The website was incognito, but the announcement was attractive,a theme, riding a bike on the full moon night at the Thar Desert. Ever since I have heard about a midnight marathon in Bangalore, the concept of a moonlight event stayed with me.
When I registered, it was for the excitement of riding in the desert in the full moon night. When I got there, I realised that it was a different madness altogether.
People came from places like Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bangalore, Chennai etc.. A few international riders like Japanese who lived in Gurgaon were also around. Only those with passion and zeal for either the cycling sport or for life in general would have taken time off on regular working days to go cycling since the full moon night fell in the middle of a working week.
The ride itself was daunting, the final challenge being, riding the desert from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer and back within 24 hours. There were other categories of 250km, 150km as well as the 50 km. Tee off at 10am in the scorching heat of the desert sun. The road was undulating with big pot holes and within a kilometer or two, several riders had to pull over to fix their punctures — the tubeless tires, needing replacement. Many people carried spare wheels in the support cars that followed them throughout the ride.
Riders assembled at the start point two hours in advance to complete registration formalities and to get their bikes inspected. Nighttime riding mandated that bikes had front and back torches to ride and reflective jackets. Time cards were distributed to all participants so as to get it stamped at relevant check points; this helped track the participants for the distance covered and to determine the pace of riding.
There were check points set up at every 25km, serving Gatorade and Red Bull, Fruits and Energy bars. Besides stamping the time card, facilities such as air check for cycle tyres was also available.
Professional bikes from world famous companies such as Giant, Trek, Bianchi Fuji, were seen parked all over. These bikes would easily be ranged of Rs50000-200,000. Lightweight frames easy to carry, made of carbon or aluminum body with 8, 16 even 21 gears. Most were road bikes, thought several mountain bikes could also be spotted. While some riders had carried their bikes mounted on carriers, behind their cars, others had dismantled and put the bike in cartons and shipped it by air. Arriving a day in advance, bikers were busy assembling their bikes and generally resting in anticipation of the endurance test the next day.
Nutrition and hydration being of critical importance, bikers loaded themselves with carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and pasta before the ride, as well as carried food in the support cars. Long distant riders were seen carrying multiple sippers with isotonic drinks. It is a myth that aerobic exercise gives a rider licence to gorge on food, as a matter of fact bikers watch their weight, since excess weight can affect performance. However, proper nutrition and hydration helps the rider in peaking performance and controlling cramps and muscle aches due to water loss.
While racing a triathlon, duathlon, marathon, bicycling race or any endurance exercises definitely involves several physiological functions to ensure body mobility and readiness to deal with repeated muscle contractions, however just being physically fit isn’t the answer. A lot of mental preparedness too is required while dealing with discomfort, breakdowns, accidents, disappointments, loneliness and even darkness. The mental state of the athlete can greatly predict the level of performance.
Riding the Thar Desert on a full moon night was far from a dreamy notion, instead it turned out to be a lesson in appreciating the passion, zeal, potential, self awareness and endurance capacity the bikers have. Kudos!