The city of Bengaluru, apart from being known as a hub for information technology and a roaring nightlife, is famous for its lakes, verdant gardens and year-long pleasant weather. This makes it the perfect destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. Well-connected roads and proximity to the Western Ghats open up the entire spectrum of cycling from road-racing to mountain biking for those who are interested in this adrenaline-pumping sport.

Depending on the terrain and distance, cycling can transform from a leisurely pastime into a physically demanding, serious sport. So, it’s important to be well-prepared before you begin your journey. You can pick a road, mountain or hybrid bike depending on the terrain you will encounter on the route of your choosing. Make sure you tweak your bike with head and tail lights so that you can even ride without daylight. Remember to carry the following equipment for a safe and fulfilling adventure: helmet, repair kit, road safety vest, first aid kit, food, water, glucose, rain protection (jacket with hood), air pump, maps/GPS, sun-screen, reflectors, sunglasses, wallet, Kannada handbook (if you don’t understand the language) and panniers (for long rides). You can rent cycles from ProCycle in Indiranagar (Tel: 080-25352004; procycle.in) and Track and Trail (trackandtrail.in) and Bums on the Saddle (bumsonthesaddle.com) in Jayanagar amongst many other stores. It will cost you ₹500–800 per day. Many stores in Bengaluru organise weekly rides.

Nandi Hills: Peak Fitness

Situated at a height of 4,851ft and located about 70km from the heart of Bengaluru, the Nandi Hills are a popular weekend getaway, most famous for Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and Fort. The hills also support a vibrant avian population. The undulating terrain also makes for a great cycling destination.

Shaurya Kaushal
The author poses with his bicycle in a vineyard
The author poses with his bicycle in a vineyard

The roads here are in excellent condition, so you can expect a smooth ride throughout. However, you need to be careful of speeding cars, especially if you’re here during the weekends. Most of the route is flat until you reach the foot of the hills. From here, it is an arduous 10-km uphill ride that will test your stamina and push you to your physical limit. This spot is a popular training ground for many professional cyclists and conquering the hill as an amateur rider (with proper practice, of course) will be an achievement that you will be proud of. Take a short break before you start the climb so that you don’t drain yourself right from the start. It’s important that you keep a good momentum throughout the way. The best time to start the climb is around sunrise, so it’s advisable to start from home at 3.00–4.00am. The first rays of the sun drive away the morning mist and by the time you finish the climb, you will be greeted by a spectacular view. The ride downhill is a tad risky, so make sure you brake around the corners.

En route, you will come across the famous Grover Vineyards, which was established in 1998 by Kanwal Grover and Georges Vesselle to promote wine culture in India. It’s important to refuel before the ride back, so stop at the vineyard and pop some grapes for a quick energy recharge. For riders who’d prefer a more fulfilling south Indian breakfast, Nandi Upachar in Devanahalli is the place to go. You could also stop at McDonald’s or Cafe Coffee Day on the way, but make sure you don’t overindulge because getting back home is the toughest part of the trip. The entire ride takes about 6–8 hours on the saddle and another 1–2 hours, depending on how many breaks you take. No one will blame you if you take your camera out constantly though; this one is quite a gorgeous ride.

Discovery Village: Moderate Fitness

If you’ve mastered the Nandi climb, you can take a slight detour from the base of the Nandi Hills to Discovery Village. This destination boasts of a calm countryside road, with not even a trickle of traffic. Once you reach the village, you could take a break and trek up to the top of the hill here. You’ll have to climb a lot of steps and navigate through a dense forest, but once you reach the top, the effort will be worth it. This is also a great place to birdwatch, so avian enthusiasts should definitely carry their binoculars.

Courtesy Unventured Expeditions
Enroute to Hesaraghatta
Enroute to Hesaraghatta

Little England: Peak Fitness

Thally or Little England is around 50km southeast of the city past Hosur in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. The ride from Bengaluru to Hosur might be slightly irritating due to the traffic you will encounter at Electronic City. However, if you leave the city by 4.00am, you will manage to avoid the chaos. The ride is mostly smooth even if you’re on a road bike. However, it’s quite strenuous due to the slight but constant elevation as you make your way to Tamil Nadu. Once you cross the outskirts of Bengaluru, you might rejoice after seeing how empty the roads are, but it takes quite a bit of determination to keep going against the strong headwinds. Cycling in a group here would be a good idea as it would not only reduce the wind drag, but also keep you motivated and entertained along the way.

Once you reach Thally, head a little further out to a small hillock called Devarabetta (which means ‘God’s hill’ in Kannada). The hill has gorgeous views of lush fields, a few small temples and the varying colour gradient of the rock in the hills. The route isn’t very popular as of now, so it’s likely that you’ll have the hill all to yourself.

Kolar Gold Fields: Peak fitness

About 70km from Bengaluru, the Kolar district is known for gold mining, silk and milk. This route is difficult due to the elevation and headwinds. It’s better if you take a car till Hoskote and begin cycling from there. Kolar is also a popular training ground for professional cyclists. If you leave the city a few hours before sunrise, you could be lucky enough to observe a starry and clear night sky – a rare sight within city limits. The terrain here is similar to that of Badami and Hampi. Prepare yourself for the difficult task of riding up many flyovers. Make sure you stop at Woody’s once you’re in Kolar, a common spot for cyclists to gather and freshen up.

Cubbon park: Adequate Fitness

This ride is for those who don’t want to strain themselves and prefer a short, refreshing journey instead. Cubbon Park is located right at the heart of the city and is one of the most verdant areas here. The best time to visit the park is on Sundays as traffic is stopped for runners and cyclists to enjoy the park in peace. It is a popular place for yoga, fitness and sports enthusiasts and you’ll end up meeting a lot of people who share your interests. Head to MTR, Koshy’s or the Egg Factory, all only a kilometre away, when you have had enough exercise and want to satiate your pangs of hunger.

Jaramadagu Falls: Moderate fitness

Reaching this destination is a little tricky as this place is completely off the map. Once you reach Chikkaballapur, you will need to ask the locals for directions to Jaramadagu Falls, which are about 3–4km off the main road. The waterfall plunges down from a height of 90ft. Apart from the beauty of the falls and the surrounding verdure, there are a lot of mountain biking trails for off-road enthusiasts. Bike here during the monsoon to catch the waterfall in its full, cascading glory.

Hesaraghatta: Adequate Fitness

Cycling to Hesaraghatta, 30km northwest of Bengaluru, is another short but equally picturesque ride taking you through many lovely fields. You will cross many lakes on your way and you can end your ride at the beautiful Hesaraghatta Lake, a man-made reservoir built across the Arkavathy River. This ride is perfect for beginners.

Tip Use a hybrid or a mountain bike on this route as most of the route is off-road.

Where to Stay

At the higher end of the spectrum is the Taj West End (Tel: 080-66605660; Tariff: ₹24,500–2,30,000) with its sprawling grounds. It also has the city’s most exquisite Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger. The Oberoi (Tel: 25585858; Tariff: ₹21,000–1,25,000) and Le Meridien (Tel: 22262233; Tariff: ₹9,000–20,000) are other luxury options.

The heritage Villa Potti Patti (Tel: 41280832-34, Cell: 09870795619; Tariff: ₹3,000–7,000) in Malleswaram is a great choice. Casa de Bengaluru (Tel: 42690690; Tariff: ₹6,500–8,500) in Koramangala is an apartment hotel.

iLodge (Tel: 40402323; Tariff: ₹2,500–3,000) is a good boutique hotel in Malleswaram. Hotel Pai Viceroy (Tel: 26535400, Cell: 09900262033; Tariff: ₹4,100–5,500) is in Main Jayanagar.

Where to Eat

One of the most well-known places to eat is Mavalli Tiffin Room on Lalbagh Road – the MTR dosa here is thick and wholesome. Vidyarthi Bhavan at Gandhi Bazaar serves close to 2,000 plates of dosas each day on weekends. The idlis served in Brahmin’s Café melt in your mouth. The Bengaluru experience isn’t complete till you visit one of the ‘Iyengar bakeries’. Khaara bread, fruit bread, palya bun, dilkush are the specials. New Krishna Bhavan in Malleswaram, offers dishes from all over Karnataka – Mangalore kotte kadabu, gokak jowar dosa, green masala idli and button idli, to name a few. Bengaluru is also home to excellent regional restaurants. 36 Chowringhee Lane is a Bengali restaurant. The choice of fish here is stupendous. Also try Karavalli (Gateway Hotel), offering dishes from Kerala, Goa and Mangaluru.

Getting There

Air Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru, Devanahalli (36km/ 1hr) is well-connected to all major Indian air­ports and several in Asia and Europe. Pre-paid cabs (Karnataka City Taxi Tel: 080-41552222, 41553333; Mega Cabs Tel: 4747474) charge ₹800 to MG Road

Rail The three major stations: City Railway Station, Yeshwanthpur and Cantonment are connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad amongst other cities by daily trains

Road Bengaluru is connected by NH48 to Chennai, by NH44 to Hydera­bad, by NH48 and NH73 to Mangaluru, and NH209 to Mysuru and Coimbatore. KSTDC runs Karnataka Taxis (Tel: 080- 43464346) across the state Bus Kem­pegowda Bus Station (Tel: 22871945; KSTDC Counter Tel: 080- 22356246) is near the City Railway Station