GET GOING Active Holiday The guide Know your bike Mountain Terrain Bikes or MTBs are built to handle rough terrain. They come with good suspension and thick tyres that provide extra traction while riding on mud trails. Road bikes are built sleek to boost performance and race against the wind, but only on tarmac. Hybrid bikes are a cross between the two. They can handle trails and are fast on tarmac (to an extent).
What to carry Riding these trails and tackling climbs requires a geared bike. A helmet is essential protection against falls. So are cycling gloves, as one tends to stop a fall with one’s palms. Cycling shorts will be helpful for a comfortable ride if riding long distances. Since cycling is a rigorous workout, it is important for riders to keep themselves sufficiently hydrated to avoid muscle cramps.
What to expect Hurting behinds Cyclists have to deal with the rather unavoidable pain of a sore bottom after their first long ride. The pain can be minimised with
padded cycling shorts, gel seats, and bicycle adjustments. Riders get used to it and get over the soreness soon enough. Challenging climbs The Western Ghats are home to some of the most beautiful and highest peaks in the south, so sharp climbs are to be expected on most of the routes. The climbs will be challenging and will require a certain amount of physical fitness and preparation. Joyous downhills What goes up must come down. The first day’s toil will pay off the next day. You will reap rewards in the form of wonderful downhill rides that go on and on. Beautiful vistas Leave behind the honking, traffic, and polluted city air. Expect scenic views and lungs full of fresh air. Lush forests, shimmering lakes, verdant tea gardens, sprawling grasslands, and misty mountain tops are a common sight during rides through these mountains.
Season Apart from the summer months (March to May), any other time is good for cycling
in the Western Ghats. The post-monsoon period is ideal: the mountains and forests are green and the weather pleasant. Winters can get really cold as you gain altitude. If you can handle the rain and the constant dampness, the monsoons (June-September) are a wonderful time to witness the magical transformation of the mountains.
Operators Bangalore Ascenders is a nonprofit group run by adventure enthusiasts. They organise cycling tours, in addition to treks, and volunteering camps all across India. Besides having a good time, trips promote ecoawareness. Since tours aren’t commercial and participation is voluntary, the cost of each trip is split equally amongst all participants. My trip cost 1,500 (www.bangaloreascenders.org; schedules and registrations online). Bengaluru-based Cycling and More organises regular weekend rides in the Western Ghats. Participants must have their own bicycles and riding gear. CAM takes care of transporting the bikes
and providing food and accommodation during the trip, as well as a support vehicle for emergencies or if a rider gets too tired en route (www. cyclingandmore.com; weekend tours start at `4,000). Cycloadventure is a Goabased outfit that creates biking tours that help discover the natural beauty of the state in an eco-friendly way. They plan the trail, take care of all arrangements as well as provide mountain bikes (www. facebook.com/cycloadventure; call Roshan on 89751-45277/ Puja on 83086-00699; weekend tours start at `2,000). Muddy Boots offers one-day and multi-day cycling tours to suit individual preferences. Trips are to unexplored destinations in Wayanad, Malabar, Nilgiris, and Coorg. They provide an imported bike and riding gear, support vehicle, snacks, accommodation, and a knowledgeable guide who can handle emergencies (www. muddyboots.in; weekend tours start at `5,000). In Bengaluru, bikes can also be rented at www.ecowagon.in and www.veloinvillage.in starting at `500 per day.
There’s nothing quite like the rush of success after a tough uphill climb, such as this one en route to Munnar. Hard work is rewarded with a ride through beautiful tea gardens.
114 national Geographic Traveller INDIA | april 2013
Cycling story published in National Geographic Traveller India[April 2013]