Friday, April 27, 2012

Cycling at high speeds


A few weeks back, a group of us went cycling on a 50 km route at Madhapur. On the road beside HiTech city, the downhill helped me achieve a top speed of 56.5 km/hr. The experience of moving so fast through the air with nothing in front was least to say exhilarating. It was a long time since I felt such an adrenaline rush. There were many other bikers faster than me achieving speeds in excess of 60 km/hr. But coming close to such speeds in a state of complete alertness made me see why so many bikers cycle so fast. It is addictive.

A reminder here is that precautions are to be taken when cycling fast as the dynamics change. Every parameter needs to be respected and adhered to. When attempting high speeds, a few points to note are:

Tyre pressure: Higher the tyre pressure, lower the friction as the contact area between the rubber and the road and reduced. Rolling friction reduces and the wheels spin quicker. Keep higher pressures for speed and lower pressures for grip.

Brakes: At the end of the road when the speed has to be reduced, only the brakes can save your life. Make sure they are in top condition. Braking to slow down has to be done with first the rear brakes and then the front brakes. Using the front brakes first might cause the wheel to lock and then throw you over the handlebars at the same high speed. No guesses for what may happen when head meets road, even with a helmet.

Balance: The cycle will love to obey gravity and keep going faster. Trust your gut and keep your body posed low but still offering gentle resistance so that you are pushed back by the wind gently. This is to prevent your centre of gravity from shifting to the front that causes you to go faster than the cycle and get flung over the bars

Stay Low: Adopt a crouching position and get down low to prevent your body from being the barrier to the wind. Move your arms and legs inwards so that they don’t flail about. A key thing to remember here is to keep the limbs relaxed. Let the wind move around your limbs but keep them in place. Do not hold too tightly though you may do it out of anxiety.

Maintain a platform: The legs should be in the 9 and 3 o clock position. This keeps your body centred and helps you shift your weight to the front, back or sides with ease.

Scan a line: High speeds give you little time to react at the last moment. Make sure you can scan ahead and mentally map the line you plan to stay on. Watch for lanes from where anyone or anything can appear suddenly and be prepared.

A good hint – To keep the mind active, scan ahead about 20 meters and look at your front wheel. Again scan ahead and move your eyes to the front tire. Doing this up and down action keeps your alert for newer obstacles.

Exercise speed control: This is very very important. Just hitting the downhill not knowing how to control the speed or brake later can be dangerous. I’m not saying ride slowly. But know that when you ride fast, you have less than a second for the situation to change. Understand that, keep your cool and enjoy the breeze.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Superstition of Gold

The air was so thick with smoke. Autos spewing white fumes burnt my eyes. The helmet didn’t help. My brain was getting cooked in it on this hot summer evening. The traffic wouldn’t move for the last 5 minutes. Surrounding me on the road were some of the most expensive cars money could buy. Jaguars, BMWs, dime a dozen Mercs, even a Range Rover. The traffic police were salivating as they fined every car and bike owner for having parked in the No-Parking zones outside the gold shops at Panjagutta. This was the Akshaya Tritiya pandemonium which happens every year to reveal the heights of superstition by humanity pinning hopes of prosperity on that elusive Auric element.

Every gold shop was full. People were jostling about to purchase even a gram of gold. Because buying gold on this day would supposedly herald the next year of richness and prosperity. As if the man made system of days and years was going to control our actions and somehow forgive our sins to give us only wealth. The earth keeps revolving around the sun. That didn’t change. The hot summer was upon us. That didn’t change either. People were born, living and dying. Even that didn’t change. So for the life of me, I cannot fathom why people go berserk on this day and throw all their faith on the atomic soft yellow element hoping it will magically turn their lives into alchemy.

Superstition has plagued us for ages and always will. It is the basis for satisfying our hurt egos when something goes wrong. Because humans have always found it difficult to accept themselves as the root cause for anything. A few examples:

1. As per vaastu, south facing houses are a strict no. So these houses are never built as far as possible. Yet, in this same country of Indians, south facing houses are considered the most auspicious in Tamil Nadu. I wonder whether they were made upside down or whether the rest of the country was. Either ways, everyone’s alive and kicking.

2. Do not sleep with your head towards the north. Because Lord Ganesha lost his head when defending his mother Parvathi against his father Shiva. So Shiva plonked the first available animal’s head found in the north (no guesses for which animal) on the boy’s decapitated body and created Lord Ganesha. Therefore the belief is we should not sleep towards the north either. But a human’s internal magnetic system is aligned with the earth’s magnetic field. It is a healing process and this means we should sleep with our heads towards the north. But who wins this argument? And what about the Christians, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists etc.? Who’s going to tell them not to sleep with their heads towards the north?

3. Sneezing before starting an activity is bad. But 2 sneezes in a row is ok. Or if only one sneeze happened, then wait for some time before beginning the activity. How much time? No one knows. Some say 5 minutes all the way upto half an hour.

Superstition happened when humans had more time on their hands and tried explaining all that happened to go one up on the other. Over the ages, so many have come about that they are now an integral part of our lives. It has become a belief system which gives us much relief when things go our way and a way to throw the blame on the divine when things don’t.

Animals have no such beliefs. They just follow the laws of nature. Even domesticated dogs and cats know when an earthquake is about to happen. Their sixth sense tells them so and they begin running for no apparent reason known to us. Same for other animals. Their sixth sense helps them move to areas of safety when the earth is about to shift. We have blocked our sixth senses with so much clutter of the mind and instead resort to buying a metal like gold on a man made day of the year because our actions will somehow be tuned to attracting more wealth. Such a Pavlovian method of thought.

The earth still revolves around the sun. The traffic cops along with the hot summer breeze must have laughed yesterday to see everyone doing frog leaps to barter a natural element paid for with artificially valued paper.