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Well, this post has been a long time coming. In fact, I’ve only been pushed to penning it down because I’m so excited about my upgrade that this needs to be put out of the way in order for me to talk about that.

So here goes my review of the stock 2011 KHS Alite 1000. But, putting this down involves a little introduction as to how I found my inner mountain biker.

Part 1 – How it happened

The truth is that I was a man on the roadie-mtb fence. I had a hybrid and it seemed fine. I was enjoying 70km rides with a few fellow urban adventurers and had no plans to pick a side anywhere in the recent future. That was for the first four months that is.

It so happened that my Dad was due to retire some time April last year. I was racking my brain for a good retirement gift when my mum happened to mention that Dad was toying with the idea of an old beat-up bike to potter around on when he retired. This cleared things up in quick time. A bike it had to be. But what sort of bike? A comfortable one! How is this related to my Alite 1000 you ask? Well, allow me to lead up to it.

So, I paid Venky (at Wheelsports) a visit to see what he had to offer. I had seen a couple of Merida Crossways and they seemed like nice hybrids at a decent price and decided to investigate. After 5 mins of inspecting the Crossways, I had made up my mind. These were a real disappointment – not terribly pleasing looks, average specs, ok-ish price and sub-optimal finish.

On turning around though I stopped at the sight of an infinitely more pleasing machine. It was a mountain bike. And it was red! It was the new KHS Alite 150 and it was downright hot. I’d seen pics of the KHS range online and wasn’t overly impressed. In the metal however, it was a different story entirely. They were gorgeous! I checked out the specs and the entire range (150, 300, 500, 1000 and 2000) blew the competition out of the water on every. Understand that this lad had no clue whatsoever what this whole mountain biking thing was all about. The only offroading I’d done involved lugging my Trek 7100 to Sarjapur to join a crew who were recceing the route for the BBCh XC race in 2011. It was tough going that day what with my 700x35c tyres making life in the sand rather difficult.

After an evening talking to Venky, I went back home with a few thoughts to ponder. I figured that the most comfortable ride my Dad could get would actually be a hardtail – front sus and fat tyres taking any possible edge off a commute. Speed wasn’t even a consideration since it would be used for general pottering around and my Dad is in no hurry to get anywhere. Then, to take care of any possible fit issues, and to take into account the fact that my Dad would be riding again after a gap of 40 years, I decided that an adjustable stem wouldn’t be a bad idea. Bounced the idea off Venky and he was happy to oblige. I figured the 150 was just too low-specced for my liking and the 300 hit the price-performance sweet-spot, so the Alite 300 it was.

Adding a twist to the tale, I saw the 2010 Alite 300 lying there which looked even better than its more recent counterpart. It turned out that it was a 15 inch frame which would work well for a lady because of its rather low top-tube. The Better Half’s (TBH from now on) birthday was a month away and I had been seriously considering a bike as a gift. Stumbling across this one was something of a sign which I just couldn’t pass up.

So, after having visited Wheelsports to check out the feasibility of a hybrid, I walked away with not one, but two KHS Alite 300s. Venky was really helpful and was happy to customise one of them for my Dad and hold the other for a month until TBH’s birthday came around (we both like surprises you see). The silver coloured ride was loaded into the car and I drove it down to Madras to show up on my Dad’s first day of retirement with a present he never expected. The black and red beauty showed up in our living room a month later with a red ribbon around the top tube to much astonishment and petting (as one can hardly help stroking beautiful metal).

Over the next couple of months I discovered the joys of bouncing a fork and trying to pop wheelies on a mountain bike that’s a little small for you. In fact, I found myself having so much fun in my basement on TBH’s bike that, in my mind’s eye, the sheen on my snappy (relatively new) Trek 7100 was beginning to dull. We also took the Alite 300 back to Venky a couple of times for a little tweaking. Each time we did, my eye lusted after a ride which usually lay in a corner – Naveen’s Alite 1000. The 2011 Alite 1000 actually has an identical paint job to the 2010 Alite 300 so it actually looked like TBH’s bike’s elder sibling. After much soul searching, and keeping in mind the fact it wouldn’t be great to bust TBH’s new ride, I decided I had to have a hardtail. Again, Venky and Naveen went way beyond any call of duty. I was lent Naveen’s Alite 1000 to ride for a few days to see whether it suited me. I swapped my 7100 with him so he could commute on that while I tried out his bad boy.

The very first day I took it home, I was mucking around in the basement parking area. I’d never used disc brakes on a bicycle before so I had no idea what I was dealing with. I grabbed the front brake and ended up doing a stoppie which threw me over the bars! My left knee painfully whacked the bar and that was that. I spent the next week or so limping around with my knee swollen. My obsession with the bike though, would brook no opposition and I ended up doing a 15km ride where I ended up pedalling with basically one leg.

I could stand it no longer. I had to have it!

Venky, as is his wont, gave me a fabulous deal and I rode the 15kms home with my new bike.

That was in June 2011.

Over the last ten months I have ridden the bike almost exclusively offroad. I have ridden XC around Sarjapur, Turahalli and Airport road and taken many a (painful) toss on it while attempting the downhill track at Turahalli.

There are things I love about it and some things I hate about it but, in its entirety, it has helped me understand the kind of riding I enjoy and the kind I don’t. I’ll get into those details in my next post.

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As dawn broke over the hill, Turahalli’s resident Coucal was somewhat startled to find that his usually tranquil living room had been turned into something akin to an arena. Wraiths in colours to rival his plumage jinked and jived their way through dappled sunlight at breakneck speed, occasionally interspersed with howls of rage and pain accompanied by the sound of breaking foliage.

Race Two of the 2012 Bangalore Bicycle Championship saw competitors abandoning their anorexic companions in favour of rather more substance, for the cross-country (XC) challenge.

The course had just about everything in it – an open dirt track leading to a stony field which then opened up into a bit of singletrack before riders were confronted with a deceptively short climb. Those who had run the course before knew the perils of being stuck in a pack when confronted by this. Not that it mattered in the slightest though considering they comprised the favourites anyway. The first five broke away in no time and Darren powered his way up the climb with Nelly, Bharath and Craig in hot pursuit. Behind them, Naveen and Sriram fought their way clear of the crowd only just in time.

Then came the hordes.

It was quickly apparent who had actually gotten his knobbies dirty and who had kept them plastered to tarmac. Weight too far forward and rear wheels spun out of control. Too far back and forks lifted. Granny gears on the incline when caught in the queue (for indeed that is what it was reduced to) made it difficult, if not impossible, to shift up quickly. Metal screamed, chains groaned, rubber slipped, spun and riders came to a standstill, only to find out just how awkward it is to get moving again when up against an incline, with no grip, in the wrong gear and your rear wheel playing footsie with the bike behind you.

For quicker riders caught in the melee, the knowledge that the lead pack was opening up a huge gap made life much worse.

Once riders made it up the hill, they followed the trail as it wound around the hill through a dusty construction site with plenty of space to overtake. As the leaders rocketed through the dust, they picked up more speed and entered a sparsely wooded area where they dodged through the trees (where our poor Coucal sat mute spectator).  Breaking through the scrub, the trail suddenly dipped and then rose as riders had to bank right on a long curve with a 15 foot drop on the side. Drama played out here in spades. Darren whipped around the curve without batting an eyelash and hammered his way through. Nelly flew up the bank without pause in thought (as befits one of the best mountain bikers in the country) until confronted with a rather grumpy rock. Going as fast as he was (some 35+ km/h), he did the only thing possible – bunny hop. Boom! Hissssssssssssss.. The Coucal burst through the trees in a panic. Snakebite claimed another victim and it was time for the long walk home.

The course then hit the most exciting section – a lovely 1 km stretch through a grove of trees with a downward slope and plenty of space to overtake. Headlong flight along this section though, came at a rider’s peril. Those who ride the trail regularly will bear witness to the challenges posed by a mix of dappled sunlight, the gradient, undulations in the terrain and quick curves around trees. A rider going fast would be on right on top of a dip, rise and curve around a tree before he could react. Dented helmets and bruised egos attested to the immutability (and immovability) of those trees.

Riders burst out of the trees to barrel down ruts for some 50 odd metres before taking a switchback which led back to the start.

And yet another lap of pain.

For one morning, Turahalli witnessed every twist in every possible plot. A derailleur hanger snapping off after a bike was subjected to two crashes in a lap. A mangled handlebar and stem as its rider literally flew off the dip preceding the long bank. A bruised face stemming from a difference of opinion with a tree. A yellow jersey dodging through the flora as its wearer ran the course after suffering a broken rim – a show of team solidarity. Many long slow walks of shame back to the start with busted bikes in tow. Curses and abuse as the race leaders shredded their way through blisteringly fast curves to be confronted with slow riders too stunned to react in getting off the racing line. A solitary road bike cocking a roadie snook at the MTB plebians.

A day of spills.

A day of thrills.

A day well spent.

Final burstConcentrateUp and at 'emDuel within a teamOpening up a gapQueuing up
Crank!Shred that trailHot on his treadsBharath opens upKeep on truckin'Silhouette
Stay on top of it!Shred that trail!Please stand asideLost my lineFree and clearScusa!
IMG_5203-1.jpgIMG_5240-1-2.jpgIMG_5253-1-2.jpgLost my wheelsSriram pushing forward

Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie by Beingthomas
Glenmorangie, a photo by Beingthomas on Flickr.

Takes me back to my time in Scotland and a visit to the distillery. Post on that coming up.Slainte!

Sunday February 19, 2012: Carbon and steel, TTB and MTB, MAMIL and Mamma, Cervelo and S-Works, Mavic and Easton –droolworthy bikes faced off and grim-faced warriors girded their loins (in lycra) and did battle against the clock.

All bicycle roads led to the Nandi Hill toll for the first race of the season. The Bangalore Bicycle Championship kicked (or cranked rather) off with a massive turnout of nearly 90 competitors from across the country. Armoured bikers on Harleys and Ninjas were given nary a second glance as the crowd of about 150 or so riders, volunteers and enthusiasts drew the stares and puzzled queries of locals and picknickers on their way out of town. With the first rider taking off sometime after 8.30 and riders leaving at intervals of 1 minute, the mercury soared and later riders were left rueing the fact that they didn’t get in to register earlier.

The course was a 20km loop (10 up and 10 back) starting from near ‘Friends Dhaba’. Conditions were sunny to begin with and pretty hot by about 10 a.m with some stiff-ish head and crosswinds. The races went absolutely down to the wire. The Kynkyny army came to town with about 12 or 13 riders (I lost count) and dominated the early timings but Team Naesar caught up in quick time (pun intended). The Bijapur brigade also made their presence felt, and then some.

Lokesh, took off like a bat out of hell and rode a brutally powerful leg, as is his wont. Roopak sliced through the rising heat on his gorgeously aerodynamic Giant Trinity TT bike and whispered his way to a solid time. Samim was a blur of pink as he crossed the finish on his Cervelo. Vivek Radhakrishnan languidly rode past the finish to discover (somewhat to his bemusement) that he had finished on the podium. Naveen and Darren dropped the hammer and finished with strong sub-31min times. At the end of the day however, Asif Attar of Team Naesar claimed the gold when he crossed the finish line in a blistering 29 minutes and 5 seconds. The podium honours were even with two members each from Naesar and Kynkyny (Samim and Vivek sharing third).

I can’t help but be partisan and make special mention of the MTB tribe. It takes some granite cajones (and perhaps a bit of softness in the head) to ride a mountain bike in a time trial and I doff my helmet to those who did. A loud ‘Booyah’ goes out to MTBeer-in-Chief Nelly who achieved his goal of dropping a roadie on his hardtail.

By 11 a.m it was all over. A fantastic way to kick off the season and what a shot in the arm for bike riding in these parts in general. What began a few years ago with a few random ‘nutters’ racing their way to Nandi has quickly turned into an organised racing scene run by an enthusiastic community – a community that does this purely for the love of the sport. Whatever it becomes in the future, one does hope that the organisers and participants never lose sight of that.

You can take a gander at what it all felt like here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/beingthomas/sets/72157629434913725/

Revival

Wow, its been a loong time and while this blog has been on the mind for a while, I look back at a year and a half ago and I certainly never expected things to go this way.

 

Quick update – the bike still lies in the garage in a dismantled state for various reasons. But, that is top of the mind and work will soon begin on that.

 

In the meantime, I’ve taken up the non-motorised form of biking and there’s quite a bit of activity on that front. More on all this post-haste

Thar she blows!!!!

Left her standing on the weekend of the 13th since it was b’day weekend away. Had an incredible one 🙂

Got back to her Friday the 20th. S Uncle had been emery-ing the tank away. Spent 30 hours on one side by then (?!).

He had cleaned the carb and kept it aside.

So, we spent the first two hours pulling off the tank and all the side panelling and then figuring out the wiring and electricals.

Well he figured it out anyway.

I just stood there, cut pieces of paper, marked wires with strange numbers and listened to stuff that was mumbo jumbo to me.

Some of it did start to make sense after a while though.

After hmmmm-ing and ho-ing over the wires for a while he pulled two off the ignition switch and tied them together. Then we put in a spark plug, held it to the engine fins and kicked. A weak little spark came to life. So weak actually that I didn’t see it. I simply took his word for it.

So, with bated breath (mostly mine), we put the carb back in. It took a while that, since it refused to stay put.

Then poured petrol into the carb.

I took a deep breath (since it’d been bated for so long) …

Put my foot on the lever.

Pump, pump, KICK!

Nothing…

Deep breath..

Pump..

Pumppp….

KICK!!

Putt.. Putt. Puttt….

Deeper breath..

Pummmppp…

Pummpppppppppp……

KICKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!

ROAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!

She came to life with a deafening roar and then happily idled away. Just as if she’d never been put to sleep.

Rip van Winkle came to life after nearly twenty years.

Called Dad to listen to her over the phone..