NOTE: The bumpy trail bicyclists have a facebook page where you can discuss and sign up for tours.

bicycling in kanpur

do you live in kanpur? do you run small errands by car?

instead of spoiling your health (and polluting the environment) by driving, why not bicycle for these small errands? it's also faster. you can often get your cycle out, do your errand, and be back by the time the garage is opened and the car is backing out. also, the best exercise is what you do in the course of your daily activities, and not by going to a gym....

BTB-er at all soul's church, erected at the site from which the british withdrew in June 1857.

start small. run errands less than 5km, say, first, and gradually increase distance. you will find that the traffic isn't quite as bad as you were afraid of... soon enough you'll be going to the station by cycle to catch your train - it takes about an hour - the same time as a car, and you don't get delayed by traffic jams!

are you up-to snuff on kanpur history? bicycles provide a very convenient means to visit old lanes and alleyways. you can often go right up to the old gates and buildings and sites. check out on the history of your city by visiting our kanpur history tour page (march 2011). also, keep checking facebook for future kanpur history tours...

himalayas, kerala, and delhi brevets

there are many kinds of bicyclists. many integrate bicycling into their everyday lifestyle. many of us, however, want to do more. some of us may be tourers - those who want to explore interesting places, and take up bicycling challenges, such as mountain climbing. others may want to do it for racing or as a fitness challenge (e.g. the 200km brevet, where three BTB-ers participated. those who also run and do other sports, may consider it as a part of a triathlon regime.

whichever mode you are interested in, it is always better to do a challenging run in a scenic environment than in a non-scenic place. with this in mind, btb-ers have often headed for the himalayas (e.g. mukteshwar, 2011 apr) , or for the ghats down south (Tour of Nilgiris, 2010). most recently, binoy raveendran and amit mukerjee went on a 270km five day bicycling cum water rafting ride across the middle himalayas to pokhara, nepal.

amit and benoy negotiating the hills between tansen and pokhara in nepal. the five day tour started at the indo-nepal border at sunauli, explored lumbini, climbed part-way to tAnsen, and rode 120km to pokhara. after half a day exploring the seti river gorge, we went water-rafting down the trishuli. on the fifth day we explored rhinos in the chitwan national park.

other recent bicycle tours include Jamuna river at Moosanagar (110km, 20112 feb), and bhitargaon (2011 nov, dec):

bhitargaon tour (nov 6 2011)

gurgaon 200km brevet: check out the three bumpy trailers that finished the 200km gurgaon-nuh-taoru-hodal-palwal-gurgaon route. this indian pariah kite was seen on a field with a group of egrets harassing it (possibly to protect a nest). oct 16 '11.

also check out the large taj pedal yatra from march this year (290km, 19 riders).

cycles at the taj - ravi sudhansu deepak prince mainak sailesh amit santhosh vijay.

also: a 142km training ride to lucknow.

on the anvil for the future: a trip to kerala in december, and a re-visit to the fascinating lakh-bahosi bird sanctuary near kanauj, and a trip to Leh in July 2012. join us on our facebook page for more.

lakh-bahosi feb 2011: a large painted stork landing amid a flock of spoonbills and black-headed ibis (1.6m wingspan).
a large flock of northern pintails and greylag geese taking off at dusk.

why do bumpy trail bicycling?

based on Energy and equity, Ivan Illich, 1974:
On a bicycle, a man goes three times as fast as he can walk, using five times less energy. On a flat road, he expends only 0.15 calories per gram per km.

Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap.

The cost of infrastructure to support bicycling is far less than that for vehicles; and certainly far less than that of high-speed vehicles.

This is because bicycles take up a lot less space: thirty bicycles can move in the space devoured by a single automobile.

only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking.

a bicycle is also a great way of encountering the wonderful animal life all around us.

a hoopoe rooting about beside the canal. ride of oct 30, 2011

why do bumpy trail bicycling?

at iit kanpur, most of us are profoundly ignorant of the region around our campus. many of us have never seen the lower ganga canal, which runs right behind IIT - the row of trees in the distance behind hall 9/10. mudcliffs and sandbanks on the ganga at bithoor, old temples at villages like gambhirpur or bhausana, folk festivals that keep turning up at the most unexpected places - the region has a lot of nature, culture, and history. cycling is a great way to experience this world.

some of the trails can be bumpy - but hey, there's hardly any traffic. no pollution, clear skies, open lakes. the people you meet are leisurely, and are happy to talk to you. you pedal past lush yellow mustard fields in the winter, and through tall sugarcane in the autumn. further afield, one may make trips to kannauj or lucknow or lakh bahosi or even to the mountains. the region is also rich with bird life, and you can get to see many interesting species. however, what many people don't realize is how much birding you can do even nearby, and with kids.

riding around the villages, we keep being surprised at how little we know of the culture of the region. the urban-rural divide in india is huge, and getting wider, and we can see it clearly on our rides. wherever we go, children gather around us as if we are from some other planet, and perhaps we are. undocumented historical artifacts are everywhere, from the mazhars just outside the IITK boundary to to the many abandoned office complexes of the canal authority to Nana Sahib's bithoor. how many of us driving on sher shah's sadak-e-Azam (GT road) have noticed the DAk-chowkis (originally erected by Jahangir every 3km)? these were used to maintain post horses for running the DAk - part of the world's oldest postal system. you can't miss them on bicycles.

click to enlarge a bicycle break on the Upper Ganga canal. the IITK boundary (cant be seen) is just to the right of the path.

one doesn't need a specialized bike to enjoy a bicycle tour, dudhwala to racing bike, all bicyclists are welcome.

below are some scenic trails around IIT Kanpur that we recommend. we are also thinking of organizing a multi-day trip "Tour of Avadh". occasionally, we also do bicycle maintenance workshops, which as a technical institute, can give us a bare modicum of experience with machines.


trails that you can do with any type of bicycle:
  1. IITK - Bara Sirohi - Panki - Kalyanpur - IITK (14 km): en route, check out the ruins of a pre-mutiny shipping tax-post on the canal. a small detour and you can visit the panki temple. :

    routes 1: Panki and route 2: Mandhana (click on images for interactive maps)

  2. IITK to kursaoli to mandhana to IITK (18km) : a beautiful route with a long stretch along the upper ganga canal. this stretch has been recently re-surfaced. so it has an excellent tarmac, but with that, the number of cars has multiplied infinitely (it used to be zero earlier). Still, it is one of the best runs around. Watch the sarus cranes and kingfishers. Take a teabreak at one of the canal bridge teastalls at Kursaoli.

    Route 3: IITK-Mandhana-Bithoor-villages-Kalyanpur circuit (click on image for interactive map)

  3. IITK-mandhana-bithoor-villages-kalyanpur-IITK (39km): Go for a boat ride, or go across the ganga on a pontoon bridge. check out the turtles on the sandbanks and visit the ruins of Nana Sahib's palace, which is being destroyed by commercial interests even as you read this. We go to a fisherman's village a little upstream. In the spring you can pick cucumbers and watermelons from the sand dune direct from the farmers.

    a word of warning on the kalyanpur-bithoor road. the first six km on this road is fairly empty, but around school hours it has many reckless drivers. we consider it one of the most dangerous roads around iitk. best avoided during school hours.

    click on image for interactive map
    route 4: IITK-biroh-shiwali-iitk (click on image for interactive map)

  4. IIT Kanpur to Chowbepur to Shiwali (58 km): Try the fresh sugarcane juice or the pungent mustard-flowers from the many fields en route. The hardier can try the near-canal route from where the Shiwali-Chowbepur road crosses it, to Kursaoli.
    Alternate route: along the canal to reach the Shiwali-Chowbepur road (54km).
  5. the Jamuna river at Moosanagar (110km): even we used to think 100km a very serious challenge. but we find that most students, if they are not seriously unfit, can easily handle a 100K ride... often, the bike is a greater limitation than the body (see tips below on checkin up your bike). in this beautiful ride, you go along good rural roads, with wildlife, temples, and friendly people. check it out!

    View cycling route iit kanpur to moosanagar (garmin download) in a larger map

For details and inquiries email Joydeep Dutta (jdutta@). [Student coordinator sought]

Bicycling blog pages

This section of this page is to record bicycle related blogs by IIT Kanpur-ites. To get it started here are some writeups - three by me and some photos / descriptions from the adventure club. More entries from others sought!!

Bicycling Links

Geared bicycle: How to choose one

more than anything else, high-end bicycles are an object of desire, and most likely you don't need a high-carbon tour-de-france bike.

the first thing to ask yourself is how much bicycling you are going to do. if your aim is to mainly bicycle around iitk - mostly inside iitk, with a few 20-50km trips thrown in once or twice a year, then any normal bike is good enough.

for exploring outside here, where the terrain is flat as chapati, you really don't need a 21-geared bike. though these help a bit in acceleration, it is ultimately your fitness that counts. once on a bicycling tour to lucknow, i met a village man who had represented UP in bicycling, and he was infinitely better on a dudhwala cycle than any of us on geared-bikes or whatevers.

however, if you are going to take your bike to the hills, or if you want to bicycle regularly - say 100-200k per month, you need some gearing. geared bikes start around 7K; the more the price, the less the weight. high end bicycles are lightweight, responsive, and fun to ride. of course, it doesn't hurt that they have sex appeal.

so: if you are cycling 20-30km per week or more, perhaps it's worth the splurge. geared bikes start with the hero thunder mtb at 6.5K and go on to five lakhs or more.

the second q. is what is your experience level? if you have never tried geared cycles before, perhaps you should get a hybrid bike. if you have some experience with gearing, perhaps you may consider a shift to a roadie.

the final q. is - what is your budget? a road bike may set you down by about 30-50k, while a hybrid may cost between 10-20K. if you are looking for the best value for money, perhaps the bsa act-110 (10K) or hero thunder mtb (7k, but impossible to find) may fit the bill.

road bike or mountain bike?

so you want to decide what bike to get? choices, choices...

bsa act-110 hybrid bike, 10K

How to buy your bicycle

bike brands don't matter as much as its fit to your style of usage, and also your personal body fit. most indian bikes are made for males of about 5' 8" (170cm). if you are taller or shorter, you get the short shrift (heh heh). if you can avoid the buzz, try ignoring the specific "brand" and look for features you expect.

does the frame fit your body?

the most crucial part of the bicycle is its frame. it should fit your body size.

aise the seat till your leg stretches out at the bottom of the stroke. At this position, is your body bent forward too much? then the handlebar may be a bit low, or too far forward. Try adjusting the seat forward / backward. If it doesn't work, try another frame.

once you have a frame that works for you, you may order a frame which has a similar geometry; (top tube and seat tube, and angle) - you can then order it.

where to get bicycles in north india

a number of other brands, such as Raleigh, LA Sovereign, KTH, etc are also available in metros like bangalore or mumbai. you can also place orders directly on international sites and have them delivered without customs duty to addresses in delhi / mumbai (getting it to kanpur gets stuck in octroi hassles).

bike maintenance

now we have shaqeel, possibly the finest mechanic in north india, inside the iitk campus. he runs "shaqeel cycle parts" in front of hall 9. he has had training from shimano on geared bikes, and can also help you find a bike.

where to ride

this page itself has about twenty or so routes in and around iitk. you can find more by clicking any of the links in the menu at the top.

Warning: the route to bithoor via kalyanpur has become very dangerous - especially around the dps school and also beyond singhpur. the road used to be empty, and cars think they can still speed, but it gets quite a lot of traffic nowadays. for bithoor, we recommend the canal - kursauli- mandhana - bithoor route, or the gtroad-mandhana-bithoor route.

here are some of the organized tours in india:

Organized Bicycling Tours / Rides

However, frankly, the kind of trails we get here at IITK - right at our backyard - are excellent. the only problem is that they are unremittingly flat... so if you have a craving for mountains, go for one of these tours.

things to check before a ride...

bike repair
  1. brakes: should stop well within a bike length at good speed
  2. tube: if tube is > 1 year old, or has had one or two punctures, just replace it.
  3. seat height: raise the seat so the
  4. tire: check tires for ruptures and other weak spots.
  5. wheel: look at the wobble on the rim. if more than 1-2 mm, get it trued.
  6. hubs: are wheels sticky? should spin so long that you get bored. leg nearly straightens out at the bottom of the stroke.
  7. noise: sometimes you may need to get rid of the chainguard.
  8. chain slip:does the chain slip often? check the wear on the chain. if not worn, adjust rear wheel.
carry a liter bottle
for the dust
on long rides, remember to replenish salts
stretch before you start, and stretch at breaks.
eat well the night before

Finally: some longer Routes

These are recommended by Saumen Guha and me - we did these while training for the BSA Tour of Nilgiris 2010. If you are looking for a long circuit, we would recommend the shuklaganj-unnao-bangarmau-bilhaour route (160km). The bhitargaon temple can be reached by a number of excellent routes (95km direct route; 130 km via gajner; 150km via moosanagar).

maitha-tripula-aunaha-sakhrej-shivli 84 km
this route has several honey farms - bees in chests all over a field. see route map.

raipur-gajner-ghatampur-bhitargaon 130 km
Bhitargaon is the site of an ancient Gupta period temple abt 50km from IITK. The oldest brick temple in India, it is one kanpur's lesser known attractions. Dating from about 500AD (the ASI chappies there say 300AD, but i trust vidula-ji's book) It had been very badly damaged and vandalized by the time it came to the notice of the ASI in British time. It was re-constructed with a number of terracotta tile sculptures placed on the outside, and a small inner sanctum which is largely barren.

The route went along the rustic Raipur-Gajner road. Gajner to Ghatampur was very poor (under construction) for about 40% of the distance. The ramaipur-naubasta segment on the NH while coming back had no tarmac and was horrid. We took NH2 to panki from naubasta.

akbarpur-mugishapur-rura-shiuli 136 km
On our run, my misguided sense of adventure made us go along the kaccha canal path to Panki - on the morning right after some heavy showers last night. punctured on babool. despite starting at 0615, we lost one full hour changing tubes, fixing old tubes, cleaning up mud etc. the NH2 stretch started off fine but i felt a bit of a loss of energy abt 30km on. but things improved after the right turn to rura (or was it the double omlet at mugishapur?). the road to rura - tarmac not as nice as nh2, but a green reprieve after all the truck noise. on to shiuli on familiar terrain (more here). cross sanger river after derapur and rind river soon after rura. surprisingly, i felt full of energy at the end which bodes well for tfn.

sarsaul 98 km
this is a route that joydeep and i have done often. down nh-2 - definitely go on the upper story. reaching NH2 one goes via panki (some bad stretches) - then make sure you turn RIGHT - towards delhi - climb up the ramp and immediately do a U-turn onto the left-hand lane. if you go by the service road, there are NO entrances for 17km, and the road is chockfull of traffic and potholes. i remember i once forgot my helmet at cold drinks stall in sarsaul - necessitated an extra 8km while joydeep went slow and i ran back. pedal average 22kph, clock average abt 20.

kanpur-unnao-bilhaur-kanpur 160 km
[saumen guha + amit mukerjee]
this was to our longest ride around here. saumyen and i started off at 0540, and crossed over the old ganga bridge onto some 5km of pothole heaven through shuklaganj, then mildly rough for the next 13km till the Safipur highway. i had been apprehensive of the unnao-safipur-bangarmau road, but it turned out that this had been upgraded in 2005, and was an excellent tarmac running through quiet paddyfields and the occasional high-walled jail.

we zipped through the next 50kim, raising our average speed from 17km/h to 20. we had quick breaks for halwa and gulab-jamun at chakrapur crossing (45km), pakoras at bangarmau (85km) before crossing back over the ganga on the beautiful bridge at nanamau. breakfast halt at bilhaur (110km,11AM) - till then the sum-total of our breaks was about 10 min. but after that we had a long halt at Shivrajpur where we couldn't find each other. at the end we felt we could go on for another hour or two - so the worries about the tfn10 day 1 run of 177km was put to rest. The avg pedaling speed was 20.5k/h, and the clock average about 18kph.

nawabganj 118 km
the bumpy trail bicyclists set out from iit k to the nawabganj bird sanctuary, abt 60km from campus. satyadev, lovy, joydeep, saumen and i. it was a leisurely ride, with a big halt for alu-paratha...

Amit Mukerjee with 24 year old
					  Nishiki Pueblo: click to
					  enlarge page maintained by amit mukerjee for the bumpy trail techies mukerjee [at] gmail