Chandigarh Kasauli Cycling | A Mini Himalayan Experience

Remember Steven Smith pointing towards the dressing room seeking  directions regarding DRS call in front of a jam packed audience? That’s not brainfade but mala fide intention.

Brain-fade is a state of mind that renders one useless to think or act.

Imagine pedaling on the lowest gear and all of a sudden you come across a pothole so big that you try not to land face first into it, so you make a sharp move and land leg first instead into the very pothole followed by your entire body sinking into it. Now because you are already in the lowest gear, you don’t know how to restart. Should I sit first and pedal or should I continue pedaling standing up. Thus you end up spending one full minute in that pothole contemplating your next move.

That’s brain-fade.

That’s what a major part of this cycling journey was all about. Mainly because of a hostile gradient that lasted approximately 30 kilometers and partly because of a blazing sun that seems to be working overtime these days.

Despite the fact that the steep gradient lasts only for 30kms, cycling to Kasauli from Chandigarh is no mean feat because of the terrible road conditions. And if you choose to ride on a Sunday, it becomes even worse because everybody in and around Chandigarh wants to get drunk on the road leading to Kasauli.

Now that I have ranted enough to express my displeasure about bad roads, let me tell you why this is the second best ride in and around Chandigarh. The road passes through a thick forest that uncoils itself as you gain altitude. A magnificent view of the Punjab plains is an added bonus. The onslaught of summer sun is minimized to a great extent by a thick cover of pine trees.

The first best is obviously Chandigarh-Morni-TikkerTal-Chandigarh because of the challenging gradient involved. If you are planning to ride in the Himalaya in near future, nothing prepares you better than these two rides.

Chandigarh Kasauli Cycling Map and Stats
Chandigarh Kasauli Cycling Map and Stats
Chandigarh Kasauli Cycling Expedition
Chandigarh Kasauli Cycling Expedition

chandigarh-kalka-kasauli-cycling-expedition-old-trail-3 chandigarh-kalka-kasauli-cycling-expedition-old-trail-4 chandigarh-kalka-kasauli-cycling-expedition-old-trail-1

The Ride

Start Time: 0336 AM

End Time: 1235 PM

Total Riding Hours: 9 Hours

Total Distance Covered: 102 Km

We took the old Kalka-Kasauli road via Jangeshu-Mashobra which is practically free from traffic in the mornings so one can ride unreservedly without worrying about the onslaught of Punjabi SUVs moving in and out of Kasauli.

Because most of the dogs have been appointed at the railway crossing by the Kalka administration, the stretch from Kalka to Kasauli is literally devoid of any stray dog menace, so you can focus all your might on your pedal. Old road passes through Industrial area Parwanoo and that could be the reason behind the poor condition of this road. That’s a blessing in disguise I would say as you get to feel Himalayan road experience at a low altitude. A mini Himalayan ride replicated at low elevation is a great training exercise.

Kalka Kasauli | Old Road Gradient Map
Kalka Kasauli | Old Road Gradient Map

Because I intend to ride once from my hometown to Baralacha and then hang my boots cycling shorts, here’s what I’ve figured out is necessary to be able to ride in the mountains.

I haven’t yet rode in the higher mountains as yet but (in my limited experience) I think these tips would be helpful even in higher Himalaya because gradient will have similar effect on your body except when you’re riding in low oxygen zones.

Must-Haves

Cycling Shorts: Grow a thick bouncy layer on your ass. Works as a shock absorbent and feels good too.

Gloves and Sunglasses: Padded gloves help absorb shocks coming from uneven surface, which seems to be a norm in Himachal Pradesh. Sunglasses because the summer heat is relentless this year.

Bicycle Lights: Front and rear, both. Even on the best Indian roads (for instance Ambala-Delhi) street lighting is an unknown concept. Although fancy lights have been installed but somehow people forgot to connect them to the electrical supply. Make yourself visible on the road because ‘cyclists are the niggers of the Indian roads’

Bottle Cage: General Somnath Jha on his incredible journey had three bottles fitted to his bicycle. Kalka-Kasauli is one such trail where you won’t find many shops or sources of water. You need to drink water after every 15-20 minutes.

Quechua UltraCompact: A great product that serves many purposes. This little devil can carry your DSLR camera kit, mobile phone, and full-plate butter chicken, if you intend to eat that after completing your ride. Though it is not advisable to load your back with a heavy DSLR on a cycling expedition. Read about a similar product at IndiTramp.

Cycling Sleeves: Provides good cover from sun rays. Unless you want to be posing for before/after for ‘fairness creams’ (sic), this is a must-have accessory. There are cheaper ones available on ebay. Decathlon has Btwin made fancy sleeves.

So get your gear in place and hit the road. Cycling is great fun. I have lost two inches from my beer belly.

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