Cycling the Silk Road

Siddharth Gadekar talked about his experience in the Silk Road Mountain Race at Kyrgyzstan. (https://www.silkroadmountainrace.cc/) This was Siddharth’s first public talk – and he did a good job. He had done a lot of homework. From doing a dry run on the projector, to collecting the photographs and videos. He also made a nice use of a cycle – as a prop on stage. We were fortunate that we were given a ground floor room, so it made it easier for Sid as also our senior citizen friends. The Race is a 1700 km unsupported rally, with all kinds of terrains and mostly non tarred roads.  There are usually 120 cyclists who take part. The selection process is rigorous. You have a 5 page application form that you have to fill in for the organisers to decide whether you should be part of the starting lineup. The dropout rate by the time the race finishes is 70%.

What is special about this race is not just the endurance of 1700 km, but also that you are supposed to carry all your belongings on your cycle. There are no support vehicles. The total bike weight goes up to almost 30 kg. He had a bivouac, which had his sleeping bag and a kind of tent. He was caring 4 kilograms of food. mostly dehydrated stuff, in order to save weight. And about 10 litres of water. The temperatures en route range from -10 to 45 degree Celsius. So what was also required was multi layered clothing.

Sid drew an interesting analogy between mountaineering and endurance cycling when he talked of summit fever, which is the madness to go forward, even when health or environment does not permit. 80% of mountaineering fatalities happen on the way down. So one of the decisions that an endurance sportsperson has to take, when to give up. On day 5 of the route, with water bottles punctured, and a 300 kilometre no civilization step ahead of him, Sid took a decision that he is not going to make it this time. Added to that were the leg cramps that started happening, as he grappled with his water shortages. He hopes to be back again in 2020. Our best wishes to him for completing it this time, with better preparation. And hope like a lot of finishers of 2019, he finds a buddy to ride with during the race. It helps!