Ladakh bike ride!
The name itself gives an adrenaline rush to the hardcore bikers. Ladakh has been a dream destination for many. It is counted as one of the best adventure experiences in India; and also attracts a lot of tourists from around the globe.
The ride through the high passes of Ladakh has gained the reputation due to the harsh climates, narrow roads, and steep curves.. but not to forget are the snow-capped mountains, monasteries, monks and the beauty of the location.
To explore Ladakh one has to go through a lot of planning and preparations. A separate article on preparing yourself for Ladakh bike ride would be coming soon. Here, let's talk about how to choose/make your itinerary for the trip.
1. Timing: The ride to Ladakh can be done in many different ways. But the most popular ones are the circuit routes.
A. Manali - Leh - Srinagar
B. Srinagar - Leh - Manali.
Both these routes go through some higher passes which remain closed from October to May, due to snow; leaving us only 4 months to explore Ladakh.
Also, these are the 4 months for the BRO (Border Road Organisation), to make new roads, and repair the old ones. The old ones wash out almost every year due to snow.
Now for the bikers, I suggest there should be a bit of Adventure on this trip so June is a perfect time for all!
2. Time: It seems a tough task for every one of us to get a leave at length. But Ladakh is worth the fight.
As Indians, not many would explore the same places again and again. Similarly, we would go to Ladakh once or max twice in our lifetime.
So a longer plan, exploring all the major points, has to be planned. Also, a buffer day should be added, in case of an emergency. Only a 12-15 day trip for the circuit route can give justice to the beauty and adventures in Ladakh.
3. Offroading through the Offbeat places: Ladakh has gained a lot of popularity in the last 15 years, and now it is almost commercialized. Also, you see hundreds of thousands of tourists on the regular routes every day and traffics and road rages aren't new to some of the popular roads now.
Instead, take a different route. Hardly 10 percent of the regular tourists explore Shyok Valley, which connects Nubra to Pangong. Shyok Valley, getting its name from the Shyok river, the river of death, had once a historical notorious reputation of sweeping people to death. But thanks to BRO, that a lot of bridges these days have made the route safer since 10 years back.
Talking about offbeat roads, one needs to try the Chushul border roads, which at times are no roads at all, and you have to ride through a desert-like area next to the Pangong Lake. This road connects Pangong to Hanley, and Tso Moriri and hardly 2-5 percentage of the regular tourists take this route.
These routes also save you a day or two and get you rid of the crowded Ladakh roads.
Permits to these places, along with the regular permits can be availed from the DM office in Leh, or your service provider can also do it beforehand.
4. Backup vehicle and a mechanic.
Ladakh at times can be tough and punishing if the on tour preparations are not complete. Everything is going good and happy until you face a bike breakdown on the route. And imagine your nearest garage is at least a 100 km away from you. You then have to depend on the passers-by for the repairs and spares. And not many will help in such situations. Now imagine if such a thing happens in the offbeat roads. And you have to wait for 20-30 mins to see a passer-by.. and if he/she is not willing to or not able to help you, the next person is again another long wait away.
A back-up vehicle and a mechanic are the most helpful resources in such a situation. But they are costly. Taking them along wherever you go, will cost you an amount in 6 digits for a 15-day trip. A group of 20-25 ppl can afford them easily, but if you are planning to ride with 4-5 friends, you obviously cannot afford to spend so much, and you have to go without any backup (which is risky and not suggested). Do not even think about the offbeat destinations in this case.
This can be a beautiful part of your trip. Many times tourists don't interact much with the locals, but only with the service provider. Your accommodation arrangements can play a nice role here, getting you close to the locals, know them better, taste their local food, etc.
Leh city, Srinagar, Manali can offer you good hotels to stay. But for the offbeat places, you can choose tented accommodations and home stays. A mix-match of these can give you different experiences altogether.
As said earlier, Ladakh is a lot more commercial place now, as compared to 10 years ago.
In the major areas, you get Indian, Chinese, Italian, and almost all types of food you need
Also, dhabas on the way can offer you paratha, Maggie, daal rice, etc.
Be sure you taste the local Ladakhi food, especially their salty tea. But only to taste, not to feast. Have food which you are comfortable with. A bad stomach can give you a bad tour.
The most important thing for the tour is to choose your ride or get yours ready for the trip.
A 350 or a 500 cc RE was considered the best vehicle for the Ladakh terrains. And they are obviously good. But these days, with the better roads, 220 cc and above rides can go well as well. However, a 500cc and a 220cc won't match each other in timings, especially while ascending the steep roads.
If you are renting a bike, check the condition of the bike, and also tell the dealer about the route that you gonna take. Also take photos and videos of the bike, to avoid fake complaints of any, at the time of returning.
If you are planning to take your own bike, get it serviced, add extra cables, and extra spares for your bike.
Transportation of the bikes can be taken care of by courier companies. Gati couriers and Safeexpress couriers are some good service providers for this. They generally charge 5000 + taxes + packing charges single journey.
Tip:- Never carry extra petrol on your bikes. It is as good as carrying a bomb with you.
Last but not least, Budget!
Accommodations, permits, backup, bike expenses, food, fuel, etc are to be taken care for.
A bigger group, however, gives you better deals wrt all of these. Expect around 40k per head for a group of 20 ppl.
Lower the number, higher the costs, or higher the risks.
You can find a well-optimized tour to Ladakh in June 2019 on this link. Click here for Ladakh Tour 2019.
Tip:- spend less on accommodations and more on food. For that is what will keep you going.