The Longest and Toughest 24 Hrs – Desert 500


You have never lived your life until you have lived it alone; those 24 hrs riding alone was my moment with self.

After contemplating joining several events out of NCR, finally decided to get onto Desert 500. List of other rides planned but didn’t execute; MTB Himachal, TFN, MTB Race Shimla and many more. Having attended one ride out NCR (Team 3 Dhanaulti) ride had made me crave for more. After speculations and budgeting challenges, finally enrolled in Desert 500 event on Sep 21st.

The registration means that you have committed to the ride and there is no running away, that’s how I commit!

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The training plan listed by Desert 500 was quite comprehensive and very detailed, unfortunately I couldn’t follow but I am going do that for all my upcoming rides. My training for Desert 500 was adhoc in nature, nothing planned but whatever I did was disciplined.

Training (3 week):

1.       Alternate day 30-40kms (around 8-9 AM) km ride on GFR, the important aspect was consistency.  No break within the ride team and consistent speed, additional push on all uphills.

2.       Alternate day running for 2-3kms (around 10 PM ) in my society, followed up with 76 stairs climb

3.        Twice in a weekly weight training with dumble’s, could do only for a week and avoided in last week before the event.

The training is not good enough to be discussed and probably not the best but it worked for me, certainly need to do more.

The ride was to start from 28th 10 A.M and expected to be finished in 24hrs as per the challenge, the max time allowed was 33 Hrs from start time. Cleary I had never planned to finish in 24hrs, my last longest ride was of 400Km in 26 Hrs, however, it did had an element of 2.5hrs of break at TS1. In spite of doing all mathematical calculation, the 24hrs challenge looked like a herculean task.

Ashish decided to give me company on the Desert 500 ride, we had two training together for the event. On Nov 24rd, we went for 100km ride but we have be content with 7Okm because of flats.

On Nov 25th, we decided to participate in 200km; the decision was taken on 23rd simply based on an idea of riding. We definitely ignore the right practice of not doing long ride before any big event but we decided to, no reasons at all. On the brevet ride expert riders did recommend not to continue and somewhere I too felt, it wasn’t recommended.  Anyway, we went with the ride and completed it in 10 Hrs, very easy paced ride with Ashish. As a matter of fact, both of us had a fall on Brevet ride. I was hurt on knee and Ashish on face/shoulders.

We had 2 days of rest and that included 12-14 hrs bus journey, still not sure if our Brevet ride was good decision or not.

 Day 1/2: Travel to Jodhpur

The organizer had provided free transportation service to Jodhpur and bike transportation on chargeable basis; hotel booking was also managed by organizer on our behalf. The biggest challenge with bike transportation was packing it up, I had never done and had no clue how to do it. Safe bet was taking it to bike store and get it packed, Krishna at Cyclofit did this job and briefly told me to assemble it.  We were assured that mechanics would be available in Jodhpur, good enough reason to be relaxed.

We boarded a packed bus around 10 PM from Delhi, it was a sleeper and Ashish was quick enough to grab 2 seats. It wasn’t a comfortable journey and neither bad, we managed to sail through.

We reached Jodhpur around 12PM and were told that bus can’t go beyond because of no entry restriction. We eventually managed to grab a local taxi and reached our hotel. Around 3 PM we were informed that bikes are also stuck because of no entry zone and expected to be with us around 11 PM, this was a real problem which gave me a sweet trauma.

We realized the bike wouldn’t reach us on time so we decided to go quick stroll near our hotel, it was 2-3 Km walk on busy road but still managed to gobble some Mawa Kachoree, Badaam Milk & Pyaz Kee Kachoree!!!

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We reached hotel around 9 PM and to our surprise we were informed about our bike arrivals, the organizers decided to ferry our bikes in local transport to hotel. It took not more than 30 to get our bike up and running, yahoo!!!!!!!!

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Day 3/4 – The ride day!

The ride was expected to start at 10 A.M, 20 Kms away from our hotel.  It was indeed early morning, we left hotel around 7:30 AM to start point, and the bikes were carried in another vehicle.

Not too much action at the start point, we were welcome in traditional way. Gatorade, Water, Banana and Energy Bars were available at the venue; it took 15 min for us to get ready.  With 30 min in hand, were just relaxing, suddenly I get SMS from work, client visit is cancelled and I don’t have rush through on Friday. Yes, after the ride I had to catch a train immediately, this just lifted my mood!

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The race director started his briefing and we went towards the start line, exact at 10:10 A.M the ride started.

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First 100 KM:

Started with an average speed of 27kmph and was feeling excellent,  tried to hook up with 500Km riders but they were too fast for me.  The group had riders like Shamim, Vishal and our very own Team 3; I couldn’t catch up with them.  After 10k, the 250Km riders came from behind with some amazing speed and I/Ashish just dragged our self, the group was riding with an avg speed 30-32kmph but eventually lost them after 10-12 km. In total I had 15-20 Km with different groups.

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Although I got left out from the group but still managed to generate good speed, averaging anything between 27-30 kmph for first 50Km’s. I touched 100 km’s in around 3.5 hrs, this was my best performance so far and while maintaining this speed, I lost rider partner at 70km.

Second 100 KM:

At 125km, it was turning point for 250 KM riders, I was worried to see so many rider headed towards home and I still hadn’t crossed half way mark.  This feeling can be worry any rookie rider. 

On this turning point, I had also got inners and jackets transported.  Although the temperature was getting cold but cold enough to inners/jackets, this created a huge problem for me. How to carry them forward? . Anyway, managed to stuff the inner in hydration bag and rolled the jacket on front stem, this created more riding issues and kept on adjusting till I reached 250km.

At around 160 KM, took a break at Army station (near Pokhran), the young army man had flurry of questions and I was more than happy to answer.  I also asked him about the Pokhran blast site, it was 30km away on the highway, gave a grand salute to A B Vajpayee on his achievement.

While I was there, saw Team 3 trio crossing, we waived at each other. WOW!! That was the moment, my legs felt fresh, I was excited as I was able to keep pace with these super riders, it filled a new sense of excitement in me, I was roaring to go. 200 got completed within 8 Hrs, so far my stoppages had only been at checkpoints but took an additional stoppage at “Lathee” to get my inners on, it was dark now.

At Lathee, interacted with few locals and said “Ram Ram”, they were happy and too excited about my cycling challenge.

Third 100 KM:

It was getting dark and after crossing Pokhran I could see brazen lands all over, no villages in sight for kilometers but traffic was moving. It was important for me to touch 250KM asap to get a psychological boost, last 25 KM was done at super speed with big WAVE to Indian Army personnel present near Jaismler.

Finally I reached the 500Km turning point (8:15 P.M), so far 6 riders had crossed and Team 3 trio were taking U turn from turning point, I am still in reach!!!

Took a rest of 30 min, repackaged myself and thanks to coffee from Ritu, I was roaring to go again.  First 10 Km was easy paced, silent ride along; I did meet Ashish on the way. After 10 km from turning start experiencing the real desert, well it wasn’t sand dune but barren enough land to scare. Imaging cycling alone at 10-11 P.M in night with no sight of human being for many kilometers and considering it was Lunar Eclipse; the barren was shining like hell but still pleasant.

The next 10 Km’s had more adventure, lots of Shambhars and wild cats start crossing the road with good speed, I wasn’t scared but worried as they might hit me. Fortunately, nothing bad happened and probably the lonely rider was scaring them.

 Fourth 100 KM

My strategy so far was very simple; maintain a consistent speed and only teak 10 min break on each check point. The check were also placed strategically, every 40-45 KM’s till we reach 400 and then after 25 KM in last 100. This really helped me to continue the rhythm.

While I was crossing Pokhran, saw Team 3 Trio resting on right hand side and Shamim/group resting at the left hand side. I wasn’t too excited about this because I knew they will cross me, I just had to maintain a consistent speed.

 Last 50Kms was getting difficult and I had also intentionally slowed down to conserve some energy.  At 375km, met Mr Dhawan, the Race Director. He was happy with my performance and asked to get along with group as last 100km would get difficult. I wanted to but I could, would have not been catch up with few super riders.

Last 100 KM

At this stage, it was more of mind game them body playing role of a rider.  Cramp had taken over me, it was getting very difficult and I had plan for last 50 Km which is rough road. With 6.5 Hrs left, it deed look like achievable target but still lots of risks involved. What bike breaks down? What If get a flat? What if crap stops me completely? With all these worries, I went head. Team 3 riders again crossed me but not before I had quick coffee break with the group. Started picking up my speed but still couldn’t, I was almost dragging myself.

While Jodhpur was 75km away, cramps started happening quickly and so my breaks. 1-2 min breaks after every 7-10 kms, this was derailing and killing my time.  I just continued to drag myself and pull to get an average of 25km.

With 3 Hrs in hand, I had to cross a tough 50km road. The road was really patchy and immensely difficult for any road bike rider. I was waiting for dawn and it continued to delay, after maybe 10 Kms finally had glimpses of sunrise, it started getting clear.  

Finally after sipping a RedBull at last checkpoint, I was headed towards the finish with a confidence I will finish with challenged limit. The mind was in agreement but body continued to question, Why I doing this??????

Finally at 9:10 I reached the finish point to get very very very warm welcome from super riders!  A ride to remember for life!

Finish Point with Race Director (Image - Team NAESAR Racing)

Finish Point with Race Director (Image – Team NAESAR Racing)

The day folded up with a quick nap at hotel followed up with a post race party, the excitement didn’t stop for me. I was lucky enough to be present and get Montra Bike as lucky draw from group of 500km participants.

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The Medal and Finisher Certificate:

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Wait, did I tell we made some great friends as well…..I couldn’t click everyone but certainly more friends to cherish!

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Posted on December 13, 2012, in Sportianics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Amazing . Inspired me. WAY to go 🙂

  2. Dear Manish,

    I liked your article above!

    As far as the Desert 500 ride was concerned, I was pretty impressed by your ride cause I could and did compare your performance with other riders. Most were getting their strength from their teams and team work (and rightly so…that’s the way to do it!) but you were getting your strength and motivation from inside you, a very difficult state to achieve! You stuck to your strategy and I did not see fatigue in your eyes any time I met you on the road. Keep it up and I am sure you will achieve greater heights! Great Job!!

    Warm Regards
    Vijay..aka..Spotty Dhawan

  3. this is one amazing account coming from a rockstar rider. Am proud to ride along with you in Team T3. Wishing you many more super rides and feats to you!

  4. Kudos, Manish. Very well written and amazing feat!

  5. a very well written with simple words that explained a simple approach what we had planned before start… jab sath na ho koi ” ekla chalo re” .. nicely put , sure i cherished each KM as if it was live, can see, a writer in a biker in a professional … Again congrats on your feat…

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