“If you can cycle this, you can cycle anywhere in the world”
…commented one of the 10,000 members of the very helpful Delhi Cyclists (of which only a handful have ever attempted it) and he was technically right. Because I’ve just ridden it and I am still able to ride, anywhere - because I made it to the end, alive.
The 1,700km from Delhi to Mumbai. On a carbon road bike, in 10 days. Powered on ten curries and 40-degree heat.
And? It's nuts! It's mad, just plain crazy; cars, bikes, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, cows, pigs, monkeys, camels, buses, dogs, tractors and elephants, all coming straight for you…from any direction of their choosing. Even straight on - in your little cycle lane, on the outside lane, of the motorway.
But – all with zero road rage! India is an amazingly peaceful, friendly nation. Every passing motorbike wanting to ride alongside and chat, every full bus wanting to share their lunch. An audience and ‘selfies’ every time I stop to use the toilet. In India there is no hiding place for a cyclist, on a road bike, in Lycra.
Only 7.5hrs on a plane and 50 miles on a bike, same planet, different world.
This was probably the most memorable, fun and dangerous ten days of my life. A crazy bike ride, taking in some of the most historical sights on earth; Taj Mahal, Udaipur, Puskar and Jaipur, alongside the friendliest & welcoming people…camels, monkeys and elephants.
I want to cycle round the world but obviously can’t just spare the odd year or two off and don’t want to leave Helen and our four kids for toooo long. I also don’t want to race it. I want to do enough (100 miles a day) so that I am travelling but also have time to meet people, eat great food, see the sights and soak up the culture.
Last year I did Australia. This time I only had a ten day gap, perfect to take on the 1700km from Delhi to Mumbai. My friend Tim was roped in…
And this is how it panned out…
Made it to the start As amazing and hair raising as you'd hope and expect! PS. it was them who asked us for the photo.
Day 1. 154km. Much of it spent like this - with zero road rage! This was THE very brief moment when I only needed one hand on the handlebars. There isn't a sight we haven't seen today on the road - bulls, cows, monkeys, huge God's, mud huts, extreme poverty but amazingly peaceful, friendly people, every motorbike wanting to ride alongside and chat, audiences and photos every time we stop. Love it!
Day 2. 142km. All about Princess Di we went to the 16-acre special quiet gardens opposite, you get best view and avoid all the tourists.
Day 3. 180km. Do not try this at home. It's nuts! It's mad, just mad - cars, bikes, tuk Tuks, pedestrians, cows, pigs, monkeys, camels, buses, tractors, elephants, all coming straight for you - from every direction. Some pics from the first few days, that don't even really start to capture what this country is really like. Love it thou.
Day 4 164km. 400 miles in and it's the gift that keeps giving Up at sunrise to check out the Lake Palace & the Amber Fort outside Jaipur. Then 8am-3.30pm Riding is tough, 100 miles in 30-35 degrees. When non-coffee stopping, you need to find a 'magic fridge' that contains water, mountain dew and chocolate, that's less than six months out of date!
While enjoying the contents I was surrounded by thirty happy blokes who each wanted a selfie, to know how much the bike cost & what the hell the Garmin computer was. Eventually up & over India's first hairpin! And to Pushkar for the '60's hippy vibe. Now watching sunset, soundtracked by The Beatles 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and trying to feel zen - with a sore arse
Day 5. 220km. Helen said I looked like a tosser. Fair comment! But I thought I deserved to splash out £20 on a hotel after a mad, 35 degree hot, always against a headwind, always uphill (whole journey at 2% incline!), Always breathing in sand and fumes, 140 miles through industrial India. 100 of them on a dual carriageway with roadworks which meant my little safe hard shoulder disappeared. Here, slow lorries go on the outside lane, which is good, except when it's industrial and busy and no hard shoulder, meaning undertaking is a moment of prayer and reflection for all. Facing lorries coming down dual carriageways the wrong way is just a case of pot luck.
Tim has fallen foul of Delhi Belly so last two days have been a lonely pursuit but my lunch stop was saved by a complete coach load of Muslim pilgrims who thought I needed their company it's not all glamour this cycling India thing....
PS The hotel managed to airbrush out of all their photos India's biggest dam at the bottom of their garden PPS and just drunk only my 2nd beer here and as it’s a 8% Kingfisher, who knows what tomorrow will be like. Still...loving it!
Day 6. 103km. Got my reward for yesterday's 140-mile slog - a short 60 mile early morning ride following 'Dat Boy's truck & 'Dat old man' on a bike, past the 'Seven Billboards Of Udaipur, Rajasthan' to spend an afternoon being a tourist in the 'Venice of India', location for James Bonds' Octopussy, the lovely Udaipur. Tim has now flown home with DB, so I was not feeling the love but an afternoon of Greek coffee, eggs, brownies & the newspaper and I hope I’m ready to leave the last known city for three days through the Indian farmlands.
Day 7&8. 255km & 105km. Lots of lovely quiet farming country but also lots of this... Trucks coming straight at you.. Since Tim went, this has turned from a holiday to a challenge. Can I cycle the 1100 miles from Delhi to Mumbai before me or the bike collapse? Two days & 220 hot miles to go. Fun
Day 9. 214km. Few photos from the last few days. Who'd have thought you could power your way through India on eleven curries? All tasting amazing, all so cheap (the bill here is for £2). I've discovered an obsession for Paneer in its various forms (& feel safe with it!). Amazing food at nights. During the day has been a little harder. Days start at 6.30am, as it's reaching 40 degrees by 1pm, so 70 miles in, at 10am a pizza delivers! Although I'm thankful I ordered the large one here...PS. I've been on a coffee free, vegetarian, teetotal diet - its working a little too well for weight management, lost a few pounds.
Day 10. 129km. Done it Probably the most memorable 10 days, 1,700km's of my life. Delhi to Mumbai. A mad, crazy bike ride alongside the friendliest & most welcoming people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet. Truly knackered though.
Thanks to Delhi Cyclists for all their help and Cyrus from Fit2Bike http://bit.ly/2FANO5D in Mumbai, who met me in a great café with a cardboard bike box, string, bubble wrap and an Uber account that got me to the airport for the trip home.
Cycling India Event.
Please join me for a night of Cycling India with craft beer and curry in London. See and hear the stories and how you too can cycle the route ‘no one cycles’ – the bits to avoid!, accommodation, food, survival?, cows, punctures, crashes? Lorries, roadworks, trains and curry!
Look Mum No Hands, London, Thursday March 22nd. 7pm. FREE. With competitions to win great kit from Le Col and Milltag. Please register here and come down. http://bit.ly/2FE8IB0
Strava link for routes http://bit.ly/1RPFlrY
Please join me on Facebook for more slightly, mad but do-able!, adventures. Next? Running the North Korea Marathon and cycling from there to Beijing. facebook.com/chrisjward
Chris Ward was brought up with the dodgy sight of his father appearing in their lounge every Sunday lunchtime in the brightest red & yellow wool of FCCC (Farnborough & Camberley Cycling Club). It was the spindle thin bright white legs though that put him off cycling until he was 40.
Since then, in a bid to play catch up he has cycled up and down Ventoux 6 times in a day, cycled the whole Le Tour route with Tour de Force, managed C2C2C in a day, ridden around the M25, competed in the Trans Alp, Trans Rockies and Cape Epic Mountain Bike Races and finally in 2015 & 2016, qualified in St Tropez and Albi and competed for GB in the UCI amateur World Championships.
In Helen, he has the most understanding wife and so is able to continue looking for the answer to 'what next?' When he's not cycling he's hanging out in coffee shops writing books about it and trying to engage the world in charitable campaigns...