Well begun..

..is half done.

That’s what I was taught growing up. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well with my plans to write a post-a-day through 2011. Began well but broke down in middle of 2nd month when a string of bad news and unplanned travel hit me. I did try to give it a shot a couple of times after that but never got going.

Nonetheless, I don’t let any setbacks dissuade me (or I won’t be here, or anywhere, today). So, here I go with another plan – 30 days of biking. Yes, the challenge is on and today was the first day.

Today was also the (hopefully!) last day of test riding bikes for purchase. So, between test rides and the rides to/from the two shops, I rode about 15km today. That was the ‘well begun’ part from me. Let’s see how the well done part turns out.

Continue reading “Well begun..”

Well begun..

30 days of biking


I’ve signed up for #30daysofbiking and am eagerly looking forward to it. If you are into cycling, were into cycling at some time in your life or would like to (re)connect with cycling, I suggest you give this a try. There are no constraints on what to ride, how long to ride, how to ride, who to ride with or where to ride. The distance is up to you. Just ensure that you get on that bike at least once every day irrespective if it’s a ride around the compound, to the grocery store or a 600km audax. Really, what are you thinking? Just go to 30daysofbiking.com and sign up. Then ride, and share…

In other news. The bike has been in pretty sad state lately with a lot of muck and the badly bent back wheel. I took care of some of its problems today. Spent over an hour cleaning the bike thoroughly – with a brush & a toothbrush to get the muck and dust off, then with a wet cloth to wipe the stains and finally with WD40 to clean the really nasty stuff including the greasy grime accumulating between the gears and sundry other unreachable places. Of course, I later spent another half an hour thoroughly cleaning my makeshift bike garage (a.k.a. Rags’ kitchen and the only room in our apartment without carpeting). The effort was so draining that I was dripping sweat almost all through in this not-so-warm weather with heating off but I loved the outcome. It is a special feeling to see the bike smiling at you all cleaned up like it was when I first got it home.

Since I’m planning to buy a road bike sooner than later, I’ve decided to put full mud guards on the hybrid so I can use it comfortably in all weather conditions for city commutes. Getting that full mudguard set was the second task of the day. Popped in to the new Halfords outlet that has opened up just around the corner and signed up for their bike care plan. If you have a bike, are not sure you can service everything yourself and have an Halfords nearby, I suggest you too sign up for their bike care plans – costs just £18.99 for an year’s contract which includes free labour on any parts fitting (bought from them or elsewhere) and some free servicing too. Given that the alternatives, Evans Cycles and Cycle Surgery, had both quoted upwards of £20 for fitting these mudguards, the bike care plan has paid for itself already. So tomorrow (or day after, if things get really busy), I should get the clean and shiny bike back with a full set of mudguards.

Yes, that still leaves the issue of bent wheel and I really need to research first which wheel I want to get. Of course, the bike care plan shall help there too since I can now buy my first choice wheel from the place which has it cheapest and then get it built & fitted at the neighbourhood Halfords, FoC. :)

Boarman Road Team BB30 2011 Road Bike
Click image for larger size

Finally, while at the store, I also saw one of the road bikes that is in my ‘short’ list of 10 bikes – Boardman Team BB30 with 105 groupset and a really sweet price point of £999. The bike has got some really good reviews on both road.cc and in the (I think) Cycling Active. On a subjective note, of all the bikes I’ve seen so far, this is the only one whose colour scheme (Gray body with White & Yellow decals) I really liked. Of course the bike, like most road bikes these days, pairs the 105 in rear with a compact chainset while I want a triple if I go with 105. I’m sure though that this can be resolved. The bigger issues lie elsewhere.

First, Boardman sells in the UK exclusively through Halfords and the guys and Halfords told me that they do not allow test rides. This is a big issue. How can I spend a kilo pound sterling on a bike without even test riding it? At the minimum, I need to feel how comfortable I am with the fit and the riding position as well as get an idea of how responsive it is on corners and climbs. Despite falling in love with the bike on first sight (compared with not being attracted to some other bikes on my list despite seeing them many times in stores), I will not purchase it without a test ride. What a pity to rule this bike out :(

And that is not the only issue. The other issue relates to geography. If I buy this bike, I intend to use it for a few years. However, given our situation right now, we aren’t sure how long are we in UK for. A global brand like Trek is unwilling unable to service its warranty in UK on a bike bought in India barely an year ago. Will Boardman, a British brand with a no-test-ride policy, even entertain my warranty servicing requests if I move to another country tomorrow? I’m not so sure.

Thus, despite all that it has going for itself, this bike drops from top 3 to rank bottom in my short list of road bikes. Sad.

Looking forward. Tomorrow, I shall hopefully get my current bike back with the new mudguards on it. Also, time, mood and weather permitting, I shall head to a few other bike shops to feel and (fingers crossed) test ride some of the other models on my short list.

You, in the meanwhile, should sign up for #30daysofbiking, get your bikes cleaned and serviced and get ready to roll.

30 days of biking

Ride 8, 2011 – Uxbridge

Ride 8, 2011 - Uxbridge

My closest relative in this country, dad’s elder brother, lives in Uxbridge. Being the eldest son, he had gone to India for grandpa’s last rites and only came back last week. So, last Friday I went over to see him. There was also the small matter of collecting the barfi (Indian sweet) that Ma had sent for me through him :D

The ride, overall, was pretty easy – hardly any inclines, only a light headwind and temperatures not too much below double digits.

But (yes, there’s always a but), that didn’t meant there were not hiccups. For one, on the ride to Uxbridge, I decided to avoid the main roads as long as possible. That meant I had to take the inner roads with lotsa turns which meant just one thing – stopping every 500m to check the map on phone. That meant no momentum and really no ensoiment*. Was further disappointed when I finally did join the main road (A4020/Uxbridge Road) and saw that the road had dedicated cycle lanes and paths on both sides while I’d been struggling with directions and traffic on the smaller roads avoiding it.

Had a good time with Tayaji (north Indian term for dad’s elder brother) including a long chat that wouldn’t have usually happened if we had our better halves around. He even made coffee for us :)

The trip back should’ve been much easier with the earlier discovered bike lanes and the wind on my back. Unfortunately, barely 3 kms into the ride back, I felt the back tyre touching the breaks. A quick check confirmed the fears – it was out of shape again. It also reminded me that I’d forgotten to restart the GPS on the way back. I loosened the brakes enough to stop the touching but the ride thereafter was cautious, and unhappy. I haven’t ridden 500kms since I got the bike back from Evans after wheel truing last time and it’s spoilt again.

Nevertheless, the ride was easy – cycle lane to Shepherd Bush and then a quick straight route home through Notting Hill and Maida Vale. A nice and simple 50km ride to-from Uxbridge.

Continue reading “Ride 8, 2011 – Uxbridge”

Ride 8, 2011 – Uxbridge

Ride 7, 2011 – Upton Park

Ride 7, 2011 - Upton Park

I haven’t been blogging much lately and do realise I need to get back to it. However, since I still can’t get my head together enough to write anything sensible, I though I’ll start small and easy.

So, this is another brief post about a ride I took earlier this month to Upton Park. The purpose of ride – you wouldn’t have guessed it – was to buy ‘Indian’ Maggi at a store there. Of course, there was also the added incentive of having some good chaat at Vijay’s Chaawala across the road from the store.

The ride to Upton Park was relatively easy but had to stop frequently to check the route on mobile. Apart from the first 2-3kms to Camden, the whole route was completely new to me and frequent stopping didn’t help my speed. Towards the end, the route ran on the outer boundary of Olympic Village and gave me some brilliant views of the upcoming facilities, specially the much talked about aquatics centre (which, on the outside, is complete except for polishing the looks). Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying the camera for this ride so couldn’t take any decent photos.

London2012 Aquatics

Later, I had to do a double take on a small section and then find a new route for the final 5-km section as the route suggested by mapmyride.com had been closed as it passed through the Olympic park.

Anyway, reached Upton Park in time and bought enough of a stash of Maggi to last us a month or two. Followed it up with an alu-tikki chat, some jalebi and a chai at Vijay’s to top up the benefits of the ride.

'Indian' Maggi

The ride back wasn’t easy though. The wind was now heading into me, the light was failing (I’d taken too long gorging at Vijay’s) and the cold was starting to bite. Nevertheless, made home in good time – faster than the to-journey since I didn’t have to look at the map too many times.

Over all, I liked the ride. The route, despite having quite a few traffic lights and turns, was better than the cycling through central or City. The terrain was mostly flat with only a few mild rises here and there. And, most importantly, there was good desi food to be had at the end. Now who doesn’t cycle 20 odd kms for a good samosa, jalebi and chai? I definitely do :)

Ride 7, 2011 – Upton Park

42 less cars…

42 less cars...

Love the idea and execution of the campaign. Simple, yet hard hitting… on several counts. Great job Brompton!

Wonder when will the building/office managers and town planners realise a simple fact and provide more (and secure) bike parking. Even if we were not to consider folding bikes, I’m sure I could easily fit in at least 7 full length bikes in that parking space. And we’re talking hatchback parking here, the long sedans, SUVs and limos take up much more.

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42 less cars…

25/365: A perfect Sunday

It takes a brave man to ask people to describe their perfect Sunday on a Monday/Tuesday. That brave man is Scott, the bril fella behind the DailyPost blog.

Before I share, a few clarifications. I’ve always been a 5-day work week person so most of my dream Sundays start on a Saturday. India’s too big a country with wide variety of climates, cultures and people. So, the perfect weekend I’ll have at home, near Delhi is very different from the perfect weekend in Delhi or Joka or Bombay or Goa. Due to this huge variety, and my in built lazy chip, I shall skip it and concern myself only with the perfect weekend here in the UK. Which for me means mostly LDN.

It was a rare sunny summer weekend in LDN. The fact that I was still hungover suggested it might be a Saturday. Or Sunday. Assuming it was a Saturday, I got out of bed before 11AM and started the process of getting ready. Booting up: Brushed teeth, emptied bowels, drank a glass of orange juice, had a bowl of cornflakes and caught up with Google Reader and email. Logging in: Filled the water bottle and water bag, packed a banana and a chocolate bar or two. Checked contents of backpack, tire pressure and brake pads, strapped on the HR band, wore the lycra shorts, covered with baggy shorts, wore a light tee and the sleeveless hi-viz jacket, shoes on. Kissed Rags bye as she still lazed in bed catching up with her twitter feed on the phone. Took the bike out, started Garmin. Launched.

5 hours on the bike with short breaks for banana & chocolate bars. And a Cafe Americano at St. Albans. Long hours on small countryside roads. Small villages. Big Gears. Sunshine. And a smile. It may have had been over 100 kms but I’d felt just as I did on those rides around the neighbourhood as a kid.

Got home, took a quick shower and Rags had already finalised plans for the evening – latest Hollywood thriller / rom-com followed by drinks and dinner at one of our favourite Mexican restaurants. She seemed pretty happy, despite me being missing for quite a few hours on a Saturday. Or was it because of me being missing for a few hours on a Saturday. Must have been on the phone for hours with her girl friends back home sharing gossip and plans. I was just happy that I was getting Mexican for dinner.

Sunday morning. Rather noon. Got pulled out of bed by Rags. All that hugging, kissing and pleading barely won me an extra 15 minutes of shut eye. Made a mental note: disable her Sunday morning alarms before sleeping and put the phones on silent. I was informed, pretty sharply,  that we were late for our brunch meeting. Washed up. Actually dry cleaned, as we use to call it back in the day. Dressed up. Checked her bike tyres and brakes. And off we went.

Biked to Holborn for a late brunch with friends. It’d been an year and they’d still shown surprise that we cycled around. Biked around, I’d corrected them. It’d been 6 months since I first came to this place – My Old Dutch Pancakes – for brunch. Had faithfully visited it at least once a month ever since. Still do. A large Dutch pancake and an espresso shake later, set off for the longer bike ride – to Richmond Park. Chelsea. Hammersmith. Castelnau. Barnes. Richmond. It was her first time there. And was she excited to see the deer! Of course she didn’t ride up the Sawyer’s Hill. And she spent two hours just lying around in the grass. I used the opportunity to put the camera to some use. And took in some sun. Ahh summer sun. You were some beauty that evening.

Getting Rags started again was a struggle. I wonder if it was the summer sun, the beautiful park with its deer or the thought of a long ride back home. Anyway, we did get home after I got cursed at a few times for going ahead too fast. Or too slow. Don’t remember which one it was. Do remember getting cursed though.

It was still sunny outside, so, after a shower, we headed back out again. Some really wacky Sallu bhai movie had just released and Rags being a die-hard fan had wanted to catch it early. I agreed, there wasn’t a better way of taking our mind off the Monday morning and its blues. Don’t remember much of the movie but 2.5 hours of Sallu bhai’s antics were enough to give us a pain in the stomach from laughing. Helped her forget any pain in the legs as well. She dined on her favourite cinema hall hot dog. I stuffed up on nachos. Got home just as the rain predicted for Monday made an early landing. And, just like that, it was over.

A perfect weekend. A ‘just another’ weekend.

So, there. Done with another post a day. And when you’re done pondering over all the grammatical errors in the post above, do read Rags’ quick take on her perfect Sunday. Typical Rags, I tell you – wants everything! :)


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25/365: A perfect Sunday

20/365: Important Stuff

Topic of the day is: What’s the most important thing you’ve been putting off? Why haven’t you done it yet? What do you need to make it happen?

Good topic, can keep it short and sweet.

Anyway, here is a short list of things I’ve been putting off:

  1. Get the cycle’s back wheel repaired. Been putting it off just because I’m embarassed of going again to Evans and reminding them of the issue. The issue: They trued my buckled rear wheel and it was bad within 5 days. I went back and they promised to true it for free but when I went back to collect the bike an entirely different set of employees charged me for it. I was too embarrassed to ask. Anyway, after some goading from Rags, I did ask them for a free repair next time. And after much reluctance, they agreed to it. I got it back a few days later. But thanks to snow couldn’t use it and when I could, noticed something wrong – the front wheel inner tube had been changed, from schraeder to presta! I gave them the bike to true rear wheel and they changed the front wheel. Anyway, after much shouting on twitter, their SM team contacted me and got the branch manager to contact me. That was more than a fortnight back. Now when I go, I shall have to explain all this again. And the tediousness of it all is making me postpone it everyday.
  2. Apply, formally, to TD, EC, CS, Inq and TC. After much thinking, I decided these are the firms I really want to work with – each of them is in one of my two key interest areas and they’re either small or innovative, just the kind to keep me challenged as well as happy. Why haven’t I applied so far? Procrastination. And the fear of rejection. In fact, I did informally approach the chief of one of them on twitter other day. He was polite. And curt. Scared me even more.
  3. Visit relatives. They haven’t been always good to me, but then which relatives ever are? And they were never so bad towards me that I won’t visit them despite being in the country for over 6 months. This is downright insulting on my part, and I’m ashamed of my behaviour. Why haven’t I visited? Because of the fear of two questions – what do you do and why are you not married. I don’t think I can answer these questions to their satisfaction yet. I’m satisfied with the answers to those questions, but they will never get those. So, I hide.

So, there. Three fat points and I’m done with the obligatory post of day. Shall soon be writing another one though – on my experience of installing Ubuntu on my old laptop, and my first impressions of this new OS.


20/365: Important Stuff