Crossroads

It still strikes everyone as odd when a company makes a bold claim to it’s prospective investors that it ‘might never make money’. I know a bit now about traveling this path and I’ve begun to believe in why something like that should even exist in the first place. On finding a fit with market, the company sinks it’s teeth deep into it and burns through fuel faster than anyone else in an attempt at land-grab. Before long the company has grown to a massive size, it’s survival depends on large tranches of resources to continue to touch millions of customers. Few stories can make it this far. At this point even a tiny weakness in the complex thread that binds the company together can be their undoing.

A Quick 5 km

The night before I had an unusual thought cross my mind. My body was recovered and ready for the upcoming morning jog. This tiny event gave this mornings jog an excited and eerie feel.

A little background first. I’m a terribly slow runner. A lot of that has to probably do with how I breath, or how hard my heart is beating when I’m running. Whatever it is, I’m working on it and it’s been gradually getting better.

I returned to jogging after a bumpy 2018 that ended in a sketchy right knee, fewer jogs and lost gains. Since then, I’ve been gradually building up the distance I run (3, 3, 3.5, 3.5, 4) and the pace. All this and a lot more led up to the elation of today.

This morning I felt stronger and way more ready to push myself. I completed the 5 km at a personal best of 7 mins 42 seconds per km with an average HR of 154 bpm.

Over the next month or so, the focus is to adapt more to greater distances and a decent pace. I’ll run longer and perhaps shave 10 seconds off. I’m also interested in strengthening myself so I might run better. There’s a good chance that I might top out at this pace and focusing on strength might help break out of that ceiling.

Stay hydrated!

Living in a Blue Zone

Not too long ago Kiran visited Pune from Bangalore. He spent his day in Pune and ended it in Koregaon Park. Instead of taking a cab to the airport he decided to walk. The 1+ hour-long route for sure took him through pedestrian-friendly & unfriendly spots, but that didn’t matter at all to him. He made it and tweeted out his accomplishment to his many followers.

The prevalent assessment of living in a city like Pune or Bangalore are that they are pedestrian and cyclist-unfriendly. Some of the replies to Kiran’s tweets echo this sentiment. Sure, these cities are far from the idea of Blue Zones that encourage denizens to walk, cycle to work and getting around differently. Picture your self coasting on LA’s Venice Beach, or in Amsterdam with dedicated cyclist lanes, safely segregated from the surrounding traffic. We’re a long way from that.

In Pune’s commuting history there have been attempts to improve the cycling infrastructure and ridership. At one point segregated cycling lanes were built. Some still exist today with intact road skirts but neglected riding surfaces. Last year several bike-leasing startups such as Yulu have deployed several thousand bicycles across the city. Students continue to prefer to cycle to school. What I think deters ridership are the increasing distances, the growing population of 4-wheelers and large vehicles. Pune’s hot summers and monsoons push commuters to give up on two-wheels and take cars to work thus increasing traffic snarls and parking unavailability.

Having cycled to work and for errands over the last 3 weeks, I humbly submit that it’s fun to get around Pune on a bicycle and a tad tricky. The dangers include aggressive drivers that’ll cut across your riding lane, gravel on the street, inclined crossovers that your tires won’t grip, two-wheelers taking shallow rights, four-wheeler occupants who’ll flip doors open at you, bus drivers, impatient auto-wallahs and so on. Once I can get over the psychological hump of riding with them, learn to navigate them, I’ll be more open to the pure satisfaction emerging from long and short rides. Soon, I imagine I won’t think twice before getting on my saddle.

It goes without saying that if you haven’t already figured it out, err on the side of safety. Wear a helmet and maybe even protection for elbows, knees. If you’re riding early mornings or after dark, purchase an inexpensive high-visibility vest, add reflectors, or spend a little more on a USB-charged light that straps to your bicycle. Sundays and National Holidays the traffic is way more forgiving and long rides more enjoyable.

I guess it’s alright to want more. Mehuls’ bike ride to work is over 10 km. If city riding is not your thing you can head out or find trails inside the city. Bicycles are incredibly fun and should be the future of inner-city transport. If you’re not convinced, that’s ok too – just be cool with the riders on pedal-powered machines you’ll meet at your next traffic light.

PS. if you’re part of Pune’s growing cycling enthusiast groups and are open to riding together, tweet me.

Sunday Cycling Update

Today’s cycling route, 15 km:
* Agricultural College to Loyola High School Gate.
* Loyola High School Gate to Parihar Chowk via Baner Rd.
* Parihar Chowk to Symbiosis College.
* Symbiosis College to Agricultural College via FC Rd.

Total distance covered = 15 km at a relaxed 1 hour.

The original plan was to get to Venture Centre and then head back to Shivajinagar via Symbiosis hill. However, at Loyola High, traffic was held up for a marathon of school children. I switched routes to go through Abhimanshree instead.

A 3 km long designated cycling track has been laid out from Bremen Chowk to University Circle. It’s cost the city of Pune over INR 2CR to make this possible. It’s a work in progress as the bollards were placed too close together and are being relaid. This is an exciting step and perhaps next weekend the track will be fit to use.

#PuneCycling is alive and kicking. A number of cyclists were out this Sunday morning from Bremen Chowk to Symbiosis. It’s fun, physically demanding and will get to be a lot safer with designated tracks.

Symbiosis Hill

Sunday morning. The traffic’s eased up, a clear day, the weather is between 17°C – 20°C. Today’s route was longer and a fun 38 minutes. Starting from Shimla Office up the length of Ganeshkhind / University Road, left onto Senapati Bapat Road and then to FC Road through the connecting BMCC Road.

The route has both uphill and downhill stretches. The uphill was steep enough to have to use the lower gears all the way down to the large (1). The gears on the bike continue to be a learning opportunity. When switching down to large (1), I have to anticipate and switch the smaller gears up first or the pedals will spin with effort and low traction.

There were several other groups out today. Persistent Systems were out for their annual marathon, Ananda Foundation had a walkathon and there were a few other riders whose route overlapped mine for some distance.

It was a treat to see riders take on the uphill on mountain bikes and slim road bikes. The incline up Symbiosis College was hard and my legs screamed as I watched the other riders made it look effortless. I managed the climb up and the downhill from there was crazy fast and exhilarating.

The length of FC Road continues to be under construction and I think it’s shaping up well. The pavements are being rebuilt to allow for 2-wheeler parking and ample walking area for pedestrians. That’s our cities version of ‘smart’ pavements.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, bike riding has helped give a different colour to everything that’s around me. When city riding wears off, I’ll look forward to bike rides out in the areas around town.

I want to Ride my Bicycle

I’ve been bicycling to work. I’m getting better at it gradually. Commuting on a bicycle maybe slower than a quick 2-wheeler ride, but has other benefits. It’s helping me avoid driving to work. I also get a short workout twice a day. It’s a different way to experience the ride home, the shops, the route and promises a lot more freedom than walking to work.

Coping with the traffic on a bicycle is getting easier with experience. At the stop lights, the entire width of the road fills up faster than you would expect. Almost always, it’s faster to walk your cycle across the crossroad than it is to wait and get through with the normal traffic.

The downside is the deep potholes I have to watch out for that. I think they can easily bend the wheel rims if hit when riding quick enough. At night, these are harder to see so I’ve memorised the route. Having high visibility clothing is also a great idea.

The bike I’m using is a Schnell Sierra which I think is made in Pune. It’s quick, lightweight and comes with a 24-speed configuration. I’m still getting used to changing up and down. On a bicycle, gear-changing is about anticipating when you’ll need to change up or down. I’ll also need to figure out which gears to avoid riding on to lower the wear and tear on the chain.

The plan for now it going all the way upto 15 March. That’s when I expect it’ll get too hot to keep going.

2019 is here, wish you dear reader a Happy New Year!