Kashmir to Kanyakumari Expedition was a challenge which I had been looking forward to attempting since past few years. I had to undergo a strict training regime, immaculate planning before the event and relentless efforts by my support crew members. It tested my determination and all the endurance cycling experience. It was a wonderful event and the complete team had a wonderful time covering the length of incredible India i.e. from the beautiful valleys of Kashmir to sun-soaked beaches of Kanyakumari. The route from Kashmir to Kanyakumari was about 50% flat with rolling terrain for 30% and the balance 20% was mountainous. Out of the total time of 201 hours 45 minutes of the expedition; my riding time was 156 hours 10 minutes.
I was following a strict routine during the event which was being repeated every day and nothing was left to speculations. My total off-saddle time was 45 hours 30 minutes in 08 days which included physiotherapy sessions, bath, nature`s call and sleep. I had slept in a hotel only once (Ludhiana), otherwise, all my sleep breaks were in our follow vehicle. The bike was getting its routine maintenance checks whenever I was off-saddle. Every time I used to stop, the crew used to be ready beforehand with all the requirements to minimize the off-saddle time. Our navigation was immaculate and as a result, we never went off-route avoiding any additional distance. The event was well documented on paper as well as on camera by the team.
I had used SCOTT FOIL 20 for this expedition and it proved it`s prowess in helping me cruise through the 3605 km long journey. The terrain was mostly flat and the mean machine suited best for it. I faced no mechanical breakdown during the event except 02 punctures. I found the aero geometry with the positive angled stem best suited for my long pulls, as this combination provided me utmost comfort along with good cruising speed. I used a single saddle for the complete event and I was glad that I didn`t face any issues of chaffing/saddle sores.
A brief write up on the journey is as follows.
1) Day 1 - (21st Oct 2019) Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) to Jalandhar (Punjab): As per the plan, we were to start the expedition at 0500h but we started at 0149h to take advantage of the low traffic on the mountainous roads in the Kashmir valley. The temperatures were as low as 2o C and I had to utilize my complete warm cycling gear to withstand it. As we had started at night time, we were not able to capture the picturesque Kashmir valley in our camera. We reached Banihal Tunnel at 5 am and didn`t face any issue in crossing it. We reached the Cheneni-Nashri Tunnel at 1000h, but we were not allowed to pass through it as no cyclists are allowed inside the tunnel and perforce we had to take the longer route via Patni Top (additional 26 km with an elevation gain of 1500 m). Road construction was in progress in sections between Banihal and Udhampur, which disturbed the complete rhythm of the ride and resulted in a thick layer of dust on the rider and the bike. We had to clean and lube the chain numerous times due to dusty conditions en route. We reached Udhampur at 1330h and took Dhar Road towards Samba which was not in a good condition but it was worth, as it saved us from extra 50 km via Jammu. We covered 455 km (283 miles) on the first day.
2) Day 2 - (22nd Oct 2019) Jalandhar (Punjab) to Mathura (UP): It was a swift ride on the second-day as the roads were good and the weather was pleasant. While crossing New Delhi, despite being the busiest time of the day (1800h), we decided to go through the heart of Delhi to obviate about 50 km by taking the peripheral highway. Despite we were out of mountains the previous night, but the night temperatures were still below 10o C and warranted warm gear at night times. We covered 504 km (313 miles) on the second day.
3) Day 3 - (23rd Oct 2019) Mathura (UP) to Lalitpur (UP): We encountered the worst roads on this day. The stretch from Agra to Jhansi was interspersed with bad patches of road and these patches were very difficult for me to ride on a road bike. The dust from the road left the bike dirty and regular cleaning & lubrication was required to be done. We covered 423 km (263 miles) on this day.
4) Day 4 - (24th Oct 2019) Malthone (MP) to Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra): The roads were good and the night temperatures were now conducive to ride without warm gear. As Day 4 came to an end we were on NH-44 close to Pench Tiger Reserve. The road construction work was in progress and we had to travel about 16 km without any road. The rains were making the going even tougher. Usually, there are no rains in India in late October, but due to the Cyclone Kyarr hitting the Western coast of India, all of Southern India was under heavy rains. These rains and the winds due to the cyclone were a major concern for us for the coming days. We covered 389 km (242 miles) on Day 4.
5) Day 5 - (25th Oct 2019) Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra) to Armoor (Telangana): After the tiger reserve we reached Nagpur and it was still raining. The crew was worried that if the weather conditions remain the same, it will be difficult for us to keep up the pace. We covered 418 km (260 miles) on Day 5.
6) Day 6 - (26th Oct 2019) Armoor (Telangana) to Kurnool (AP): The weather conditions were much better now but the headwinds were giving us a tough time in maintaining the pace. The roads were good and my next target of Bangalore was only 600 km away from Hyderabad where my parents were waiting to meet us. The effect of Cyclone Kyarr was notably visible as our movement at night was severely hampered due to the heavy rains. We covered 385 km (239 miles) on Day 6.
7) Day 7 - (27th Oct 2019) Kurnool (AP) to Bangalore (Karnataka): The heavy rains in Bangalore forced us to stop, as there was no visibility ahead and the water on the roads was making it difficult to make out the road boundary/potholes. We bypassed Bangalore city to avoid the traffic but found the village roads in bad shape due to the frequent rains in the past few months. We covered 339 km (210 miles) on Day 7.
8) Day 8 - (28th Oct 2019) Bangalore (Karnataka) to Virudhunagar (Tamil Nadu): As the weather improved, the positive effect was visible on the mileage covered by us. The going was smooth and the team was in high spirits as the finish point was in close proximity. We covered 508 km (316 miles) on Day 8.
9) Day 9 - (29th Oct 2019) Virudhunagar (Tamil Nadu) to Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu): The last day of the expedition was a fast paced ride and the reasons were obvious. The complete team was in upbeat mood and we enjoyed these final km with a bit of tailwind to support us. We covered 185 km (115 miles) to finish off the final stretch at 1134h.
Our team was fully excited about the expedition and we had been preparing for this event from the past 05 months. Apart from their routine duties, everyone was multi-tasking to leave no stone unturned in making this an event a success story. I take this opportunity to thank all of the crew members for the relentless and cheerful effort in making this journey possible with no unpleasant incident. The credo of our crew was -“Full Power - 24 Hour”.
Along with this event, we had run the campaign `GO GREEN`. Our team has been associated with tree plantation events. Leading by example, our team had planted 5000 trees in Wasali Shivar, Nashik in Aug 2019.
Kashmir to Kanyakumari expedition was a memorable experience and its memories will be cherished by all of us.