If you’re a serious cyclist in Pune, you’ve probably heard of Jan Ekern – if you haven’t, well … you’re not serious! Okay, I’m just kidding – Jan is a fifty year old cyclist from Norway, and today, we’re here to talk about just one of his epic rides in Pune. This one is was 180 km long, has over 8 hours of riding, and with 2600 m of elevation, a lot of climbing.
Again, those who ride here will have realized what’s happening here by looking at the this route, but the elevation map tells a far better story.
When I was in Pune October last year I teamed up with Pune Wolfpack and had a plan involving three rides with them. For some reason the Saturday ride went down the drain, so I was left to myself. This Saturday was now a chance for me to get around, and the only day possible for a long day out. My previous visit to Pune was four years earlier and there were lots of places I wanted to visit. With only one day available, I decided to try and get as much out of it as possible. I have great memories from both Sinhagad and Lavasa and really wanted to see them both again. So instead of choosing either, I chose both!
So Jan rides up Pune’s most iconic climbs on this day in the saddle – both Sinhagad and Lavasa … and more, keep reading! He first rode up Sinhagad, which is an 8 km, category 2 climb, with an average gradient of 6.7%. Here it is in all its glory.
But he doesn’t just ride up Sinhagad, he takes the KOM (King of the Mountain) position, an enviable record which remains unbeaten even now. At an average speed of nearly 16 km/h, he took just under 33 minutes to best this climb. Sinhagad is one of my favorite climbs too, my best time is 89 minutes – but that’s just because GoPros are really heavy!
The idea was to ride hard on Sinhagad, and since it was first time on road bike I expected to be faster than previous rides. I was really surprised by the road condition and didn’t remember the gravel part at all. So that top part of Sinhagad was really difficult.
Sinhagad’s most difficult final section has had road work completed earlier this year, so if you want to ride up, conditions should be better than what Jan had to face. But, you know, TII (This Is India) so I wouldn’t be surprised if the “good times” don’t last too long.
Riding between Sinhagad and Lavasa dam was just an easy ride, some effort up Muhta for fun, but since I reached the dam almost 3 hours later, it was quite ok to start climbing Lavasa – except for the heat. The temperature in Pune is way beyond anything in Norway, so that is the most challenging thing.
While Jan doesn’t take KOM on this ride up Lavasa, he still boasts a time (25:21) that would have put him just outside the top ten for this climb. Five years prior to this ride though, he did take the KOM spot (20:57), a rank that he held for over three years, beaten, only by 11 seconds, by Peter Roper (20:46).
Lavasa – The Escape
For those unaware, the famous Lavasa gate is at the top of the valley in which this hill city is built, and there’s an 8 km descent into the actual city. Now, most people reach this gate, take photos with their bikes so they can say, “main bhi kiya, Lavasa ka climb”, turn around and make their way back home, slowly. According to Strava – 440 people have reached the gate from the outside, but only a fifth, 87, have ridden back up from the city. Can you truly say you’ve done Lavasa if you haven’t made your way down and up from the city too? I don’t think so. Anyway, Jan is not, “most people“, and he continues down to the now forgotten city of Lavasa as well.
Back in time Lavasa was very beautiful and promising, while it now looks like it was about to be forgotten and deserted.
Now Jan has to ride up 8 km to get out of Lavasa, up a segment that’s aptly named, “Escape from Lavasa”. Despite climbing Sinhagad, and the climb to the Lavasa gate, he was the second fastest up this climb from the city (31:52). You know who has the KOM on this climb? He does! Come on, you should’ve seen that coming – his time on this ride, was second only to his own KOM time (28:21) , from the same ride we already spoke about, 5 years prior. Phew!
Lavasa is approx 75km from Pune, so I knew the return would be a 3 hour easy ride, or an exhausting 2.5 hour ride. I chose the first option. It was a great day out, with those scenic and epic climbs. However, it was disappointing to experience that the road conditions were quite much worse than they were in 2014.
What, the roads in 2014 were better than they are now? I told you, TII 🙂 🙁 And that brings us to the end of this epic ride. Jan recovered from this ride by catching up with the Wolfpack the very next day, for a 125 km ride… I hope Jan’s epic days in the saddle have left you inspired to do more riding and climbing, and perhaps Lavasa both ways the next time you get there!
About the Rider
In Norway I’m just an ordinary family guy pretty fond of cycling, and turned 50 last year. I ride for a local cycle club called Lørenskog CK, and participate in road bike races and team trials. But most of all, I love the forest and riding my bike on single track. I spend more time on my full suspension MTB than on the road bike, and I participate in WCO races (that is the Olympic disipline called Xross Country Olympic (XCO)).
When I tried to find other segments in India where Jan is the KOM, I had to give up because his KOM list was 15 pages long, including activities like running and Nordic skiing as well! You will find him in the top ten lists of other popular climbs in Pune like the new Katraj Ghat, Pirangut Ghat, and Purandar fort. Here are some photos of him taking second place at the 5th edition of the Pune Bicycle Championship in 2013. For more inspiration, be sure to follow him on Strava
If you liked this episode, check out past Epic Rides, and do share this article with your friends; subscribe to be notified when the next article is released. Looking for more cycling routes in India? Consider subscribing to my YouTube channel, The Indian Cyclist. If you just want to catch up with other riders across India, and find group rides in your vicinity, do join the growing Cyclop discord community. Finally, if you’ve got an epic ride you’d like to share with everyone, drop me an email!