Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013/2014 Randonneuring Season - When journey is the destination

Alright.You have done brevets in Hyderabad before. Does it make sense to do this again this year? Has there been any changes from last year? Actually there are. And lots of them. If you are the kind who likes adventure and challenge, the brevets this season is something you  should look forward to.

Here is a brief writeup of what has changed.
  • Highways and Country roads, only loops : Unlike the previous years, this years route have a good mix of highways and country roads. All the routes are loops. That is, you are not going to trace the same route back while coming.
The country roads during the recce of one of the 200 km route

  • Scenery and Adventure : The routes this times are going to provide you a glimpse of some of the most scenic places around Hyderabad. As a result, very often you will find yourself on the road less taken. You will ride through some stunning countryside, crossing fields, hills , lakes and even forests. As an example, one of the 200 km brevet route takes you through Anathgiri hills ( near Vikarabad) past the Kotepally lake. A few other routes passes through Kawal wildlife sanctuary, Pocharam lake , and Narsapur forest .
One of the lesser known roads through Ananthgiri hills
  • Challenges : You guessed it right.The routes have become tougher. You will encounter climbs and rolling terrain, stretches of bad roads and navigation challenges. You will also have to manage your supplies well as your ride through the country roads at the wee hours of the morning. The medals, though, will be well earned.
At the top of one of the climbs

  • Control points : There's going to be more frequent control points. Manned as well as unmanned. We will ensure you are on your toes, always:-)
Control point

  • Variety : There is going to be multiple 200 km and 300 km routes this time. So you can choose to do the ones what excites you. You could also end up doing all the routes :-) 
A stretch on the 300k brevet

Here is a link to the brevet routes this season -

Before I sign off, I must thank the entire Hyderabad Brevet organizing team who have been owned the whole thing starting from working out the route options, doing the recces  for each and every shortlisted routes, and filling up the route approval forms. We look forward to a great 2013/2014 Randonneuring Season.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Inside Business Ethics

Can 'business' and 'ethics'  survive together ? Hmm, I can tell you for sure, that’s not easy. I thought I might as well put a few questions down here and have you guys ponder upon them.

Would you always recommend a bike because you think that is the right bike type( hybrid , MTB etc) for the customer ( based on his usage, body dynamics, etc). What if that 'right bike' is not in stock? Would you let the customer know that the bike/size you think suits him best is not in stock and he has to wait a week or two for it ( If your answer is yes, you can lose the sale)? Or would you rather not be transparent and suggest him something based on what you have? What if you had a really bad month so far and can't really afford to lose the sale?

Would you stock a product if you know it is not a great product? What if the margin is very good? What if the guy distributing /importing the product is a very good friend/relative of yours and could put your relationship at risk if you deny him? Is your answer still 'No' ? Lets assume you are the kind who at any cost will not keep something you believe is not 'up to the mark'. What if you did a mistake in product selection and only realised it later that the product is not of desired quality? Would you admit to your customers when they ask for suggestion, knowing you will be stuck with the products that you think is 'bad'? What if it has huge financial implications and set you back in a big way ?

Would you stock something knowing the product is great but the margin is too small for the whole thing to turn out profitable? If the answer is 'No', would you admit the reason to customer when they ask you why you not stocking it? When the customer asks you opinions on the same product, would you give him honest opinion knowing that it might result in you losing the sale and he going and picking up the product from a different channel?

Luckily, we knew what we believed to be the right answers even before we started in 2009.  And over the years, the answers have not changed. These are the answers that translates into our 'values', gives meaning to TBA and our life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review - Bergamont Helix 2.3

Dharma Teja started cycling in early 2010 on his Hercules act 110. Since then he has owned and ridden many bikes  including a giant rival MTB , Schwinn Madisson and a Fuji Roubaix 1.3. On the bike, he loves to push his limits and takes special interest in randonneuring. Here , he reviews the Bergamont Helix 2.3. All pics by Manu Balasree.

This is first of the two road tests to test and compare two popular dual sport bikes in market today. Bergamont Helix 2.3 and Trek 8.2 DS are the two entry level dual sport bikes that claim to offer balanced road and offroad performance. We hope to give detailed insight into the two cross roaders to help buyer make an informed decision.

Helix 2.3 - Just another city bike?

When I was asked to review the Bergamont Helix 2.3, first thoughts that crossed my mind are it's just another hard tail hybrid . But the hundred kilometres that I rode on proved it is much more than what meets the eye. This road test comprises of riding 30 km in city traffic, 55 km of road riding and 20km of trail riding. And incidentally the trail riding part happened during a cross country race where I finished fourth riding it stock without any kind of changes.

Bergamont Helix 2.3


Frame is double triangle with slightly sloping top tube, a geometry that is perfect for a cross bike.

Adapt on road and off road, Bergamont classifies the bike under 'Cross'

The blue/black matte graphic scheme gives an overall smooth flow of appearance to the bike. Frame protecting tape and cable rubbers are nice touches.The bike weighs a tad less than 14 kg . The overall build stands upto highest quality levels that is expected of a German make.

German Engineering

Tubing is single butted 6061 aluminium alloy with heat treatment to improve tensile strength.

6061 aluminium, single butted tubing

The bike ( men's version) is available in size 46cm and 52 cm in India.There is also a female version of the same bike , available only in size 46 cm.


Drivetrain : The bike comes with 21 speed trigger shift , 14-28 teeth freewheel and 48-38-28 crankset. Nothing much to write about here, the gearing is standard across hybrids and cross bikes.

Bottom bracket : The make is unspecified, but we found it to be fluid and efficient.

Wheel set : Rims are pretty strong and did not go out of true during the test. Hubs are decent and they roll well.

Fork : Fork is Suntour NEX 63mm travel.Even though it's a short travel fork, it doesn't bottom out nor is hard for road jolts to travel upto rider arms. This makes this bike a joy to ride both on road and off the road. Wide tyres complement it by cushioning road bumps. The fork comes with disc mounts, in case you opt for the same in future.

Suntour NEX 63 mm

Brakeset : The Tektro brake callipers and levers are of good quality and braking power is quite good. Gradual two finger squeeze is all that is needed and there is enough power for emergency braking. 

Tektro calipers and brake shoes grips the rim well.

Tires : Stock tyres, though of 700x38 size, have a got lower contact area to due to tread curvature , consequentially offers lesser rolling resistance than expected of a 38c wheel.

Stock tire of helix 2.3

Cornering is not compromised as there are two outside knobby patterns that provide the required grip. The well designed saddle is comfortable, and is neither too soft nor too hard .


Some observations

The bike comes with slightly longer steerer than usual. Aggressive riders may want to lower the stem as per their taste. Handle bar has got slight rise allowing minor adjustments in reach. Grips are comfortable and non slippery. Saddle could be a personal choice , but I found the saddle  comfortable and did not find any pain or numbness . I liked the fact that the seat post has scale marked to get correct position. This can be useful every time you change height between road and off road riding or if you share your bike with friends or family.

Seat post with marking


Road Test

Being a cross bike, on road, the bike behaves slightly differently than a regular hybrid with rigid fork. What it means is that you ride it more like a 29er MTB but with a narrow handle bar. Zipping through traffic is effortless and one doesn't need to worry too much about undulations and road hazards. In fact, on congested roads, one can get onto pavement or off the road shoulder easily because of wider tires and good suspension.
The fork is surprisingly good on road even without any lockout. It does eat up some pedal power but it is far from anything to be called 'soft'. In fact, it is just the right suspension to take on all road bumps and yet to give considerably easier ride than any other hard tail MTB or hybrids. For riders who need fenders, there is ample clearance under fork and between seat stays for various types of fenders to be fit. 

Ample clearance for fenders

Even wider tyres can be fit without issues. As far as road performance is concerned this bike rides and handles better than a regular MTB but a tad bit slower than a equally specked hybrid with rigid fork. 

Dirt Test

Take this bike to a dirt trail, that is where it leaves all other hybrids and many MTBs eating dust in its wake.  I had the opportunity to ride this bike in a 20 km cross country race where it held up very well. Stock tires come with slick grip and knobby thread on out side which improves handling in sand and mud. Cornering is very good . At one stage in that race, I took sweeping corners in dirt to overtake other racers and the bike was asking for more. Suspension soaks up all short drops and bumps. Drops of up to 2 feet are no big deal, both the wheels and fork does good job of keeping you straight on landing. On the flat and slightly inclined(down) stretches of the race, I appreciated the fact that the big chain ring is of 48 teeth. Stability is very confidence boosting, thanks to the geometry and tires that dig deep when necessary yet can slice like a knife through butter. There is very negligible amount of frame flex under hard acceleration uphill. Brakes have good bite through slush and water. Even though this bike comes with basic derailleur configuration, I didn't have any problems shifting gears while attacking uphill sections even on dirt roads.

Stock pedals are not the right choice if one wants to venture off road on this. Even slightest wet patch will leave you hunting for grip on those plastic entry level pedals.To summarize, The helix 2.3 is rightly called a Cross bike.



It is fair to say that I have been taken by surprised by the Bergamont Helix 2.3.   This is one versatile bike which rides quite good on both paved and unpaved paths. For someone in the market looking to buy a bike that can sail them over potholes and bumps on road and exploring trails around, this is a very apt ride. Most new riders who buy MTB end up riding it on road more than on trails. For them, this could be a  very good option  as they can still enjoy occasional offroad trips without sacrificing much fun on long road rides. At the price point of INR 29,000 as on date, this bike is worth the money you pay for it. There are cross bikes like Montra Blues at lower prices but the geometry is not right and suspension is too soft. There are faster hybrids without suspension at this price point, but if one is looking for purely road(particularly non city road) use then this is not the bike to pick anyway.  Next we bring you test report of Trek 8.2 DS and review how the two bikes stack against one another.