Friday, December 18, 2015

Queen for a day !

We decided to go on an early morning ride from Powai to Malabar Hill and back, and started at 4 am with my friends Elan Chelian and Sai Pratyush.

Here is the route we followed.   Eastern Express Highway, Kings Circle, Dadar, Prabhadevi, Worli Seaface, Haji Ali,  Peddar Road Climb, Malabar Hill, and back via the Eastern Express Highway, via Sion , Ghatkopar and Kanjurmarg.  

We had a short stop for Chai  at Churchgate...
Left the house at 4 am , and returned home at 7.45 am.

It was a day like any other cycling day, I was having coffee, and  one of my friends suddenly msged saying my riding segment between Kings Circle to Haji Ali , a distance of 9.1 kms, got completed in 25 minutes, and this awarded me a "Queen of the Mountain"  e-trophy  from Strava, the software we use to analyse our rides and keep histories of our progress  (or lack of it ).

It also said that I gave my second best timing over an EEH stretch of 5.9 kms which i covered in 7 minutes.  

The Eastern Express Highway is fairly long , so I don't which patch of 5.9 kms between Powai and King's Circle this was.  Never mind .

Here is our route map.

Here is the gradient across which we rode over all the 66.6 kms.

Here is the table from Strava , awarding me the Queen of the Mountain e-trophy. 

So what is so great about it ?   

The crown represents total segment dominance! They are awarded to users who set times that slot them in atop Overall leaderboards at time of upload.

There are two types of crowns: the solid crown is awarded for top placement on the All-Time leaderboard.

The "wire" or "outlined" crown is awarded for top placement on the This Year leaderboard.

Mine was the wired crown !   :-)

It's nice to suddenly hear about this while having a decent breakfast.  

My fellow riders .  PC :  Sai Pratyush . 

The Royal (!)  Effort  above and our Chariots below!

It's also wonderful to have your fellow riders inform you about this when you are totally unaware of it .

Just wondering how Strava knew I was going to be chugging furiously up the Malabar Hill and Powai Hill....

Maybe it thinks they are mountains ?  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gearless Weekend Chronicles

With the weather turning distinctly cooler in Mumbai, it is ideal weather for cycling, early mornings and late nights.

The weekend started off at dawn on Saturday, when no one except me turned up for the ride, and I  ended up doing a solo ride in the Aarey Milk Colony Area.

There was a Saturday night cycle ride plan brewing and perhaps people decided to take the early Saturday morning off,  to attend to other things.

Not yet sunrise, and the roads are a pleasure to ride on as I make my way on the JVLR (Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Rd ) , near Greenfields , en route to the Western Express Highway.

You have probably never seen the WEH and its side exit roads this empty.  Neither has the Sun, just rising.....

I must document the emptiness of these Mumbai roads, with my cycle in the photograph, as I travel towards the Aarey intersection.

I ride through the Aarey colony gates, amidst the woods, reach a gentle elevation , and reach back home after skirting the Powai Lake once again.

I am using a new software called Strava,
and these are my ride values.

It is now Saturday night, still 12/12/2015, and there are plans for a night ride. We will meet at Powai Police Station and proceed from there.  There are 7 of us  and the plan is to cycle to Worli Sea Face  in South Bombay.  We start at 10 pm.

A night ride is different. It is cooler,  you probably go against the rush traffic when you go south, and you think there will be less traffic on your way back, given the time.

But this is Mumbai, and Mumbai never sleeps. 

(Some of the photos below were taken by Deepak Narula. There was an oversight and Photo Credit was not duly given.  Now it is. I apologize. )

Here we are at Worli Sea Face.  We wear reflecting jackets when we ride at night so we are visible in the traffic. The chariots getting a much needed rest.

A great click at Worli Sea Face. It is past 11.30 pm and you would think no one would be buying balloons at this time.  PC : Deepak Narula

But this is Mumbai , and it doesn't matter. 

Worli Sea Face. And no, we are not sitting in the order of our cycles .
Another great photograph of our group.!
PC : Deepak Narula

The mandatory photograph of my gearless cycle. 
Like Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip said, "“Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” 

Aiyyo ! I have speed, but have no gears.  :-)

The Strava statistics for the night ride.

We start back via the Western Express Highway,  pass by Bandra, Airport turn-off, and continue via Saki Naka.  I reach home at 1.30 am.  It is now 13/12/2015 , and I have a Powai cyclothon to attend in 4-5 hours.

Sunday morning 6:30 am 

A friend came to watch the Cyclothon and took photographs .  The purpose of the cyclothon was to highlight environmental causes, ways to reduce pollution , and show cycling as a wonderful means of achieving that.  The very original  Mumbai Dabbawallas with their no nonsense sturdy bicycles and  unchanged national outfits, too participated.  They started cycling for work, long before many of us (even started cycling for fun) , and continue to do so even today.

Some of these photos below have been clicked by me . Some by my friend Jayanand Supali. Some more, by various other members of our group.  If you could indicate which photo you clicked, I can indicate the photo credit immediately.

The Heritage Gardens in Hiranandani , in Powai  was the starting point. 

The very large crowd of young and old people who gathered for the 15 km ride around HN.

Age no bar.

Our group, Powai Pedals, was the largest group participant, and was felicitated with a memento. 

Here is our Powai Pedals Group on the Podium.

Our Powai Pedals group on the Podium.  Elsie Gabriel of the Young Enviromentalists Group (with the mike),  one of our admins  Disha Shrivastava,  Pradeep Nayak, Mirza Saaib Beg, me, Manish Lala, and many others .
PC : Jayanand Supali

        So many cyclists, and a search was on to get our members on the podium .  Here we are, searching for Mirza Saib Beg,  our inspiration, and champion cycling lawyer.

                                              Still searching

And then someone else was found !     Various "Powai Pedals"  climbing up

Someone possibly has a lot to say about our "Powai Pedals"

And finally , Ratna Singh , me, and Disha  Shrivastava  before starting the ride.

P. S. Nothing beats a Masala Dosa breakfast after a massive cycling weekend. 


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pedalling for Peace : From Powai to Bhor Ghat

Ignore the 17 hrs 42 minutes shown for walking the entire stretch in the map...  

I didn't walk.  I cycled. :-)

I participated in the Pedal for Peace Cycle ride   ,  organized by Shri Mirza Saaib Beg , from Powai Police Station to Bhor Ghat , on Saturday 21st Nov 2015.   We would ride  our cycles  from Powai , via Airoli, Panvel, Chowk and Khopoli to the Bhor Ghat.

One of the many Ghats (mountain passes)  in the Sahyadri range, the Bhor Ghat now stretches for 18 kilomters as a path connecting Khopoli in the coastal plains to Khandala  in the Hills of the Western Ghats/ Sahyadris.  In the ancient  days, it was a route that connected the ports of Choul, Revdanda and Panvel on the Konkan coast to the Deccan plains.
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:
historical significance as it was the ancient trade route connecting the ports at Choul, Revdanda, Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau.
-- Read more:

History has it that the feasibility of having a motorable road/pass connecting Khopoli to Khandala  through the mountain was indicated by a local Dhangar/tribesman called Shigroba.  The British swung into action  and Mumbai and Pune got connected  first by road, and then by the  Great Indian Peninsular railway (GIP Railway)  with 28 tunnels and old bridges in 1863.

Those zooming by at great speed on the Mumbai Pune Expressway today, miss out on many things that those who frequented the old Mumbai Pune  Rd, NH4 , saw.  

The mandatory stop in Khopoli at a place called Ramakant for Vadas.  The gentle climb initially past the Tata Power station , and loaded trucks, stopping on the side, before mobilizing for a tough climb. Truck drivers , very considerate of small cars, letting them safely overtake after checking oncoming traffic.  Descending traffic giving priority to ascending traffic.  Traffic passing by a famous small temple, with truck drivers and others , alike, flinging coins into the sanctum , and a priest standing outside handing prasad to cars and trucks in motion.  The amazing high gradient hair pin bend in the middle of the ghats, making people admire their own driving,  and emerging from a tunnel just before Khandala , on to a waiting area,  and standing with bonnets open to cool cars, while folks cooled themselves with ice golas.

The modern Expressway foodmalls are not a patch on all this.  But we followed the old Mumbai Pune Road NH4  since cycles are not allowed on the expressway.    

We started from Powai at 4.30 am. Meeting up with riders at JVLR, Panvel  etc, along the way  , around 8.30 , we were 32 people at Khopoli, taking a refreshment break before  attempting the ghat climb.

I have a gearless bicycle, which makes it all the more difficult, and over several weeks , I have  improved my stamina and strength that allows me to successfully climb across steep inclines. But the Bhor Ghat gradient is different .  (Graph courtesy Powai Pedals FB page).

A little bit after the temple , 2 fellow riders and I  got extremely tired and it was not possible to pedal on.  We stopped a tempo , and they kindly took us till Lonavla  after loading our bikes . When we got off,  we realized we would have to travel backwards, cross the expressway and then ride back again to join our fellow riders. After much to-ing and fro-ing, we reached the Bhor Ghat Police Station. 

We enjoyed a Daal Khichdi lunch at Lonavla, after which we decided to descend the Bhor Ghat, a very enjoyable ride, where we hardly pedalled. Just braked every now and then. It had been very hot when we climbed, and it was now getting cloudy. 

At Khopoli, 8 of us decided to return to Mumbai proper by suburban train from Khopoli. We were extremely tired.  Fancy gradients and gearless bikes do that to you  sometimes . Khopoli, the last station  on the central railway in the Pune direction, is a starting point. We took a train till Karjat, loading our cycles (cycle ticket : Rs 100)  and sitting with them in the luggage compartment.

 Another train from Karjat , to points south around 70 kilometres away by train opened our eyes to some social ills.

It started raining outside . 

We were threatened by a posse of milkmen and their leader type (in whites and googles)  and asked to get out of the luggage compartment of the Karjat CST local train. We had valid tickets, for ourselves and our cycles, and had got in like everyone else, and refused to vacate. We were threatened, they even tried to mishandle the bikes,  and  some even tried to cause trouble for me , the only girl in the group of 8, by sitting inconveniently. They were pulled up by my fellow riders, who exchanged places with me, and we watched these "milkmen" non chalantly open up milk cans and pouches, and systematically adulterate them all with water of presumably doubtful origin.  Right in front of us.   Then they got off at Ulhasnagar , presumably to smile innocently and sell bad milk to unsuspecting folks. 

We got off at Ghatkopar, where the motorman of the train must have stopped the train for a few seconds extra , just to have seven cycles disembark from a crowded luggage compartment. 

We rode back to our respective homes, but not before I lost my way in the traffic and rode in the wrong direction of Asalpha (towards Saki Naka) . Till GPS came to my rescue, and guided me back on to LBS Marg , from where I knew the roads.  Very clearly, the bike had not had its fill of kilometres.

A thrilling ride totalling 105.81  kilometres ,  my third 100 + ride,  a good assessment of my own stamina and strength, where I need to improve,  and a confirmation that Mumbai traffic is the pits.

Started at 4 am from home, reached back at 7 pm. 

The group assembled outside Powai Police Station at 4.30 am . (This photo courtesy the Powai Pedals FB page/Nirbhay Singhal. )

 On our way , before proper sunrise , somewhere after Panvel . 

Small towns along the way, complete with more traffic, rumblers and zebra stripes . The day has just dawned.  And the Sun sees us !

Old Mumbai Pune Road,  NH4, still used by light and heavy vehicles.  The day has begun, and we cycle on .

 Me with the youngest rider, Pankaj, still in his teens . Completing his first 100 kms during this ride . Bravo ! 

I don't think the lady in the banner had anything to do with it, but we stopped in Khopoli for some refreshments , before beginning the Bhor Ghat ascent. Our chariots, taking a much needed breather. 

Naturally, this called for a selfie.  Extreme sunlight, heat, often points to evolution in clothes, and this time , for me , it was white cricket sleeves  , by themselves. (I didn't know that such things existed )

 Three of us, super fatigued from the huge gradient, decided to take a tempo instead of riding the last part .  This Ozgur, my fellow rider .

The three cycles must have thanked us for this unexpected luxury. 

 View from near Bhor Ghat Police Station, just before taking the Lonavla/Khandala exit.

On the road leading to Tiger point.  Sai, Avik and Elan in the photo. 

Sai, Avik, Gaurav. Pankaj and Vilas Sawant (behind me)

At Bhor ghat top, overlooking the valley.  L to R,  Pradeep, Vilas, Pankaj, Gaurav, Sai, me, Avik. The photographer is Elan.

Stopping on a road that leads to either old Khopoli road or Expressway . We needed to take the old Khopoli Road. 

 One more photograph, without  humans and machines.

Very clearly,  mere cycle ka ek photo to bantaa hi hai !  Trouble free (touch wood) performance across many rides so far.

What has the world come to, when folks stop in the middle of amazing vistas to check tiny screens beeping here and there? 

Our group that decided to take a Central Railway suburban train back, waiting at Khopoli Station. 

Our 8 cycles , loaded in the luggage compartment, along with us , standing and sitting in typical local train style. 

 Some folks even managed to get seats ! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

62 kms , Colaba & Kyani and Co......

Approaching the end of the year means sunrise is a bit late and it is a bit dark around 5:45 am .   By the standards of my previous rides that started at 4:00 am , this was a bit late.

Nevertheless , six of us from Powai Pedals,  started on our ride to Colaba around 6 am.

(Map Attribution By TIFR, Nichalp (TIFR) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Colaba was one of the southern most islands that formed the island city  of Mumbai/Bombay.   These islands were initially owned by the Portuguese, who presented them as dowry  to the British Kind Charles II when he married the Portuguese princess  Catherine of Braganza. Typically, this action of the government in Lisbon was greatly opposed by the Portuguese in Mumbai and Goa and they kind of did delayed tactics , which angered the British King, who simply leased these islands to the East India Company , in   1675.  An establishment on this tiny island marked Old Woman's Island, was held on to by the Portuguese , and the British got control much later. Today this exists as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in middle Colaba.  Thanks to reclamation of land around these islands, these are now interconnected and collectively referred to as the Island City/South Mumbai. 

Now a business district, naval cantonment, at one time populated by mainly Parsis and Christians , and a very popular tourist and shopping area, it is also home to some interesting Irani restaurants.  We decided to breakfast at one of these, south of Colaba , near the Metro theatre.      

 Kyani and Co , established in 1904 , by Khodadad Shokriye , who came from Iran, today his great-great descendants run the place.  Known for its iconic Irani Tea, Mawa Cake, Brun Maska , and  full strength egg dishes, sandwiches and custards,  all for amazing prices. 

We cycled via the Eastern Express Highway all the way to the Gateway of India , which is actually at one end (northern) , of Colaba.   Had a brief halt outside the Taj Mahal Hotel , ( as we are clearly not the types that can manage halts inside the Taj . :-) .... ).

Then cycled back towards Metro and Kyani and Co for some amazing breakfast of mawa Cake, Eggs  , Brun Muska and tea .  Fortified, we then made our way back across around 30 kilometres  to reach our homes a bit after 10 am, before the heat kicked in . 

Our faithful chariots ,  now used to traveling across all kinds of roads . This one, bravely gearless ,  is mine. 

The Taj mahal Hotel in the background. This was the target of , subjected to  and destroyed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks , and carefully and painstakingly resurrected to its old glory later.  This photo  clicked as we take a breather between the hotel and its sea front promenade.

A selfie of the group at the Taj.   Very clearly,  there is always a population of folks in Mumbai going places, regardless of how early it is, even on a Sunday. 

Breakfast calls,  and we cycle down Mahatma Gandhi Rd towards the Metro Theatre (now called Big Cinemas ).  Kyani and Company lists its address as  " Jer Mahal Estate, Opposite Metro Cinema, Marine Lines, Mumbai" . 
Easy to find  !

 The Brun Maska !

 Our group,  having ordered, waiting for it all to appear .  It appeared, was thoroughly enjoyed,  and one of the waiters obliged us and clicked . 
The group, full, happy and raring to go , on the ride back .