It was almost a year, since I toured parts of Kalimpong on my bike. After I returned, I continued with my daily ride with the new found confidence, not knowing that within a year, that is to be shattered and to bring back I would need almost six long long months ….
Around this time I used to ride on my own averaging 20 km max, not knowing anything about cycling clubs in or around the city and since my route was bit off-route I didn’t meet many. Sometimes in the month of August 2015, I came across a post in Facebook, asking for registration from participants for a 100 km ride which has to be completed within a total time of 7 hours. It was for the first time that I ever came across the possibility of riding such a long distance within a fixed time. I also came across a new term, Brevet Populaire aka BP, which these events are called worldwide. I was further told that these are the stepping stones for newbies like myself to step foot in the more rigorous platform, Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM). Around August 2015, the possibility of doing any of the Brevets or BRMs as they are popularly called, seemed highly remote for me, given the fact I was not even confident to successfully complete the BP I signed up for. But I knew that I had to start somewhere if am to start doing long distances.
At that time I had been riding a hybrid (https://montra.in/hybrid-bikes/trance-pro/ ) which gave undoubtedly more speed and ease in covering long distances owing to it’s lightweight. Till then, neither I had no knowledge about proper bicycle fit, saddle height, nor how to approach such endurance rides. Worse even I didn’t even knew what to do in the event of a puncture 😦
We the riders gathered around the starting point in Newtown, Kolkata around 1 hour prior to flag off and was brief extensively about the route that we were supposed to take and were handed over with cue sheets and cards to be stamped at controls. We were supposed to take a U-turn from Govindpur CCD (https://goo.gl/maps/564RtrrWCqcJ6F5Z9) and continue back the same way to the starting point at Newtown.
Being inexperienced I exhausted more than what I had in the first 60 km itself and the result was that even before reaching Dankuni on the return, I was suffering with cramps. The sultry September weather was only compounding the difficulty. The result being I could not finish my first century in time. The clock went passed the deadline with 5 km still to go. I was completely crestfallen.
Though unsuccessful, this very attempt was a stepping stone for me towards transformation to endurance cycling. Whatever I was doing before September 2015 was leisure ride, was enjoying myself while cycling but not doing enough to improve my riding ability and the failed ride was nothing but an indication to that. The next three months was a transformation, I get to know the more experienced ones in and around me and continuously rode with them in the outskirts of Kolkata. The group ride did amazing things to me. From an average riding distance of 20 km only, my average riding distance increased to nearly 70 km and at a much faster speed. It hurt initially to keep pace with the pack who have been by that time completing 300 BRM in less than 13 hours, but then, the very sense of insecurity of falling behind the pack kept me pushing a bit hard. Not that I was able to catch up with them but was able to keep the distance at a minimum ( I am pretty sure that the guys were generous enough not to ride in full steam whenever they saw me in group). But believe me, that helped. Soon I was covering distances of around 70/80 km pretty quick and getting less exhausted at the same time.
But the it was a ride in support of “CRY” in the month of December 2015 and few 100+ Km ride that brought in the self confidence in me. However, in that 180+ Km ride, my co-riders brought to my attention that the hybrid that I was using, was actually larger than that was appropriate resulting riding discomforts which started to increase after about 3 hours. This prompted me to change bike and in January 2016 after doing a proper bike-fit took a road-bike from Giant (https://www.choosemybicycle.com/en/bicycles/giant-defy-5-2016 ).
The regular long distance rides brought back some confidence back in me resulting in me taking my first attempt in doing my first BRM ever. However, since it was my first BRM, I was not willing to ride in the summer months and thus decided to do the 300 BRM in March 2016. The Leap was huge for me, from a failed 100 to a successful 180 Km in December and a few 100+ km in next two months I literally decided to attempt doing a 300 Km ride in 20 hours.
It was not easy. Not going into details of how I managed to do it on that day, but rest be assured, that had it been a solo 300 km ride, I would not have been able to finish it at all. The very fact that that there were three of us constantly encouraging each other while sharing highs and lows, made the effort felt relatively easy and without much fuss we were able to reach the finish line with almost an hour to spare.
Finishing a ride of 300 km within the given time gives a sense of elation in but when you get a medal for that from the Mecca of Cycling World, i.e. Paris, that elation stays permanent and always make you crave to push your limits just that little further. Just like life itself, Cycling is full of uncertainty, it’s a tight rope walking, to keep balance you need to pedal be on the move always without thinking of the results. Being lesser mortals, the least I can do is to try and give my heart out.