Nothing can be closer to the realization of a dream to an adventure bike rider than a jet-setting Himalayan bike ride to Leh-Ladakh! Needless to say, Leh-Ladakh tops their bucket list of biking tours to undertake any day.
You just cannot put yourself in the breadth as an avid biker without having tried your luck in undertaking an adventure bike trip to Ladakh – a ride that offers an undiluted mix of incomparable beauty clubbed with one of the most challenging wildernesses of the terrain and a hostile environment. Believe it or not, a trip to Ladakh on a motorcycle demands a whole lot of preparation – from firming yourself up physically to getting your machine ready for the long haul.
Indeed, the planning and preparation stage is not only crucial but can be quite a daunting task as well. While most travel bloggers including motorcycle bloggers, speak volumes on the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ of the long and tough bike expedition to Leh-Ladakh, I thought to bring together all the information in a capsule for my friends and followers.
So, while you may find a lot of information all over the Internet in the myriad motorcycle travel blogs and motorcycle riding blogs, here is a quick snapshot from my personal experiences on what it takes to get set for a road tour to Leh-Ladakh on a bike.
Planning the Tour
The first rule of thumb while planning a bike trip to Ladakh, like any other long trip, is to be prepped with the following information:
the best weather for a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh
duration of your road tour
your choice of motorcycle
the best route to Ladakh
Let us take each of these at a time.
Weather and time
It is quintessential to know when you want to undertake this trip and to know that you need to be well-informed about the right weather and time to visit Ladakh. The best time for a bike trip to Ladakh is ideally between June and September when you would be able to make the most of your trip on the road and will be faced with more favourable weather and road conditions.
An ideal duration of a bike trip to Ladakh is typically 15-20 days – of course, subject to the route taken and the weather conditions!! So, plan your itinerary according to this trip duration in mind.
Choice of Bike
The next most important thing to be considered is the machine that you would ride on! While it is essential to choose a robust, reliable and capable machine for your Leh Ladakh bike expedition, do make a note of your comfort as well. While many bikes may claim to suit your needs, for the uninitiated here is a list of some of the best bikes for Ladakh road trip:
Bajaj Dominar 400
Royal Enfield Classic 350
Royal Enfield Himalayan
Remember that you would be on rough terrain. So, NEVER compromise on your comfort for the bike build!
Not only are these bikes tried and tested for their strength and the power of their engines but are incredibly comfortable for long distances and rough terrains like the one you would encounter on your route from Delhi to Leh Ladakh on a bike. Don’t worry if you don’t own one of these! These bikes are readily available on a rental basis, and you can easily avail them at reasonable rates.
Remember: Whether you are undertaking this trip on your own bike or a rented one, you will have to mandatorily have to rent a bike from Leh only if you plan to go further to Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley.
Coming to the next big decision that you need to make even before you start with the actual preparation is the choice of the best route to Leh-Ladakh. For most of you, Delhi will be the start point for a road trip, so let us map out the best road route from Delhi to Leh Ladakh.
While there are two circuits on the bike to Ladakh, namely via Srinagar and via Manali, the best route from Delhi to Leh Ladakh on the bike is of course via Manali, the other route via Srinagar being the tougher and longer one.
Route 1: via Manali
Delhi > Manali > Sarchu > Pang > Leh > Khardungla > Hunder Nubra > Pangong > Karu > Sarchu > Manali > Delhi
Route 2: via Srinagar
covering Delhi > Jalandar > Jammu > Srinagar > Kargil > Leh > Khardungla > Hunder > Nubra Valley > Pangong > Leh > Sarchu > Mandi > Chandigarh > Kurukshetra > Delhi.
Both these routes are equally motor-able and safe (or unsafe!) for the bikers, and either can be taken for an adventure bike ride to Leh-Ladakh.
Once the planning is done, the next task is the actual preparation for the trip.
Prepping up your body
While you can prepare and plan all you want, do remember that a pleasant ride also demands a fit and healthy rider!
The terrain across the mountain roads that lead to Leh-Ladakh and further can be excruciating for the rider. Hence, it is imperative that you prepare your body for the upcoming road trip well in advance. Stamina and endurance training could significantly help take up the challenges that this trip to Leh-Ladakh by bike can throw in your face. From acute mountain sickness, fatigue, shortness of breath, insomnia, nose-bleeding and drowsiness to fatigue, a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh can pose any of these.
The mantra is to be ready. Take up endurance training to increase your strength. You may also do these simple exercises at home a few months before commencing on the trip.
Blowing balloons to increase lung capacity.
Aerobic exercises to increase breathing stamina.
Mouth and nasal breathing to be able to breathe at high altitudes.
Anaerobic exercises to increase anaerobic exercises so that the bikers can survive for some time without oxygen if required.
Preparing your bike
It is also essential to prepare the bike and check the bike before starting for your trip. It is vital to make sure that the bike is in excellent condition and can handle the long journey. The bikers need to make sure that the following parts of the bike are working in the right manner so that no problems are faced during the ride.
Clutch plates to ensure that the bikes can climb the mountainous terrains.
Piston rings to ensure that the bikes make optimal use of oil.
Timing chain so that the bike does not break down mechanically in any manner.
Suspensions so that the bike can bear the weight of the rider as well the luggage.
Brake shoes and pads to ensure that they can be used in the right manner in case of an emergency.
Con set to be assured of the fact that the bike can be handled quickly and efficiently.
Electricals and battery to ensure that the lights work correctly, and the battery is not worn out.
It is also essential to check all nuts and bolts of the bike before starting the bike ride. It is equally important to check the oil filter as well as inspect the bike generally to ensure that it works well and there are no fuel leakages.
Riding Gear Essentials
For bikers, it is also essential to make sure that they pack the right set of clothes and wear the right set of riding gears to make their bike tour easy and comfortable. Do remember that the weather conditions in the region are extremely unpredictable and mostly cold. So, carry clothing and gear that adequately covers you from head to toe to avoid catching a chilblain because of the cold winds, especially while riding.
Take it slow
Never rush through while on a road trip, especially one on a bike. Adequate and regular rest breaks are important to acclimatise to the rising altitude and the cold weather. Smoking and drinking can be counter-productive to your stamina. So, avoid the booze! Eat healthy and in small portions at regular intervals. Of course, like always, stay hydrated and take in plenty of fluids.
Taking care of these small things can make a big difference to your experience. Whether going on a solo bike trip or with a group, it is this planning and preparation that will make the difference between a trip done well and one gone awry.
Like any other biker, the bike trip to Ladakh has been on my bucket list as well. While I was researching and preparing myself for the trip, I thought it made sense to share the fruits of my hard labour (😉) here to help fellow bikers either planning just another long trip or one that takes you to Leh-Ladakh by bike! I went a step further to prepare a step-by-step video of all essential items that must be included in your checklist as you ready yourself for this badass trip!
So, get, set, go!