December is not just the month when we get to hear the Christmas bells jingle, it is also the time of the year when a motley group of bicyclists convene for one of the most awaited cycling tours in India, The Tour of Nilgiris.
In its 10th edition the tour was spread over 8 days, covering 1000 Kilometers with close to 14000 meters of elevation gain. The Tour takes the riders on a journey from the Silicon Valley of India; Bangalore, through the city of palaces; Mysuru, the coffee plantations of Coorg, and the pristine forests of Bandipur, before treating with the breathtaking views of The Nilgiris and then looping back to Mysuru on the final day.
I tag along with my team mate, Sakthiprakash for 8 days of bliss in the hills on a bicycle. Experience Nature – is the tag line that goes with The Tour. It was Experience Nature Unlimited and each day delivered a unique treat.
A big shout out to Heini Sports India for the awesome support with the super awesome kits (yeah.. we did ride with custom kits for each day) that made the ride so comfortable every moment that we were on the saddle..!!
The tour started with us hurrying to beat the early morning Bangalore traffic to Mysuru with a quick sprint on the NICE road. This is ‘that’, one time when cyclists get to ride the butter smooth dual carriageway. We rode along the Coffee County – Coorg, caressing our senses to the scents and scenes of the coffee estates and plantations of Coorg. We had a peek at Gods Own Country crossing the Tholpetty forest – A part of Wayanad wildlife sanctuary. The eerie thought of encountering a lone tusker around the next corner gave us enough motivation to keep the legs spinning. Upon reaching The Blue Mountains, we rode off the beaten track to cruise through Kookalthurai – The Vegetable Basket of The Nilgiris, and then soaked in the breath-taking views of the cloud capped Kodanadu Peak.
The tour was just not about riding through the beautiful landscapes, but also experiencing the beast The Nilgiris can be, The Kalhatty Climb…!! A 12-Kilometer-long, Hors Catégorie climb, one of the steepest motorable roads in the world. The climb was unrelenting, and keeping the bike moving ahead was a tall challenge and the only wish I had was, to get over to the top. “I started the climb slowly and steadily with the water bottles topped up and a load of nuts and resins to replenish energy reserves through the climb. The formula was simple on paper at least; keep pedaling, two sips of water every 15 minutes and a couple of nuts and resins every half an hour. The sight of motorised vehicles struggling to go up the steep gradient bogs you down. There were multiple times in this stretch when I searched for the nonexistent lower gear to find respite from the suffering, but only to hear the click of the gear shifters. This climb was not for the faint hearted. I gave it my all to ride, walk, crawl and complete…!! You can get over Kalhatty, but cannot conquer it”.
“Hailing from Coimbatore, riding the tour has been in my to do list for over three years. The Tour to me was about experience and taking me to the next level as a cyclist. The routes that we rode through, in The Nilgiris, was a total surprise. Didn’t know that places with such beauty existed so close to home. Not just the views, the ride just took my breath away”, quips Sakthi. In line to the words of George A. Moore, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. “.
True to its vision, The Tour was not about the destination that we reached. It was the journey that we set out, the challenges that we overcame and the camaraderie the we exhibited that makes it an Experience of a lifetime. A humbling and exhaustive experience with nature…!!
Star Studded Tour
- Alexi Singh Grewal – American Olympic gold medalist of Indian origin – 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles
- Srinivas Gokulnath – First Indian to complete the 4900 Km, Race Across America (RAAM) in Solo Category
- Kiran Kumar Raju – Indian National Mountain Biking Champion, 2015 and 2016
- Tour Facts
Tenth Edition of the Tour
- 3 States, 8 days, 1000 kilometers and 14000 meters of elevation gain
- Hors Catégorie climb – Cycling term for a climb that is steep beyond categorization
- 128 participants from over 8 countries
- Organized by – Ride a cycle Foundation
Thanks for reading..!!
Do drop a note and share your experiences about riding in The Nilgiris enchanted by the beauty that abounds..!!