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Awesome Weekend Rides: Hot Summer Ride!

The day began with a shrill alarm at 0400 hrs on Sunday. The eyes, still filled with sleep like a cream filled donut, tried to come to terms with the fact that it was time to wake up now. But it’s the weekend, the mind tried to reason. ‘So What’, the heart fought back, ‘tis time for the RIDE’. And yet again the heart won!

The hard Indian summer months of April to June are the period when even the birds don’t venture in the mid-day sun. These are the months when the only thing one can think of is an air-conditioner or shade. So, definitely, a bunch of guys and girls must surely be crazy to go out and ride their bicycles in the heat for over 50 kms and then also live to tell the tale. Well, that is the essence in reality of being a cyclist! We don’t do it for ourselves, we don’t do it for the groups, we don’t do it for the weather, and we don’t do it for the fun. We ride because there is a Bike to ride, simply.

Last Sunday my local ride group planned, what was supposed to be the last long distance ride for the summer, covering the route from Vashi in Navi Mumbai via Belapur through a place called Chirner, Kharpada, Karnala, Panvel, JNPT Road and back to Vashi again. All in the entire route consisted of a thrilling 80 kms of pure cycling heaven going through villages and valleys, with a 2-3 good climbs and equally awesome drops. That’s of course better said in the winter or the monsoon, not the summer’s God D*** It! Still, the heart took over, it’s a long ride, lots of other riders, it reasoned. The legs now started canvassing, waiting to start pedaling. And then the entire body revolted and took over the mind and it was unanimously decided by all the body parts to join the ride. Well, what could I do!

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On Sunday, for me the ride began at 0545 hrs from the majestic NMMC HQ at Belapur. Once other riders joined in from other parts of Navi Mumbai and Mumbai (yes, a couple from Andheri decided to drive down here and join the Ride, crazy .huh!) There were almost 15 riders who had willingly joined in to be baked alive. A selfie later by the Ride leader, we began rolling and took the Uran Road that passes via Ulwe towards JNPT Road. The road to JNPT is 50 flat and the rest 50% is a nice smooth climb which brings us to Gavhaan Phata. (Phata roughly is the Marathi equivalent of Chowk). This is the point of intersection of the URAN Road and the JNPT Road. From here on the group crossed under the JNPT Road towards a village called Chirner.

The Village of Chirner is really a non descript little village but is hot favorite among bikers due to the Ransai Dam that is located there. The Dam and the lake are set amidst beautiful hills and is a separate ride in itself. The group halted at Chirner for refilling water. Now since these are the summer months, any rides that exceed 20 km demand that at least 2 liters. of water be carried along with of course Electrolyte drinks such as Enerzal. And since I had done this circuit earlier, I had almost 3 liters of water, 2 in my Polar bottle and Camelbak and 1 in my trusted Quechua hydration backpack. The Polar bottle and Camelbak Podium are insulated bottles and ensure that water at least stays at room temperature, if not hot and is drinkable. And to ensure even colder water, I usually fill the bottles and freeze them overnight, so the ice only completely melts when I am halfway through the ride.

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After refilling at Chirner, we moved towards the Kharpada Toll booth. The road to the Kharpada toll booth passes through a few small climbs and is among one of the most beautiful roads to ride or drive on given the amount of flora on either side of the road.

Soon the road started winding up, as expected and towards the final stretch of the climb Weekend Warriors and a few others were literally forced to alight and walk up with their bikes, something the Road bikers would have tackled with ease. Those who managed to huff and puff their way up the climb were then rewarded with a simply amazing drop of almost 2 kms but not before being shot with a Camera by the Ride leader who ensured that no one misses out on the pictures being too busy to ride. The drop after the hill was exhilarating and the MTB’s and Hybrids touched speeds of almost 45 km/h and I personally touched almost 52 km/h with the wind slamming my face and head which were of course duly protected by Orao Bike Sunglasses and my Btwin helmet.

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On reaching the Kharpada toll booth, we all took a break as this the halfway point as well as the availability of food and refreshments. Kharpada toll booth is the junction which lies on the Mumbai Alibag route and is prone to heavy traffic on the weekends. The group rested there for a while, feasting on Vada Pav’s, banana’s and sugarcane juice all the while being subjected to the strange stares of the Villagers, who of course did not seem to mind a couple of lycra clad people riding on the bike in the summer heat. We had reached Kharpada at 0830 hrs and it was already 32 degrees.

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We left Kharpada riding in a single line formation on the road shoulder since the road was full of HCVs and LCVs and ensured that every rider in the front kept within the shoulder. Till Kharpada we had enjoyed our ride, riding in groups of two’s and three’s but on the arterial roads and highways one can never to careless.

Our next destination was Karnala from where we would go towards Panvel. From Kharpada itself the we started a low gradual climb with tiny bits of flat stretches and decided to ride till the entrance of Karnala Bird Sanctuary take a breather there and then move ahead. The reason for the breather at the entrance is because the road till there is a gradual 3-4 km climb and then from there the final 1 km is a little more steeper requiring regular bikers to shift in the smaller chaining or the Granny Gear to tackle the climb.

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A short breather at Karnala Bird Sanctuary and we were once again on our way towards Panvel. By now the temperature was already touching 34 degrees.

The drop after Karnala lasts for almost 4 kms and requiring very little pedaling. However, this is where cyclists forget that they are on the highway and have to be aware and careful of the oncoming vehicles and also those from the behind. That’s precisely the reason why it’s important to wear neon clothing and also have good rear blinker lights, like the Cat eye Nemo light that I use, to warn the drivers behind you.

The Route till Karnala is well covered with tree shade at almost 70% of the way and thus gives you some respite. Once you cross Karnala the road is split wide open with absolutely no tree cover and the sun breathing down on your back. From Karnala till Panvel we rode with the least possible conversation and I must have finished at least 1 and a1/2 bottle of water. The temperature now was a COOL 35 degree that actually felt like 40 degrees because of the humidity factor. There was absolutely no stopping on till Palaspe Phata at Panvel where we decided to stop at the famous Shree Datta Snacks for some refreshments. It took us an hour to reach Datta Snacks.

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The break at Datta Snacks lasted for almost 20 minutes with the group opting for sugarcane juice yet again and me having 2 coconuts full of water. By this time ALL my water was hot (so much for the insulated bottles, but I think they are not meant to operate in the Indian heat) and I refilled two of my bottles with icy cold water, enough to last me the final 20 kms till my home in Kharghar.

We left Datta Snacks at 0945 hrs now not at all caring about the Sun God’s wrath and started riding on the JNPT Road towards Gavhaan Phata from where we would turn towards Belapur. The Ride on the JNPT Road is actually lovely with views of hills on both sides but right now all we could see the end of the road where we make the turn. The temperature was almost 36 degrees now and it actually felt like 45 degrees.

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By the time we reached Gavhaan Phata, all riders were terribly exhausted, not from the ride but from the heat. We stopped near a Neera Stand and had a glass each and started on the final leg of the ride. The first 3 kms from Gavhaan Phata till Belapur NMMC HQ is a nice drop and it felt good not pedaling for once during the ride. Sadly this stretch too like the Karnala stretch is devoid of any vegetation and the only solace was the trickles of water I was shooting down the vents of my helmet on my forehead. But be warned though this can sometimes lead to sunstrokes and is not recommended unless the water dropped is very minimal just to keep the temperature down.

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Finally, after the last climb and crossing one last bridge over the Panvel Creek the NMMC HQ building was in sight and this is where I splintered from the group and headed towards Kharghar while the remaining riders summoned all their strength and moved on toward Vashi and other respective locations. Near the Belapur Station I stopped one last time at my favorite Chaiwalla for some sweet tea and regain some strength till the final five kms till home.

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I stepped inside my building gate at approximately 1045 hrs, five hrs after starting my ride and totally satisfied at having taken on the Sun God and coming out unscratched through the ordeal. With my final remaining strength I managed to guzzle one last glass of Enerzal and called it a day. In spite of the fact that we called it our last ride of the summer, I secretly knew there is no such thing as a Last Ride and yet again we planned for a ride to our dear old Datta Snacks the coming weekend. But that will be another ride report. Some Ride!

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About the Author

Partha is in his mid-thirties, lives in Navi Mumbai and works in Banking & Finance, working five days a week. Other than cycling he also enjoys hiking, trekking, nature walks and active sports. And when he is not doing any of these you can find him hooked on to his Kindle or listening to Progressive trance or simply shooting random pics on his Lumia 730. A Greenpeace follower and a staunch Save-the-Earth activist, he loves connecting with people.

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