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Dungarpur to Godhra – 150 k

(A few days without internet so don’t take “today” literally for the next few posts …)

Today was a long ride- 150k. Rolling hills and village to village through a beautiful valley for the first 60k or so, then moving into desert again and finally onto a highway.  The highway was basically the only option to get from point A to point B.

I did fine, but a lot of folks struggled in the heat and most didn’t finish the ride.  A lot of the route was over newly paved black asphalt with no sun protection. The black tar radiates the heat up and you can feel it pulsing up from below.  Your water is not just warm, you could shower in it.  In fact it was significantly warmer than the shower I took tonight when we arrived in our basic but serviceable hotel in Godhra.

It takes practice to learn how to keep your body going on long ride days in tough conditions. Generally like most things you have to learn the hard way.  The “bonk” is the highly technical term used when you get dehydrated and sick on the bike. Nausea, dizziness, weakness… it only takes once to recognize what’s happening and make darn sure it never happens again.  It’s all about electrolytes, fluids and – on long rides –taking in enough calories consistently to keep your blood sugar stable.  I was fine, others really struggled.
Zip ties are arguably the most useful tools a cyclist can have on a ride like this.  Because even after the first day of riding, I now truly understand what they meant about the roads.  And why they recommended that I a buy a suspension seat post (which basically has a hinge built in and gives way on bumps, saving your tush). After my handlebar water bottle cage rattled off after a particularly rough stage of road, I borrowed a zip tie to re-attach it. When I got to the hotel I zip tied on anything that might bounce off. I go over every bolt on my bike on rest days tightening it all back down. My cleats on my shoes even got loose today and I had to do a road repair to reset it.

Trusty (my bike) has her hands full on these roads. Trusty is a 2004 Bianchi Eros Donna. I have her hung like a Christmas tree with stuff:  3 bottle cages, a camera bag zip tied to the stem with a makeshift directions holder written directions in a zip lock bag) clipped on top.  A computer, a bell, a bento box for snacks, a huge rear seat bag and chain and light.  And my bike jersey pockets are full:  extra butt butter, Nuun, my I-Phone that also has and app with maps of India (app for everything) a paper map and rupees. 

It’s possible I’m carrying almost as much weight as my bike frame.
Trusty is a solid, well-built little steel road bike.  I have 25mm tires on her – very narrow for these roads so I feel every bump and have to be careful as they are less stable than wider tires.   She may be one of the lightest bikes on the trip … more challenging bike handling on uneven roads but a blessing on smooth roads and for any climbing.
The roads go from asphalt that’s clean and easy, to asphalt so pitted with holes and patches you have to follow whatever line you can find that looks less painful- often right down the center line or off the shoulder in the dirt. We navigate cow and camel and goat dung and gullies and a lot of butt-killing speed bumps. Deep sand (where I have the most trouble, clay, gravel and rocks – it’s now become all in a day’s ride.
I’m glad I brought spare parts. There are no compatible parts here for my bike, so if I break something I don’t have with me it must be replaced by borrowing from another rider (and everyone is really great about pitching in to help each other out) or ordering it which can take weeks. So I’m hauling around spare cables, cable housing, bar tape, a middle chain ring, extra chain, tires and tubes and spokes, extra pedals and other random parts. 
We carry 2 duffle bags –a permanent bag that is left on the van and only pulled out on rest days and a day bag. The Perm bag has extra meds, tons of tubes of butt butter (to keep the chamois soft – butt care is key when you ride day after day), enough Nuun to hydrate an army (my electrolyte of choice), spare bike parts and packing materials. 
Tonight I get to use the micro fleece sleeping bag liner and pillow case I’ve been hauling around in the day bag for the first time – this hotel has not sheets, one towel, no toilet paper and I bathed out of a bucket in the bathroom.

Parking lot breakfast in Godhra

Big change from the palace yesterday.  Breakfast was in the parking lot rather than the palace dining room.  But it’s ok – it’s interesting to be in a real city off the tourist path.

Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA