How To Prepare For A Motorcycle Trip To Ladakh
Motorcycle tour of Ladakh – considered to be one of the most cherished desires among countless motorcyclists in pursuit of adventure.
And until a couple of years ago, riders embarking on these types of tours had to plan for a long time by meticulously putting together their route, banking on various documentaries, books, or even veterans who once rode through these regions.
Despite all this, motorcyclists had to cover long stretches of trails that were either jam-packed with traffic or subjected to avalanches.
The new era for motorcycle touring in the Himalayas has improved considerably. And thanks to the digital age – interactive maps and GPS guides now make these mountain tours relatively easy.
But despite all these changes, riders still need to invest their time in preparation and planning. And for this, you do not need to go anywhere as today we are presenting you with all the information you will need to embark on this adventure. This way you can start your trip without much prior knowledge and without much effort.
So, let’s get started.
This post is all about how to prepare and what to pack for your upcoming trip. In case you are looking for smart packing tips, please refer to our section on how to pack for Ladakh motorcycle trip.
The Big Decision - Make Up Your Mind!
Many people think that touring in the Himalayas, especially in the high-altitude regions of Ladakh, is extremely dangerous. And while we do not disagree, but is there anything in life that is completely risk free?
So, before you actually start preparing for a motorcycle tour of Ladakh, you should first of all clear your head from any doubts and come up with a decision.
You may have come across so many riders (so did we!) that actually long to go on tours such as these but never had the courage to do so. Don’t be like them – Life is an adventure and you cannot rule out all uncertainties.
But if you are still wondering how safe it will be while touring in Ladakh – riding a motorcycle in Ladakh is completely safe provided you wear all the necessary safety equipment. And while a little nervousness is completely normal, once you are out in these mountains, trust us, you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.
Remember, life doesn’t give you a guarantee that everything will go your way. But it’s your life and it’s up to you how you handle new challenges. And while you cannot predict the outcome, you do have power over your mind and its outlook.
Once you have made up your mind about touring in Ladakh, you need to work out on the duration of this tour.
If you start your trip from Manali and reach Leh (the capital of Ladakh) via the Leh-Manali Highway and then travel the entire Ladakh region, you can cover almost all the interesting routes within two weeks.
However, if you include the infamous Spiti Valley in this itinerary, a tight two-week timeline will quickly leave you behind your schedule precluding you from enjoying the trip.
Your budget also plays an important role here, as accommodation, food, fuel and spare parts can cost a lot of money. So, if you are on a tight schedule with budget constraints, a week-long motorcycle trip is quite doable, and for this we suggest that you fly directly to Leh airport and rent a motorcycle within its vicinity.
However, if your goal is motorcycle touring as a whole, consider a minimum of three weeks out and about. Then again, if you want to cover complete Himalayas, you should set aside at least a month to fill your soul with this remarkable landscape.
No matter how long you are on the road, the fun and adventure that comes along remains the same. So, the choice is yours!
Riders taking up on a motorcycle tour of Ladakh for the first time need to plan their itinerary quite meticulously and thoroughly well in advance. And despite the fact that there are many routes that pass through this region, it is important to realize that touring in the Himalayas comes with its own challenges.
If this will be your first time out in the Himalayas of Ladakh, you should not set your expectations too high so as to minimize overexertion. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on your overall experience and prepare you well for your future endeavors.
Ideally, we recommend an itinerary that does not include prolonged riding hours on certain days. Also, the destinations you shortlist should not include extreme scenarios such as riding through streams or treacherous trails. And most importantly, the regions where you plan to stay overnight should not be at an elevation higher than 15,000 feet so as to avoid the possibility of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
Tip: Depending on your riding expertise, we have worked out three different routes for you to choose from for your upcoming adventure. You can check them out in detail on our Himalayan Motorcycle Tours section.
Day Wise Breakup
The total distance you want to cover will determine the duration of your trip. And while it may sound fab to cover thousands of kilometers, but before you do so, ask yourself how long can you ride a motorcycle each day.
We all have our own threshold of what we can and cannot do on a single day’s ride. But since we are talking about the Himalayas, there are external factors as well that play a major role in covering a particular stretch of the route. As a ballpark, you can use these suggested limits on the maximum riding length one can travel in a day.
- Paved roads (only flat asphalt road): 350 kilometers/day.
- Paved asphalt road with some gravel: 300 kilometers/day.
- Mostly gravel with some asphalt: 250 kilometers/day.
- Areas involving high mountain passes: 220 kilometers/day.
- Only gravel routes: 180 kilometers/day.
Remember, the length of the route you want to cover in a day is based on your personal riding abilities as well as the region you are planning to travel. If you are riding with a pillion, they must be the one to decide the maximum length to be covered in a single day. Whereas if you are riding in a group, each rider will have his or her own personal opinion, but it should be the slowest one to make this decision.
This may sound ridiculous, but it will help tremendously on your treacherous motorcycle journey through the Himalayas.
As much as you would love to embark on a long-distance motorcycle tour, being a novice, you need to experience something like this before you commence your actual expedition.
As such, it is highly recommended that you ride for about 4 to 5 hours every single day, at the least four times a week. This way you can get an idea of your riding skills as well as your capabilities. Also, this exercise will prepare you for prolonged riding hours if the situation demands for it.
If you have a tight schedule and can’t spend this much time on preparation, you can devote two hours in the morning and the rest in the evening to hone your riding skills. But remember to take regular intervals, as you would on the actual tour, to sightsee or rest.
Advice: Inexperienced riders who have never undertaken a multi-day adventure tour should first set out on a weekend tour before venturing out on this expedition.
Before you set off, be sure to have your motorcycle technically inspected by a professional. These are some of the most important factors to keep in mind in order to ensure a safe motorcycle ride in the Himalayas:
Brakes: A standard brake pad measures only a little larger than a matchbox and is only few millimeters thick. And since these pads do all of their work from within the calipers and are not quite visible from the outside, a regular inspection is recommended from time to time. Most brake pads are labeled with wear markings to indicate their condition. For a more detailed walkthrough, see our subsection on replacing motorcycle brake pads.
Clutch: The operation of the clutch must be checked while the engine is switched off. To do this, engage the first gear by pulling the clutch. Now push the motorcycle a few meters while the clutch is engaged. If you can do this without any problems, the clutch is fine.
Tires: A minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm is recommended. If your tire is approaching this limit, you should consider replacing them. However, there are other factors as well that determine whether a tire is fit for touring or not. Read all about it in our article: When to replace motorcycle tires.
Motorcycle chain: The chain is specifically subjected to heavy stress on a multi-day tour and should be cleaned and oiled before and even during your tour. You can find detailed instructions in our article on how to clean your motorcycle chain.
Careless riders will never think about it, but a smart motorcyclist who has put enough miles on the road will always prep his motorcycle before a long ride. So, if you want your motorcycle trip of Ladakh to be a success, be sure to accessorize with these essentials.
Tire repair kit: No doubt these are an absolute essential while riding in the treacherous regions of Himalayas. With a tire repair kit, you have the practical alternative over a spare tire. And while there are many things you can do to prevent flat tires, in case they do happen, this kit will allow you to continue your journey to the nearest repair shop without having to change the tire on the side of the road.
Air pump: After patching your flat tire with the repair kit, you will probably want to pump it up again. You may either go for a hand-operated air pump, a battery-powered mini compressor or a foot pump – but at least one of these should be in your backpack before you set off on your Ladakh trip. And if you are traveling with a bunch of riders, ask one of your fellow mates to carry one for the entire group.
Tool kit: While you can find repair shops and garages in every part of Ladakh, it is wise to take a wide range of tools and spare parts along with you in case you plan to travel in remote regions. So, make sure you include all of the below mentioned tools in your kit before venturing into the mountains.
- Ring/open-ended spanner set (Size: 8,10,12,13,14,17, and 19mm).
- Allen key set (Size: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm).
- Spark plug wrench suitable for your motorcycle.
- 1/4-inch ratchet.
- 1/4-inch socket wrench in sizes 7,8,10,12,13, and 14mm.
- 1/2-inch socket wrench in sizes 13,14,17,19,24,27, and 30mm.
- Screw driver set.
- Small plier & cutter.
Motorcycle Spares: Depending on the make of your motorcycle, you will have to carry some essential spares that are usually subjected to a lot of wear and tear while riding. So, make sure you keep them stored in your luggage bag as a backup.
- Spare motorcycle keys.
- Electrical wires.
- Spark plug.
- Clutch & throttle wire.
- Chain links.
- Headlight bulb.
- Engine oil.
- Nuts & bolts.
- Clutch & brake lever.
Motorcycle helmet, touring jacket, trousers, riding boots and touring gloves – they are all essential safety gear and serve one single purpose: to protect the rider in the event of a fall.
While choosing, however, focus on safety features rather than aesthetics. A full-face motorcycle helmet, for example, will protect your head in the event of a fall, but it can only do so if it is rigorously tested for durability. That is why it’s important to choose a helmet that meets or exceeds either CE (European) or DOT (American) standards. These norms ensure that the helmet provides adequate impact protection and yet remains comfortable to wear.
Similarly, a motorcycle jacket should incorporate shoulder, elbow and back protectors, while the trousers should include inserts around the hips and knees that can easily accommodate impact protectors.
Gloves, on the other hand, should feature high grade knuckle protectors and palm sliders while still offering accordion stretch around the joints to allow sufficient movement. Moreover, they should fit snugly without creating any pressure points, as this can affect sensitivity and cause hand numbness.
To sum up, here is the list of all the essential motorcycle gear you should be equipped with on your motorcycle tour of Ladakh.
- Riding Gloves
- Waterproof Motorcycle Pants
- Touring Jacket (with waterproof liner)
- Motorcycle Boots
- Knee Guards
- Hip Armor
Advice: Before heading out to Ladakh, it is important to test all your motorcycle gear well in advance. Get on the bike and ride for at least two hours to check for their comfort and functionality. But be honest with yourself during the assessment. If the gear does not meet with your expectations in such a short ride, it is highly unlikely that they will perform well on a multi-day motorcycle tour.
Suggested Read: Best Motorcycle Gear For Touring In Ladakh
First Aid Kit
When touring in Ladakh, carrying a first-aid kit is an absolute must. Besides, these things really don’t take up much space and usually fit under the seat or in the side pocket of your tank bag.
And while you may not need them when traversing through the lower regions of the Himalayas, such as in the city of Leh where there are numerous dispensaries and clinics, you might feel a little left out in the remote regions of Pangong Tso or Nubra Valley!
All in all, carrying a first aid kit on a motorcycle trip to Ladakh should not be a matter of discussion. Just make sure that the kit you take with you is personalized to your specific needs and includes everything you might possibly face while riding.
For your ease, we have compiled a list of all the medicines we usually carry along with us on our guided motorcycle tours to Ladakh.
- Paracetamol tablets for fever.
- Pain killer tablets.
- Ibuprofen for any kind of inflammation.
- Diamox to counter mountain sickness.
- Disinfectant solution for wounds.
- Bandage gauze.
- Ointment for burns.
- Anti-diarrheal tablets.
- Pain relief spray.
- Eye and ear drops.
- Lip guard.
- Sunscreen (SPF 50 or more).
We all know that motorcycles do not offer much space to store all our stuff. This is why an additional motorcycle luggage bag will provide you with the necessary storage space to easily go on a road trip spanning several days.
And while few cheeky riders would think about taking along a backpack, we generally discourage riders from doing so.
Typically, luggage should always be strapped directly to the motorcycle on long haul tours. And depending on exactly where you want to attach the bag to on your motorcycle, there are a variety of options to choose from.
The most popular being the tank bag, which, by the way, does not affect the balance even when it is fully loaded. As for the rear, you can attach soft saddlebags or aluminum panniers, depending on your budget. As an added advantage, these saddlebags or panniers offer a large storage volume, which makes them particularly suitable for Ladakh motorcycle tours.
There is nothing better than relaxing in a camp after a long motorcycle ride. So, if you have shortlisted some regions that involve staying overnight in a campsite, we have put together a handy packing checklist of some basic camping gear that will really allow you to enjoy your motorcycle tour.
But remember: what you need to pack depends on your personal taste and, of course, the amount of space you have on your motorcycle. So, take this list as a guide.
- Camping tent.
- Camp light.
- Mosquito repellent coil.
- Lighter and matches.
- Crockery (plates, glass, spoon).
- Mini camping stove.
- Mini frying pan.
- Kitchen knife.
- Thermos flask.
- Instant noodles.
- Ready-to-cook food.
- Rice & vegetables.
- Herbs & spices.
GPS & Maps
On a multi-day motorcycle tour of Ladakh, you can’t do without a navigation app. This is because on tours such as these, you are usually far away from civilization, making it really important to keep a track of the route as well as your upcoming destination.
But make sure these navigation apps work in offline mode, considering the fact that there is limited connectivity in the remote regions of Ladakh.
And regardless of what you choose, always remember to carry an alternate with you (traditional maps, compasses, etc.).
By having at least two independent navigation systems, you can cross check where you are actually headed to in case of confusion. Besides, at such high altitudes, there is always a risk that your battery-operated device will run out too quickly. As such, having a backup makes all the difference.
Regardless of the route you opt for, the duration of your expedition, or the make of your motorcycle, always remember that you are traveling in the most treacherous region of the world.
Be realistic in your planning and book your accommodation well in advance if you want to avoid any last-minute stress.
Do check in advance about any travel restrictions and if the pass you want to ride through is open for two-wheelers or not.
Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared for extreme conditions at all times.
Include enough food and drinks for emergencies along with all of your motorcycle tools and spare parts.
Last but not least, make sure your cell phone and GPS batteries are always charged and do carry a power bank as a portable energy source.
Remember, if you prepare well, nothing will stand in the way of an unforgettable time in Ladakh.
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