Cycling from Alibaug to Goa—How Two Athletes Prepared For a Week-Long Coastal Expedition
Athletes and friends Suresh Srinivasan and Ashish Kaul look back at their endurance cycling mission and share their best fitness advice for aspiring cyclists.
Wanderlust has been at an all-time high in the past couple of years, and finding an escape that is as scintillating to the mind as it is enriching for the body is a rare feat. That's exactly what seasoned athlete and marathon coach Suresh Srinivasan did, with the company of a group of like-minded fitness enthusiasts and under the mentorship of his friend Ashish Kaul, vision guardian and principal facilitator at Destination Outdoors Learning Systems, Uttar Pradesh, a mountaineer with several alpine peaks under his belt and two times Ironman athlete. "It was a team of 7 riders and a support team of four, without whom the entire thing would not have been possible," says Suresh Srinivasan, a Wholistic Wellness & Run for Resilience Coach. Over the course of a week in December 2021, they cycled through rough terrains and thick forests with strong determination and teamwork.
The cycling expedition, tracing the west Indian coast from Alibaug to Goa, was planned with a reliable outfitter like Pro Sports & Bikes and every nuance of the journey was discussed with them. It was a six-day trip, with an additional day added before and after for travel logistics. What goes into the planning and execution of such a journey? We spoke to Suresh Srinivasan and Ashish Kaul to discuss what to expect, what to avoid and how to reap the maximum benefits of this amazing workout on wheels.
A huge thanks to both of you for taking the time to speak with us. (To Suresh Srinivasan) You have been running for a long time now, how much experience did you have with cycling?
Suresh Srinivasan: I had been cycling for just over a year when I first bought my mountain bike in December of 2020. Prior to this, I did a mountain biking trip in the Tirthan Valley
—cycling from Phalachan valley to Batahad and from Nagini to Sarchi Village. It was a steep climb with fast elevation. I did this with my cycling mentor Ashish, who introduced me to the world of endurance cycling. In February 2021, I cycled from Kanatal in Uttarakhand to Rishikesh and then further to Dehradun, doing a distance of 130 km in two days—again taking on a steep elevation. This gave me an experience of mountain-cycling as well as endurance cycling.
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(To Ashish Kaul) Could you give us a brief outline of the course of your journey? Did the ultimate trip match the initial plan or were there surprises along the way? Tell us what you do to remain calm and prepared.
Ashish Kaul: As mentioned earlier, we were to cycle through the west coast from Mumbai to Goa along the old coastal route. We took a ferry from Mumbai to Alibaug and then cycled all the way to Goa in 6 days, crossing terrains which involved rolling hills with ascends and descends throughout, rough roads and the west coast all along—except for sections where we had to traverse thick forests as well. The final trip definitely matched our plan on distance covered and terrain.
Surprises are always a part of any long-distance endurance trip. A few riders were initially exhausted with the climbs and also not accustomed to rough roads and MTB bicycles, since many hail from metropolitan cities. Different people have varying fitness levels and sometimes the group couldn’t stay together as planned—leading to losing the way, sometimes not reaching the food pit stops on time etc. This means that everyone starts looking at the brighter side of adversities!
(To Suresh Srinivasan) You were talking about supervising all the stretching sessions before and after every cycling segment. How similar is training for a run and bicycling?
Suresh Srinivasan: They are two different sports that require different levels of strength, training and mindset. Running being weight-bearing is a high-impact exercise and an intensive aerobic cardio activity as compared to cycling which is a low impact and a low aerobic cardio activity. For cycling, you need strong legs that work your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings. Your core, back and arms are put to test—especially when you are on an endurance ride. In running, your body needs to be in balance along with quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and hip flexors.
Essentially, strength training can be cross-leveraged from running to cycling. For running, you need to work on building aerobic endurance by being consistent on mileage and gradually upping them and start from base training to intensive sessions of speed and move to specificity based on what you are training for in terms of race, type of course/terrain. When you are planning to attempt an ultra distance in cycling one needs to get some distance on-board and more importantly saddle time—the ability to endure being on the saddle for long hours or increasing the frequency of saddle hours which is what one would encounter in a long-distance endurance ride.
Core strength is required for both sports. All cardiovascular sports like running and cycling require warm-up and stretches to ensure you recover well from the previous workout so your muscles are ready to take on the load of next day's rigour. The terrain we were cycling had a challenging climb with rolling hills—this definitely requires your leg strength to be in good shape to take on the rigour in this type of expedition.
As we were in a multi-day endurance cycling back to back on an average doing 90 to 100+ kms in a day, it was highly imperative that the entire group recovered well by kickstarting a well-rounded warm-up regime and concluding it through post-ride stretches—combined with a healthy diet and quality sleep to make our legs feel fresh to take on the challenge of the new day.
(To Ashish Kaul) What goes into the preparation for an expedition like this, in terms of diet and exercise? Under proper guidance, can a beginner go on this journey?
Ashish Kaul: For any long-distance haul, it's very important for people to be prepared months in advance. I selected those athletes whom I knew were consistent with their workouts. One needs to have both endurance and strength training for months along with a nutrition plan with adequate protein, fat and carbohydrates. A beginner straight off the couch can certainly not undertake a journey that requires one to push their heart rates to the maximum for long durations during the day. I would say consistency in aerobic exercise, a balanced diet, loads of recovery and the right mental attitude would be the best combination for a newbie. Moreover, one must have the desire to achieve to begin with.
(To Suresh Srinivasan) You hit a minor roadblock during the journey. Please tell us about your accident and how you bypassed it.
Suresh Srinivasan: On the fourth day, just after taking Darshan at the ancient Ganpatipule Temple outside Ratnagiri, I encountered a fall on the highway. I was going slowly on my side, when suddenly a passer-by fell on me while crossing the road. Thankfully the passer-by was fine, but I had a few bruises all over. I had to stay away from riding the remaining distance of the day. This is where our support team and the entire group were of immense support and help. After resting it out, I was fine to ride the next day and by post-breakfast, I had completed the fifth and sixth day ride successfully. I am grateful that I could complete the ride to Goa.
Adventures like this come with their own share of risks—learning is to always anticipate and stay alert. It's important to listen to your body rest when it's required.
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(To Ashish Kaul) This is an extensive journey spread across a week and cycling for hours at a stretch. What safety precautions would you recommend to our readers?
Ashish Kaul: I would recommend that participants should, first of all, get a medical check-up done to check all their parameters, have a history of consistent workouts, build a strong core and strength work to avoid injuries, carry their prescribed medicines, have a first-aid kit, ensure a good and reliable expedition outfitter for safe and sound logistics, wear a personal tag (with their name, blood group and emergency contact number) and finally be prepared to face uncertainties on the road. I have often noticed that even a small matter could upset the best of athletes and disable their performances, whereas a strong mind on a newbie will take the person through!
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