Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain

When I fell in love with my bicycle and cycling, I got curious to explore it a bit beyond the ordinary urge. The first thing I was keen to know is how to keep it in top condition and what all are the DOs & DON’Ts for the maintenance of a modern bicycle and what are the vital parts of my beloved Trek 4300D. I got more and more curious as I was exploring the net to discover more on the subject of bicycles. While reading some well researched material on the net and watching few videos on Youtube, I learnt that the chain is the most important part of any bicycle which needs utmost attention all the time, on daily basis actually. The biggest enemy of bicycle chain are dust and water and one can not avoid these if cycling honestly.

What do I do? is the next question … As they say … first thing first …  so everytime, you come back home after riding your bicycle, the first thing is – pick up a clean rag (lint free), hold it gently in your palm and the chain run through. Now, hand pedal the cycle in reverse direction slowly. This will clean the loose grit. But this is not enough as a routine for days. Therefore, one needs to do degreasing of the chain periodically (depending on the terrain and the usage of bicycle), which certainly needs special brush. There is no fixed schedule for the chain cleaning. One has to assess the grit visually.

Everything about a bicycle is simple. That’s what makes it such a great machine to ride — and also a great mechanical work of art!

Onething is clear that a healthy chain is the most crucial component for the pleasure of riding and cutting the cost of spare parts. A clean and well lubed chain makes cycling a pleasure as the gears shift easily and the noise is reduced, needs less energy to peddle. One must know what is a chain, if you wish to understand the maintenance of it. There are so many moving parts in one chain, can you imagine – more than 110. The grit which clings to the chain, works like emery and each part of the chain gets worn out which results in `loose chain’. Actually each part  gets worn out by fraction of a millimeter and results in total wear of more than an inch in total length of a chain. Usually, the misnomer it as `extended chain’.

Many people have encashed on this issue and come up with so many products for the maintenance of chain, i.e. dusting, cleaning, degreasing, lubing, etc. Before you dive into it, please learn from the experienced cyclists or from the professional mechanics about which product is worth its price and which one is a must.

There is a plenty of well researched material on the net about exact techniques of chain degreasing and lubing. But what I have tried to put here is a bit for Indian ways of doing things.

  • Degreasing agents are expensive and the price becomes double and four times sometimes when one buys from companies like FireFox. Just get a reliable dealer other than FireFox, one can get these things much cheaper.
  • Do NOT use WD-40 for degreasing ever.
  • The first thing to do is brush off the grit from chain, teeth of the rear cluster of gears, front chainwheel, derailleur, etc.
  • One may use diesel for degreasing. Either pour over a good piece of clean rag, wrap it over the chain, run the chain through it for two minutes or so, repeat the process by changing the rag. The best would be pour diesel into the cavity of the brush shown here in the photo and then run the chain through it and change the dirty diesel two three times. There is nothing which can be better than this, not even closer to it by miles!
  • One must give a gap of few hours between degreasing and lubing, preferably overnight, so the degreasing agent has dried up. One must hand peddle the chain few times during this idle period and let it run through a piece of cloth gripped gently in your hand. May place the bicycle in the sun, so the degreasing agent dries up.
  • Once degreasing has been done properly and the chain has dried, the degreasing solvent has disappeared, the chain can be treated with lube. In my opinion dry Teflon lube is really good for normal conditions. It shall attract less of grit. Teflon as a material needs no explanation. This lube can be bought in India now. If you do not have any of these lubes, you may even use any engine oil. Just pour few drops over a piece of cloth (with multiple folds and layers) and spread it over your palm and hold the chain and hand pedal it.  Just repeat two three times. But it will attract grit while cycling.

DO NOT FORGET  to dry-wipe clean the chain of your bicycle after every ride ! I could not resist buying two chain degreasing brushes for Rs 680 (used to be Rs 1200 when I got one from overseas) each from FireFox, I had no other choice in the market. But its worth every penny … will save you hard rides, fast wear and tear of gear system of your bicycle, etc. One must buy this brush if you love cycling and your bicycle. Dirt, grease, grime and stubborn soils are cleaned with amazing ease!  Unfortunately, only FireFox is selling these brushes.

Advertisements

Myself in front of My caravan KINGCOBRA

Remember, realising dreams and having freedom comes at a price! Though, everyone loves freedom and have dreams to realise, but most do not know how to get it in first place and then how to maintain. Everyone has to pay a price for it. And then the next biggest hurdle for most of us is that we want everything in this world.

I have always loved freedom, earned it and have not let it go at any cost, though paid time to time for `renewal’ of it.

Breakfast time, Caravan on the way Barmer to Jaisalmer

I wanted to travel and enjoy doing what I love doing without any restrictions like a free bird. I have succeeded doing that quite a bit and have understood about what is the package in this deal, clarity in your thoughts and vision is a must, however simple you may be. There is nothing which comes as `stand alone’, we must know that anything in life comes as a package, some understand and most do not. One must be prepared that `ups and downs’ and sometimes `living on the edge’ very precariously are part of this kind of nomadic life which is full of freedom.  I take it as adventure, while doing it one has to sweat occasionally. LIFE HAS A LOT TO OFFER US, WE MUST KNOW HOW TO TAKE IT. Its equal for everyone, there is no disparity on earth but we deny ourselves a lot, which life offers as free, almost.  First, take what it gives and its plenty. Beyond this is `greed’  which will never let you go closer to freedom and your dreams. 

For this freedom, I hung my army boots, which I loved the most, bid a tearful adieu to the Indian army in 1990. And for this freedom, once again, I consigned my new profession of fliming to the winds. I loved this new profession of wildlife film-making a lot like a mad young man does and held it above all in my life, therefore got exploited as well. I loved it the most in my life, but then once I got into it, realised its `dog eat dog’ world every where i.e. faking, lies, high-jacking others work, exploitation were common even in the field of wildlife and wildlife film making. I had dreamt of a wonderful world in this field and expected everyone to be a nature lover truly thus very close to God, but the fog which every naive and passionate man has, dissipated soon. In the beginning, everyone in the field of wildlife is good, it seems, but as they start realising the need of money and competition (greed) in life to keep ahead of others and this starts `coloring’ as new profession, all turns as black as the other world of materialism.

Rajbir (my wife) and Sukhmani (our daughter) having breakfast, after we spent our night on the outskirts of NAGARHOLE NATIONAL PARK, next to Kabini Lodge.

In 1999, when all my friends, classmates and coursemates from the army, were all married had their own houses built; I thought of making my own caravan instead of building a house. I knew this would give me immense freedom to travel and visit villages to spread around about snakes and snakebite. I just did not bother what future had for me, I was excited about having great time on my caravan and travel around in India, as I dreamt. I have no regrets about investing my money into caravan, though I could have bought a three bedroom flat for the same price in those days, which stands at Rs 150, 00, 000 (rupees one and half crores as of now) today. But the freedom and fun I had in life, is undoubtedly priceless and most of you envy me. The money which I paid or say lost to have this adventure, will come back to me but the time gone past will never. I made the best use of my time and money.

In April 2000, I got married to a wonderful lady Rajbir, who has supported me for anything and everything I do in life; I have never imposed  myself on her for anything. My wife and me travelled a lot till 2003 when our daughter Sukhmani arrived in our life and continued till she started going to school in 2006. What a wonderful life for 6 years ! I was paid for this long holiday by Him.

My family enjoying outdoors!

With the grace of Almighty, I have total freedom, I can do what I like doing and I do not have to apply for leave or wait for the weekend. These days, I get up early, go out for uphill cycling and there is no pressure to get back home on time, as I do not have to attend an office. I take my own sweet-time, depending on the energy and the distance I have done uphill and the breeze in the folds of hills of  Morni – the only hill station of Haryana state. How lucky I am … I am next to such a wonderful uphill track for cycling, the best in the region I bet; no traffic, smoke & noise free, full of oxygen, the only noise I heave is that of my cycle chain or the birds, langurs, trees and bushes whooshing of trees. try to imagine about the life I am having … but do you know the price I have paid for it. I am sure not. None of you will have the courage to do so. You have tried controlling your life too much and also let others control your life. Now, most of you are controlled, unfortunately, by your wives. Most of who deny access to your freedom when you try to realise your dreams of having camera or a bicycle to enjoy some freedom or to recharge your energy. Marriage is a subject which all young Indians must understand before they decide to tie this `knot for life’.

Now, its too late for you to emulate me, long ago you had the opportunity to take this turning, the least treaded path, but it did not have that stylish `signboard’ but I knew that I wanted to be a nomad and roam these open `pastures of life’ where there was no one to discourage me or dissuade me. I married to someone who is a wonderful human-being first, she cares for me and I reciprocate. This another `secret key’ to open the gates of freedom for you. I knew I would roam around like a shepherd with my flute to accompany me and enjoy the music of life flowing through my own `flute’. Everyone gets a `flute’ to play and enjoy in life, some sell it for short term gains and some just dump it somewhere unknowingly. What I walk as `freedom’, you have to work hard to spare time for `morning walks’ even so you could control your `blood pressure’. But I enjoy it like a sparrow, pay no price everyday, though I paid before you all, when you most chickened out to pay. For I knew that I have to pay some price and I paid without hesitation. 

Inside view of my caravan KINGCOBRA …

Soon after I hung my boots, I thought of tourism as my new profession (after all one needs money to survive). Tourism offered me plenty of freedom to travel and that too at others expenses, also my old experience of the army service would be useful. But this new profession could not take off in 1991, which I had planned to set up at Madras (now Chennai), I had no local support at all and was not a rich man to survive till the project had taken off in that `foreign land’ of Tamil Nadu. After about six months, I was forced by the circumstances to look for a job. And after I worked in private sector two years, I realised that I am not cut for any jobs and I have to fend myself. I have been a free bird eversince!

Since I have tasted this freedom and the dream of travelling, seen most of you looking at me with envy filled in your eyes, thought of sharing this with you all. I know most of you, rather majority (about 98%) are in jobs and can not spare time the way I can. I would be offering you all a new kind of travel and photography – full of freedom and next to free air  … so to say… I am about to commission an outfit named as GREEN DOT EXPEDITIONS. Please take a peek and you would love it.

I love the quote of Steve Jobs – “STAY HUNGRY – STAY FOOLISH”. This is the secret to success and happiness.

Our caravan KINGCOBRA was designed by me and my wife and fabricated at home, though I had a carpenter to do wood work and I did the fitting. I did the air-conditioning, electrical fittings and water supply all by myself

My kids, wife and their friends inside KINGCOBRA …our caravan

PHOTO: AFP/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

The day I got this idea of solo paddling to Ambala Cantt to call on my father, who had undergone surgery for one of his eyes, none of my friends liked it and tried their best to dissuade me. All were concerned about my safety on the Indian roads, especially Chandigarh to Ambala, having high number rashly driven cars. Frankly, I would like to admit that even I got scared to ride on NH 22, after having heard all my friends. But I had made up my mind whatever could be the consequences, I had done quite a bit of mental rehearsal of all the safety point to be kept on my mind while riding to Ambala. It turned out to be quite a safe trip, no threats; for I kept myself quite alert and handled all the U turns and service lanes and the motorbikes being driven by the young lads of rural Punjab (quite mannerless) head-on which means in a wrong direction. I am sure you know that this is never noticed as an offence by the Police in Punjab. I hope they would wake up in next few years at least.

Its not to discourage you all about cycling, it’s the truth that India is NOT a safe country for cycling at all; leave the main roads apart, even the inside roads, streets, lanes and bylanes  are not safe at all. But majority of Indians still ride cycles to work in small towns at least. I think, we all have learnt how to live with the menace on Indian roads and quite dangerous to cyclists.

The safety of cyclists is quite a big concern even in many developed countries, not that India alone is bad for cyclists. Though, in those countries they are working on it, Indian system is still sleeping over it and God knows when they will wake up. Only God runs this country.

This morning, I did 30 kms of cycling and then was heading to a friend’s house to measure my weight on his swanky scale which is digital and accurate. While I was about to get on to the main road, there is a service lane before that, a woman was driving her car absolutely in wrong direction and then at high speed, worst she did not even stop or slow down at the crossing where I had the first right to get on to the road. Trust me, not exaggerating even an ounce, if I was not alert and I did not have hydraulic disc brakes , I would have been hit very badly by this speeding b…….ch.

It was like a routine for her and she did not even blink her eyes, leave alone to stop and being apologetic. All my Indian friends know how well mannered most of the Indian car drivers are, when it comes to such incidents. And I was not going to give up; with my strong legs by now and being on a speed worthy bicycle, I chased her like a dog (of course not smelling her back side) to her house. She had definitely not expected me to be there as she alighted from her car quite in peace. I confronted her with politeness – I wish you had not been speeding in a service lane and that too in a wrong direction, throwing all traffic rules to wind, I too have kids and family of mine waiting at home. I wish you had stopped to say sorry at least. Friends, I am sure you do not need a full description of the situation and her plight, she just did not know what to do and I left her there itself after that brief sermons. At that moment, she was like a `bheegee billi’ (do not translate this in English and imagine …. ). I was polite to make sure I am a good example of a good citizen not `tit for tat’, unless it was `tit for tit’….. not trying to be demeaning a woman. I wish she was with her man, it would have been difficult to face another Indian, as I am also quite aware of how to do `tit for tat’ but that doesn’t bring a change in the attitude of people.

Just be extra cautious on Indian roads and enjoy cycling. And be a bit extra cautious when women are driving expensive cars, they know their hubbies can deal with anything by paying any amount for compensation, so they drive carelessly, casually and carefree to enjoy life at the cost of your safety.

Your life has no meaning here … Take care of yourself and you are safe…

Never let the flat tyre deflate your spirits; I am sure most cyclists dread a flat tyre. But if you are well prepared and quite aware then its a matter of fun fixing your flat tyre, while sitting on the side or under a shady tree on the road. If you are a passionate cyclist, then you have to take it in stride with a sportsman’s spirit. You have to learn how to enjoy all related issues of cycling i.e. degreasing of chain, flat tyre, puncture after puncture sometimes, a fall, etc. Just like you do in marriage !

Recently, I cycled 55 kms to my home town to see my father, who is an avid cyclist even at 78 years. One my return trip, just 2 kms short of my base, my rear tyre got flat. I tried to pump air but it did not work, air leak was good. I opened my waist pouch, which had my puncture kit and some other essentials.  Here I realised that I had packed my puncture kit sort of casually, means I did not check back properly like an army guys should, if all the items were there. I never expected a puncture on a good road. I did not have tyre openers. I had to push the cycle home !

This incident made me damn serious about the puncture kit. I also discovered from few Blogs that Slime Skabs are the most useless and horrible patches one can carry. In India, I feel the ones made by OMNI are the best.

Puncture is inevitable for a cyclist, better it is to have a good puncture kit in place. I found that many dread it and wish that they do not face a puncture. Nowadays, when most have no time to waste, one must be well prepared for such an event of a flat tyre. One need to know how to fix a puncture trouble without any external help. Its damn easy … but may not sound easy at first. Best is to be prepared well in advance, don’t be caught unaware.

Tyre Openers

Many years ago, when I saw my father fixing punctures at home, we giggled and called our father `kanjoos’ (miserly). But he did it for valid reasons : since there was no cycle-shop in the near vicinity so it was to save the hassle of dragging the flat cycle to a cycle shop, save time, assured quality of workmanship at home, save some money as well (in those days every penny did matter), etc.  I admire him now, he was way ahead of his times, as always for many things in life. He has taught me lots of valuable things about life being father and he has been my teacher as well upto 5th standard.

Here is how you have to go about handling the situation, which needs your attention much before you place your ass on the saddle of your cycle to paddle it. One should have a portable puncture kit with a small handy air pump and know its each item well. My suggestion is that you must have tried fixing one puncture at home, before you .

Best is to carry a spare tube in your saddle bag. Select a saddle bag which has got few pockets made of mesh like material and two three compartments.

Useful link with photos about how to fix a puncture.

Not many Indians will believe that within three weeks of cycling my body rejuvenated; as if knees got oiled with best lubricant and all those creaky-croaky noises disappeared like a magical event. My health got much better than anything could have done, with just an investment of Rs 39,800. Isn’t it worth? My cycle is one of the best blessings in life as of now. I am feeling younger by 10 years within a month’s cycling. I hope I can remain on this wonderful saddle of my bicycle for life.

Soon after two weeks of cycling, I decided to make a solo cycling trip to Ambala Cantt., where my parents live. The inspiration? My father who is an avid cyclist at even 78 and has countless long cycling trips to his credit and that too on those conventional bicycles, which are a drag compared to these modern bicycles.

The day I told my father that I am contemplating a cycling trip to Amabala just to meet him, he was ecstatic about it and declared a reward of Rs 2000 for me, reward in appreciation is real reward, no matter how small is the amount. I was equally excited to do the trip, as I knew by now that this would make my father very happy.

On 30th April 2012, weather was quite pleasant, as it had rained the previous evening, it was quite tempting to take off for Ambala. But I did not wish to cycle on NH22 when road could get wet, so had a morning session of local 15 kms. I wanted to set out  fresh with full of morning energy, as 55 kms of journey needs good stock of energy.  Later when weather cleared, somehow by about 1100 hours I was pushed by my spirit and the itching legs. I quickly packed my small backpack and took off at 1200 hours, a wrong time of the day, even if it was pleasant morning. I did not realise that its summers and the moment sun is shining bright, it gets warm. After about 20 kms, I realised the mistake but was too late; doing reverse 20 kms and if done same forward would take me to Ambala, this pushed me to go ahead. I had two major breaks and had water many times, exhausting trip, hot weather. By the time I entered Ambala Cantt. I was desperate to reach home, badly tired after exposure to the sun. I paddled my last 5 kms with shear will power, I was keen to shelter under a shady tree till evening.

This solo ride has been dedicated to my loving father… This is the least I could do to make my father smile like never before in life and after a long time. About month ago, his one eye had replacement of lens, through surgical procedure. I realised that parents can be made happy with these small little gestures. They have done so much for us, made so many sacrifices to which we are oblivious and not even keen to know. Also, I don’t think one can ever repay for what parents have done for their children. They need only our touch and care and togetherness with smile to them. If they need only this much, then why do we deny them. Probably, we fear that they may take away all our earnings for their needs. Most of us are lost in such a rush of materialistic world, we do not want to think of all this. I took a vow on that day that I would do anything for my parents. I could see in the eyes of my father that he wanted me to spend an extra day with him, though I wanted to return after one day only. I did a big favour to my father by staying an extra day? Shame on me if I thought like that… My heart was filled with joy and transformed that I could make my father happy, no words can express that feeling of me. I am lucky? Yes, very much. Ask those of your friends who lost the guiding light and guarding shade of father at childhood. I think, majority of Indian parents are still lucky as their children do care for them, after all the Indian culture has not yet faded. But many Indian around me are `software coded’ by their wives in such a smart ways, they do what they are signalled for. Probably, most Indian men are enslaved by the beauty of their women greatly. And these Cleopatras of Indian blood despise their in-laws like a `thorny bush’. 

Lucky me … I got a wife who supports me, kids and my parents very affectionately. Any guest coming home even at odd hours is welcome and offered food, so many of my friends have been surprised with the warm welcome they get here. She never discouraged me from buying this bicycle in spite of the present circumstances, very tough. Neither she said a word against my cycle trip to Ambala Cantt. Though some of friends sarcastically accuse me of enslaving my wife that I keep her busy for my comforts. Many have asked her questions to know what makes her happy leading such a life  – she has explained them the joy she gets in all this has no bounds, one  just needs to understand life a bit, which is so wonderful thereafter. I am lucky in life, I have been able to continue to live with great freedom, which most men lose the day they get married. As we say `feathers clipped on the wedding night’; whenever I see a wedding in India – I sigh – One More General Sacrificed …

Next morning very early,  I poked my friend Vinod Sareen of Foto Craft out of his bed for a basic and quick photo session. We have been friend for 30 years now, have learnt a lot from him in the field of photography. This was for FB posting and to start the Blog on arrival at base. Some of FB friends had already started asking for photos of the trip, so had to do. After all, friends do matter.

On the 3rd of May, after two days of good heart warming break at home with my parents, I took off at 0500 hours for return trip. The bag got a bit heavier as I was carrying lots of love shared by my mother, she had packed eatables for me and my wife, I could not say no to it, though it was looking tough in the beginning. If I had agreed she wanted me to carry so much as if I was on a car. I touched the feet of my parents for their priceless blessings, as its done in our family (practice followed by most Indians, those are not yet spoilt by the `chill pill’ and `slut walks’ etc. etc….).

With two brief breaks enroute to have `lemon water’ which I carried from home, few water breaks while being on the road itself I reached home by 0825 hours. Not to forget, one puncture in the rear tyre, just 2 kms from base. A good lesson about how important it is to have a good puncture kit with good handy air pump.

About two years ago, my father had undergone angiography at Post Graduate Institute (the best in the whole of north), doctors told me that his arteries are as that of a young man. For he has been cycling all his life.  

After some heart-burns with Firefox Bikes (in India), my Trek 4300D arrived to please me and to restore my health. It has already given me a heart which made me forgive all the irritating and painful things FireFox Bikes did after I had placed my order for a bicycle with them. I shall talk about that someday later, right now its to share my celebration about this new arrival at my place  that is Trek 4300D.

In the past one year, I had very distinct symptoms of deteriorating health, though at slow pace, I felt. But I was quite worried and depressed; alarmed with failing knees and foul smell in my urine, which could be dangerous. And I did not have courage to visit a doctor, lest he advises me knee replacement, as I was thinking I am another `Atal Bihari Vajpayee’ in the making. I could not walk down the stairs from my 2nd floor flat, without distinct limps and wobble.

As I have already shared the story of how my Treak arrived. Three days, after I had placed order for my bicycle, I went to the military hospital with Chirag (our son), who had to undergo physiotherapy for his broken elbow on his left arm. I thought of having routine medical tests. I was told that my cholesterol and sugar levels were high, I was sweating with the news. But doctor told me its manageable right now, though with medicines only.

I am sure that most of you will not believe that within 15 days of cycling, my knees got 90% better. What else I can ask from my new sweetheart – Trek? I should be worshiping this bicycle now everyday, I think. Its like God sent it for me to save me from disease and bless with much better health, which I had sacrificed while battling against the after effects of recession. Since, I have survived the battle which ensued after I lost everything to recession bloodbath, though with the help of my close friends. Now, I have to regain the lost health standards for me, my family and my work.

After the miraculous results of cycling, I am more and more encouraged to cycle everyday. Its not only good for health, its a great pleasure riding these bikes, no words can express the joy of riding these wonderful swanky bikes, which are so very well made. I have started cycling around 22 kms on an average everyday, sometime more. Recently, I did a solo cycle trip to Ambala Cantt. I did 80 kms in a day, return was 55 kms in one day non-stop. It has helped me regain my lost faith in my body and  stamina. Thanks to my sweetie Trek 4300D !!!

Cycling has not only done good to my health alone, it has altered the route of my life now. I have become more disciplined about life style, work and perception. Cycling has encouraged me to be strict on my diet, it helps a great deal. Though, I have not been `indisciplined’ about my diet ever, I have always been careful. But now I am on a good diet in a planned manner. I do not know if its cycling or diet control but the smell in urine disappeared within a week or so. I do not know what it means, but its a good sign for sure. New life now …  I have all the reasons to celebrate it now.

I am rediscovering myself. Now, I sleep well as I have started sleeping early to get up early for cycling. My bicycle has improved my discipline like no one else could.  It has changed my perception about work, health and fun. I have always g felt and followed – work never ends, even if you work relentlessly for 24 hours a day, so why kill myself for something which will not end, even if I end myself with over work for unusually long hours. Once again, thanks to my bicycle.

Now, my sole goal is to live as a healthy man which gives happy life for sure. A healthy man will not die of empty stomach (capable of hard work to earn), even if you are penniless. Best is to work, not over-work and kill yourself with cholesterol, stoke and other disorders.   I have added cycling in my passions and hobbies. I am learning about cycling – which means about the maintenance of cycle, consulting doctors for diet tips and health, consulting the senior cyclists about the related subjects, etc.

I have all the reasons to celebrate this new life and share my joy of cycling with you all. I am sure many of you can get benefited with some posts here. I am going to take some of you along on this wonderful journey on these two simple looking wheels. I shall be posting and sharing tips about good health through cycling, all about cycling, including technical issues.

Its a wonderful journey which I have begun by rediscovering myself with my Trek 4300D and I am celebrating everyday.

Tag Cloud