Over the last few weekends, The Serious Riders have done some great rides, all outside the city. This time around we decided to do a city ride, albeit with a difference. A fast paced ride from Bandra to Gateway of India, and on the return to Matunga for some "tiffin" at Cafe Madras, before we all went out separate ways.
So for me the dilemma was, do I restrict attendance to the core team that rides each Sunday, or do I open it up to the public domain, or at least within the Cyclist.In domain. See its not about restricting attendance, its just that when a team bonds well due to similar riding models and patterns, the ride is really enjoyable, and adding newer elements often breaks that camaraderie and team spirit. This happens for several reasons and they're not far to seek..... stamina of all attendees may be unevenly matched, the mix of novices and experienced riders may leave the more experienced riders feeling dragged behind or slowed down.
Now I'm one totally for encouraging people to push themselves beyond their known capabilities, and so to give others a chance, and to perhaps discover some good riders, so I decided to wing it and announced the ride on Cyclists.In, and didn't keep it "secret", as I've done before. There is no saying that we may choose to go incognito in the future again, but at the outset let me say that the experience today was amazing. It finally turned out to be a great ride, that everybody enjoyed, advanced and some newbies. And I'm sure that's not merely people being polite!
I think that "setting the tone" of the ride was a great move, as it managed expectations and forewarned all potential participants. I was simultaneously excited and wary, when I saw that the attendee list grew from a trickle to a flood, well if you can call 23 odd attendees a flood! View the event posting on Cyclists.In to see how we set the tone.
I then followed it up with a detailed sector by sector listing of suggested riding times. Therein was my dilemma. I normally ride from Bandra to Gateway in about 30-40 minutes which is a fairly brisk pace, so since I didn't know most of the attendees, what kind of pace should I set. Of course I'd done the forewarning bit, via dire threats, that if any lag behind, they get left behind, no stops, and so on..... Hey but let's get real, either I announce a closed event for a known set of riders, or then having announced it to be open, adjust the times, in such a manner that it would be participative for everyone. And so, wise old man that I am, this is what I set out as suggested timings:
5.45 AM: Riders from points North and East of Bandra assemble outside Lucky, Bandra.
6.01 AM: Departure along announced route.
From this point on we have several riders joining us en route, therefore estimated touch point timings are published. Note: We will not be stopping at any of these points, nor will we be reducing speed.
6.06: Passing Mahim Church.
6.15: Passing Mayors Bungalow at Shivaji Park.
6.20: Passsing Siddhi Vinayaka temple.
6.30: Passing Worli Naka
6.50: Passing Haji Ali.
6.55: Begin Upslope Carmichael Road
7.10: Beginning of Marine Drive
7.20: Gateway of India
7.20 - 7.40: Break, Photo Op.
8.10: Swing By Worli Sea Face to show support for the Kiddies Ride (5 minute stop only).
8.30: Kinds Circle.
8.30 - 9.00: Chow Time at Cafe Madras
9.20: Bandra Kurla Complex Junction.
From where we go our separate ways.
( All times are estimates, may be more or less in some sections)
Now we started off at 6.05 AM, four minutes off, and I set a decent pace, and once I saw that the lead pack was off to a good start I started falling behind to see how the lag pack was doing. I then realized that I had set pick up points along the route, and it was vital that we follow my intended route, or we may do some of the riders (who were joining along the route) a disservice by bypassing the preset pick up points. So I literally sprinted to catch up to the lead pack, which was led by not other (you guessed it) than Kevin, who rides at a blistering pace. But he was long gone, and I had to contend with catching up to the 2 down onwards. Fortunately Kevin stuck to the route, and we picked up the riders along the way.
Now here is the amazing thing. Somebody called Diveek was to ride with us, but little did I know that he's this little runt (and I say it with much respect and affection, so don't get me wrong), all of 13 years, a bit thin. And guess what? He's got a couple of his little friends with him, well older than him but little nonetheless. So now that I've sized him up and eyeballed him, I'm going in my brilliant mind, "Oh crap, this is going to be a disaster!" That of course was kinda reinforced by the fact that I had not seen, or met before, 15 out of the 23 people who eventually formed our pack! Ok Sumir, three deep breaths, the ride is going to a disaster, and it will be much slower than I promised my compatriots in out little coterie., but grin and bear it was my attitude by then.
Guess what, against the appointed time of 7.15 listed as the arrival time at Gateway, I reached at 6.45 AM with a departure of 6.05 AM, and that was just me and Malvika. Kevin, David and a couple of others got there even before that. The last ones in were Diveek, my imaginary nemesis, and even Diveek made it before the ETA of 7.15. My son Kriahanu, and Dasrath who didn't make it on time to the start point, made it in by 7.30. Which only means two things, that we all rode like bats out of hell, and we all pushed ourselves to the limit! I'm saying to Malvika, we have another kilometer to go to reach Gateway, let's sprint! And she goes, I thought we're already sprinting.
At this point I will simply say that to my mind the stars of the show are Malvika and Diveek and his buddies. Malvika because she outrode most of the boys, talk about separating girls from boys!!!
Diveek and company, because a 13 year old and a 15 year old, rode all of 40+ odd kms to and fro.
Then there are Kevin, and Amitabh, who rode all the way from Mira Road and Kandivali and back!
I did forget to mention, Sivakumar, who got on to a bike after a very long gap. He did really well too!
The spirit I encountered at Gateway was simply one of excitement and fun.
So instead of being the slave driver that I'd promised my loyal subjects, I just decided that we'd take our time to get to know each
other a bit, take a few pictures, and relax a bit.
Left - Right:
Krishanu, Dasrath, Unknown 1, Sumir, Unknown 2 (behind Sumir), Bharath, Diveek, Kunal, Rajesh, Sachin, Sajid, Sivaram, Kevin, Sunil, Dharmendra, Amitabh (hidden behind Dharmendra), Cris, David (hidden behing Cris), Mahesh, Malvika, Unknown 7.
So now its about 7.30 AM, and I lead our band of merry makers to Worli Sea face where we are putting in an "appearance" at some kiddies ride. I'm at a fast clip now as I don't want to be late, and as I reach the end of Marine Drive, nearing Walkeshwar, I realize that there are but a few behind me! So I direct the close followers up to Malabar Hill, which is a long incline followed by a great down hill ride on the Kemps Corner side. Now nobody can accuse me of pulling a fast one and throwing even more hardship their way, as it was always on he original route back, but the looks I got from some clearly said, "Are you kidding me? Not up there!!!". But the slave driver in me took over, and to inflict pain and suffering to my loyal followers, I stopped and just waited to make sure EVERYBODY took that uphill section like a man, one woman and three boys. So I ended up riding with Diveek, and we got talking and I got to know this great rider in person. Of course he's going, "Uncle, how long is this this uphill", and I say we just got started, but its worth it, the down hill is great.
Now I had Diveek over to another responsible "uncle" and ride fast and furious to catch up to people who arr surely miles ahead by now. And we finally make it to the stop over, meet and greet at Worli Sea face, except that we didn't do any meet and greet, as the kiddies lead by Vishal Sarma are late. We watched some other road race, for a few minutes, and then split to get to Kings Circle and the much touted "tiffin" at Care Madras. Now Cafe Madras is a hugely popular place, and is always packed with foodies, and at 8.30 am its no different. So yours truly pulled some strings and got seating for 22 hungry riders. Well we were 21 but we met up with 2 chaps who came from Chembur and Vashi to meet up with us. And post "tiffin" the confinement is over, and the prisoners are released to go their separate ways.
We missed two great riders and friends, James and Swapnil who unfortunately could not be with us due to other pressing commitments.
I learned a few things from the ride today. Set a target and all good men and women will strive to achieve it. Encourage genuine participants even if they are not as good,or as experienced as you. Make events fun to participate in.
Now I will readily confess, I took roll call and got participants to note down their details on a tear sheet I'd brought along, but I met so many people for the firs time today, that I'm sure I will hopelessly mix up the names and be unable to match them to the faces. So in the group pictures, I am just naming the ones I know, and labeling the unknowns as Unknowns 1 - X. When you've all seen this blog and the pictures I've posted, will you please tell me, from Left to Right who you are as shown in the group pictures? I promise I will duly incorporate the names, when I update this blog post.
All, if I've missed out on any salient details, please feel free to add them as comments in response to this blog.
Until next Sunday then....I will sign off by saying, great ride, greater riders, special riders. Ride on....