Water never tasted this good!
Banana never was this sweet!
People were never this talkative!
Sitting on a chair feels like heaven!
Never craved this much for downhill roads!
I believed everything in life is somewhere else, unless you get there in a car, until the time I rode a bicycle for over 800kms! Writer E.B White should have tried a cycling adventure back in his times and we are pretty sure that this quote would’ve been written differently.
This is a death-or-glory story of me and my camera crew. Let me be very honest. I am not good enough to do an 800Km round trip on a cycle. I am an occasional fitness freak unlike my team mates – Mounesh and Ramprasad. I have even seen them working out in between shoots to keep them energetic while I struggle to finish off the shoot quickly.
Lofty mountains, yawning valleys, roaring rivers and zig zag mountain loops through dense forests; this was how we planned our ride when this crazy challenge of cycling was thrown at us. We planned to ride the Trek Bicycles from our Bangalore office to our Coimbatore office and back through Kollegal forest which is adventurous enough to give you trembling legs. The route through Kollegal is good to go if you are going in a car. It is not advisable to even go on a bike since you will come across elephants and even leopards at times. Also, we will need a place to stay after every 130 or 150Kms and we wouldn’t be able to find one anywhere if we come via Kollegal. Hence we decided to ride via highways itself, which will ensure safety.
The idea started cooking inside me in November 2018 and the climate also was supportive. Due to regular back-packing, we couldn’t shell out 10 days from our schedule for this. Hence the dates were forced to push even further and finally we blocked our calendar in the scorching heat March! I know it sounds crazy, but the other option was to postpone another three months for the summer heat to settle.
Meet our bikes
Well, ever heard of the brand Trek? If you are into adventure and fitness, there’s no chance of not knowing it. Trek is an international bicycle brand based out of USA and spread over 90 countries. We’ve got to choose the brand Trek over others because, we have heard from various sources that Trek makes the best bikes around the world. Be it MTB’s or hybrids, Trek will have a list of models to offer based on the requirement. To make you understand it better, Trek is the Ducati of bicycles.
When we approached Trek India, they were happy to offer us three bikes. Let me use the term ‘bicycles’ instead of bikes which makes me feel better. In my world, doing a 1000Km ride on a bike in a single day is a piece of cake. But here, in the Trek Challenge, I have to admit that doing 150Kms by the end of the day wasn’t an easy task.
They say when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. We three decided to do a proper workout for 40 days before the ride, which is sure to make us capable enough to ride continuously. Ram and Mounesh were aligned completely and they didn’t even miss a single day without hardcore workout, and then there is me, missing to do it every single day until we start our ride!
Trek India offered us three cycles suiting three of us based on our height and weight. They even offered us a small training from Bangalore to manage a flat tyre and other basic stuff to ensure the bikes are fit for the ride.
Trek FX2 is a great value for money product. Offered on a light weight Alpha Gold Aluminium frame, it’s suitable for all types of commutes. FX2 comes equipped with semi-skinny tyres that are stable even on loose terrain. Given our weights and heights, Trek India suggested FX2 (17.5 inches) for Ramprasad. With the Shimano drivetrain offering 24 speeds, the FX2 is easy to pedal uphill and fast on an open road.
Trek India wanted us to experience their MTB range as well and offered one (18.5 inches) for Mounesh since it will suit his proportions. X-Caliber 8 is a cross country mountain bike with which you will be happy to spend long days on trails. This also comes with a light weight Alpha Gold Aluminum frame and a RockShox 30 Silver suspension fork with a lockout and an air spring that’s light and adjustable. The wheel size of the X-Caliber8 differs with that of the frame size. It varies from 27.5 inches to 29 inches and the perfect combination of wheel and frame gives you better control over trails. Also, this is the heaviest among the three weighing just 13.4 kilograms.
Trek FX4 Sport
Being the tallest and heaviest, Trek India offered the FX4 Sport (20 inches) which is very light and agile. Coming with the same Alpha Gold Aluminum frame, the FX4 Sport is the lightest of the lot weighing just 12 kilograms. This bike gets the thinnest tyre among the three and unlike the FX2, this will not be stable on loose terrain. The FX4 Sport also comes with Bontrager TLR (Tubeless Ready), which is the first tubeless system for road wheels and tough bontrager hard-case tyres, which is puncture resistant. Both FX4 and FX2 comes with Blendr system which lets you clip your gear directly by just sliding it.
Must have accessories:
• Compact Air Pump
• Puncture Kit
• 1 set of tube for each bike
• Lights for both front and rear
• Rear saddle bag
Day 1: Bangalore to Dharmapuri (142Kms)
We always stick to the golden rule of travelling, which is an early start. We left Bangalore by 5:30am and started pedalling on the E-City flyover. The climate wasn’t chill enough as expected and people around didn’t bother to give a damn about three men riding their cycles. In Bangalore, it’s a very casual sight as people pedal everyday as part of fitness. The fittest among the three is Ram and he was heading our convoy in front on his bright and sleek FX2 followed by me on the FX4 Sport. I was wondering how I was pedalling ahead of Mounesh on his X-Caliber 8.
We reached the end of the flyover in not more than 30 minutes and started out ride towards Hosur. The ride was smooth on the FX4 Sport for me. I didn’t push harder on the pedal as the sleek tyres made the job much easier. On the other side, Ram on the FX2 was going faster ahead thinking as if this is a race using advantage of his strong legs. Mounesh on the X-Caliber was trying to catch up with us, but he was out of our sight most of the times.
We crossed Hosur and stopped in one of the Bhavans for breakfast. Along this route you can find more Anandha Bhavan/Saravana Bhavan than anywhere else on the planet which offers some delicious Idli/Dosa combo. The ride was just picking up pace for me with the FX4 Sport, but Mounesh wanted to give me a taste of the X-Caliber8. We swapped our ride and adjusted seat heights. The X-Caliber8 is one of the best looking MTBs I’ve ever seen. The design grabs attention and the wide tyres give a proper rugged look. But, the moment I started pedalling, I understood why he was riding far behind me when I was on my comfort speed. The wider the tyres, more is the friction and you will have to pedal two times more than what you do in the FX4 Sport and even three times when you approach an uphill!
The ride to Krishnagiri was the toughest ever for me since I was on the rugged looking X-Caliber8. Hosur to Krishnagiri is just about 40Kms but the roads are almost uphill and winding. I never got a sight of the other bikes ahead throughout these 40kms. However, I was on my own, enjoying buckets of sweat and stopping once in every 5kms for rest and some food. To everybody who asks me about the ride, I would just reply, if you want to know how difficult it was, just pedal from Bangalore to Krishnagiri on a Sunday morning.
It was almost 12pm when we reached Krishnagiri and we headed to a nice restaurant to enjoy a good meal. We simply sat over there post lunch for an hour and headed towards the park behind the hotel and tried to sleep for some time. The idea was to not burn our skin under the Sun during the peak hours of heat and we hit back the road at 4pm while humbly requesting the Sun to settle down.
We drank buckets of water along the way and still felt thirsty. You wouldn’t believe, we almost drank 10 litres of water in a single day and didn’t feel like taking a leak at all. Coming back to the FX4 Sport, it almost felt like heaven. The bike feels light and is perfect for a road trip like this. While I was wondering how different Trek has made the X-Caliber8 from that of the hybrid models. You literally can’t ride FX4 Sport off the road and the X-Caliber8 on the road. Along the way, we were forced to ride off the road because of road construction and I simply couldn’t handle the FX4 Sport on gravel. Both the bikes are entirely different and both are purpose built. I really would like to try the X-Caliber8 on a proper offroad track one day. It is a brilliant bike which suits the purpose. Though I love the ruggedness, I humbly neglected when the same was offered once again by Mounesh. There we are at Dharmapuri settling off inside a small hotel by 8:30pm.
Day 2: Dharmapuri to Perundurai (145Kms)
The agenda of the day was to ride as far as possible and reach Coimbatore. We started by 6am and started riding towards Salem. The route was straight but was under renovation which slowed us down a bit. We decided to take the route via Mettur dam instead of going through Salem. The advantage of taking this route is, it being a shorter route where we can save a good 30kms and the route is completely filled with trees which would offer shades when we ride.
Along the route you see mango farms, paddy fields; women working on the land, while men are sitting in the shade of a tree discussing what’s latest in the news. Every single person we met on the road never failed to give us a smile and most of them asked us about our adventure. They wanted to know whether we were coming from Chennai or Bangalore and where we were heading to.
Thanks to the trees offering continuous shade, we were able to ride continuously without settling down for the heat to settle. This is when I understood, how important it is to preserve our forest. We always wanted to make up our time which went short due to road renovation. The X-Caliber8 was again gifted back to me when he wanted to relax sometime on the FX4 Sport. I wanted to push as hard as possible and pedalled as if I was chased by a Godzilla. However, the speed was below average while my actions were more cinematic.
When you are going to do long distance touring on a cycle, you must have at least a set of padded shorts with you. The padded shorts reduce pressure points, prevent chafing and disperse road vibration and by the end of the ride, you won’t be walking like a cowboy.
Our second day ended at Perundurai where we checked into a lodge and went out hopping for some nice dinner. We found the best restaurant around and happily filled out tummies and went to sleep.
Day 3: Perundurai to Coimbatore (80Kms)
Our thighs were pumped up, the muscles were stronger and our bottoms were aching. It was not pain; it was a sweet revenge of the clotted blood. The ride started at 5:30am with tea. Our shoulders were paining since we were carrying our backpack with camera equipment and a bit of clothes. The next 80Kms went superfast. We were more energetic than day 1 since the three of us can rest for the next three days! We welcomed the Sun that morning with a glee and our shining bright capable Trek bikes grabbed attention of the fellow travellers.
We reached Coimbatore by 10am before us stopping for breakfast. FX4 Sport was my companion throughout that day and X-Caliber8 was behind me. We ended our ride on the third day at 10am in the city of Coimbatore and the fittest Ram on the FX2 didn’t even stop even once throughout these 80Kms which helped him reach an hour ahead of us at our final destination!
Thanks to Trek India officials. Unlike other brands, everybody who works here is a fitness enthusiast. They know very well about their products and they are using it every single day. They took good care of us by giving proper advice on what to do and what not. We were never cyclists; though we approached them with this idea and they were kind enough to offer us three cycles with must have accessories.
A healthier lifestyle is all we need!
Go back behind a couple of decades and our grandparents lived for over 100 years without visiting hospitals. In fact there were very less hospitals back then. The reason was as simple as they had a healthy lifestyle. Today we are cocooned inside cubicles in an urban jungle hunting down our targets for the day. Well, we can’t help when the World is moving this way, but however I request you to add a cycle to your garage. It will at least motivate you for your weekend rides and keep you away from hospitals. I am very much happy to notice international brands like Trek coming to India. Brands like Trek are making our life healthier with their products. When you buy it, you use it no matter what, at least once in a week, slowly making it as your daily mode of transport for short runs. Now, I am going to invest my money in one of these, well, whether it should be an MTB or a hybrid is a debate for another day.
We never know our true potential unless we push ourselves to the limit. Every day we eat food and feel hungry doing an office job. Now try this and you will define hunger in a completely different way! We relaxed for three days and back on the saddle again with a hundred horsepower energy inside us.
Heading back to Bangalore!
Just do it!