Riding

A Hundred and Counting

I had to do this; I was destined to do this. It is a shame—being a cyclist but without a century ride to tell your grandchildren. Oh, well, excuse the exaggeration. I started my second innings one and a half years ago, and have done a lot of 50km rides and a couple of 80km rides but not a 100km ride until the day when Jesus was born.

Setting Up and Warming Up

On Christmas morning, I packed the necessary things—helmet, riding glass, bread with peanut butter, a bottle of Gatorade, two half-litre bottles of water, toolkit, mobile-cum-MP3 player, and a few bucks. (Some of you might only require these for a full-blown trip :)) I started late at 5:40. It was still dark and the headlight was put to good use up to Medawakkam. The Medawakkam-Shonilganallur Junction-ECR outpost stretch had a bit of tarmac left amid debris. To add salt to this injury, insects of all types tried to get into my mouth, and I had to slow down to avoid swallowing the unnecessary protein.

ECR

ECR was a relief, or so I thought. ECR is actually wonderful (it is a cliché), but beware of the menacing dogs. Dawn and cool December weather is a deadly combination for a human who shares ECR with the canines. Breeding season it is, so you can always expect a pack of dogs at the isolated stretches of ECR. Individual dogs are scary, too. It may be your speed (slow compared to the two and four wheelers that fly at breakneck speed), your cycling attire, or just plain curiosity of the dog. I avoided them by either snubbing them or joining fellow cyclists. It worked and once past Tiger Cave, I didn’t have any issues. Cruising at near 30kmph, I reached Mamallapuram. The official festival season was about to start the next day, so the entire town wore a festive look and was crowded, too. Took the Mamallapuram bypass and reached a junction when my Cateye (cyclocomputer) read 50. I had covered the distance in 02:12:36. From that junction, you can take the left and continue on ECR to go to Pondicherry, go straight if you want to go to Thirukkazhukundram or Chengalpattu, or take the right to enter OMR and go to Thirupporur. Remember that the signboard on the junction doesn’t talk about Thirupporur, so there is a fair chance that you will miss it unless you enquire at the nearby teashop.

OMR

With a couple of bread slices, 100ml of Gatorade, and half litre of water I covered the first leg of the journey. It was wonderful as the tarmac was superb. OMR is good too, but the stretch up to Kelambakkam beyond Thirupporur is bad. You have a feeling that the tyres sink in the tarmac and reduce your speed. There were not many potholes, but the overall quality of this stretch is a bit of a let down. My average now hovered around 19kmph. Poor.

OMR is scenic too. A surreal sample: a fairly large paddy field (fenced), four or five buffalos gracing nearby, and a couple of bullocks resting under a tree.

Had a dosa at a hotel opposite the Thirupporur temple tank (beautiful and brimming–a sight to behold). Kelambakkam was chaotic. Bought a bottle of Kinley and turned left on the Kelambakkam-Vandalur road. Here the tarmac is good. Switched on the MP3 player as there was no traffic and enjoyed the songs with nobody except the occasional headwind for company. Stopped in a couple of places for rest and reached Vandalur, joined the flow of traffic on GST toward Chennai, climbed Tambaram Sanatorium Bridge, and reached home at 11:40am.

While coming down Tambaram Sanatorium Bridge, Cateye showed 100.00, and I was on cloud nine. It was exhilarating. It may be a weekly chore for seasoned riders, but for me it was a milestone. I may do a lot of 100km rides in future (mulling over a multi-day tour currently), but this one will remain special till I call it a day.

Vital Stats:

Total time: ~6 hours

Total time on the saddle: 4 hours 55 minutes

Total distance covered: 102.5 kilometres

Average speed: 20.5kmph (have to improve it definitely)

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