How to Plan a Motorcycle Trip to Ladakh on Your Own
Tips for preparing your own motorcycle tour to Leh
Hello fellow riders! First of all we will recommend that you choose a motorcycle on which you are comfortable. You should know how to fix it fast and be familiar with its capabilities. Other important things to consider before planning your motorcycle trip to Ladakh for the first time are given below :
- After a long journey by bus ,taxi or your own bike to Manali, you should relax at least one day so that your body gets acclimatized to the high mountainous terrain of the Himalaya. Only then should you start your trip to Ladakh.
- You should make the trip to Leh over a period of at least three days. You can make the first stop in Keylong (3,080m, 126 km from Manali) or Jispa (3,200m, 138 km from Manali). The second stop you can make in Sarchu (4,290m, 230 km from Manali) or Pang (4,600m, 300 km from Manali). The third day you can do an easy ride, reaching Leh by early afternoon. This also gives you time to scout for a hotel in Leh if you have not already booked one in advance. You should take 3 days to do the trip up so you get more time to acclimatize to the high altitudes, thus avoiding dizziness, headaches and vomiting caused by mountain sickness.
- IMPORTANT: When you are doing a trip on your own, with no advance bookings, it is important that you start your ride early. Plan to get to your next stop early afternoon. This gives you time to scout around for accommodations in whatever town or village you land up in. DO NOT try to cross any of the mountain passes at night. Number one, this would be a dumb idea, as you cannot see the beautiful mountains at night and number two, if you have a flat or a breakdown on top of a snowy pass in the dark, you will most likely freeze your butt until you meet your maker.
- There are 4 high mountain passes between Manali and Leh. Rohtang Pass (3978m), Baralacha pass (4,890m), Lachung la Pass (5,059m), Tanglang la Pass (5,328m) .You should carry good quality warm clothing, and a decent riding gear which should be waterproof. Waterproof is the key word. You DO NOT need gear that leaks. Buy your gear, go and stand in the shower for 20 minutes and then run it in for a few days in your hometown. You can buy warm clothing in Manali town but good riding gear you should source while you are at your home base so you can get good deals online and replace gear that does not fit (or does not pass your stringent Himalayan rain shower test).
- You should polish up on minor mechanical skills so you can fix your motorcycle on the way to Ladakh. First you should practice fixing tyre punctures. Your neighborhood mechanic can make this look easy but believe us, this is NOT an easy task at the top of a mountain pass when you are running out of breath and cannot get your tire back on your rim. The most fun is pinching the tube while you are trying to get it back in and end up with puncture #2. Practise fixing a puncture in your bike workshop 3-4 times. Other breakdowns can be broken clutch cables, busted spark plugs and broken chains. Remember, this is an adventure! Breakdowns and flat tires are a part of the fun so be prepared and enjoy fixing them all– they are a part of the ride. Know which part of your motorcycle is more susceptible to breakdowns and carry enough spares. Put together a good toolkit (make it light weight, leave the CNC machine at home..). Do not expect any workshops or garages along the way. Worst case scenario is you have to truck your bike. But unless you are riding a complete dog, this scenario is unlikely.
- The whole journey from Manali to Leh is about 490 km and there only one petrol station on the way at Tandi (110 km from Manali). You need to carry extra fuel from here onward for the rest of your journey and also make arrangements to carry it on your motorcycle. Get 5 litre plastic cans from Manali and load them into your saddlebags. A lot of these have ill-fitting caps so secure them in your main saddle bag compartments.
- Accomodations are available at Sisu, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha and Sarchu in Lahaul, and further at Pang and Tsokar in Ladakh. In towns you will get hotels with electricity. In Sarchu, Pang and Tsokar you can find campsites run by locals. If you are on a budget and have some experience of camping in the past, you can carry your own tent to bring costs down. But this will mean you have to carry heavy cooking gear and stoves and food. The whole idea is to keep your load down. A sleeping bag is definitely a good idea in any case, as many of the small camps and guesthouses can have dodgy blankets and mattresses and you could pick up a few nasty itchy-scratchy hitchhikers on your grand trip to Ladakh.
- You should also carry a medical kit and portable oxygen bottle along with you in case of an accident.
- On the way take breaks in between the rides – you are on a holiday, not on a mission. Keep yourself hydrated and avoid alcoholic drinks and smoking. This will help you to avoid mountain sickness. Enjoy your trip riding at comfortable speeds, after all it is about enjoying the ride and taking in the scenic beauty of the majestic Himalaya and having a memorable motorcycle trip.