Took out a chikki packet and tried to rip it open. Unfortunately, the Haldiram packet was super, the chikki had cracked and was falling off my hand. It was impossible to ride and eat. We decided to halt in front of McDonald’s and eat the chikki. I wolfed down the leftover chikki and then the protein bar.
The incorrect Gear. I was blind in the dark
With a passing car headlight, I noticed that I was actually riding a 48 chainwheel. I cursed myself. I was under the impression that I was riding a 38, as I was doing that all day. It skipped me to downshift post Kambhatki tunnel. The reason for my struggle and knee injury and pain was a higher chainwheel. Lesson learnt. Rotate the headlight to check the gear indicator. I had been an absolute stupid to waste so much of time and energy.
I shifted down and started cycling again. This time with much ease and speed. But the knee pain was here to stay.
The final break
We rode till the toll, stopped again to hydrate. Mayur was carrying a packet of dates. We both finished some 15-20 each. It was around 9:45 pm. I had already completed my 300 + kms. Speed 24.1 kmph.
Around 40 kms to go, I set a target of 11:30 pm.
When you Struggle but Do not give up
Being on the correct gear was helpful. I knew there were two climbs before Katraj tunnel, and I was ready to tackle them. Mayur took the lead and I followed. The bad roads continued. However, I was able to maintain a decent speed. Also, I knew that post the tunnel, I will have a 6 km decline.
Mayur reached the tunnel entrance and waited for me to join. He had 305 kms on the odo. I congratulated him.
We two maniacs had been able to pull off our first 300 kms. A total time of fewer than 18 hours, and saddle time somewhere around 13 hours.
Entered the tunnel and the decline, however, the rumblers were a pain. I was off the saddle, rolling. Mayur took the lead again with his quick Scott. The rumbler strips post the tunnel are dangerous, can break a frame for sure. I missed to take the left on one such strip and was thoroughly shaken. Then I hit a few potholes in the dark at speeds above 40 kmph. The road post the Katraj via duct is in bad shape. The headlights don’t really help at those speeds and I was going blind.
I entered the city from the Sinhagadh road, and Mayur went straight.
NO ride is complete sans meetings a few idiots
Ride through Sinhagadh road with traffic was a task. I stopped at FC road to call up my wife. Checked my strava and realized this fellow had decided to auto pause somewhere on Sinhagadh road. Started it again and rolled.
Just near home as I was struggling, a rickshaw passed by and a guy pushed his head out. He called out and told me that my tail lamp was on. I was like really? Was else was a tail lamp supposed to do?
Reached home by 11:15 pm. 340 kms, saddle time 14 hours, average speed 24.3 kmph and close to 9000 calories. The total door to door timing was 19:15.
Took a breather. The next challenge was walking up the stairs with the bike. Managed to gather some courage and walk up.
Headed straight for a bath.
Oh, Mayur had reached home by 10:45 pm.
We both look great for the 400 BRM, however, the knee injury is the question. I guess I will have to work out a two-week recovery plan. Hopefully, I will recover.
- Knee injury is at the top of course
- Riding in the dark
- Specs and rain. Yet to find a good solution for it
Things that worked out
- Hydration was spot on. Not wearing the rain gear was a wise decision. We got wet but dried soon too.
- The breaks and nutrition worked out perfectly well too.
- We were three hours off our planned schedule. But with 30 minutes in the delayed start, 45 minutes in fixing a puncture, the incorrect gearing and the pain, I guess ensured the three hours. So we were pretty much at the pace that was planned.
- Pacing with a strong ride partner helped set the stage for a very long ride.
Check out my Ride on Strava