Taking on the peaks of the Western Ghats.
Taking our fully-loaded Brompton six-speed bikes from sea level up to 1700 meters (5600 feet) required us to briefly engage the Brompton "super-power" - a quick fold, and into the back of a three-wheeled taxi they went. We have been traveling the world on our Brompton bikes for four months, through Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, but the ride up to the Indian Hill Station town of Munnar, nestled amid emerald tea plantations, was our biggest challenge yet. The route took us to the peaks of the Western Ghats, a mountain range that spans the west coast of India.
Day One: Embracing the Fold (57 km in 5 hours 55 minutes - 9.6 km/hour)
We had anticipated a relatively easy 50 km followed by around 20 km of hard climbing. Instead, the climbs began first thing in the morning and lasted all day. We set out around 7:30 am, and by 10 Mila was already feeling exhausted. We stopped frequently for water, snacks, coconuts, and rest, but as the day went on, with the sun scorching and the humidity rising, it became increasingly clear that the planned 70 km might not be feasible.
We had always known that we might need to bail out of this ride, and had joked that Dmitry could keep riding while Mila took a tuk tuk (the local auto rickshaw or three-wheel taxi) to the hotel. After 6 hours and 57 km, Dmitry pulled the trigger and hailed a taxi - for both of us. In rural India, with several kilometers to the next village, we didn't have a lot of choices. In fact, this was the first empty vehicle we had seen in over an hour. The driver initially refused to take us, but relented when Dmitry executed one of the fastest folds ever to show how easily the bikes would fit into the back.
On the drive that followed we saw that we had made the right choice. It was 13km of nonstop, high-grade ascent. Part of the reason to have a folding bike is so that we can utilize alternative options if necessary. This time, it was necessary. This is the Brompton superpower! What we lose in gear range, we get back in easy portability. For anyone wondering, two Bromptons DO fit comfortably in the back of a Piaggio tuk tuk.
Day Two: Taking it Slow (11.6 km in 2 hours 22 minutes - 4.9 km/hour)
We were a little more prepared for the final climb up to Munnar, through gorgeous tea country. The climbs were rough - sometimes more than 20% grade - but with less than 12 km total distance, we knew we could walk the whole way if necessary.
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