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A Saddlesore Story

 

After a year and a half of riding my ninja wanted to really go for a long ride. The bench mark was set already by the iron butt association as the baby ride called the saddle 1600 k which has already been done by quite a few of Xbhpians. For me I had to ride for 24 hours and cover some 1600 kms or more saddle sore or no saddle sore. I was planning to this for a year and especially since I relocated back to my home town at Thiruvananthapuram,I was planning to do it some time after the sabarimala pilgrimage season gets over by 15 Jan 2012.


 

Having done 800 kms in July 2010 doing double the distance could be possible. After a lot of deliberations on the route narrowed down the route to Thiruvananthapuram, Nagercoil, NH 7, Madurai, Krishnagiri, Kancheepuram and back. The roads from Thiruvananthapuram till NH7 is pathetic to say the least. The surfacing is okay till kerala border after that only GOD can help you till NH 7. The narrow road from thiruvananthapuranm to NH 7 83 kms away is wrong choice by any standards to start a saddle sore so much that one single large vehicle in front can choke your drive for kilometers at a stretch not to mention traffic blocks of the worst kind at kerala check post at kalayikkavila . in spite of knowing and facing the realities many a time on this route, the foolish patriotism to start the ride from home town overruled logic. So the plan to start the ride from kanyakumari was quitely buried. Now to fix up a suitable date. Good weather, light traffic etc. So the plan was to start on a Sunday and found the day was 29th Jan 2012. I had to take a chance with the bike and any thing going wrong means there would be no service. That was the down side. Now Sunday means less traffic on the route schools are closed ( no children running around to test your riding and braking skills morning and evening) also crossing salem city will be easier as on a working day salem highway can be a pain with heavy traffic. Also the pilgrimage season to sabarimala ended by 15th jan 2012. means a lot of traffic is not on the roads/highway. So 29th was an ideal day.
Now what to stuff on to the bags. The usual things plenty of snacks,water ( No Redbull ) I hate redbull to say the least. Tools , foot pump, puncture kit, spare key,torch, some paper to document the ride, camera 2 cell phones clear and dark visor for my helmet, bike manual, some lemon, salt ,soda, first aid, a check list on what to be done on each stop. All the refueling stops were planned. Fill up in Thiruvananthapuram, next fill at Madurai BP company pump, next one at BP company pump at Thoppur, I could return to the same pumps on the way back.

On 22nd had a simulated pre ride for 50 kms on the same route from Thiruvananthapuram and was back . it was also to check out my new airoh helmet and see how it feels on extended wear. decided to stick on the planned route starting from Thiruvananthapuram on 29th.

I was planning to start at 5- am from Thiruvananthapuram so got up by 3-30 am packed the bike first, bath , breakfast, and was ready to go to starting point at althara ATM after taking blessing from the althara temple. ATM receipt obtained started my ninja and I was on my way. The road as expected had some traffic and reached aruvalmozhi near the NH7 by 6-43 AM. Total distance covered was 83 kms. Now this patriotism started to take its toll and I have lost almost one hour at the start of the ride upto that point. After reaching the NH7 maintained a steady pace for Madurai. The wind was very strong and was pushing me but I managed to put up speeds of about 80 to 100 kms. Was planning to make up for lost time and after riding for about 100 kms my neck and shoulder started paining as I was straining too much to cut the wind and keep up the speed. I was really afraid that I may have to end the ride at Madurai due to neck pain and eased off on the throttle to maintain the speed of 80 kms to 90 kms. Reached Madurai at 10-00 am and had the first big break of the day. Here also I noted that I was loosing time and has made little progress to gain the time I had lost in the first place. Helmet and jacket out ordered a dosa and relaxed. The neck pain started to ease off and I thought I may be able to pull off the ride but a pace much slower than what was planned.
Started the third phase from Madurai to Thoppur a distance of 262 kms. Bright sunny day and quite windy. Was maintaining speeds of about 80 to 100 kmph on this stretch as I could not risk speed and aggrevating my already bad neck and by 1.55 pm reached Thoppur for the fuel fill. Checked up the time and adding my mini butt break s enroute and long break at Madurai the lost time remained the same more than an hour remined the same and I sensed that a drastic correction may be required if I have to complete the ride of about 1600 K within 24 hours. There was no way I could make up extra time of about 2.5 hours needed to go back to my home from NH7 till Thiruvananthapuram. Time was running out and I had to take a decision fast. The only way was to ride an additional 90 kms + on the highway towards Chennai ( from my planned turn around point I will have to go another 45 kms up and come back) so that the rides terminates at the end of NH 7 near kanyakumari. That decision threw the whole planning out of gear and I hopped to get a ATM / fuel pump at the yet undecided turnaround point and no idea of an ATM at the end point while coming back. Filled up and started off in about 15 minutes for kancheepuram via Krishnagiri and vellore. Near ranipet toll gate met up with good friend and ninja owner Dr.Sudershan. told him that my timings are messed up and I will have to ride the extra distance. In spite of waiting for more that an hour to meet me, he insisted on accompanying me till the turn around point about 48 kms ahead. So finally made it and at 5-45 pm got my turn around receipt and at a fuel station near sriperumpadur and had a extended break of about 25 minutes. Took some photos had some snacks which I was carrying and we were rolling towards kanchipuram. At kancipuram said bye to my friend and I started the return ride.
Wind had eased off a bit and I was feeling some relief on my neck and shoulders. There was a fair amount of traffic on the road and the road was patched badly at may places and pot holes at some places till vellore. Dipped my ninja badly many times on the pot holes and I was wondering whether my wheel was intact not to mention my poor back and strained neck to take this beating. So riding in this condition reached Krishnagiri and Thoppur by 10.27 pm covering 278 kms. Filled ninja to the brim and was ready for the next leg to Madurai. Wrote the log and started the ride. My time was still very poor and behind schedule and was quite doubtful of ever making the ride in time. I was not unduly worried to complete the saddle sore as i wanted to ride 24 hours non stop and if I could complete it would be an added bonus. So took off from there and crossed salem sleep started to kick in and before you realize you are sleeping where as you feel wide awake. Took two breaks on the road side and tried to put in some sleep. Even though I could not sleep the time was taken and finally reached Madurai BP Pump at 2.36 am. Filled ninja up and found that the timing was to complete 229 kms under 2 hours. What happened after that was one crazy ride. The road had side and centre markings and I knew I had the bike to do it. Told my ninja to be ready and it was get set and go. The bike was shooting like a rocket and the only concession was the frequent turns,bridges where I eased her a little else she was clocking 140 + ( I just could not even look at the speedo as visibility at night was less and I was fully concentrating on the road ahead all I know that my throttle was touching the max) and me ducking down finally crossed thirunelveli and after some time sleep started to kick in and I had to ease up a bit but still clocking 120 kmph. Reached the end of the highway and without even checking the clock went to the ATM at mahendragiri. Obtained the receipt and I had done the Impossible.
Lucky to be in one piece but body was under repair. During this high speed dash the safety aspect was not thrown to the winds. The route was familiar- Adequate reduction in speed while climbing up and down bridges as the road level is uneven if you do not reduce speed you simply fly over. Not to forget the excellent brakes of the Ninja more than a couple of turns the apex was miscalculated and I had pull in and things were well in control even at the blistering speeds at which I was on.No photos there as early morning at ISRO gate ATM nobody allows photography. So now to back track another 85 kms back to Thiruvananthapuram my home. So much for patriotism. Painful ride with bad roads bad traffic , sleep kicking in finally reached home in one piece. Wife was waiting half satisfied as she did not sleep the whole night. She knew I have done it / But hate the process of going alone. Had a cup of home made tea and and that was it. Some thing which I wanted to do very badly after owning my ninja was done.