“The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.” “Although motorcycle riding is romantic, motorcycle...
Guinness World Record- NagaRaj – Tour Of India on Pedal and SaddleNeeraj
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle”
I first got to know about Mr. NagaRaj in October 2013, when a common friend suggested His Facebook Page Tour Of India on Pedal and Saddle. Since I was into cycling myself, I was curious to know what he was up to. On further reading I got to know that with this attempt at Guinness world record- Nagaraj would be the First Man in the world to Cycle Longest distance in one country. From there I followed his journey through online updates. Post the successful completion of his expedition, I met him in person to find out more about his Tour.
On a Sunday morning, I met Mr. Nagaraj at his home in Seethaphalmandi, Secunderabad. The House outside had banners put up by his family to commemorate his recently achieved feat. I rang the bell, got into the house and Shook Hands with Nagaraj and by the time we were sitting down, the inquisitive urge in me was already at it’s peak and so I started throwing my curious questions at him.. 🙂 Why Tour of India on A Cycle?
He laughed.. Well, If you know I always had the adventure bug in me. I am 36 years old, born in the August of ’77. The point is I always wanted to do something of this sort. Just that I was for a long time involved in following the norm i.e. studying hard, getting a job and earning a livelihood. I was working as a Interior Designer and Fitment Consultant in Dubai since 1999. Over years the craving in me just kept piling up and by the end of 2012, I just said it was enough. I wanted to come back home. I had not decided what I would really do but Wanted to stop working so as to remove focus from work and have a quiet calm time to figure out what I can do.
When I was a kid, I had heard of Ayappa Devotees going on a cycle/walking from Hyderabad to Sabrimala in Kerala for pilgrimage. It was very fascinating for me. I always wanted to do something of this sort but as an adventure!
After Leaving my job, I had some time to think over it, peep back into my childhood desires and finally decided traveling around India on a cycle would be a nice thing to attempt. I always wanted to experience and know my country, plus as a kid growing up watching Guinness book of world records on Doordarshan was always a fascination and I somehow wanted my name on that list too.
How did you prepare for the tour?
Since childhood, I am the sort of a person who does what he says he’ll do. So in that ways, I always knew I had the Mental strength to take on something of this sort. The only real challenge was to attain the physical fitness as I had not cycled at all for a very long time. Once I decided about the cycling expedition, I brought a Trek 1.1 Road Bike and prepared for 5 months straight to attain Physical fitness. I cycled to Tirupati from Hyderabad just as a trial to see if something massive is indeed possible! Initially it was painful but I knew training was mandatory and I could not quit as this was immensely dear to me
Pain is temporary, Quitting is forever -Lance Armstrong
Nagaraj sir, tell me more about the Tour Itinerary?
I divided my tour into 4 Phases.
Phase 1: Involved the Himalayan Region. It was mainly Delhi-Bhatinda-Amritsar-Jammu/Katra-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Manali-Shimla-Chandigarh-Delhi. However since it was done prior to the Guinness people giving me a go ahead, This phase is not included in the record attempt.
Phase 2: Circumnavigating India along the periphery. This was the longest and I clubbed it with Phase 4, which was about cycling in the Central India. Along Phase2, and Phase4 I covered multiple states, Starting From Hyderabad, heading south into Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Then Heading North into Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, MP (briefly), Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Back home AP and then Central India Mostly MP, Maharastra, Karnataka and Back Home to Hyderabad.
Phase 3: The plan was to Cover the North East but apart from Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, None of the other states were safe enough to attempt something of this kind. So I decided to drop the idea.
Phase2, which I am using for the Guinness record, the planned itinerary was for 130 days but at one point I was running behind schedule by 11 days. I made up for it by cycling 200kms in a day on two occasions. I also reduced the duration of breaks I took and brought down the deficit by 5 days. I believe a major reason of taking up this tour was also to experience the country so it only made sense that I take some break from cycling to experience the good country sides, mountains and beaches I visited and spend some time quiet time in the beauty these places had to offer. So I did not mind the occasional delay.
Tell us more about Phase1 and Phase2/4 and any important experience in those phases?
Phase 1, was particularly Exciting because of the Mountainous terrain. I totally enjoyed the experience in the Himalayas. During the initial period between Delhi to Jammu I was cycling 100-120 kms per day and so was pretty confident. The first Day I was cycling in the hills from Jammu to Patni Top, I had to perform 35 kms of uphill cycling for 5.5 hours continuously. That’s when I realized that I had to bring down my expectations especially in the hills. And from there on I kept a target of 60-70 kms a day. I would recommend Everyone to come to Ladakh and experience this place atleast once in their life.
There were also two instances where I rode in heavy rains. As they say when it rains in the mountains you should continue doing what you are doing because you never know when the rain would stop. Therefore in that spirit I rode Once from Manali towards Jalori Pass a stretch of 28kms in rain before it finally stopped raining. On another occasion, I was en-route Chandigarh from Shimla when I rode 85kms when the rain finally stopped that too when I reached Chandigarh.
I was also pretty disappointed as I had to cancel my trip into Uttarakhand twice. Once in Phase:1 due to heavy rains and once again in Phase:2 due to extreme cold waves. The plan was to go to Ponta sahib, Haridwar etc. from Chandigarh.
What were the cycles, accessories you used for this tour and what stuff you were carrying in the panniers and on your cycle?
For Phase1, I used a Montra Jazz Hybrid and for the Phase2, I used a Trek 7.3 FX Hybrid.I was also using a Garmin Edge 800 GPS device. I had two pannier bags which had basic clothing like cycling shorts, Socks, T-shirts and some food items.
Also to make sure I have all ends covered for the record claim, I purchased two more gadgets, One was a Cadence Sensor which measures the Pedals per minutes and also bought a heart rate monitor. These were to supplement the GPS data, basically to support my data. As in, if Guinness wanted to verify they can always check the heart rate monitor with the cadence .. For example imagine me holding on to a vehicle while not pedaling. In that case the cadence data would not match the heart rate monitor.
In Phase1, I was carrying a sleeping bag, tent and a sleeping mat. Although I never camped but on one occasion in Phase1. Since I chose my season correctly there were lot of roadside accommodations available in Ladakh and Himachal. In Phase2, I did not carry the the camping stuff since it was no longer required and feasible in the plains especially in the South and even North Indian States.
The roads in Ladakh are so well maintained, especially the ones from Srinagar to Leh. It was absolutely a charm to ride on those roads and I did not even require a bike with Forks/suspension. As far as the water is concerned I just carried two bottles of water when in Ladakh as one does not usually feel thirsty in cold climates and also water was easily accessible due to the season as many people tour ladakh on motorbikes and cars in that season. Similarly in phase:2 due to easy accessibility of towns in mainland India I didn’t have to carry too much stuff.
As for the food, I was mostly on Vegetarian diet since it provides more carbohydrates and is easy to digest. Initially down south I was having mostly rice but as I moved in colder weather I was supplementing the need for more carbs through Wheat.
So coming to the other exciting part, What are the numbers you are submitting for the Guinness records?
The phase2, which I am submitting for the record I have given the total ride distance as 14,197.55 kms and since the Guinness do not consider the overlap distance, I will remove about 104.71 kms from that which will take the record to about 14,092.84 kms. That is going to be the record of cycling in one country for the longest distance.. He smiles
India is not a very friendly country when it comes to Sports and adventures, especially when it comes to cycling. Any experiences you want to share in this regard?
He laughs.. Well in most parts of the country I met very good people, mostly friendly and curious to know about my tour.
However some disappointing incidents did happen. In Parts of UP and Bihar, people laughed among themselves as in why I was wearing a helmet on a cycle? Some people also said that I was mad riding a cycle and they had XYZ reasons for it.. Honestly I wasn’t too affected with it. There were also times when people thought I was a Foreigner and despite conversing with them in Hindi they were not ready to believe. They said, these days all these foreigners are learning our language to converse with us. Honestly I felt that was foolish and fended it with a laugh.
On one particular incident in the South, when looking for a hotel to stay I was stopped by the security from entering. I did not pay heed to his arrogance and went straight up to the reception and asked them first to educate security and others to understand that anyone who comes on a cycle is not some rogue cheap guy. They need to first learn how to respect people. This one incident was particularly annoying.
I also usually carried my cycle to the rooms where I stayed, or keep them in safe location inside hotel premises. However I reached one place called Morbi in Gujarat, where the hotel guy did not allow me to keep my cycle inside. He said he would put it inside in the night. However he left it outside. Next morning my cycle was brown in color full of dust and many parts were clogged. This is because there were many ceramic factories in that area. I had to clean my bike before I could start. This was very annoying as people in India need to be more educated about cycling and sports.
Apart from 1-2 incidents my journey was very good and met very hospitable people. Some places I was even invited by people who came to know about me through various cycling groups, to stay at their homes.
What was your most memorable incident on this journey?
A Gentlemen named, Mr. Guruprasad who works for the Indian Airforce called me up while I was on tour. He hails originally from Kerala but is posted at the Gwalior Air force base. He got to know about my tour and that I would be reaching Agra. He took a three day off from work and cycled till Agra where he met me. At Agra we took a day off to go around. Post this, he cycled with me to Gwalior and insisted me to stay in house with his family for a day and they were very hospitable people. This incident was heart warming.
What is your message and learning from this tour?
Riding through the country I realized few very simple things:
1. Life is simple, we make it complicated.
2. Always believe in yourself. I used to get pissed off when preparing and at times during the journey… but I said Never Give up.
“You can quit if you want, and no one will care. But you will know the rest of your life.” – John Collins (Founder of The Ironman).
I would Like to add, I approached few cycling and GPS manufacturers for sponsoring my tour but none reverted. Interestingly, when the Local WildCraft shop in Hyderabad got to know that I was using Wildcraft wind cheater and backpak in Phase:1 which although I had purchased from Wildcraft Manali shop, they were very kind to offer me few accessories like jackets, water bottle etc. I would really want to thank them for this gesture. My family has been immensely supportive and I just can’t thank them enough.
What next, What are your future plans?
Well, I have lot of plans. I somehow believe that my craving for adventure has still not subsided and the cycle trip was lot easier than I expected. I am currently consolidating data to send to Guinness which is a task in itself as we need to send accurate data in one go. As they say if we miss out on anything they do not have the time and resources to revert for clarifications. Plus it would take about 12-16 weeks for them to revert with the record claim. If We need expedited results we have to pay 300 pounds. For now, I am taking the slower route only.
This June, I’m planning to go back to Ladakh and do a Trek from Manali to Leh. I also might do a trek from Lukla (Nepal) to Everest base camp. That is just a thought though, lets see. As for the travel bug, I have already been to 3 of the seven wonders of the world, I want to go check the Great wall of China and the pyramids of Egypt which are currently on the top of my list. He signs off
I finally thanked Naga Raj for sharing his valuable experience on a lazy Sunday morning 🙂 and wished him all the best for his record claim. I might as well see him in Ladakh if I manage to get there in June. As a reminder for everyone, here is a quote with a lasting impression I came across.
“My biggest fear is not crashing on a bike… It’s sitting in a chair at 90 and saying, ‘I wish I had done more’”.
~Graeme Obree, “The Flying Scotsman”,
We at First Pilgrim are making constant efforts to find and bring forth Success stories of people who have gone beyond the norm to pursue their dreams of Adventure and traveling. This is not only to inspire others to take the leap but also in a way change our society, so as to start appreciating the natural human desire to stay free.. Flying high and living a free life is not just the prerogative of birds after all, you see 😉 If you are reading this and do know of any other success stories do let us know and we would be happy to help it reach as many people as possible.