Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Successful Runs

Had been to two successful run in the past month, both organized as a part of college fest of two different colleges. The first one in NIE college of engineering, was my first real big run this year after the highly unsuccessful (and quite painful) Times of India Bengaluru Midnight Marathon, a race which i'm still trying to forget! This, however was in the morning, and was supposedly 14km long, But as it measured out in Google Maps, it was around 13Km. The route is marked out in red below

The run was good till i reached ramakrishna nagar circle, from when it started going uphill, all the way till the water tank, downhill till Vijaya Bank, then up again till the lake, the up and down nature had taken away all the stamina i had, By the time i reached Hunsur Road, i was running slower than before and only a little faster than a walk. I was near to hitting "The Wall" on Kantaraj Urs road, but recovered after someone was kind enough to lend some glucose. Finished the whole thing in one hour and nine mins approx and in 35th place.

The second run in SJE college of engineering, was a different route, again using some parts from the route of the previous run.

This run was fine too, with very little problems, the usual one being lack on glucose half way through the run, so i had to struggle till my body could switch over to the slower burning fat. Then it was fine all the way. Did the whole thing in 47 mins approx, finishing 19th or so. Sadly, nobody kept time after the first 8 people reached the finish, so we were all left asking each other for timing and positions!
Anyway, nice preperation for the Sunfeast 10Km coming up at the end of May! Hope to keep it going and to get the timing better and better! the aim is to complete 10km in the early 40min zone. It still depends on how well i can practice this month. One month in counting! Till next time! Keep running! and, Peace!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tadiyandamol on Wheels!

In recent times, there has been too much of talk about a big biking expedition, to the Himalayas, and at times when craziness reaches the zenith, to Dakar! One such time, after having watched Dakar 2009, there was a talk about doing an off road trip, partly though, just to get used to the feeling of riding on loose surfaces, to get more confidence on the bike and on our own riding. Added to this, we'd never been out for a long time, blame the recession, I guess. So we were all looking for a simple solution, something where we can ride and camp at the same time. Then someone, I don't remember,could've been me too, came up with the idea of going to Tadiyandamol on bikes! Sounded interesting enough, all we had to do was solve some minor logistical problems and we were set. We got the tents hired and summoned Subbu from Bangalore the previous evening. After a few coffees, we went around shopping for food, survival food, Glucose, electrolytes, Jam, chocolates, Bread and the like. Batteries for the torches, a must as was the emergency medicines. Then came the main course!Chapathi and Curry! yeah, and you though we could just survive on bread?

What I'd actually done is, I'd made the dough, that's after fixing the Fiero's rear brakes in a formula-one-in-the-dark style operation with the help of Subbu, asked mom and sister to prepare chapathis enough for Subbu and I for two days, and had gone out shopping, then to collect a camera from a friend who was kind enough to lend it and not ask it back till today! When I came back, mom gave me a shocker that chapathis was done, but, (you thought that was the shocker?) the curry wasn't cause she was too tired and couldn't find time to prepare it, so she asked us to dice five onions and five tomatoes and keep then in the fridge and she would get up and prepare the curry the next morning just before we left. But, as usual, things got a little delayed and it was around 11 when I sat to chop the onions, recruiting Subbu for the job too since we we short of time. We both were slightly hampered by the faulty equipment at our disposal although my knife was much better than Subbu's. But the knife was the least of our problems, half way through the first onion, I found out it was not my cup of tea! I was crying like crazy and knew of nothing that could stop it! Then Subbu came up with the idea that chewing gum would help us stop crying, so he went, dug around for a while in his bag and came back empty handed and teary eyed as usual! Right then, the feeling was worse than when you got out of water with your eyes open in the most chlorinated water you've ever been in your life! and it was getting worse! I was worrying about dicing my own fingers and Subbu was worrying about the size of the pieces, not of my hand, but of the onions! I figured, since it's only we both who're going to eat it, we don't mind some unusually sized pieces of onions in our curry! so, I diced, blind, 3 or 4 onions, and Subbu did about 1 or 2 but with exceptional quality! I ended up with a headache and had to pop a pill to bring it down so I can get some sleep cause it was certain that I'd have less then five hours of sleep with a hard day ahead!

As the alarm rang, we both got up and got ready, correction, he got ready in time, I was still in a towel when all the guys arrived at my place! After having breakfast at Mylary Hotel and a little more time spent in fastening the tents and the sleeping mats to the bikes, we were off on a sunny Saturday morning. The first stretch of road, 30km or so till Hunsur was silky smooth with big open curves and perfectly laid and painted roads. It was a pleasure to ride, I was a little cautious as I had just replaced the gaskets on my bike and I thought I hadn't given enough time for seating the piston rings again. But all that thought disappeared as we left Hunsur towards Virajpet through the village and the forest roads, it was just going with the rhythm, as fast as our senses and reaction time would allow us to ride safely through the crests, blind turns and sweeping curves. We were all enjoying the roads, then we reached Virajpet, and had a cup of tea discussing the roads, weather and the bikes. From Virajpet, it was pure mountain roads for 23 kilometres till we were just a kilometre or two away from Kakkabe, this was when things stepped up a notch on the craziness scale, I went ahead, soon had my mirrors full of a flaming helmet and ears full of a two stroke hum at high speeds, Aj had caught up to me and we both were riding in tandem overtaking each other almost at alternate corners and were a little on the limit on the braking, at least me, sliding under braking just to give him a pass (and a good scare). As we arrived at the sign post which pointed the way to Tadiyandamol, we were a little clear of the other three, then they arrived one by one, Pradeep on the Fiero, then Kitt, then Subbu who was not really liking riding on those roads owing to grip problems and a recent dent in his confidence and a large one in his petrol tank, which he got fixed!

This was another stop, time for lunch, we had chapathis and shared curry among ourselves, filled our stomachs, packed our bags again and started, it was nearly 4km of hill-climb style roads ahead, and right from the star Pradeep went ahead, myself behind him, Ajay behind me, Kitt followed and a nervous Subbu brought up the rear of the pack. Pradeep was taking revenge for all the hills he couldn't climb easily on his bike when it had lost compression! Ooty Episode, Kanyakumari Episode and maybe a little in Kemmangundi. He was on a roll now, shooting up the hill, looking at him, I panicked and tried to keep up, upshifting and downshifting too many time on one stretch and over heating my newly assembled engine! Then we came to a place where there was no road and the only track up the hill went 35 degrees to horizontal! We managed to get that up with ease and stopped waiting for the others, Ajay arrived complaining of an overheated and repeatedly stalling engine and Subbu and Kitt had nothing to say, cause the next stretch of road was even steeper and even rougher than the ones we just came by! It had boulders all the way! Sub went first, and got stuck after a few feet, he had to be pushed out after overheating the engine an losing out on torque, I went second, I got stuck in the same hole Subbu had dug with his tyre! While I was struggling to get out of the ditch and smelling my engine catch fire in the process, Kitt comes and waltzes past me on his bike as if it was his driveway and I was just sitting on a bench! We were all surprised looking at it. It was a good show of bike control from the big man! Ajay made it through with a screaming engine almost on fire,Pradeep came at last and also managed to make it look easy.

We camped soon after and still had a lot of light of the day, so thought we'll go exploring on the bikes. We wanted to test how far it was possible for a bike to get on that mountain. Started our bikes and took off, bouncing from one boulder to another, skidding and sliding almost all the way as the roads got narrower and the drop on the right hand side got steeper, the weather was getting foggier and we were getting crazier. We'd scaled rocks of enough height to count as the median or footpath kerbing on regular surfaced roads. All this came to an end when I was trying to scale a big rock, I got the front over it, and just when the middle of the bike was about to pass over the bike, I heard a loud "tung" and a grinding and then the bike passed over the bike, I knew exactly what it was, I immediately switched off the bike, got down and waved the others down. The bike's frame had hit a rock pretty hard and had chipped the rock. Although a later inspection revealed that nothing serious had happened, it was a scary moment and was enough to make me lose all the rush and put on a worried look on my face!

The problem now, was this: The bike was stuck in a narrow 2 foot wide track and we were supposed to turn it around to head back. On the left was a steep hill face with mountain grass and on the right was a few bushes beyond with lay a drop of a few hundred feet. Everyone helped a hand in turning each bike around by lifting one of the wheels off the ground and getting it faced the right direction, mine was the last bike to be turned around while a herd of hyper active cows waited for the path to clear so that they could go back home before dark too. We then came back when it was still bright, relaxed for a while, talked to some locals who broke the news that we were the people who'd motored the farthest on that hill, that got a sense of achievement in all of us and we were are very happy! We slept in mild rain, two of us slept indoors cause of the rain, myself and sub slept in one tent,Pradeep slept in the other.

Next morning, surprisingly, we were up by six, Sub and I were up talking right from 0530 or so. Woke up, brushed, half a loaf of bread and jam for an early morning breakfast while Ajay and the others packed the same thing to eat on the summit along with loads and loads of water, some glucose and a few chocolates. As we started, we were shocked, we were finding it difficult to go through those roads on foot, we had no clue how we could make it through those roads on a bike the previous evening. As we went along we saw a tent city with ten tents put up in a group. then saw people who'd camped on the top of the hill descending down after having dirtied the summit. We reached the summit in a shorter duration of time compared to the last time we were here. one hour and twenty seven minutes or so the clock read. The guys had breakfast, Sub and I had chocolates, we took some photos of the scenery. And headed back, after the steep parts of the hill, I found it easier to run than to walk, so I started running,Subbu joined me, and soon we both were bullying our way through the oncoming traffic of people. Soon, we'd broken away, and soon enough, Ajay had caught up to us just as silently as he'd catch up with us on his bike when we breakaway! We were running as a group now, and made it to the camp in 55minutes! That was a superb time considering we'd gone up the hill just a couple of hours ago. We then had breakfast and since Subbu was in a hurry, we both started dismantling the tents, packing them up and fastening them up to the bikes while the others either took a nap or took a bath.

After having tea prepared freshly by the local person taking care of the land, we started off, I was the first one to go and was in a good mood to enjoy the roads, skidding into the hairpins and going up and down the gears as fast as you could read one-two-three-four-five. By the time I reached the bottom, the bus stand, Ajay and Pradeep came and informed that the entire mountain was smelling of my engine! But still I managed to enjoy the roads almost till Virajpet, but lost the guys ahead of me soon.. and was riding last but one with Subbu at the end. We met up at Virajpet for lunch at a hotel and left soon afterwards, our minds firmly on reaching Mysore, and Subbu's on reaching Mysore and leaving for Bangalore immediately since he had to make it to work the next morning. Mysore wasn't far away and Subbu had taken the lead right after Virajpet and the next I saw him was in Hunsur for tea and then after tea, next we saw him was at the entrance of Mysore, he was riding like man possessed, maintaining high speeds all the way through. Once into Mysore, it was tough task to convince Subbu to come to a hotel and have coffee before leaving, we did manage that however, it would've saved him fifteen minutes had he agreed right away. We returned the tents and went home very pleased with the trip, our own riding, the bikes and the whole experience in total, The tool kit I had packed never came to use thankfully, so did the emergency medicines. What was used well, was the jam, my mom's cooking which was finished at breakfast, the bread, chocolates, torches, tissues and the water we'd taken at Virajpet. The riding spirit is firmly on all of us now! more trips are going to be planned soon! probably repeat ones, but it'll be much enjoyed for sure! Till then! Cheers!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Race to the Clouds

In recent times i had been leaning off my hobbies, haven't written letters in a while, haven't been out running or cycling or biking or trekking, nothing, i would've liked to blame it on the recession, but it's not really affecting me in a very major way, so, it had to be my laziness gene acting up again. The only thing i was doing in the past few weeks is traveling to b'lore and back.
I had been on one such trip to watch a so called "Race to the Clouds" taken from the much more famous and much more dangerous "Race to the Clouds" or better known as the "Pikes Peak International Hill Climb" (watch Video ). But the hill here was the Nandi Hill, it was bikes instead of cars and the course looked like this

Starting from the first right-handed hairpin on the extreme left of the picture, the bikes would take seven hairpins bends, two long straights and a few other small straights. This event was last run seven years ago and at that time the fastest time over the 1.8km uphill course was set on a 350cc Two Stroke, twin cylinder, twin carbureted, twin reed valved, six speed, 32bhp (in stock trim) Yamaha RD350, a cult bike even after being out of production for more than 20 years. This time around though there were many other bikes which could and did give the big RD a run for its money. All the nimble handling bikes, especially the out of production two strokes, like the ever performing and ever present, for any event, RX, one of the most versatile bike to hit the Indian roads, a two stroke which can give you 50km to a liter, or, if you want it to, can me made to reach speeds of 145kmph on gravel roads in competition mode. This, apparently was the weapon of choice for people who wanted to compete, mainly because it was easy to get hold of a bike and it was easy to find someone who can do an average job of modifying it and if they screw it up, it was easier to find spares for it. But there were other bikes ranging from the legends such as the RD from Yamaha, the Yezdi from Ideal Jawa in Mysore, the Shogun and Shaolin from Suzuki, the newer Fiero Apache from TVS-Suzuki, almost the entire stable from Royal Enfield which was kinda pointless for a hill climb, come on, a thumper participating in a hill climb? you gotta be kidding! The main attraction was, however, something entirely different and in a different league. When Subb and I went to park the bike next to a truck, an old man came chasing us off saying "The TVS bikes are gonna be parked here, search somewhere else to park". We didn't understand what he was talking, so we asked him, where are they gonna come from? He pointed to the truck in front which was sealed shut with cloth and rope. It was then we came to know that TVS Racing had entered their bikes into this race. We kinda hung around the TVS truck so as to catch a glimpse of the bikes, but kept our eyes on the so called, unofficial practice sessions going on just down the road with people riding putting everybody at risk, recklessly, at neck breaking speed. Some very well tuned machines we noticed were the RX 135 of T.K. Vishwanath, that's him with the blue shirt at the back door of the van.

a chambered
RD350 which sounded awesome and went like a rocket with wheels on the straights!

A blue Suzuki Fiero, which was performing very well, but don't know what happened to it in the actual race.

After a huge delay of nearly two and a half hours clearing non-competitive traffic from the course and trying to get the pedestrians to stop at the side of the road, the race was ready for a start. In the meanwhile the competitors were getting themselves and the machines ready to race. Many were practicing recklessly on the roads with regular traffic moving in both directions, some were just catching up with old friends, fellow competitors, and the like. some were tweaking up the bike for one last time, probably trying to get the mixture right for the altitude while some others had damaged their bikes even before the even had started. Meanwhile the TVS guys decided to reveal their ammunition to the general public and unwrapped their trucks, in the back were tucked 5 supremely tuned, wonderfully minimal, intricately well thought and designed bikes. with the platforms taken from regular road going bikes of the past and present and along with them a full set of tools, spares, petrol, oil and mechanics. As they lowered it onto the side of the road, they started coming into full view, a stable of race prepared bikes, one each of Suzuki Shaolin, Suzuki Shogun, TVS victor, TVS Apache RTR 160. The two strokes were with chambers and imported Mikuni flatslide carburetors with power-jets, which i later discovered to be TM28SS. The Apachce had a solid aliminum chassis for most parts and a single shock absorber. All bikes sported aluminum wheels for weight reduction and a battery controlled and probably programmable ignition systems. Then they took out the 5Th bike, a suposedly custom built, motocross prototype bike, with aluminum swing arm, liquid cooled 125 cc engine, Ohlins dampers (the best in the world) and the works. They'd named it 125 RTR-X.

As the race started, the prototype racing machine was the first to take flight. Sub and I immediately found out how well designed that bike was, it entered the power band at a very high rev and its power was very peaky. The rider was shifting up the gears every two seconds and accelerating like crazy. obviously we couldn't see the bike for more than a few hundred meters, but could hear the bike almost all the way up the hill. Next up were some other two strokes, then there was the foreign class which saw the likes of the Honda CBR 600RR and the Suzuki GSX.
The race was decided into segments depending on the displacement of the bikes, and therefore each class had it's own winner and then there was an overall winner for the meet. The Yamaha R6 won the overall prize for the meet clocking 1min and 24 seconds. But the excitement was to see the tiny two strokes ridden by some of the best riders of the day give these huge, over engineered, multi cylindered, multi evolutional machines a good run for their money.
The difference in riding style was very boldly obvious, compared to the other guys who first downshifted, then braked then leaned into the corner, took the corner and accelerated, the Seasoned riders closed the throttle, braked, downshifted and started leaning into the corner all at the same time, and so were able to carry much more speed into the corner taking beautifully pre-decided lines through it. The factory backed bikes were easy to pick up while accelerating, but one bike, notable the RX of Vishwanath was what caught my mind, i noticed that his bikes didn't pick up well from a lower rev, well, i say that in comparison to other racing machines. He had an excellent and potentially deadly way of compensating for it. When he came to the second hairpin, he braked much earlier than the others, downshifted and opened the throttle even before he entered the corner, by the time he was at the exit of the corner, the bike was into the power band and picked up speed just as well as the factory bikes! If he was too early, the bike would've gone out of control in the middle of the corner, if he was late, he would be just as slow as any other ordinary bike. He did go on to clock an impressive time!
Then came a crowd of RX135! there were so many bike it was difficult to keep track! some were good, some were bad, some were ridden badly and almost most of them were smelling of burnt clutch! I shall leave the gearless scooter class thinking it was a mistake on the organisers for which they're regretting even as we speak.
Nearing the end of the meet came the big boys, the RD, kind of a bike of the past, but still competitive, but probably none of the RD350 was in it's full racing glory. But it did put on a good show, was visibly faster than most of the bikes of the day and was a sure-hit crowd-stealer! One of them, the one with the chambers even did a wheelie while accelerating.
There was the foreign open class still remaining while we decided to leave and reach home before it got too dark. It was a good day on the road, the sights, sounds and smell of bikes did give us a high, and my interest in bikes has been rekindled ever since that day, especially after i came to know that the person who won the event overall was a 40 year old man and not some college going adrenaline junkie as I expected! well, i guess you're never too old till you start thinking you are! I think he was wearing a tee shirt with "18 till I die" on it underneath the racing overalls! We reached home extremely happy and contented people! It had been a long time since I'd seen some good biking action. It felt liberating, I've been doing some alteration or other to my bikes since that day! Hope there are more of such events in the future! Till then, chao!