in the middle of october, i took two weeks off and went travelling. i flew my cycle to panjim. pedalled from there to palolem, a beach in south goa. then cabbed it to dandeli, the wildlife sanctuary in north karnataka. a day of birdwatching and trekking followed. and then, i cycled to anshi tiger reserve. and then, after a day of traipsing about in the rainforest/semi-evergreen forest, i pedalled down to karwar. rested for a day there. and then pedalled to gokarna.
shortly after getting back, i wrote this timepass little column for et. classic marketing con, this one. para one sells the dream of a cycling vacation. para two says you do not even need to be fit to cycle. para three sells the dream some more. and then, the sucker punch — para four. which talks about the gear you MUST have.
i told you. a classic marketing con. :-)
that said, the trip was great. my first cycling holiday. and it went like a dream. will have to do more of these. and soon. and i should take a shot at writing about the experience itself. the experience of cycling, i mean. not about the places i went to and the stuff i did. but an article in the mould of tim krabbe’s the rider. or matt seaton’s the escape artist. or robin harvie’s the lure of long distances. or ted bishop’s riding with rilke. or melissa holbrook pearson’s the perfect vehicle.
the last two books are about motorcycling. something i used to be passionate about till a couple of years ago. in both, it is the experience of being on the motorbike which gets scrutinised.
take something as simple as downshifting as the bike enters a turn and then accelerating out as the turn ends. you ease up on the throttle as the turn draws near. your left hand draws in the clutch. the left foot taps the gearshift. the bike downshifts, starts to slow as you enter the turn. next, even as the heel reverts to its earlier position, the left hand gently releases the clutch. by now, you can see the end of the turn and so, the right hand gently squeezes the throttle open and the bike, given that it is in a lower gear, slingshots — there is no other word for it — out of the turn.
and here is the thing. for downshifting, that is five actions executed in a tightly defined sequence by two hands and one foot in less than a second. what is this if not choreography. a dance between me and my buce (which is what i call my bullet).
it is strange that this spirit, this experience, gets described so rarely. strange that it gets written about so rarely even though it is the experience — of running, cycling, motorbiking or whatever — which draws us to them.
while on that, here is something i had written ages ago to some friends. “nothing sticks in my mind as much as that bike ride to ladakh. i can close my eyes and summon up entire reels of images. and then, there are fragments. downshifting, leaning and then accelerating out of the gentle curves that comprise the highway that connects the hill stations of almora and nainital. or, another road, i forget which one, where, for a magical moment, the bike passed underneath the shadow of an eagle circling in the sky. it was geometrically perfect. i saw the eagle’s shadow move on the road towards my bike. and then, the shadow covered the bike’s tank for a fraction. and then passed by. what are the odds of something like that? that a bike moving since morning from delhi and the shadow of an eagle circling since whenever would actually meet on a road?”
some day, i will have to take a stab at writing about this cycle ride. it will be good to try and write something evocative. to try and describe cycling as the body and the soul experience it. as opposed to my usual cut and dried analytic stuff.
some day. hmmm.