I have been trekking for some time now and fairly comfortably so. The reason I say so is because I have yet not felt fatigue, high altitude sickness and had a lost-feeling while doing so. So, I was looking for something exciting – that can challenge me, where can test myself and push my limits. This is where cycling comes in – the first line just captures my attention and I could not get over it till the time I am writing this stuff. That line was – THIS IS NO TOURISTY STUFF!
Not to mention it was not an ordinary cycling trip. It is from Manali to Leh, which is regarded as the best road trip in India. It not only gives you a chance to go into absolute wilderness but make you do so while you are being seriously challenged; amid heaven. Now, I will not write too much about it and move to the part where this cycling trip comes into the picture. I knew Bikat Adventures from a year now, so I pick-up the phone and called Girish from Bikat. He recognized me immediately although we only met for 10 minutes, more than a year back. That was very welcoming and put me at ease immediately. I talked to him about this trip at length and expressed my excitement as well as apprehensions. I have not done cycling since my school time, i.e. 10 years now. However, I am pretty confident about my trekking and running skills. Girish gave me his honest feedback. He told me that the muscles used in cycling is very different from what is used in trekking/running. So, I need to test those muscles before I should think about doing Manali-Leh. One more very important thing, unlike most other such cycling trips, we are going from Manali to Leh, so comparatively a lot tougher and very strenuous. Nobody wants me to attempt something beyond my capabilities (atleast when I am not trained for it) and end up doing most of the trip in a support truck. So, Girish suggested I took part in Dehradun-Mussoorie cycle ride to test where I stand.
It is complete 25 kms uphill on day 1 and consequently a complete downhill the next day. I have not even ride a bike on a mountain before so it will also give me an experience on how to drive a bike (cycle or motor) on hilly terrain. One of the key things in any trip is not just the destination but the journey, more so in this one. But one thing which I have under-estimated was the involvement of fellow travelers on this one. On a trek, you will get ample time to mingle with your fellow co-travelers and build a rapport but who would imagine the same to be more truth on a cycling trip which is an individual thing throughout the journey. There were 7 of us and 6 cycles between us apart from a car which is a safety vehicle in case of any contingency. All 6 of us who were doing cycling are fairly new to it as only 1 of us has done the same cycling trip a year before. For the rest of us, it is our first.
To be honest, I went into the groove immediately after I tried to find my pace on the new surface, mainly due to the mental adjustment I made before coming to Dehradun. I have tried few gear combinations before settling in on the one which I consider comfortable doing the rest of my uphill journey. I did sweat a lot, broke my pedal a couple of times and to my surprise was able to fix it all by myself. I became tired but I was focused only on monitoring my performance for the more strenuous tour for which I am doing this. There were times when I thought it is just going to be my one and only cycle trip and stopped…..only to start again after a sip of water. Cycling uphill is not easy and I could later look at the selfies I took on the way and confirm that I was completely drenched in sweat. This is not normal as I do not sweat easily, in fact I have never sweated when I trekked all these years. Anyhow, it is a good thing as it gives me a fairly clear idea as to how my body is reacting to what I am doing. Finally, I did reached Mussoorie just before the evening. We entered from another end of Mall road and took a hotel that is reserved for us. Also, we get a lot of cheering and thumps up from people commuting on that road for doing what we are doing despite the fact that cycling should be normal sight for those people. Believe me when I say this - the appreciation and encouragement we get on the way goes a long way in helping us go further.
Few words about the company on this trip. The cycling is scheduled to commence at 6 am to beat the morning rush but was delayed for more than 2 hours due to unavoidable circumstances. So, I was waiting at the bus stand after travelling in the Volvo the night before. It is then that Pankaj (from Bikat) gave me the numbers of my fellow cyclists (2 of whom are also waiting at the bus stand and 1 is staying at a hotel near the bus stand). Before I could call the one at the hotel, he called me and invited me over. I told him that I have just met 2 more of our fellow cyclists and he invited them too. I could tell that it was not a formality but a very genuine invitation. We went to his hotel room and immediately felt at ease. Coming back to the afternoon when we have reached Mussoorie, all of us took an hour of rest before setting out to explore Mall road. I am not into video games but one of our person is very interested in it so we do enter into a couple of video games parlor and buoy – what mayhem we caused there. The food was delicious and there were enough shops to do quality shopping. I rate mall road of Manali a decent one but this one is much better. The quality of crowd, the offerings, the atmosphere and the food make it a very inviting place. All in all, I had a very good time with genuine people at the great place.
Next day is a stuff, dreams are made of. I hardly pedalled 10 times on my entire way downhill. It was awesome weather as usual and we are racing downwards. Words cannot describe the degree of easiness with which we came down. We all were singing, laughing, clicking pictures, making videos and admiring the nature’s beauty. This time everyone is very close to each other cycling, everyone can see each other. There was this incident just before we were about it reach Dehradun – there is this famous temple on the way, not far from our destination. 2 cyclists overtook me just before the temple and they took a blind u-turn from the middle of the road just in front of the temple. I assumed that no vehicle is coming from other end that is why those two took the middle of the road, so I followed them. The instant I reached the bend, I saw a SUV coming towards me from opposite end. My first reaction was to apply breaks but I was in such speed that breaks alone are not going to save the day for me. Luckily, Pankaj told me before the trip starts that shockers should be locked while climbing up as it reduces the stress and unlocked while coming down. I have unlocked them this morning and they do came into play just at the right time. If shockers were locked, I would have jumped in front of that SUV due to the sheer speed at which I was coming down and the sudden breaks. But there is no tragedy in this happy trip where I have learned a lot of stuff sub-consciously about mountain biking.
I can safely say that I am better prepared to embark on the trip that I am really excited about. Girish was true when he mentioned about different muscles being used in cycling, I now know where I stand and I also know what I need to do in the next few weeks leading towards that NO TOURISTY thing.