My first 100! from Airoli to Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Back…
Total distance covered : 110kms
Location : Navi Mumbai, India
It all started a few months back when I decided to get myself a bicycle. The idea was to build a workout regime around something I enjoyed because I didn’t want to drag myself to do something I didn’t look forward to. I enjoyed cycling as a kid, so I thought, why not, let’s give it a shot (even though I hadn’t laid my hands on a cycle in yearsss!). I knew getting into a regime, getting my work life balance in place was going to be challenge but I had to start somewhere…
I started off by riding alone but this can get quite mundane after a point unless you are a highly motivated soul. So I surfed sites for cycling groups and was surprised by the number of people who take this as a serious sport in our cricket loving nation! Eventually I joined a group called the Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts (MCE) on Facebook. The group really lives up to its name. They organize many interesting weekend rides and most rides start before Mr. Sunrays even stretches for the break of dawn. So imagine waking up at 5AM on a weekend to ride a cycle – this was SO NOT going to happen!
But one day I decided to take the plunge and garner maximum mileage out of my (well…manual) two-wheeler. Surprisingly apart from having fun, I also met some very interesting people - people from all walks of life and even people who have been walking this earth for quiet sometime, even as long as 60-70years!
That one ride was like a tube of Pringles, I knew I could not stop now.
I started cycling everyday, covering almost 20kms on weekdays to 40-50kms on weekends. I was now a regular at the events and participated in many rides like the Pink Flamingos ride, Bhiwandi foodie night ride, World Earth Day ride etc. The group rides kept my morale high and gave me the motivation to take this sport to the next level – a long distance ride (
I wasn’t sure if I was ready but I picked the Airoli-Karnala-Airoli ride for my first 100km. The challenge with long distance rides in April is the heat. Combined with pollution and traffic in our city, this can be quite a killer as it can lead to severe dehydration. I was aware the return journey would extent well into the afternoon. Post much contemplation, my plan was to ride with the group to Karnala (approx 50+kms) and for my return catch a train from Panvel to Airoli. I definitely didn’t plan on being lunch for the eagles!
The night before, I checked my gear and kit - this included a bottle of glucose, electoral, drinking water, puncture kit, spare tube etc. I was set to take off in the morning.
As per plan, I hit the road at 5AM the next day. Our first pit stop was the Eastern Express Highway (EEH). I met my first riding partner Yatin Chaubal here. We were meeting for the first time. After exchanging pleasantries we sped off on the EEH at an average of 28-30kms/hour and reached Mankurd link road at 5:40am (some 20 odd kms). We met a few more cyclists and moved towards the second pit stop, end of Vashi toll naka. There we met the entire group of more than 20 cyclists and moved on to the Palm Beach road. The Palm Beach road is a beautiful scenic ride in the mornings. We reached our next pit stop, end of Palm beach road by 7am, 10mins before schedule – this meant we could take a short break. Post which we took a right turn towards Uran and started riding on the Kombadbhuje back road towards our next pit stop, Panvel. By then I had covered 49kms. I refilled my bottles and stretched a little. We then started off on the final leg of the journey to Karnala, 12kms more to go and the sun was yet to rise in its full glory. The last few miles are always the toughest as is losing the last few kgs. With a little struggle towards the end, I finally managed to reach Karnala bird sanctuary by 8:40am. I checked my cyclometer and it read 61kms.
Since we were all damn hungry, we headed towards a nearby restaurant called Kshanbhar Vishranti where we had our breakfast. I first ordered poha (for those not from Maharashtra, it’s a staple Maharashtrian breakfast dish made of flattened rice) but later on discovered that their missal pav ( a lentin based curry served with bun and savoury mixture) is even better. So I ordered one missal pav too and honestly, it has got to be one of the most delicious missal pavs I had in my 8 years in the state. I can go to Karnala just for that missal pav again. Satiated after a hearty homely breakfast, we rested for sometime and refilled our bottles. It was almost 10am and we were contemplating alternatives for our return. Many stayed back to explore the sanctuary and planned on return once the heat toned down. On the other hand, four of us intended to return immediately and we started our return journey at 10:03am.
Upon reaching Panvel, one of our fellow cyclist could not ride further and decided to hop onto a train. Another cyclist joined him. That left two of us - Yatin Chaubal (from my first pit stop on EEH) and me. I checked with Yatin if he would also like to take a train from Navi Mumbai or ride all the way. His response was just the push I needed to achieve my goal. He replied, ‘I don’t keep options when I am on a cycle’.
Reading or hearing about the power of positive energy and mind over matter falls pale in comparison to actually experiencing the two!
We were riding on the Kombadbhuje back road and the heat was killing, along with hot wind blowing on our face like steamer rollers, it’s not something one looks forward to. I had to consistently sip water every 5 mins to prevent dehydration. The ride back was quite a struggle. By 11:30am we managed to reach Palm Beach road. However with the sun at its peak, it’s not really a great stretch anymore like in the mornings. We were lucky to get some tail wind which helped increase our average to 23-25km/hour. By the time we reached Vashi Center One, we had covered 98kms. We took a short break to rehydrate and stretch before we started on the last leg of the journey, which was another 12kms. While pedaling I saw my meter click 100KMS and a wide smile appeared on my face. Finally I had managed to achieve my first 100! that too in the April heat! – a huge personal achievement.
We reached Airoli circle by 12:30pm and parted ways. On reaching home, my cyclometer read 110kms. Overall it was a WONDERFUL ride and will be my FIRST 100KMS+ BICYCLE ride.
The following helped me complete my ride and I though of sharing them with you as well. Do try and ensure you manage to get the below in place before you start off :
1) Take minimum 2Ltrs of water if you plan to participate in a long ride (esp if there aren’t many shops en-route).
2) You get electorals, glucose, energy drink powders in small sachets. Ensure you keep them handy to mix with your water.
3) Have water before you feel thirsty. If you’re riding in the heat, drink water every 10mins. This will also help you avoid straining your body.
4) Wet your cap and wear it under the helmet. This will help you keep your head cool and increase your concentration levels.
5) Keep a bandana handy, incase you need to cover your face to protect yourself from the sun rays, pollution etc. To maintain a cool body temperature, ensure you keep the bandana damn before you cover your face.
6) Lastly, always keep your motivation levels high and never GIVE UP. You will always make it to home, so you have faith in yourself.
7) And don’t forget to keep your cell phone handy for SOS calls.
Take care & ride safe.