We’re well known for our unique tests (even if we do say so ourselves). Well, this is more unique than most. To celebrate 100 issues, we’re racing to ‘100.’ Not from 0 to 100km/h, but from 0 to 100 kilometres in total. In other words, 20 laps around the BIC. Yup, this lot…
“On this day, I race a man in leathers and some men in tights. Give me a real challenge, would you?” I say in the introduction to the video we were shooting. I appear smug, as you tend to do before a race, but in truth I’m quite concerned about the outcome. You see, we felt that both Ashish and I ought to have no more than three-cylinders – seeing that the blokes we were racing against had nothing but muscle power and strong hearts powering them to the finish line. But I’m not really racing them, am I. I’m racing Ashish, and he’s got three cylinders powering considerably less mass than I do.
The Mini may have go-kart like handling, but I’ve only got 114 horses to his 117. Yes, I do have four contact patches to his two, and far larger ones at that – so I should have the advantage around a full lap of the BIC. But only time will tell. In the meantime, the guys from Team Kinshi are looking pretty serious. As if at the Tour de France, each rider will push the other to the absolute edges of human endurance as they attempt to slipstream and muscle their way around the track.
It’s a pretty intriguing start-line if I’m honest. This is truly a face-off like no other. Conceptually, the idea was to see just how fast we could cover 100 kilometres using three different forms of transport – a car, bike, and cycle – but sitting at the start things have taken on greater proportions. Now, we’re racing for pride.
As the flag drops, Ashish shoots towards the first corner. I try and catch him on the brakes, and tail him to T3 that leads to the back straight. There’s hope yet. No there isn’t… on the back straight, he takes off like a rocket (another model by Triumph ironically) and pretty soon he’s no more than a spec on the horizon. What a sight – and sound! As I clattered on, the Daytona sounded just fantastic. But, oh, how I tire of seeing him zoom off into the distance – on every lap, for 20 laps!
But the Mini wasn’t just going to roll over and play dead. What we gave up on the straights we more than made up for in the corners. By the time we reached the parabolica, I took him on the outside. And we continued this game of cat-and-mouse non-stop for 20 laps. I kid you not. This is, by far, the most fun test we’ve ever done – and, of course, the craziest.
We swapped places every lap. Neither of us could push to the max, because we have to save our machines – the brakes mostly – to make them last for a 100-kilometre race. The Mini was faultless, other than some brake fade, as is flitted from one corner to the next – but, in the end, my worst fears were realized. The bike won by 2.5 seconds. Can you believe that, after 20 laps and over 100 clicks? We had lapped the cycles more times than any of us cared to count, and they were still at it – huffing, puffing and flexing around every lap of the BIC. I salute them.
I may have lost, but I can’t help thinking that I had the best gig on the day – at least I didn’t have to don a stupid costume. Plus, I was grinning like an idiot throughout, except when I crossed the finish line in second that is. In retrospect, I should have just run Ashish over when I had the chance…
The take-away from this test is this – if laughter is the best medicine, this is how you administer an hour-long dose of this miracle drug.
Dhruv came up with the idea of covering a quick 100 kilometres on the BIC to celebrate the 100th issue of the autoX magazine. The catch, this time, was to have cyclists do the same alongside the motor assisted forms of transport.
We decided to do this in the form of a team time-trial, where 6 riders cycle in a line, one behind the other, taking benefit of the leaders slipstream, while rotating the lead at regular intervals. I called in the boys from Kinshi, an amateur road-racing team from my hometown of Chandigarh. Needless to say, they snapped at the chance to do a century ride on the famed BIC.
Come D-day, and we got to the circuit with our carbon fibre and alloy race machines, all decked up in lycra livery. The idea was to start off together with the car and the motorbike, and carry on at our own determined pace. A quick briefing in the control room was followed by a sighting lap, where we realised that we were going to bear the brunt of headwinds and crosswinds on about three-fourths of the lap – and a meaty tailwind behind us on the back straight as a saving grace.
Many shutter releases later, the lights went green and off we went. We allowed Ashish and Dhruv to speed off ahead before gathering ourselves into formation. Soon, the team was on a roll. Naveen in the lead, myself behind him, followed by Yogesh, Sandeep, Hashmeet and Arvind. The aim was to complete the 100 in 3 hours. Lead changes were after every 1km.
This is where the physics comes into play. To assist our forward motion at a respectable velocity, we utilise equipment made of lightweight high-grade carbon and alloys moulded and hydroformed in the most aerodynamic shapes to minimise wind resistance. Carbon frames and forks, carbon wheels with bladed spokes and deep section rounded rim profiles to cut the air and reduce yaw, flat cross section handlebars, aerofoil shaped frame tubes, 120+ psi tyres… you name it. Who says wind tunnel testing is used only on F1 cars!
And then there’s nutrition. We obviously don’t have internal combustion engines or high octane unleaded fuels. Or maybe we do, in our own way. Bananas, energy bars, electrolyte salts, some more bananas, energy gels, carbs before and during the ride, salts during and after the ride, and protein after the ride for recovery.
At first, we had been slightly sceptical about the bike and car whizzing past us at breakneck speeds, but realised very soon into the ride that our co-rider and co-driver were highly skilled and dependable. The Daytona was easily distinguished by the howling exhaust note coming up from behind us, as was the Cooper with the screeching tyres as they both kept at each others necks for the first hour or so. It was an awesome perspective watching them scrap it out whilst on a cycle doing rounds on the same circuit simultaneously!
So we’re halfway through the ride, 10 laps done, 10 to go. The car and bike are done and resting easy in the pit lane. We’re in our own bubble by now. All the physics and nutrition has gone out the window. The cover of Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About The Bike, flashes in front of me for a split. And then we take T4 off the back straight and hit this vicious crosswind that wants to drift your cycle all the way to T5. Muscle your way to the turn. A quick gust of a tailwind before we climb to the parabolica. Yes it is a climb – even the slightest of gradients make themselves felt in our aching quadriceps. Exit that, down to the small chain-ring, climb up to T14, and a welcome downhill before we turn back onto the main straight. Here, we’re greeted by a headwind with a vengeance. The finish line seems far away, but we get there. Another lap down! But there’s no rest for the devil on the bicycle. Climb up the brow on T3, off the saddle, pump those quads and then head down the lovely long back straight with its gentle downhill and encouraging tailwind (that’s putting it mildly). And then we’re back to square one. Fatboy Slim, you need to make a new song – Headwind, Crosswind, Tailwind, Repeat.
Finally, the repetitions are over. The countdown says Lap 20. We’re slightly behind schedule, and we make that last dash to the finish line, our thighs screaming bloody murder. I can easily say, unlike most others who have ridden or driven the BIC, that we’ve burned more calories than rubber doing so…
First things first – when we were in the planning stage for this feature, I went absolutely daft and suggested that we should do a 100-lap race. What’s so silly about that? 100 laps – that’s what. Not kilometres, laps! To put that in perspective, it’s over 500 kilometres.
Dhruv had literally no issues with my silly proposition other than the occasional, “It’ll take a lot of time, and we might have to be hugely (and that’s an understatement) careful with our machines,” kind of statements. Of course, he would be sitting pretty on a bottom-friendly creation of foam-and-leather while the pedal-turning warriors would be flaunting their hairy legs wearing super-tight latex-like clothing sitting on something just short of an anal-torture device (they call it a seat). I, meanwhile, would be fixed inside an all-black, all-leather, sweat-making industrial boiler masquerading as riding gear and tailored to suit my physical proportions. And let’s not talk about the seat of the Triumph Daytona 675, because there isn’t one. What it has is a thin film of black paint on metal.
Right – what we’ve established so far is that my idea was preposterous – the cyclists would get their bottoms tortured and die much before even thinking of completing the challenge, Dhruv would be comfortably sipping many cans of Red Bull (this is product placement that we must consider charging money for) while driving, and I would melt. Great! That’s when we altered the plan – we’d go 100 kilometres instead. Sanity prevailed.
It was the perfect calculation – 20 laps of literally full-attack mode. We were mindful of the fact that the cyclists wouldn’t be able to come anywhere near our speed – so it was a straight battle between Dhruv and I. Dhruv’s weapon of choice was the Mini (which isn’t really that ‘mini’ anymore), while I’d be riding the slightly sober version of the bike on which I went fastest around the BIC. You must understand that Dhruv would have a great advantage over me in almost all the corners, while I would shred his advantage on the straights with massive horsepower fumes being blown into his intake.
When I rode the Daytona 675R at the track, I was super excited and was mainly focusing on going as fast as I could because I barely had time to put in a few laps. That’s why I overlooked certain (fundamental) things that I noticed on the bog-standard 675 – but it’s also because the 675 is quite a bit different to ride from its (relatively) hard-core ‘R’ sibling. On my first couple of sighting laps, I went out in the standard setting the bike came to us in. The front felt a bit lethargic compared to the 675R, and the overall balance was a bit too soft for track-use. We firmed things up a bit by turning the screws a bit – and with the preload and damping finally set to what I was comfortable with, I was ready to go.
So, after Mr. I-am-forever-frustrated-with-this-bunch-of-jokers (Kapil, for those who’ve started following us only recently) was satisfied with his opening shots, we stood in a formation at the start-line. Six cyclists, Dhruv in the red Mini, and I on the 675. I could literally hear my heart beating – vigorously. One look at all our faces (yeah, okay, mine wasn’t visible behind the visor) and you could tell that we were not taking this lightly. The wrinkles on the forehead, eyes absolutely focused on the mark. This was no fun feature – it was a proper full-on race. It was war!
Ha, but who cares – the moment the flag dropped, I was already pulling many car-lengths away and by the time I braked for the first corner, I was doing about 130km/h already. From there, it was quite straight-forward business for me. I was clocking in excess of 230km/h lap-after-lap on the two straights and that was helping me keep the margin to Dhruv intact, which he was shortening in the corners. It was on the third lap when I decided to slow down slightly to allow Dhruv to catch up so that I could also film our catch-me-if-you-can game. We went like that for two laps – every time Dhruv would go ahead on the corners, I’d tease him with the twist of the throttle and blast past doing speeds he could only dream of in that ‘little’ diesel powered ‘huge’ go-kart.
Lap 6, and things started to go wrong. The full-attack mode was starting to show its effects on the bike. The clutch was giving way, and the rear brake refused to respond with steady feedback. I still continued, but backed off by a good margin. The next lap, however, the clutch lever had developed severe play and the clutch bite was next to nothing. The rear brake was cooked, and no matter how much I wanted to balance-brake with it, I couldn’t. The tyres too were balding on one side, and the immense heat in them wasn’t helping much either.
The next lap, just as I got on the brakes for Turn 4 at the end of the back-straight, I realized that I had literally no response from the rear disc. I kept the steering straight, squeezed the best juices out of the fronts, and, in the run-off area, the bike came to a stop with me still on it. I closed my eyes, shook my head in disbelief, and breathed a big sigh of relief. That was a big, big, moment. I don’t quite know how else to say it. Phew!
Dhruv had just gone past, and I was still in his rear-view mirror – so he slowed down and would have parked on the side of the track to check on me had I not started off again. No, he wouldn’t have. None of us are that kind to each other. So, as expected, he floored it as I worked my left foot on the gear lever. But here onwards, all the way till the chequered flag, it was a constant battle for the lead between Dhruv and I. He’d go on the outside of me around the parabola, while I would be right behind and go past him on the pit-straight.
The last two laps were nothing short of epic. We exchanged the lead three times! In the end though, there was barely anything between the car and the bike. Dhruv was shouting inside the car – I could see him in my rear-view and imagined he’d be using the choicest words he could think of for me. He pulled alongside and offered me water – in an effort to mock me. Juvenile perhaps, but you know something, I did need all the water I could get – the effort was far greater on the bike than I had imagined. The fact that you steer using not just the bars, but also the body becomes a tiring experience. I even pressed a nerve on my waist on one occasion. In a nutshell, it was hard work. And I’d do it again. Oh, and the cyclists were still way behind... meanwhile, parts of me that I can’t mention in the magazine still hurt.
- By the Numbers
Single lap distance: 5.14km
Total laps covered: 20
Total race distance: 102.8km
Total Time Taken
Bike: 57 mins & 10.6 secs
Car: 57 mins & 13 secs
Cycle: 3 hrs, 13 mins & 56 secs