Riding in India – Two by Tandem

Dave Stang: Club Member

After the first week of work, Dave had the weekend off.  It had been suggested by Dave's co-workers that are from India to cycle in the Nandi Hills area.  This area is ~60km north of Bangalore and is a favorite location for local cyclist due to its light traffic and scenery.
 
Normally, we would not think twice about riding to a destination... but this is India.  Most of the roads are not labeled.  Buildings do not have numbers.  The local zoning is enforced to make things really look like an urban jungle.   There is no doubt that being new to the area that we would get lost.  So we did what everyone that travels here does.  Hire a driver for the day.
 
Cars in India are generally small.  How are we going to get a long tandem bicycle into a car?  The same couplings on our frame that allowed us to pack it into two suitcases to fly here really came in handy since allowed it to be placed into the back of the car in two pieces.
 
We arranged to have the car pick us up at the hotel in the morning.  The hotel was also able to pack us breakfast and lunch.
 
The driver dropped us off at the beginning of the road that lead to the top of Nandi Hills.  This road is 10km climb that has '40 turns'. 



After we got to the top parking lot, two school buses filled with children showed up.  One of the instructors came over to us and asked if we would be willing to take our photographs with the kids.  We accepted.
 
The kids were in a proper lines for taking a proper school photo when we walked over.  That ended once we got there.  The proper lines became a horse shoe shape around us and eventually became a full circle.
 
After taking photos, we were offered breakfast.  How could we refuse?   Out came a very large bucket (25 gallon?) of rice and spices that was used to serve everyone.  It was very tasty.  Of course the monkeys wanted food also (note picture with instructor throwing rocks).  We were able to talk to the less bashful kids as they were able to speak English.
 
After eating our fill of breakfast, many of the kids came up to us to offer their sweets.  I don't know about you, but this really touched our hearts since we have not experience this before.  We are in a country that has extreme poverty were one expect folks to be unhappy, but instead the people are happy and genuine.
 
For the next weekend, we were looking for a longer more challenging ride.  The Bangalore Cycling Group had provide many suggestions.  We ended hooking up with a local rider, Sebastin Francis.
 
Sebastin meet us at our hotel and we all went for a ride out on Sarjapur Main Road out to Sarjapur and then south on 35.  It was an out and back 75km long trip and the temperature stayed under a comfortable 90F.
 
Sebastin was a god send for us.  Not only did he determining an excellent route, he also showed us the commerce that is available on the road in India.  There are all these little stands (sometimes just a guy on a motorcycle) that sell bottle water, coconut juice, bananas, hot tea (chai), and other refreshments along the road.   They are spaced usually ever couple kilometers apart.  How cool is that!  Carrying food and water on a bike trip in India is not a problem since it is available at these stands.  This is a huge luxury when traveling by bicycle.

It should also be said that two white foreigners on a tandem bicycle is unusual in India.  We drew a lot of attention, but in a good way.  Folks in a car or truck would match our speed beside us and then asked us questions.  Common questions are: First time to India? Were are you from?  Where are you riding to/from?  What is your name? 
 
But it didn't stop there.  We would have group of motorcycles surround us.  This would cause mini traffic jams, but it also felt like we had an escort (or in a parade) through some of the small towns we rode through.
 
Sebastian stayed behind us for most of the ride.  We are sure he was amused by watching all the attention we got on this ride.
 
Editor’s Note:  There’s more – photos, descriptions of places visited in India and the experience of riding there.  Dave has documented the sights and impressions well.  Read more about Dave and Sam’s trip at https://plus.google.com/116748976876992370303  
And his concluding remarks are thoughtful, as you can read below.
 
Final notes on touring India by bicycle.
 
When planning this trip, we were warned that India was the most unfriendly place to bicycle.  Our experience was the other end of the spectrum.
 
It is interesting that when we were in a car, it was common for folks to come up and tap on the window and beg for money.  This never occurred while we were on the bike.
 
Even though India is a third world developing country, there is plenty of food.  The variety of spices available can make this a culinary experience not found anywhere else.
 
We especially like how we were were respect while riding on the road.  Our suggestion is to avoid riding in large cities.  There was plenty of road side stands so carrying extensive provisions was not required.
 
Lastly, we really enjoyed the people in India.  Of all the countries that we have ridden our tandem (India is the only foreign country so far), we like India best.
Bent Fork 2016-6 - December 2016 / January 2017

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