You get mesmerized by the fear and lose focus. The body begins to stiffen instead of staying loose and letting the bike flow. Then you find yourself kissing those very rocks that you should have glided over. Does that sound familiar to you? Well, that is exactly what happened to me a couple of times this Sunday.
|Nelly, doing what he does best, flying on the trail..|
Having an entire weekend to myself again meant that I had to ping my trusted friends for some plans to try and make it memorable. It has been almost a couple of months since my MTB has seen the light of the day. So when Vineeth proposed a trip to Manchanabele/Savanadurga along with Nelly to recce a trail for BAR, I was all excited. After all, we had some unfinished business down there having spent more time fixing flats than riding, on our last visit together there.
Nelly’s downhill workshop at Turahalli that morning meant that we’d head out for the main course of the Savanadurga trails having taken the Turahalli downhill for starters. How cool is that!? I was totally up for it.
I hooked up with Kalkat at Sarjapur junction and we landed at Turahalli by 8 am. Nelly was already there working on the downhill track along with Balu and a couple of other folks. When Vineeth arrived a few minutes later, we decided to do a loop of the trail instead of just the DH. While the uphill trail was as taxing as ever, I could do it with out walking this time. Unlike my first trip there, running a tire pressure of around 40 psi and having the ability to use all the available gears helped. But, I was still panting like hell and sweating bucket loads by the time I got to the top.
Once there, our resident DH expert Nelly led us to the start of the downhill section and offered some tips on handling the DH without cartwheeling to the bottom of the hill. A few sections of the track were apparently re-done from the last time I was there. I am not sure if the re-done track was a bit difficult or if my focus was off, it felt a bit scarier than usual. I think it is the later. Instead of holding the handle bars freely and letting the body relax, I noticed that I was gripping them for dear life and the body was stiffening up. Thankfully, I didn’t crash but felt like I could crash any minute.
For the second DH run, we hiked up with our bikes instead of doing the whole loop. I took on the DH much better and faster this time but almost crashed when I got distracted by another rider. Sri Harsha was riding behind me. May be because I was too slow for him, he suddenly took a different line and looked to be on a collision course with me where the two lines were merging. I ended up in a thorny bush trying stop in time. As it were, he was aware of the possible collision and was slowing down himself, but it was all too fast for us to communicate in any meaningful way. That is a case for giving enough time between riders and for a staggered start at next week’s DH race.
After the second trail run we loaded the bikes on cars and headed out to Manchanabele.
The initial plan was to park our cars at the Manchanabele reservoir and start riding the trail that heads out towards Savanadurga, cross the Arkavathi river and take the uphill trail to reach Savanadurga temple and then loop back to Manchanabele via a mix of trail and a small road section. When we got there though, we saw a police van parked there and two policemen guarding the road. They were not allowing anyone to Manchanabele apparently owing to some mishaps/rowdy activity. After failing to convince them to let us through, we headed out towards Savanadurga to start the ride from there.
The Fast One:
After mulling over where to join the planned trail to start riding, we found the trail head on the road to Savanadurga around 3-4km before we get to the temple. As soon as we got on the trail we started flying. It was one hell of a loopy trail that has an amazing flow to it. It must have been slightly downhill as it was quite fast and gave us a taste of adrenalin rush. The first 4.5km of the trail was a pure heady rush and was only slightly technical. Then it got a bit more technical until we reached until we got back on the road and headed back to the cars to complete the loop. 12km with about 7km of pure single track fun!
|Kalkat, flying down a technical downhill stretch..|
The Kick-Ass Downhill:
Then we headed to the top of Savanadurga and took a downhill trail that would have been an uphill torture in the original loop starting from Manchanabele. We had to go through a landmine of broken glass from drunkards breaking their liquor bottles on the big rocks after they’re done. So much for a religious place!
Once we crossed the groups of semi bare chested, banian clad, liquor drinking and Pulov eating people, we entered some real kick-ass single track littered with an occasional elephant poop. We climbed huge rocks and flew off them in a nice rhythmic flow until we encountered one such rock that had a small brook running at its foot. Nelly made it up the rock safely and warned us of the possibility of wet wheels getting washed out on the rock. That’s precisely what happened. It took us all down. First Vineeth followed by me and then Kalkat. All of us got our bottoms wet.
Then we entered one of the most technical downhill single tracks I’ve seen. It was rocky, dirty, thorny and quite steep in stretches. At one such steep and rocky section my fear caught up with me and I lost focus and then my balance. Even before I realized it, I flew off the bike and landed on the rocks with my chin just kissing one of those rocks. I was lucky that I managed a relatively soft landing. It could have been quite nasty. Previously on such bad-ass technical trails I always managed my fear well and did not allow it to tinker with the flow. This time was different. Although I got through most of the sections alright, I could feel that my focus was not quite there. I could sense it on the Turahalli DH as well.
Focus matters as much as the technique on such technical trails. As Vineeth often says, you need to be focused and relaxed to let the bike flow only navigating it slightly. Trying to control rarely works. You got to let it flow.
After a couple of more scary stretches where a couple of us took a few more falls, we reached the Arkavathi river crossing that would lead us into Mancanabele. But we decided to head back the same way we came as we figured that it would be dark before we could make any meaningful progress. It meant that we have to climb the scary downhill stretch. It was too technical and too steep to bike up the entire way. I managed to be on my bike only for a few short stretches and hiked up with the bike on the shoulders mostly. Nelly, Vineeth and Kalkat had more heart and energy to try biking a few more stretches.
Nelly is an explosion of energy in a petite frame with a great sense of humor. He has absolutely no airs about him and never shies away from sharing his knowledge on bikes, mountain biking and downhill techniques etc. Vineeth is a strong rider with years of experience in biking, climbing, running and what not. A strong rider with a clear head and a no nonsense approach. Kalkat is as good a sardar as you can find. He never shies away from a challenge. He is a phenomenal rider with a big heart and doesn’t let the limitations of his bike get in the way of even the most technical track. Really great to be riding with them on these lovely trails.
|The climber in Vineeth explaining possible way of climbing the huge rock, as Nelly and Kalkat listen attentively.|
We got back to the top of Savanadurga where we sat for a while sipping on coconut water. We chatted for a while before we headed back to the car. We loaded the bikes and headed Bangalore.
As I was riding back from Indiranagar where Kalkat dropped me off on his way home, it started to rain. As the rain water started to wash out the dried salts that formed layers since that morning, I could feel all the spots which had nicks and cuts on my body from the thorns or falls today. The entire body felt like it was on fire with the burning sensation all over. Then it slowly began to cool down as I got more drenched. Loved it!
Left home at 6am, reached back at 8:30pm and had all of 56kms to show for it. But boy! What fun! What a day!
Here are the photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/hivenkat.d/TurahalliDHAndSavandurgaTrailRide