Cycling a 75 km stretch …. ( pre Covid )

I like cycling and was missing out on the morning rides my brother and nephew had started . Due to an accident in 2019, had sustained injuries on my right hand, damaging my median nerves. I was undergoing intense physiotherapy, when my physiatrist suggested I start adding more activities to strengthen the damaged nerves. On her suggestions I took a few rides with my brother and his son on their morning rides but my Hercules Cannon Barrel, just wasn’t cutting it.

It’s been a very good run with her for the last 20 years !! Yeah, you read it right, 20 some years !! Now it was time to give the old gal a rest and time for a change.  


My brother had purchased the Btwin Riverside 500 from Decathlon, I wanted to get an MTB. Most of the cycle shops that I went to look for an MTB, suggested I get a road bike or a hybrid. The terrain around my home wasn’t just smooth asphalt, well there was the new Bypass where everyone’s now having their morning jogs and walks, also cyclists too. My riding style was more towards roughing it out on the countryside.

Having shopped with bro for his hybrid, I was familiar with the guys from the cycling dept. at Decathlon Calicut, some of whom have become good friends of mine by now. Among them, Ramnath informs that the rockrider 540 is up for grabs at a good price.  I did the numbers and it came with in my budget.

Now Decathlon at Calicut is about 75 km away from my hometown Perintalmanna. There was a question on how to transport the cycle home, As you guessed I decided to pedal the 75 km stretch home !

This post is about the ride, the experience, and the learnings!! ( Definitely the learnings!! )


Picking up the bike

With the summer holidays almost near and lots of people looking to buy cycles that time of the month, they had a lot of orders to deliver. Ramnath informed that the bike will be ready by late evening. This meant I’d have to stay the night and ride out the next morning, unfortunately, some of my friends and contacts who could put me up for the night, where either out of town or had other inconveniences.  

It wasn’t till late at night I finally got my bike assembled , I also met another cycle enthusiast- Jassem, It just so happened that Jaseem’s hometown was actually a few km from my hometown. We got talking, I told him my idea of cycling back to Perintalmanna. He smiled and I could see how he could relate to that, Both Ramanath and Jaseem are major cycling buffs who’d already done a good deal of long-distance cycling.   

It was about 10:30 pm when I finally got my all set and ready for the ride. But I still needed a place to crash for the night.

With one last attempt I called up Faisal, an amazing wall artist, and a good friend who I had come to know during my days at Calicut in 2018. His family was out of town and had space to put me up for the night. Faisal not only gave me a roof for the night but he drove all the way to Decathlon, so he could show me the way back to his home.


1st ride out :

It was nearly 11 when I pedaled out of Decathlon, with Faisal leading the way on his motorbike, we stopped for dinner at a local joint, ate our bellies full ( yeah I was hungry ) then again when am I not !! 🙂

Faisal’s Place :

I got some carry-on snacks and energy drinks for the ride the next day. I actually couldn’t sleep the previous night, filled with excitement and concern. I was a bit apprehensive about my right hand going all numb.  As mentioned I was undergoing physiotherapy at the time, and cycling was supposed to be part of the therapy.  It’s been a very very very ……..VERY long time since I rode anything close to over 10 km and  75 km,…..errr stretching it a bit too much are we ??   

The ride starts:

It was still fairly dark at 5 in the morning, After the morning prayers, Faisal walked up with me to the main road, wished me luck and I was off on my 1st 75 km pedal in years, the road was barely alive with traffic except for one or two cars and a few motorcycles. All that changed on the highway, I was on alert, with huge trailer trucks and lorries passing me by. I was still getting used to the bike and the gear shifting, My earlier cycle was a 6 Speed with a single shifter and a rear derailleur, the new one has both front and rear derailleurs with a 3 x 9 Speed. I kept my ears up and pedaled at a constant steady pace, and soon I was passing by the Thondayad Junction.

Catching up with Dr. Anwar:

My friend Dr. Anwar had called in and asked to meet up along with way.  So about 10 km ahead I took my 1st break. I had a quick breakfast at Jinan’s and after a  short conversation with Anwar, I was on the road again.

About now I was kinda settled in, enjoying the feel of the wind on my face, the workout, and the overall experience. I kept a decent pace, occasionally clicked a few shots on my phone cam and on the Nik. I dropped in a few shots on Whatsapp for family and friends. Letting them know where I was and I was safe. Their encouraging responses really kept me motivated, especially my brother’s.

I just had to get this shot, kinda a thank you to decathlon and the staff there for making this ride possible I think I sent this pic to Ramanath and Jaseem via Whatsapp, that morning.

Fishing : On the Arapuzha bridge over the Chaliyar River,

I met up with some guys who were casting lines over the bridge, they were surprised not coz they saw a cyclist but on coming to know I was doing an 75 km pedal towards Malappuram. It’s not like in the old days where you’d only see foreign tourists cycling through. Cycling is really caught on and the strange odd looks of curiosity, have been replaced with encouragement and familiarity as many people are into cycling nowadays.  

One of the guys holds up a fish he just caught, Babu ettan says at times they get about 2-3 kilos. I thanked them for the time and I was off heading towards the Ramanatukara exit.

Exiting the Bypass meant no more smooth asphalt, narrower roads, and slightly packed traffic. But that’s the part of the ride. you got to take the heat at times.

After 20 km took a break to catch up with some energy bars and some rest.   

At around 30 Km close to Kondotty I ran out of water, A nice gentleman showed me a small hotel I might be able to a refill but He also warned me of drinking unsafe water from hotels and advised to stick to packaged drinking water. He even offered that I follow him to his home where he assured he can give me safe drinking water. As much as I appreciated his kind nature, it also meant rerouting from my ride path. Here is one of my 1st lessons: Always carry some extra water bottle or get a larger bottle. I was lucky to be on a route , where I could buy packaged drinking water from shops.

The day was warming up, so the next break wasn’t that far when I saw a juice shop serving fresh lemonade, Exchanged some pleasantries with Mr. Hamza who mixed in sugar and salt with the lemonade saying it’s good for the heat. I had another reflection of my earlier days when people never ever got the whole idea about me cycling on these town to town short rides back in the day. It was often met with wisecracks or that ” the boy’s gone crazy ” look. Today people like Mr.Hamza and the nice gentleman at Kondotty seem to be ok with it and seem to accept this sort of commute. Familiarity breeds not just contempt but I guess it breeds acceptance also! 😛   

A good rest and Art at Morayur :

Ok by this time I had covered about 34 Km, and it was starting to show. Yeah, my worst nemesis ” muscle cramps” oh boy! that’s gonna really cramp things up! Took more breaks and covered lesser distance.  

About 2 km ahead, I would arrive at Ajish and Titu’s home at Morayur, my childhood friends and family friends back in the middle east. While motorbiking, I usually stop by their place, traveling between Calicut and my home, just to say Hi to his parents. so why not while biking?

Ajish and Titu are working in the middle east, Ajish had shifted his family back home. I wanted to surprise them but it was Sunday and wasn’t sure if they were home. So on the next break at Musliyarangadi, I called ahead to make sure they were home.  

2nd lesson: Always warm-up and train !! ” You are not in your 20’s anymore dude !!!” Though I had been riding with bro on my old cycle, I suppose I wasn’t ready for this 75 Km stretch. So dropping by Ajish’s seemed more than just a friendly stop over to say Hi.   

His mom gives you the warmest and the friendliest greeting ever, always! Jasmin Aunty and me, chat over breakfast. After a while Titu and Ajish call up, all very pleasantly surprised that I was travelling by cycle, Titu even mocks asking ” If my previous accident wasn’t enough for me that now I had to go ahead and takenon this little adventure ” Titu if you are reading this ” You ma little big sis, I know you got my back and it’s out of care ” You and Ajish both, among my fav peeps.   

Well after breakfast Aunty persuaded me to rest a bit, so did Ajish over a video chat. So I sat down with Ajish’s kids and we kinda chit-chatted, they said they like ART ! … Oh man! that was the magic word, I figured I got time why not have some fun with paint !!   

CRAZY H(AIR) HEADS !!

Getting ready to set the floor a mess hehehe

So showed them how to draw the crazy hair head and then out came the straws!!!

I asked the girls to mimic their character’s facial expressions for a funny pic

Aji video called in from Dubai to be a part of the whole painting fest, I could see that he was missing his kids and was happy to see them having so much fun.

By the way hard rock sign he’s putting up, it ain’t hard rock, that’s our old childhood handshake ritual we silly boys still keep up …its tradition !! 🙂

After the whole straw and blow show was over we decided, they could draw or paint whatever their hearts desire and they just went to town with it, most of all they were really enjoying themselves.

Little Minnah, I showed her how to draw some clouds and sun next thing she dove right in to hand painting and then presented her masterpiece to me! 🙂  

We all had lunch together with the girls, aunt and uncle, I played the race game I had with kids at Silvermount promising them a small gift if they ate well and clean.

Ezzat , Shazi ( His cousin’s kid ) Salam Minnah and Eiman

All of their eyes closed and held out waiting for their surprise gift !!! and ………………………………………..  

……………………………………………….Balloons !!

I had a few ballons laying around in my backpack. My camera phone didn’t click fast enough to capture their surprise expressions, but hey we had a good time. Ajish and his parents really wanted me to stay for the night and rest up. I would have but I wanted to get home and also I had plans of dropping by another little friend’s home at Malappuram. Legs were feeling better and I guess I rested well enough, even perhaps a bit too long. It was almost afternoon and still had a good distance of pedalling to do. I would probably reach home late evening.

I really got to learn to take better selfies

One group selfie with the lovely family and goodbyes, saddled up for the next halfway pedal home.  

Onward

The twisting climb after Morayur sure took the toll ( I do realise that I was just getting used to the gear changing, now that I have been riding from months I can make out the difference ) However, made to 9 Km out to Malappuram.

The heat was beating down and had to take frequent breaks to rest and to hydrate. I had done about 50 Km and I still had some 30 km or less to cover. Just outskirts of Malappuram town at Cheruparamb Down Hill another lemonade break. I was thinking back at this whole “unprepared” adventure I was on, Slowly clouds of doubt started to smoke my mind. Questions I asked myself. should I have stayed the night at Ajish’s as he had suggested? Should I have actually taken up this task????  

A guy walks up to me and causally enquiries where I am coming from, where I am headed to, I replied, Calicut to Perintalmanna. I see his face light up, a smile comes on and he says ” Good luck!!!” and holds out his thumb. Out of the blue, just like that!! I was too tired to actually carry on the conversation. As soon as I thanked him. He hops on his motorbike and zooms off. That very brief conversation actually boosted my morale and soon I was on the cycle and pedalling.    

Detour :

The plan was to visit one more friend’s place in Malappuram town, but my legs were starting giving away.  Considering the time and fatigue ness setting in,  I had to make a decision.  I really felt bad but had to inform them about the change in plan, and turned on to the Palakkad bypass, and oh boy was I in for a shock!   

One doesn’t take notice how these roads dip and climb when you on a motor vehicle, the bypass on to the Perintalmanna road was a good 3 to 3.5 km climb with turns. !! Making it up was not easy at all, ran out of energy and my body was wearing down. Right at the Malayalam Manorama Junction was another bakery, so stopped over for yet another Lemonade and see if I can find some energy bars.

You know the saying “As like- mindedness attracts like-mindedness ” … of course you don’t know!! , I just made that up !. The point is at the bakery shop, I saw a guy park his two-wheeler and stare at my cycle, for quite some time, I wasn’t sure of his intentions and just before I could ask him, He goes Btwin? Decathlon? I nod and he tells me he’s got a Montra. Well, what do you know! another cyclist !! 🙂 Salmaan!! a video editor from Malappuram, He tells me the terrain isn’t that bad from here on, except for a climb at Makaraparamb, and few smaller ones after that .mostly it’s all downhill.   

The ride onwards to Kootlinangadi was very nice, I didn’t feel safe to stopover on the Kootilangadi bridge to click pics. It wasn’t long when I noticed my legs giving away as I pedalled, it wasn’t muscle cramps but was fatigue ness setting in. About now I had covered 53 Km. Legs were not cooperating, had to walk some stretches especially on the climbs. Makaraparamba, Panangangara, made over foot and pedal. My good friend shymster who had cheered me on was helping me keep it together over calls.  

Biggest lesson ever :

Just over Panangangara town, It happened, I had just made it on the large climb at Amana Toyota showroom, I heard a snap from one of the chainrings at the rear. It was all mostly downhill from there, so I didn’t realise the damage until I reached a little before the junction at Thirurkad, I shifted the front gear but the chain wouldn’t shift. I couldn’t make out what was wrong. So pulled over at Thirurkad Junction and called up Ramnath and Jaseem. Apparently, the front gear cable had almost come undone. I needed a multi-tool which I had forgotten to purchase the previous day A big no no !! 3rd Lesson learned – don’t forget your tools!!

Ramanath helped with possible options but without the multi-tool,I couldn’t fix it. Lucky for me Jaseem was heading back home the next day and he offered to come by and take a look at it. Plus he also offered to bring the multi-tool, which I most definitely would purchase without any further delay 🙂  

Decision made:

So I was at around 7 Km away from my home, I knew there was no way I could get over the Angadipuram ROB. Not now, not with this condition. and finally decided to rickshaw the cycle home.   

Rickshawing my cycle over ROB

Next day:

Jaseem came by and fixed the gear cable, he also bought along with the multitool, which now I never cycle without. He took a ride on the 20-year-old Cannon Barrel :).It was kind of him to also tune up my Nephew’s cycle..

Reflecting :

It didn’t feel all that great as I had really hoped to ride all the way to my home. but for what’s worth I did make it this far.

Later that night staring at the 67.22 Km on the speedometer, my little dismay gave away as I backtracked the events, of the day.  

I had started out at 5 am, reached home a little after 6:30 pm. 13 hours !! And in between these 13hours, I had conquered uphill climbs, enjoyed the easy ride coming downhills. Pushing my self and body to the limit. All this taking into consideration, as stupid as it may sound, starting off on such an unprepared adventure., not to mention I haven’t cycled this long in years and I mean dating back to my pre-university days !!

Apart from this crazy unprepared physical endurance test I put my self through 😛 In the 13 hours, I had the opportunity to meet some nice people on the way. The fishermen, the guy who wanted make sure I got good clean water, the lemonade guy, The stranger who popped up from nowhere to motivate me, Meeting up with another cyclist. Hopefully, an opportunity to sow some creative seeds in the budding minds of Ajish’s kids, They’d probably reminiscing on a fun-filled Art Activity they had that day. and off course the learning curve on such a cycling trip was immensely valued!

Hmmm on a larger view, I’d say the experience was not bad at all!! NOT …BAD… AT… ALL.. !! 🙂


Then and now !

At Kanhirapuzhadam in my pre-university days cycling some 40 Km plus, no gear system, no disc brakes, hard steel frame heavy and bare as they come…. …now around 24 yrs later ,Calicut to Perintalmanna 🙂 …looking forward to continue on ……..:)