Tag Archives: cycling

Drafting in life

As a Cyclist, I have been aware of drafting for a long time and I’ve talked about it previously here

The idea of drafting is to reduce the effort needed to cycle by working in groups. Research has shown that cyclists can cut their effort by up to 40% if they are behind a leader in the group. In a drafting group, people shift into and out of lead all the time, there are etiquette and protocols on when to fall behind in the group and when to lead the group.

The headwinds of Life and the best way to make it draft them with your friends and family.

In Cycling, drafting needs a lot of trust in your mates and following the rules, if you don’t trust the people you are drafting, you end up not being in the slipstream and missing the “pull” and if you start to get too comfortable with a new group too early, a quick change in direction can bring you down to the asphalt level (as I have painfully found out on a recent Brevet).

The other thing you notice, is you hardly ever draft with people with different skill levels, most times I’ve noticed the guys that form a echelon are the ones with similar styles and rhythms, literally need to synchronize the pedal motion, those who can’t synchronize get dropped without other cyclists noticing it almost unapologetically.

I suspect both these things play out in life pretty similarly.

Thanks to all the people I have drafted( you know who you are)  for letting me draft them.


Tour of Nilgiris

There are two ways to write about specific events, Right after the event, with lots of anecdotes and details. The other way is to do it a while after, when details fade away and the big things stand clear. Latter is what i am trying to do now.
It’s been a month since we returned from  Tour of Nilgiris (TFN for short) a 8 day cycling tour across a lot of south India. This was my second TFN, as I rode my Giant OCR in the inagural TFN. This time I took my ORBEA Onix. And I am glad to report that I survived whole of the tour, with just sore ass problem, and even bested my Ooty climb time by atleast 3 hrs (Last time I arrived at 6PM, but this time i was in the Hostel by 2.30PM)

The biggest surprise of the tour was how far the Road biking community had come. The first TFN was evenly divided between Mountain Bikers and Roadbikers. This tour was probably 90% Roadbikers. And what bikes they had, some of the most expensive and awesome bikes came to the Tour,  Most of the top riders had bikes in excess of USD 5,000 (not counting the upgrades).  OH my god that beautiful Pinarello Dogma. And fast they were, riding the in excess of 25kmph over distances of 150 km on the hills and the heat. Most early riders would be at the hotel in 6-8 hrs depending on the distances, however this was not the case in the first TFN, most early riders came much later in the afternoon.

Maybe the riders then were not as fast as they are now, but also there was a huge sense of Competition, while earlier it was camaraderie. This did not man there was dearth of camaraderie, Bangalore riders had formed teams to ride as a peloton, so that they could save their legs for the Competitive section.

The organization of the Tour has certainly gone to the next level. The first year, We would reach the end and find our Bags have not arrived, food not ready and shoddy conditions at the hotel.  One of the worst thing from riders perspective coming in after hours of hard ride, is not having clean cloths to wear after a cold shower and not having some food ( I don’t mean energy bars) to eat. The recovery for the next day’s ride has to start immediately. This year the organization was impeccable. We would arrive early to the hotel and find the bags were already in the room, food in place, and above average hotels to stay at.

Also different was the planning and communication from the organizers, I do not believe in the whole tour anybody missed a turn or went the wrong way. The markings on the roads were impeccable, and support stations and vehicle support were great as well.

The Tour definitely has become harder since the first edition, that probably explains the drop in number of Mountain Bikes entering the tour. It’s a Road Bike tour and even though it sounds hash, there is no reason for Mountain bikers to enter TFN. Maybe the have fun the few days there are downhills and bad roads, but most of the 900km are tarred roads that offer no respite to the heavy MountainBikes.  The tour is also getting faster, most riders train rigorously for TFN and the riding speeds are on average higher (thanks also to the super awesome bikes)

There is one final change, Of the 10 people I hung out with Cycling wise, 5 were CEOs  or Head of their Organizations. It may be too early to call Cycling the new Golf, but there definitely seemed to be a lot more successful people( and  a loser among them), at the TFN.

TFN is evolving, and has come a long way since it started 4 years ago, and it could soon be the preeminent Tour in India the sort of Tour de France of India.

Tour de Ladakh

A few months ago i made another rash decision of taking a couple of weeks off and do a cycle ride to Leh, from Manali. It is a trip of 550 km from Manali over probably the most interesting terrain in the world, at the elevations that are found nowhere in the world, The mecca for  Mountain Bikers in India.  Here i am in Leh, tired but not really sore. We made it up here in 8 days (as against planned 10) and nothing broken or torn.

We crossed the 5 big passes on the way, starting at Rohtang La at 13000 ft., Baralacha La at 16000 ft.,  (personally the  hardest) the double pass of Nakeela and Lachulang La at 16500 ft., and the mighty Tanglang La at 17500 ft., the second highest motor-able road in the world.

As was expected it was a pretty eventful trip unlike the Tour of Nilgiris.

The second day on the downhill from Rohtang pass,  my rear brakes stopped working. The same day I flew off the cycle on applying the front brake too hard, and inured my knees.

The third I had to remove the rear brakes completely, because it could not be fixed on the trail, so the rest of the tour was without the rear brakes, so the thrill of the downhill became a grave problem, but on route there were only a few serious downhill sections that i managed at snail’s pace

In a freak accident a cyclist was injured when our support car which had got stuck in the mud banged into the truck that was trying to pull it out. He had a damaged hip bone, and was moved to Leh hospital.

We had to send back a couple of cyclists to Leh via bus because they did not cope well with the high altitudes.

But overall it was fun and exciting.

Here is the bike map of the trip  I had referred to,  Between my GPS and Vaz’s we have the complete GPS trail, which we shall upload very soon.

Though the focus was on cycling, i did manage to take a few pictures which as usual will be here as soon as i get to upload them.

Rocking Tour of Nilgiris

For the last week my road bike became my bride, and in her i did confide. It was some of the most interesting experience I’ve had this year. 7 days of peace, cycling, pain in the back side and NO Software.

We rode 919 kms in a week, that included the 2000 meter climb to Ooty, something i will remember for a long long time. It took all the mental and physical strength to make it to the top. I did every single bit of the tour, and never had to be ‘saved’, This is the goal i had setup for myself, before i started. And Other than the Ooty Climb, it never looked in trouble.

If it sounds too simple, it definitely was not, there were only 10 (maybe less) people who completed all the stretches of the Tour and it averaged about 2 accidents a day for the whole group. Luckily i had nothing eventful, other than a minor fall when i was pushed out of the road by an auto.

The tour also involved a lot of socializing (something i am not really good at), but riding together and living in same place brings a sense of camaraderie that is hard to come by otherwise. It was awesome to come together from such eclectic backgrounds and share a common passion for cycling.

We are planning to do the Tour of Ladakh and the second edition of Tour of Nilgiris this year. Let’s see how it goes.

More than What i can chew?

I am getting into this habit of taking on more than i can deal with. This time i in a hasty move decided to do The whole Tour of nilgiris. A 919 km across Karnataka and Tamil nadu, over a period of 7 days. I have done maximum of 120kms in a day, so at an average of 130kms a day, and that too over serious climbs, is heading into dangerous territory. As long as I complete it and not the last laggard, I would consider it a grand success.

I know what i will do doing on the new years. Resolving not to sit on the cycle for a long long time.

Learning from Team Cycling

Some of us decided to go to Nandi hills on Thursday and this being my first ride with the group, I was slightly apprehensive.

I met up with the guys in Koramangala at 5.30 am and from there we started off for a 80km ride to the top of Nandi hills. The fastest stretch for us was the ride on the Highway and it was the most exciting. For an avid  road biker, speed is the essence, going fast was the only thing on my mind. I was pacing the other( really good) cyclists the most of the time.  Pacing or Drafting or moving in an Echelon means you follow the other cyclist very close, literally a few inches tire to tire. This makes you (and the group) much faster, by cutting the drag. This is akin to (though not the same) as birds flying in the ‘V’ formation. Initially, it was extremely scary riding at 50 kmph on tarred roads, but we got more comfortable after a while. Some point I took over as a leader for a bit. There’s a continuous change in the leaders of the echelon, that way all are getting their bit of rest.

Was this a self organizing system? It did seem like that, there were some basic rules. Distance between the cycles provided the feedback. We all strive to keep the distance moreorless same. And the group speed emerged from the riders’ individual speeds. And yes, there was no specific leader, No one person could be the leader all the time, but the stronger people lead for a longer time.

Emphasis on trust in this system is probably unique. For me, it was a leap of faith, to follow somebody just looking at his back tire. Having no straight line view, I was never sure when there is a pothole or a rock on the road. It was quite amazing to see that despite none of us knowing each other we had developed such a bonding so quickly.

The other thing that was obvious was the seamless change in leaders, when the leader starts tiring somebody else just takes over. It works because the incentive from leading the group has marginal incentive difference from resting in protection of echelon.

(At the risk of oversimplification) Leaders on Project Teams have disproportionate incentive to stay leaders (salary and control) vs. disincentive (stress) that makes rotation impossible.