India Cycling Trip: Route Planning Begins – With Your Help

One of the most fun aspects of a long cycling trip starts weeks or even months before departure: Route Planning.

Maps are one of my favourite things. They are, in and of themselves, a “choose your own adventure” story. Choose your mode of transportation, in my case a bike, and follow the lines with your finger. No, not the big thick highway lines, those are filled with cars and trucks, stressful, polluted, and dangerous. Pick the thinner ones. Imagine a stop to watch for waterfowl as you cross a big river. Imagine the people you will meet in the village on the other side. Think about where a day’s ride, 80-120 km to be comfortable, might take you and where would you stay when you arrived? Where could your next day’s ride take you from there? And the next? Where would be a nice place to spend a relaxing day or two of rest? Follow that path for an hour or so. Now go back to your starting point and follow a different road. What’s the story on that route? Do you like it better than the first one? Oh look! You’ve just spent an entire day imagining a hundred different trips with a hundred different stories to be found in each.

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As I prepare for a few weeks on the road in India, I am overwhelmed with choice. The ride will likely start in or near Delhi because that’s where our flight lands – and I don’t want to haul a bike around too far when I can just ride it. But where to go from there? Do I head north in to the Himalayan foothills? (Not too far, it’s likely to be colder than I”d like if I get too far north), west in to Rajasthan and Gujarat? East toward Kolkata? Or south toward Madhya Pradesh and beyond?

In the end I know whatever direction I go I will have a wonderful and memorable time because it’s as much about the small things: talking to people in a village at a lunch stop, as it is about seeing a monument or museum. But like I mentioned before when we were in New York City, a destination is useful to provide a direction and sense of purpose. It is along the route dictated by the direction that all of the adventures happen.

So this is where I’m calling on you, dear readers. What are the places you love in India? They don’t have to be tourist spots, in fact, if you are already living there, what are the places that make you love where you live? Is there a snack stall in a neighbourhood you keep going to? A temple that makes you feel peaceful every time you go, a park that cheers you up just by being there, or somewhere that just makes you think. Or are there places that you love just because of a personal story you have from when you were there. To give you comparable examples, if you were to ask me this question about Toronto, I’d want to take you to the Toronto Reference Library because it is so beautiful and is, in my opinion, like a temple for books and knowledge, on to the Toronto Islands because they’re so peaceful and free of cars and yet so close to the city. And we could make several trips to Scarborough because whatever food you craved from anywhere in the world could be found there.

Add your suggestions as comments below. I’ll take everyone’s suggestions and plot them on a Google Map that I’ll add to this entry and keep updated. As we get closer to departure day, I will use them to figure out a general route to take and share that as well. And if I happen to pass through where you live, I’d definitely love to say hi and meet for coffee or chai.

18 thoughts on “India Cycling Trip: Route Planning Begins – With Your Help

    1. First off, a lesson for me: Always check your spam folder. This comment somehow ended up there which is ridiculous.

      Second of all, that’s absolutely a possibility. The tricky part is getting my bike to the start – which is why Delhi was, in my mind, where it starts. But depending on how much time I have, I could ride from there to, say, Kanyakumari. Or somehow get my bike to Mumbai and head south from there to Kanyakumari and then back up to Chennai. I can cover about 80-100 km/day comfortably if the traffic isn’t bad and the road quality is good so I have some math to do to see what is reasonable – allowing for stops along the way to explore a few places. After all, such a trip isn’t just about covering ground. This is why I wouldn’t do something like, Tour of Nilgiris. The scenery would be beautiful but that ride seems about covering ground quickly – sometimes 150 km/day. It would be interesting but I feel like I’d get to the end and have to ask myself: “Where did I just go?”

      Exploring the south is something I definitely need to do. I’ve spent next to zero time there other than a few days in Bangalore – which really isn’t so far south. Sage and I have a plan to spend a bit over a week in Bangalore again with a possible side trip to Hampi. But taking a train for a weekend to Hampi is one thing, covering a countryside at 20 km/hour, stopping to see what looks interesting and talking to people along the way is another thing entirely.

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      1. Duration is still to be determined – a few variables need to be decided.

        You’re not the only one going there – I find 1-2 comments there every week or two. I wish I could just mark certain people as “never go to spam” – it would be easier.

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  1. Thanks for using coffee and chai & not tea and chai. There are many places where you can enjoy your rides in Delhi but the timings are very important because you don’t want to suffocate yourself in this pollution. So early morning around 5 to 6. It is green, and almost empty. There are cycling clubs as well. Which will accompany you.

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    1. I couldn’t leave my precious coffee out of the options 🙂

      Thanks for the advice. My memories of Delhi make me think that the earlier I get out the better. Doubtless this is true for any of the larger cities, as well – avoiding peak hours will be my best bet. And of course between cities I need to avoid major highways for the same reasons. My memories of NH48 around Jaipur tell me that I would not have a lot of fun there. On the other hand, the small roads in rural Rajasthan looked amazing.

      I’ll definitely try to connect with some local cyclists but eventually will get far enough away from the city that they’ll want to turn back. Depending on the direction I go, I could likely connect with other cyclists along the way. I’m sure I’ll run in to many over the 1000-3000 km route (based on the amount of time I expect to have and my usual pace I can keep)

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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    1. I will start in New Delhi (that’s where my flight is going) but where I go from there is still to be decided. I’ve been a few places in India before: Jaipur, New Delhi, Varanasi, a bit of time in Bangalore, Mumbai, and a small village near Ratnagiri. Now I’m interested in seeing what others love about where they live or have visited. The idea is that I will plot all of everyone’s ideas on a map and see if that reveals a path to me 🙂

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  2. Hey Todd. nice to see the plan getting laid out. I’ll list a few options and if you choose anyone of these I’ll help you plan things along with my cycling buddies. As for cycling in and around Delhi, you really do not have to worry as I am part of a big community of cyclists, so you will be having good and safe company.

    1. Delhi – Mumbai via Rajasthan and Gujarat
    2. Delhi – Haryana – Punjab – Himachal
    3. Delhi – Nepal

    Will present a few more options after consultation with more experienced riders in the group.

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  3. Wow! I am in awe of this proposed trip. Sadly I have little to be able to contribute as I haven’t even been to India! I’ve just cycled from north to south of France which was fantastic and now I’d like to go from London to Auschwitz-Birkenau but my husband isn’t too keen …. I think he worried a little about me travelling on my own, but the freedom, the wonderful freedom and sense of achievement has opened my mind. I shall keep working on him. As for you, you’ve got a follower in me as I’m longing to hear how, why and where you go. Good luck and very, very happy cycling. Katie

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