The First Century Ride On Cycle: Pune-Lonavala-Pune
Every newbie cyclist dreams of hitting their first 100 kms aka century ride on the saddle. Yours truly took quite a bit of time to hit the first 100, almost 4 months of riding before I hit my first century. If you want to find out how a novice hit his first 100, then read on.
Why a Century Ride?
I was riding the Hercules for over two months and then realized that the 4 year old bike, rusted in the monsoons of 2017 has all the correct noises to make a horror story. I acquired an old BSA Marc from a friend in January. The feeling of riding a bike with 700C wheel and 6 gears was an eyeopener.
Somewhere in February, 2018 I was going to Symbiosis Lavale campus for the admission process at Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management. I had always wanted to cycle to campus since 2014. In 2014 I had started using cycle for my commutes briefly, however could never muster enough courage to do a 50 km trip with a small 2 km hill climb. Saw this time as a perfect opportunity, cancelled the cab for a day and set-out on my adventure.
The first hill climb Experience- The Mighty Lavale
On a fateful Sunday morning, I packed my bag with my formals and set-out for Lavale. The first challenge was riding up the small steady climb of Sus road. For regulars this would be a small climb but for first timers it is a good challenge. I am a solo novice rider and had no information about cadence, rhythm etc back then. Grinding the climb and saw a lady rider on a roadie zoom past me, noticed the cool rhythm she was riding in. I made a mental note that that I something I need to learn.
Entered Sus gaon and the off road experience threw me off guard. I knew the roads were bad but on a cycle with slightly wobbling wheels and quickly wearing out brakes, it was bad. The second challenge was the extra steep climb near Sunny’s World. I dropped down to the lowest gear but still had to walk some part of the climb.
Reached Symbiosis campus and was pumped looking at that small mountain. In the last 9 years I have gone up that hill multiple times, have walked, climbed on a scooty, car but never cycled. Started the climb, the first part is a gradual straight of about 300-400 meters and I was quickly out of breath within the first 100 meters or so I guess. No experience of climbing or gears was quickly showing up. I was mentally prepared for a walk up the hill and had also kept enough time in hand so that I am not late too college. I was also running into cramps on my back. Took my first break after the 400 m straight section. Decided to give it one more shot and realized that the break had reduced the strain on the back and muscles and it seemed easier to start off in the lower gear that I had dropped to. A couple of more breaks and I gave up. Cycled 70% of the climb, walked the rest 30% with walks and cycling in between.
Lavale Done and Dusted
I was drenched in sweat after the ordeal on a cold February morning. Thankfully had the changeovers and managed to look better. At the breakfast table had my dear professors appreciate that I managed to actually cycle up the hill and cycle to work. Had a couple of other professors show their interest in actually cycle down to work. This was motivation enough. Professor Damle, who used to cycle in his younger days encouraged me.
I cycled down to Lavale two more times over the next 4 days. On the 3rd attempt I managed to cycle to the top with just 2 breaks. However I realized a big issue with the cycle. Because the rear wheel was out, the brakes were constantly brushing and getting worn out each day. I changed the brake pads twice over these rides and realized the bike was getting dangerous.
I Definitely Needed a New Bike
The 50 + km rides to Lavale had me start dreaming of a ride to Lonavala (Small hill station next to Pune, 60-65 kms one way). The aim was not the 100 km ride but just to be able to ride on the highway and to Lonavala. It was becoming clear that the BSA could not take the 100 km ordeal and I was getting less confident with the braking on the BSA.
This became more apparent when I was thrown off the bike and almost managed to bang into a rikshaw near Pimpri while on my way to DY Patil college for a workshop. I was convinced that finally I do need to invest in a better bike.
The search for a new Bike
When I started cycling, it was to lose weight and I was convinced that the heavier the bike the better. I was a strict no about a geared bike. Riding the BSA introduced me to climbs and the hopes of doing longer distances. I did a bit of research and managed to setup my expectations.I wanted a new bike and I wanted it as cheap as possible.
Road bike: Well first up I was absolutely not sure if my back can holdup the riding position and a decent road bike is way too expensive.
MTB: I was very sure that I was looking for speed and an MTB inherently with its weight and the wheels cannot give me the speeds.
Hybrid: A hybrid looked more like what I needed, good for commutes, relaxed position.
I considered many entry level hybrids and ended up getting a sweet deal on a Kross Bolt. a 21 gear entry level steel frame hybrid. At 18 kgs with Shimano Tourney gears, front disc brakes at a sweet price of under 10k.
The Ride to Lonavala First Attempt and the First Failure
I used to train within the city solo, but I was doing nothing more than 25-30 kms average on a ride. My commutes might end up around 60 + kms on a few days but that was about it. I was still to hit a highway ride. Definitely had my apprehensions and was not very confident on doing a solo highway ride as yet. I posted on Social media looking for a partner, but none came forward as my social network did not have any serious cyclist as yet. Wife wanted to accompany me to Lonavala. So we hatched a plan with another friend to come in the car with my wife for breakfast.
On March 16th, I got a call from my friend that he was not feeling well. So my support vehicle was out of the story. I had a sinking feeling that this is not going to be a pretty story.
At around 8 pm got a call from a friend who was interested in the ride. Only problem was that he did not have a bike, nor had he been riding since 3-4 years and had no experience in long distance riding. He was ready to ride the BSA, I was super skeptical but this guy had the enthusiasm. I gave in and agreed to loan him the BSA.
The ride 17th March 2018
So I as usual woke up late, because I had slept late. We started from Vishranthwadi at 6 am instead of 5:30 am. Me on my Kross Bolt and Sourabh on the BSA. Sourabh was slightly slower, because he was not ride ready at all, but was still managing speeds upwards of 20 kmph. We crossed Dehu road and hit the highway. All good until here. I was feeling that one of my wheels was slightly low on air pressure. Note this was a novice riders ride and we had no repair kit nor a pump. However because of the Schrader valve tubes we could get air from a roadside pump. We quickly crossed the Somatne toll and I managed to grind the small climb post Somatne Toll and was ready to cruise.
Just as I crossed the climb I received a call from Sourabh. The BSA front wheel had a flat. I did a U turn and managed to locate Sourabh. We asked a few places for a cycle shop. Someone told us that Somatne village had something. It was close to 7:45 am and no cycle shop was open. We walked 2 kms inside the village and found nothing. Car puncture shops don’t repair cycle tubes. Got air filled in from a tyre shop and we decided to cycle back. Sourabh asked me to cycle on but I refused. Who leaves a mate for a ride? Lonavala would need to be on another day.
We ended up walking some 5 kms in total, reached Dehu road at around 10 am and found a cycle shop. Repaired the puncture and we were back home by 12 noon. Some 75 kms of cycling and walking. Slightly disappointed but this ride was still an adventure.
The Solo Ride and Success
On March 25th I decided to attempt the ride to Lonavala again. This time it was a solo attempt. Started at 6 am as usual. First pit stop was Nigdi, Bhakti Shakti chowk. Gulped down a plate of Poha and a cup of tea.
The ride from there was on the rolling Old Mumbai Pune highway. Crossed many riders on the way and post Kamshet short climb I was able to get some good speed. Probably because of the lovely tail wind behind me. Over taking another riders gave me both the confidence and also pumped me enough to ride up-to Lonavala. Reached Lonavala by 9 am, 65 kms at an average speed of 24 + kmph. Ordered a Dosa and some coffee at a restaurant and loaded up on some water.
I Started back within an hour and was hit by the strong headwinds and the heat. Being a novice rider I was still not introduced to the idea of dehydration and its prevention. The ride back was very difficult with the headwinds and the heat. I was getting dehydrated very quickly and would stop every 10-15 kms to purchase a bottle of water. I drank almost 4-5 liters of water, 4 of that was on the return ride. Saw a sugarcane juice guy around Talegaon and managed to drink three glasses in a single sitting but I was still thirsty.
Managed to make it back home by 1 pm in the afternoon. 5:44 minutes on the saddle completing 128 kms. I self-congratulated myself on completing the first solo 100 on the saddle.
The story of Dehydration
The joy of the first 100 was short lived. The novice rider had managed to get super dehydrated. The exceptional amount of Salt loss riding in the heat had bogged me down. Also I was running the cheapest cycling shorts. The sponge pads ensured that I ended up with Saddle sores.
The saddle sore ridden and dehydrated rider had finally pulled off a solo century ride on the highway. I was pumped nonetheless to take on more endurance rides. This lead to my first Night BRM 200 attempt in May.