The first time I heard about a brevet was sometime in 2010. The last big expedition I had done before this was the Manali Leh ride in August/ September 2009. When I first heard about the brevet, I thought this is something for professional cyclists. Completing long rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kms in set time limits of 13.5, 20, 27 and 40 hours respectively was something only professionals could do. Even though the Manali Leh ride was extremely tough, it was still shorter distances over longer time periods. At that point, it seemed doing Manali Leh wasn’t enough training for brevets. In any case, the stories came at a time when I started riding after a long hiatus and cycling was more of fun and leisure rather the serious training.
The Brevet Bug bites!
The Brevet bug seriously bit after I moved to Dwarka. A bunch of us who started riding regularly got together and formed a cycling group called South West Riders. Our rides were all slow, chatty, fun which in other words meant relatively short rides (40-60 kms) with a heavy duty breakfast.
As the group became bigger, we got in touch with riders across the city and started riding with more “serious riders” and a number of us started getting motivated about attempting brevets. Brevets are endurance rides which need to be completed in a specified time limit. 200 kms in 13.5 hours, 300 in 20 hours, 400 in 27 hours and 600 in 40 hours. In short, an average speed of 15 kmph needs to be maintained for the overall ride. A rider who completes all 4 brevets in 1 season (November to next October) is called a Super Randonneur. While a person has done up to 3 of these rides is called a Randonneur.
Fast forward to November 2014 – The first 300 Kms
Around October 2014, several of us from South West Riders decided to give SR a shot. At this point, we thought we’ll attempt the 600 Kms ride as our first. This being the first brevet for me, I was a little skeptical about attempting 600 Kms on an MTB. Additionally, because of work pressure, I wasn’t able to dedicate enough time for training and hence decided to forego the 600 and attempt the 300 Kms brevet.
The D Day – 29th November 2014
From SWR, 6 riders (Rishi Kushwaha, Shivaji Dey, Rohit, Abhishek Kaushal, Aftab Khan and I) attempted the 300 Kms and another 5 riders (R Sendhil Kumar, Sunny Sharma, Puneet Walia, Prashant Panday, Rahat Hussain) attempted the 600 Kms.
The ride started from India Gate at about 6:15 AM after completing the formalities. Assembled here in the morning were riders attempting 200, 300, 600 and 1000 Kms. Yes there was people attempting 1000 too! Compared to what the 600 and 1000 guys were attempting, our ride seemed like a cakewalk!
The ride started the SWR gang heading out via the ring road towards Mukarba chowk. En route, the 600 gang from SWR caught up with us and I decided to push the pace a little by riding with the roadies. For a long distance, I worked hard keeping up with the roadies on my MTB. Eventually, these guys went ahead while I slowed down so that the 300 gang could catch up. I continued riding up to the Murthal which was the check point for the 200 kms riders. While entering the check point, I saw the SWR 600 guys leave the check point. The check point was being manned by Vikas from the organizing team. Check points/ time stations have a start and end time and riders attempting the brevet are required to get to these time stations within the start and end time for that time station. Time stations are also a great place to chat with other riders, with the organizers, take a break, refill water and have a bite to eat.
I decided to wait for the rest of the 300 group at the Murthal time station. During this time, I had a chat with Vikas and found out that he had completed the 1000 kms brevet on an MTB. Not that doing a 1000 kms ride in 75 hours is easy on a roadie, but doing it on an MTB really does take a lot more courage and endurance. Well done Vikas. Your ride is certainly an inspiration for a lot of us.
A little while later, the 300 gang pulled in. As we pulled out from the time station, we decided to have breakfast at one of the dhabas in Murthal. As we finished and left the dhaba, we saw the 600 group coming out of the next dhaba. It would have been fun had we all had breakfast together. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the 600 group getting into the dhaba after the time station.
The SWR brevet philosophy is that we split the group into smaller groups of 2 riders (buddies). Buddies complete the ride together and ensure that both riders support each other during the ride. From the Murthal time station, Aftab and I decided to complete the ride together. From here on till Panipat time station we did a strict pace line taking minimal breaks and zoomed to the Panipat time point. We got there at 11:15 AM. The Panipat time station was the turn back point for the 200 kms riders and was manned by Shubho from the organizing team.
The great thing about these long rides is the wonderful camaraderie among the riders. We chatted up with a number of riders, shared stories and all in all had a great time with everyone.
We waited for quite a while for the rest of the SWR team to catch up here. Eventually, Rohit and Abhishek reached the time station. A little later Rishi and Shivaji reached here and that is when we found out that Rishi’s bike had a puncture which is why they took a long time to get to this point.
First time station – Panipat toll – all 300 riders
Aftab and I left the time station at 12:15 and did a hard pace line to the next time station which was at Karnal about 47-48 kms away. We covered this distance in 1 hour 50 minutes and we hit the time station at 14:05 PM. Once again, we didn’t take any breaks during this section. At the time station we met Chiro & Shubho from the organizing team and chatted up with them for a bit. On asking about the 600 group, we found that they had stopped earlier for lunch at Jhilmil Dhaba and hadn’t reached this time station. We were informed that we have ride further for about 3 kms and take a turn underneath the next flyover.
We must have stopped here for about 30 minutes before we started riding again. As we took a turn and started riding back towards Delhi after completing half the ride, we saw the 600 gang on the other side of the road. We wished them best of luck and continued our ride towards Panipat. As we were crossing the Karnal time station (which was on the other side of the road), we saw our 300 group entering the time station. We quickly decided among the group that Aftab and I will wait at the Panipat toll gate for the rest of the group.
Our typical equipment list on the ride includes a whistle which is to be used to attract our buddy’s or other another group member’s attention. The first use of the whistle happened at this point when Aftab whistled to get my attention. I realized the signal was to stop of sugarcane juice which was being freshly made at the road side. Good use of the whistle I say. A delicious sugarcane juice stop later, we moved on towards the Panipat toll gate.
The equipment list consisted of 3 pouches on the bike, 2 bottle holders with bottles. The pouches had a few chocolates, basic first aid, some money, an id, the brevet card, puncture repair kit, spare tube, cycle pump, allen keys and spare AA batteries for lights. Thankfully, none of it was needed except the chocolates and money.
During this section too, Aftab and I did a good pace line and completed the 50 Kms distance in good time. We decided to cross the toll and wait for the rest of the group. As soon as we crossed, we figured out that the next section of the road was barricaded and there are no dhabas where we could stop for the next 10-15 kms. At this point, we stopped and turned back and decided to wait for the group before the toll gate. We stopped at the dhaba, enjoyed tea and lied down on charpayis (Khatiyas) which the dhaba owners had put out. After waiting for a while, we started wondering where the the rest of the 300 group was. A few phone calls and whatsapp messages later we found out that they had stopped for an evening snack. Aftab and I decided to not wait any longer and move to the next time station. By this time, the sun had already set and dusk was upon us.
We crossed the toll gate and started riding on the elevated corridor when I heard a small funny noise from my bike. I realized that the bike stand had come loose and was touching the pedals while riding. Instead of fixing the stand, I decided to take it off completely, tie it to the bike and fix it after reaching home. Good decision, the stand could have hit the spokes of the rear wheel and finished my ride right then and there.
By now, it was completely dark and we were at the mercy of our cycle lights and lights from motorists. Those lights were certainly not enough and at one point I managed to get into a big pothole which could have given me a nasty fall. Thankfully nothing happened and we continued to the last time station. Some time later, we reached the time station where we saw Vikas smiling and signalling us to stop. Pretty darn awesome of Vikas to spend the entire day sitting at the time station alone! Thanks for the support Vikas.
Another break of about 45 minutes to 1 hour followed which was all about chit chat with Vikas, Aftab a few more riders who came in later, drinking lots of water, eating all kinds of whatever was available at the time station and a delicious Paneer paratha from the dhaba.
From this point on, the distance to destination was about 55-60 kms. Under normal circumstances, a 55-60 km night ride seems quite long. However, here all I could think of was – wow, just 55-60 kms left. This is easy.
As we continued towards Delhi, the traffic kept getting heavier. It seemed as if all the trucks in the world wanted to enter Delhi. The good thing that happened was that as soon as we crossed the Delhi border, the streetlights were up in full glory and visibility drastically improved.
Closer to Mukaraba chowk, there was a massive traffic jam and we had to find our way through the heavy jam. As we turned towards ISBT from Mukaraba Chowk, road conditions got worst. Traffic jam, construction, non functional street lights and terrible road surface. We proceeded slowly and cautiously to ISBT. After crossing ISBT, once again the going became smooth as the traffic got thinner, street lights were again on and the tarmac was smooth.
We finally hit Khan market at 11:45 PM with 2.5 hours to spare. A bit of a breather later, we took our pictures, took out the ATM slip and sent them to the organizers.
Here on, Aftab decided that he had had enough riding during the day and decided to take an auto rickshaw home.
The night was young, the breeze was fresh and I was quite charged up. So I decided to ride back home instead of taking an auto rickshaw! Another 25 kms and 1 hour later I entered home feeling pretty darn awesome about the ride!
Ready for the next brevet? As of now I’m not sure.
What I didn’t like – Riding conditions – dusty, polluted, no respect for cyclists, night riding without street lights, a thick layer of smoke, dust and all kinds of imaginable trash on my face after the ride
What I did like – the challenge and the fact that I was able to complete it easily enough. So keeping these in mind, am I up for another one? Lets see :)
Thanks Aftab for the ride & pictures :)