“The urge came from within, likewise the urge to participate in the first Brevet and later to do the PBP also came from within. I always raised the bar for myself, whenever I see an event posted, I ask myself if I can do it and when I see myself doing it I get goose bumps. I always feel one should do it because it comes from within and not because your neighbour does it or you want to compete with someone to prove a point. As long as the urge to cycle comes from within you will love it.”
Back in India, I was excited to be a part of the first ultra cycling event The Desert 500. Riding in the Thar desert is a treat for people like me; who often like to take a break from the busy city life and escape into the wilderness. Except for a few private cars passing by or the Army convoy (due to its proximity to the Pakistan border), there is no one to bother you, it is just you, your bike and your fellow riders. that’s when Jodhpur hosts a huge airbase and I was thrilled to hear the roars of a Sukhoi after such a long time.
This time of the year the weather in Rajasthan is pleasant, afternoons are not so hot and nights are cold enough to keep you glued to the saddle. The moment you step down from your bike, the cold attacks you, taking a while before your body gets warm again. The organisers did an excellent job by hosting control points after every 40 km. The only challenge was that as stated in the event brochure, no hot drink was served and we had to content ourselves with Gatorade, water, energy bars and bananas. With the fall of night, came a host of surprises.
Firstly, the power full beam of my Dynamo powered front light revealed a deer which bolted as soon as it realised that a human being is approaching. With the bicycle being a noiseless vehicle, you can get real close to these animals. I also spotted camels, peacocks, and jackals. I heard hyenas crying from a distance. It was fun to chase a hare as it raced by the side of the road. I also spotted a wild cat and a pack of wild boars.
After an adventurous night came the false dawn heralded by the calls of peacocks. In spite of all the visual entertainment, I finished the ride in 22 hours and 16 minutes. 17 of 36 riders participating in the 500 categories completed this ride, with 12 riders completing it within the 24 hours limit.I happened to met big names like Sumit Patil, Kevin Rekhy and Samim Rizvi with whom I rode along.Besides Samim was the other Indian who completed PBP. Another Guy Shreyas Kumar managed to complete PBP but couldn’t complete in the given time.
It was indeed a wonderful experience. I love Rajasthan and decided to revisit this place next year as well. While on a trip to Goa with some of my office friends I couldn’t resist the temptation of riding Goa’s first brevet and borrowed my friends bike to miraculously complete the ride well in time by mending a puncture. This Kept myself busy touring around Mahabaleshwar with Kevin and Sherezad, exploring different cross country routes.
We did a trip to Diveagar beach on the coastal route. I am yet to see a dedicated riding partner like Kevin Rekhy, when we learnt about the RAAM qualifier being organised at Bikaner my weekends used to start at 4:30 am with a call from Kevin. 2 hours post that I could find myself either on the Mumbai- Gujarat highway or old Mumbai- Pune highway. These routes and eventually some food joints on them were so frequently visited by me and Kevin that Kitchen staff could detect our presence by the orders we placed.
Once while climbing the bhor ghat Kevin’s tyre burst making a sound resembling a rifles’ report, it made the priest of the Shingroba temple wake up with a start. I wanted to experience riding with a support vehicle as it is mandatory for RAAM and the qualifiers. My friend Mannu volunteered to help us, he drove to Nashik to support us in his car. To find a crew was yet another challenge, I was already on a tight budget for this event.
Ideally, support crew should know the rider so that the rider can bank on them. A masseur and a professional cab driver formed my crew. Everything was new for my crew. I was counting my stars as I had only 1 pair of spare wheels which my friend Sherezad had offered to me without even asking for it, this wheelset was the only saviour if I had a flat. I was not expecting my crew to fix a flat for me as this was their first time they had seen a bike like this.
These 2 men did a superb job by exceeding my expectations. Though they were new to all this they were learning things fast by seeing the support crew of other teams attending to their rider. Of course, they were good at their professional traits. We were lucky to receive such warm hospitality at Kevin’s aunts house after a 20-hour long drive to Bikaner from Rajasthan. Auntie Gloria loaded our support vehicle with enough food to make us ride those 700 odd kms.
The moment I rushed out of the town and got on the highway to huge Blue bulls crossed the highway right in front of me. By 11 am, there is a sudden change in the temperature in Rajasthan and if you fail to listen to your body’s requirements on time, cramps will ruin your day.
In spite of overnight drive, sleep was not on the menu card. My support vehicle driver was surprised to see me ride through the cold night as the chilly desert wind didn’t even permit him to roll the window glass down. From Pokhran to Phalodi its a gradual climb which seemed to be unending midway when dawn was about to break a fawn took me by surprise and this put an end to the monotony of the night. As I approached the final 25 km I saw a familiar car pass by and stop a little ahead of me. For the last 25 miles, I had Kevin cheering for me. He made me cut down on at least 10 mins.
Three years ago, when I bought my first bike, no one told me to do so, the urge came from within, likewise the urge to participate in the first Brevet and later to do the PBP also came from within. I always raised the bar for myself, whenever I see an event posted, I ask myself if I can do it and when I see myself doing it I get goosebumps. I always feel one should do it because it comes from within and not because your neighbour does it or you want to compete with someone to prove a point.
As long as the urge to cycle comes from within you will love it. Also, there is no need to rush into things and set hard targets for yourself. Till date I have enjoyed all the preparations/ training sessions, I have gone through to achieve all the milestones. I never felt like I have done hard work or labour. Cycling for me is freedom and cycling has helped me set free from the rat race. I just hope to see myself ride strong for decades to come. I don’t wish to burn like a comet but shine like a star.
Courtesy: Kailas Patil