Riding

One Year of Riding the Cheetah

It was August 28, two days past the first birthday of my bike, the Cheetah. It has been wonderful 12 months with the Cheetah, though I haven’t ridden it as much as I would have liked. So I decided to celebrate its first birthday in grand style. I had also planned to write a complete review of the bike after my first review a year ago. So, here we go…

I spent the morning cleaning the bike: made it feel better by swiping dust, gunk, and other unwanted substances off; dabbed the chain with sufficient amount of Zorrik; and inflated the tires to 60psi (I used to inflate them to 75psi—the maximum pressure permissible, but after the recent back to back punctures, I have become a bit cautious.) Now, the Cheetah was raring to go.

At 1, had carb-rich lunch of rice, sambar, potato, and curd. Rested for an hour and started at 2. Put on a full sleeve T-shirt and three quarter pants. I know that a cyclist should be proud of their suntan, but it was one of those days when I didn’t want to expose my hands and legs to the heat.

The original plan was to go for a metric century. Headed toward GST. The afternoon heat was tolerable (the Titan sunglasses seemed to have reduced the heat :)), but I could not put up with the maddening traffie. Trucks and city buses tried to occupy every inch of the road, including the shoulder. So, instead of riding up to Mamandur (beyond Chengalpet), as planned, I turned right just after reaching Singaperumalkoil and entered the countryside.

I had been contemplating a countryside ride, and now was the time. I would ride up to Oragadam via Thirukkachur, turn right and go up to Karisangal, turn left and enter Manimangalam, exit at the Mudichur-Tambaram road, and reach home. It would not be a century ride for sure, but wonderful nevertheless, given the fact that Thirukachur is green and still has a lot of paddy fields.

The Singaperumalkoil-Orgadam road is being converted into a multi-lane highway. I haven’t gone through this route, ever. During one of those moments when I tried to schedule the next weekend ride through this route, Google Maps warned me that the road was not better for cycling. But I had always thought of giving it a try just for the countryside.

Now the road stared at me and proved to be a paradox: one stretch would be superb, with two lanes on either side of the divider, but the next stretch would be full of loose gravel. And the smoke and dust bellowing out of the tippers and trucks would make your ride even tougher. At one point, there was no road, just a big heap of gravel. I had to walk those stretches. Despite this, I enjoyed my ride and the environment. My only concern was the tubes. I was reluctant to let the Cheetah sprint through the bad stretches. But sometimes, I had to ride, as there was no place to yield to an oncoming truck.

The place is semi-arid. After you cross Thirukkachur, paddy fields vanish like a mirage and industries crop up like mushrooms on a rainy day. As you near Oragadam, you can see the industrial revolution in full grandeur. Nissan-Renault has set up a factory; Daimler has just started constructing a site. Hiranandani and another big name have started big residential projects next to the industrial zone. The industrial canopy seems to have covered Sriperumbudur, Maraimalainagar, and every acre of land in between.

When I reached Oragadam, I had finished 400ml of Glucovita Isotonic and 500ml of water. Cateye informed me that I had just completed 40km and the average had now come down to 18 or 19kmph because of the bad stretches. The Oragadam junction wore a rustic look despite the industrial development. I bought a 1ltr water bottle and turned right to join the Kanchipuram-Vandalur road. This road was wonderful. I could pick up some speed here. When I reached Karisangal, I developed cramps in my right thigh, so decided to ride slowly. Manimangalam has become my favorite spot, of late. Manimangalam lake was brimming over its girth. I rested there for awhile, ate the apple I had packed, drank some water, and continued. By now, the afternoon heat and the cramps had taken their toll. I could pedal with some difficulty, but home was a good 13km away. After MEPZ, I found it difficult even to pedal an inch further. I thought of calling my wife to come and pick me up. But my conscience insisted the Cheetah didn’t deserve this on its first birthday, and so gritting my teeth, I lumbered my way home.

I know it was not the best way to celebrate the first birthday of your beloved bike. I could attribute my fatigue to the lack of minerals and the ropes of my backpack that put a lot of pressure on my shoulders. But the Chettah was brilliant all the way. There was no squeaking sound. Even in the worst stretches of the Singaperumalkoil-Oragadam road, it was solid like a rock yet swift as a cheetah . Maybe, the 700X35 tires were the reason.

Review of the bike: I have only had two punctures this past year. As I have mentioned, the Cheetah doesn’t make any noise. The derailleurs and the shifters work without any major problems. My only grouse is that the frame is a bit rigid. Maybe, a steel frame would absorb shocks better than the aluminium frame, but aluminium is definitely lighter. If you can get a pair of padded gloves, you can tackle the minor blemishes of the tarmac.

Final stats: 68km at 21kmph.

I have shared a few pictures of the ride here.

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