After my previous cycle ride experiences, where I took the routes from Bhimtal to Munsiyari and Bhimtal to Chopta, I decided to go for a longer, colder route. The route from Shimla to Kaza is a stretch that I have done before on my Royal Enfield Classic 500 and thus I knew what to expect.
The first thing I would like to mention is the great support offered by Ankit Jain and Asif Khan. They took my car along for backup, motivated me through the route and of course brought me back in the car.
The obvious difference obviously between the motorcycle and the cycle, a Btwin Triban 500 would on the climbs and the way it handles off road patches. While on the motorcycle, the climbs dont really matter and its easy to not to notice the climbs in most cases as the engine pushes the steed forward with the effortless twists of the accelerator. Similarly, the offroad patches are not much of an issues on the motorcycle due to the comfort which the shockers and plush seat provide, while on the cycle which lacks both these comforts, off road patches are pain, both uphill and downhill.
The total distance was 424km which I covered in 3 and a half days. I could feel a lack of strength throughout and I will be training harder to be strong enough to get through this route in 3 days max. Below is a road and altitude map.
Now, everyone who is reading this knows the route and conditions, so I will just get down to the important parts, point by point.
- Major Climbs : The 2 major climbs on this route happen between shimla to Narkanda, which goes across on the first day. Its a rather comfortable climb for most part. The hotel I stayed in at Shimla was on the outer edge of town and just at the start of the highway. I always choose to stay at places which are off the town as it helps to avoid traffic and some harsh bends which are often found in mountain towns. Harsh town bends right at the start of the day, when the body is not warmed up will take their toll on your muscles and thus must be avoided. The second and the major climb of the whole route is the Khab to Malling Nala stretch. This is roughly a 30km stretch which takes you from the bottom of the valley to the top. Even though it is quite a climb, its easier than some climbs I have done in the past, so I was able to push through it pre-lunch.
- Bad Patches : There is one big bad patch in this route. It starts off around 70km after Rampur and ends just a bit before Poo. The total distance of bad patches in this stretch is around 35-40km (as of March 2018). This is much lesser than before and will hopefully continue to reduce in length with time. The second bad patch is between Sumdo and Tabo. This patch is around 10km in length. Apart from this, roads are all good.
- Nutrition : So, I went in March, which is not the season time for this route as the Kunzum pass is not open for traffic. Because of this, the availability of hotels and restaurants is less, especially as your get closer to kaza. So, the food availability reduces. I need 3 meals a day, breakfast, which I used to have at the hotel I stayed in at night. I arranged for the breakfast at night itself as there is hardly a chance that you will get breakfast in the morning. For lunch I always had Rajma Chawal which is easily available in Himachal and for dinner I was again dependent on the hotel I was staying in. Apart from the meals, the whole day nutrition which includes protein, glucose, multivitamins is extremely important. I carried all these items with me in the backpack, consuming them regularly. I also had biscuits in the bag for times when I could not find a restaurant in time.
- Hydration : For hydration I used my 1 litre hydration pouch in my backpack. I mixed all my water with glucose so that it would give me a continuous supply for energy and taste good. Not using glucose with water is a mistake which I have made before and it lead to a decline in strength on every next day of the ride because the body ran out of fat to burn and burnt muscles instead.
- Gear : I used my Btwin Bib Shorts along with running gear like tights, shirt, gloves and basic shoes. For the cold, I used a Rs.299 fleece from the hiking section of decathlon and had a down jacket which I never used while riding. I also had a basic rain suit. Its important to keep the clothes light as they make for a lot of weight in the luggage and on the body
- Luggage : I used a Forclaz 22L air backpack. It was sufficient for my storage needs. It fit my clothes, tools, spares, nutrition, water, shaker, gadgets etc. But it was not the best choice I think, as the design is such that digs into the lower back and thus becomes painful as the day progresses. I will choose a different backpack next time. I also used a tube bag and a small under-saddle bag.
- Return : My return from Kaza was with Ankit and Asif in the car. We loaded the cycle on the car using the car mount and drove all the way back.
I this was my overview of important aspects of the ride. I know I have little experience and this is just my 3rd ride and thus there is a lot to learn in all the aspects. Hoping the next ride will be more comfortable, faster, tougher, better.