Pune – Nashik Solo Ride on Aspera

The end of summer prompted me to do something adventurous and fun. The rains assured me I won’t be scorched while doing it and the destination being a close friend’s wedding ensured optimal post ride nutrition. When everything lines up the way it did, one does not back down from a long overdue Pune to Nashik ride. It took me a while (5 minutes) to convince myself to do it completely unsupported. Once settled that I was doing the ride, my next few days went completely into preparing for the same.

Bike:

The bike I was using for the ride was obviously the Convolution Aspera (customized: made as per rider body dimensions) as I was used to commuting and riding on it for a while now. The setup was pretty straightforward and I did not make any changes to the bike as such. The bike came with the Shimano 105 gear train, 32mm Maxis Refuse tires with puncture protection and Velo saddle. Again, simply for convenience, I chose to use flat pedals and toe clips as my go-to choice (bad choice as always). With two bottle cages, one on the down tube and the other on the seat post tube my on-bike hydration was sorted. I also chose to use the Aero bars for the highway patches that I knew were going to be windy and carried some of the spares and tools in a saddle bag and top tube pouch. Last but not the least I also had a small rear blinker and a 150 lumen headlight on the bike.

Accessories:

Other than my bike I also had a small hydration pack with a 1litre water bladder and in the same pack, I also stuffed a mobile phone, my Lenovo power bank, wallet, extra t-shirt, extra batteries for the lights and my headlamp. The headlamp was just incased the headlight failed like the previous night it seemed to be giving me some problems. I had also carried a few sneaker bars and five-stars just to be safe.

   Ride day!

Although I was excited and prepared I was also anxious to be doing such a long ride alone. My colleagues at work, friends, and family in no way helped as they constantly pestered me with suggestions that to any endurance monger would seem like a serious shortcut. The doubts that plagued my mind were few but the night before the ride I was tossing in bed the whole time wondering whether I’d be okay. Barely getting any sleep did little to hamper my spirit in the morning and I woke up all excited about the day’s events. After the customary bathroom visits and freshening up a little, I sat down and ate an apple just before I was leaving. With all my stuff ready from the previous night itself I was controlling and got ready pretty fast. At around 05:00 am I left from my house towards Nashik.

I started out easy and took it slow in the beginning, the route I was on was a familiar one as it is the same one I take to work every day. As I reached Nashik Phata, the road had a slight gradient to it and it felt like I was putting in more effort than I should at that point. So I slowed down and shifter to lower gears on the cassette. The thing one should know abet me is that I was passionately fond of riding on the larger crank and it felt too chicken to use the smaller crank for anything but the steep climbs. I learned out what a loser I was for thinking that the hard way. While I cross chained my way out of Pune, the surprisingly crisp air and slight drizzle did wonders for my body in terms of cooling me.

Around kilometer 42-43 came a huge climb section that I had been warned about. I did the climb with relative unease and got through it feeling a little depleted. As soon as I completed the climb I saw a few shops that seemed to be selling some breakfast. When approached they told me that they only had tea and so I took some and coupled it with a few Parle-G biscuits. Since I couldn’t finish the whole packet (hate biscuits!) I fed some of the local dogs the leftovers. The ride from hereon was pretty much downhill and I had not to trouble cruising through the winding countryside roads. Often there would come rough patches and I was okay with them thanks to the fat tires. The only snag I hit was on a small downhill section where the top tube bag rattled so bad that it knocked the bottom tube bottle cage out completely. I then had to fasten the bottle cage with some zip ties and move ahead. Since I couldn’t use the bottle in one cage I was reduced to using only one bottle at the time and that was a real buzz kill. Around 9:00 am I had completed 100km’s of my ride and I stopped at a place soon after that to commemorate that with some breakfast. Yet again all I got was some tea and biscuits and that was a real problem. Since I couldn’t afford to waste any more time as it was getting hotter by the minute, I left after topping up my water reserves.

The next 20km’s were easy going and I was cruising all along. Somewhere along the line, I had made a few mistakes that were going to haunt me in the coming few hours and I had no clue at all. Around kilometer 125 came a climb which is where I first started feeling really dead. The climb was fairly easy and on any other day it would have been the cake walk but for some reason, my legs were just unable to push beyond a certain limit and the really bad headwind was also not helping. The climb lasted for almost 8km’s and these 8km’s took a toll on me. I was completely exhausted and it was hard to do any climbing after that. Everything after that was a suffer fest and I was quite literally pushed to the edge of my limits where I stayed for quite a while.

I went on riding at whatever speeds I could in hopes of getting to Sangamner, after consulting on google maps I found out that it wasn’t very far and so I was glued to my GPS monitor for the next few minutes just checking how far I’d come. By this time I felt like I was dehydrated and had barely any energy in me. Every few 100 meters I would stop and stretch my legs in hopes of getting better but to no avail. Finally around the distance where I was told I’d find Sangamner all I found was a road leading to it. I found out that I’d have to ride 10 more kilometers to find the town. 20km’s extra was a huge deal breaker for me and I settled for lunch at a highway dhaba. I thought the safest option would be to have some dal and rice and so that is what I ordered but by this time I was so tired and dehydrated that I could barely get two spoonfuls of rice down. In order to get some calories in me, I called for some aerated beverages and began to consume them steadily. Since my appetite seemed to have no way of recovering anytime soon I decided to head out.

5 kilometers of riding later I puked everything that I had just eaten and was also starting to get a bit of a headache. It was almost 12:15 pm and it was extremely hot and humid thanks to the previous night’s rains. Now I was a little scared about finishing the ride and also my well being so after some thought I decided to take a nap. I locked the cycle around a tree and using my helmet as a pillow I slept for quite a while on the side of the road. After a few unease moments I just drifted into a nice dreamless sleep and after what felt like an eternity I woke up startled. Seeing it was still extremely bright I realized I couldn’t have slept very long. The 1 hour 10-minute nap did wonders for me and I was able to continue on my way feeling a bit better.

Destination!

Naturally, as I had barely consumed any calories throughout the ride I was unable to push at all but was moving at a steady pace. The ride from here onwards was painful and tiring but nothing so bad that I couldn’t keep moving. Luckily no steep climbs came my way and it was much better in terms of wind resistance also. Finally 11 hours and 47 minutes after I had left from my home earlier that morning I finally reached the Nashik bus terminus where my friends picked me up.

The ride was an eye opener and in many ways I improved as a cyclist and endurance athlete because of this really memorable ride to Nashik. Some very stupid mistakes I made were cross chaining (excessively), saving electrolytes for later rather than periodically consuming them and the worst of all not consuming calories in the first 100km’s. Apart from these big mistakes were some other small ones like using new equipment (Top tube bag) with constantly kept chaffing my left knee and not stashing my small bag pack on the aero bars.

With all these learning and the pride of having completed the ride I came a changed man after the experience. Never before did I realize that even simple things could have huge impact in one’s athletic endeavors. But the ride is always going to be a Prized memory celebrating the feeling that is to be self-powering a two-wheeler.

—–Varun Iyengar