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What You Should Know More About Biking in Ladakh
The Ladakh motorbike season starts in June and extends till September when the Manali Leh highway opens. This is the best time to undertake the trip because the roads are clear. Other times there are chances of landslide or road blockage because of heavy snowfall.
Answering this question is a little tricky, because safety depends on the person itself. However, saying this, it is recommended that seasoned riders take this trip. Patience is the key to everything, and if you are a patient, responsible rider you will find this ride very safe. There are no roads per se, as mountains hardly ever have roads, so there will be quite a lot of off-roading. Therefore, the safest bet is to go on a group tour. This is advantageous on many fronts. For one, you will have a group leader who will know the routes and there will also be back up vehicles available in case there is a breakdown.
The cost of Ladakh Bike Trip packages vary according to the bike you choose to rent. The average cost vary anywhere between INR 30000 to 40000. The rates will differ according to the place you choose to begin your trip (Leh to Leh, Manali to Leh or Srinagar to Leh).
It is very difficult to come to a consensus for this answer, because different people have different comfort zones, and therefore different answers. However, here are list of bikes that are better than the rest for Ladakh trip:
Yes, you can talk to agencies and find out if they have an office in Manali or Srinagar. Usually the agencies have their offices in these locations, as a lot of customers prefer to start the journey from Manali or Srinagar.
You get unlimited kilometers, rider helmets, travel maps and safe luggage storage facility.
Usually, you have to pay around 40% of the cost as a security deposit.
It depends on the condition of your own bike. If you are comfortable and your bike can traverse through the rough roads and survive the challenges thrown by Mother Nature then you can take it. It will also save your cost.
The condition of the bike should be good enough to survive the rocky roads and unpredictable weather that will meet you on the way. Ensure you have checked the following before beginning your journey:
Here is a list of the riding luggage that you should carry:
• Good quality Helmet
• Waterproof riding gear, or suitable clothing to ride in cold conditions which protects you in an unlikely spill; like leather pants or jeans
• Rain gear, if riding gear is not waterproof
• Riding boots or hiking boots
• Riding gloves since it is cold out there and Enfield does not have heated grips
• Thermal inner wear
• Nightwear and casual clothing for time away from the motorcycle
• Flip-flops or spare set of boots
• Spare set of spectacles if applicable
• Driving license
• Headlamp with one set of spare batteries
• If you are on medication, carry them from home
• Riding glasses or shades
• Sleeping bag
• Dust goggles
• Ladies, if you use tampons, carry them from home
• Cap / hat
• Mosquito repellent
It is absolutely mandatory to ride in appropriate riding gear. It will ensure your safety in case of unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, and also it will be a great protection from the unpredictable weather change. Be it rain, cold or snow, the riding gear will ensure your journey is not hindered. Always remember, it is better to be safe than sorry.
It is always an advantage if you know how to fix your bike in case of a breakdown. But, don’t worry if you do not know the technicalities. Riding in groups becomes very advantageous and safe because you are sure to have someone who knows the necessary knowledge needed. Moreover, group tours often have a mechanic riding with them. So it is best to ask and ensure before booking, as different packages have different services. However, most group packages have a backup jeep – so do not worry either way!
If you are traveling solo then it is requisite for you to carry a full set of bike repairs. This adds to your luggage and increases the weight you will carry considerably. However, this is again where going in a group package comes to an advantage as the backup vehicle carries every necessity without you having to worry about it.
Yes, you need tubeless tires for Ladakh Trip. There are a lot of advantages of tubeless tires, for one, it provides better safety. The risk of accidents decrease considerably due to sudden air leakage as it takes place slowly. The driver gets sufficient time to control the vehicle as the air can escape only through the point of puncture. The tires are also lightweight due to the absence of tube and therefore the fuel efficiency is better. There are less chances of damage during the case of flat running and better heat dissipation as the air is in direct contact with the rim. Moreover, it is a very cost effective option too as tube isn’t needed; therefore there is also no question of tube related problems.
Again, if you are traveling solo then it is requisite for you to carry a puncture kit. This adds to your luggage and increases the weight you will carry considerably. However, this is again where going in a group package comes to an advantage as the backup vehicle carries every necessity without you having to worry about it. Yes, if you are traveling solo then you need to have air pump in case of emergency. However, the group package doesn’t require you carry an air pump as the backup vehicle will carry it all.
Since Ladakh shares common boundaries with Tibet, locals and international tourists need to obtain an inner line permit (ILP). Although a permit is not required for Leh but Indians and foreigners need to register at Drass, Rumtse and Sarchu, in case they are traveling by road. If you are planning to travel from Manali, you need to acquire a permit at Manali’s DM office to cross Rohtang. This permit covers you and your vehicle both.
The cost of Inner Line Permit comprises of INR 200 per person as environment tax, INR 20 per person per day for as wildlife protection fee, and INR 10 per person per day that goes in charity towards Red Cross Society.
For instance, if a person requires a permit for a span of 4 days, he will have to pay INR 320 [INR 200 + INR 120 (INR 30 multiplied by 4)]. However, if you happen to be a student, you only have to pay INR 20 for obtaining the permit, just by furnishing your school / college identity card. However, you don’t require permits on Manali-Leh, Srinagar-Leh highway and local attractions near Leh town. Apart from that, do carry some important documents positively.
Here are a list of documents that are required for the trip:
Yes, it is highly recommended to carry fuel in jerry can as the petrol pumps are not located very close. You may get fuel in some of the villages you cross – however, the quality of the fuel is certainly questionable and thus advised to not use it unless absolutely necessary. If you choose to travel in a group package, the backup vehicle will carry enough fuel.
Most of the group tours often have a mechanic riding with them. So it is best to ask and ensure before booking, as different packages have different services. However, most group packages have a backup jeep – so do not worry either way!
Yes, you can be a pillion. It highly depends on the bike that one is taking and you might have to walk in some places where the roads are bad and dangerous.
In general the seats of Royal Enfields are very comfortable yes, but again it differs from model to model. The bikes of the Standard series have best pillion seats without a doubt. Pillion seats on Himalayan and Thunderbird are also pretty comfortable. But the ones on Classic are quite uncomfortable.
Yes. It is absolutely advisable for you to carry rain gears. The weather can be very unpredictable, and you do not want to take any risks. Therefore, we strongly recommend you to carry raincoats or water resilient jackets. Also make sure you have riding pants or rain suit for overall protection.
The roads on the way to Ladakh will not always be smooth. They can be rocky and very difficult to ride to. To be honest, you will not find “roads” at all – so this trip will involve quite a lot of off-roading, but in the hindsight this is what adds on to the adventure.
In order to ensure you make the most of the Ladakh trip, fitness is the first box to tick. You need to be perfectly fit before you begin your journey, as the journey is very tiresome and demanding. We would recommend you to do cardio exercises regularly as it will also help you with the changing elevation and not make you sick. Cycling and swimming is also highly recommended to increase your stamina.
You should try doing the following things to increase strength and stamina.
As your journey demands you to be riding on a very high altitude, you should be completely aware and prepared for the extreme weather condition and also take care of your health. It is recommended for you to be regular with cardio exercises. Since the air is very thin at high altitude like Baralach La, and Khardung la, and this is where the cardio will pay off it will be easier for you there.
The minimum days required to explore Ladakh on bike are 10. You can customize your trips according to your itinerary.
The average travel duration will depend day to day on the weather, the kind of path you tread (that is the condition of roads) and your health in general. It is mandatory for you to take regular breaks in order to avoid severe back pains and other health related issues that you may have to face. The average travel hours can range from 6 to 7 hours maximum.
No, you cannot ride all day and night. You will need to take regular breaks, as your body will get tired because of the changing landscape and increased elevation. You have to remember that you will be riding for a week or more at a stretch. Riding without break will result in immense backache. Moreover, there is often lack of oxygen, so it is mandatory for you to rest and let the body get accustomed to the changes. The roads are bad which makes riding at night extremely dangerous. In case, there is a breakdown you will not get any help and will be stranded. The entry in some areas is restricted as well at night. Your bike needs the rest as much as your body, too.
If you wish you can go alone, but it is always recommended to go with a tour group because that ensures safety and security. Because the roads are not very good and the weather is extremely unpredictable, a group provides strength and company to overcome difficult situations. On a more technical front, traveling in a group means you will have well seasoned and experienced people to guide you throughout, they will be familiar with the route and in the case of unforeseen circumstances, they will know exactly what to do and where to go. A group tour also includes a backup vehicle prepared in case there is a breakdown or if someone falls sick.
There is no lack of accommodation in Ladakh – as long as you book prior to your trip, you will get a lot of options to choose from. Generally, in Ladakh the hotels are segregated into four different categories, namely, A, B, C and D. The best way to understand the quality of A class hotels, their facilities and services are simply comparable to a standard 3 star hotel. Each hotel in Ladakh is designed with traditional architecture of the region and feature oversized rooms equipped with modern amenities. These rooms are beautifully furnished with Ladakhi and Tibetan décor.
Yes, Leh has ATM’s owned by Axis Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Punjab National Bank and State Bank of India. It is strongly recommended to carry enough cash because can be non-functional sometime due to heavy demand. Also, there are no ATM’s available on the highways and places outside the Leh town, hence, it is highly recommended that you carry sufficient cash as even credit/ debit card acceptance will be an issue and most of these locations do not have this facility.
The most important thing that you have to keep in mind is that only postpaid connections work in Leh Ladakh, limited to BSNL, Airtel and MTNL only. BSNL has the widest coverage followed by Airtel. Moreover, only some places like Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso (Lukung, Tangste 34 KMs before Pangong Tso), and Chumathang; and recently on the list, Hanle will have any connectivity and it will be erratic mostly. It will be a good idea to keep your friends and family informed in advance about your whereabouts.
The first point of concern for everyone during a bike trip is the availability of petrol pumps in the highways. Petrol, the basic fuel for the road trip is a prized possession in the mountains as there are a handful of petrol pumps, mainly 4 on the entire 475 km route of the Manali-Leh highway. Motorists taking a Ladakh road trip are required to carry extra fuel in a jerrycan or other containers from Manali. Fuel is available in villages but as quality of the oil is very uncertain, it is advisable to not take such fuel unless absolutely necessary.
Yes, most restaurants and hotels accept cards. However, a 2% service tax is levied. It is recommended to carry enough cash with you though, because most small places do not have this facility and they use cash as the sole medium for transaction.
You will get mineral water in Leh and other towns and villages. Carry mineral water for the travelling period. For food, it is advisable to carry dry fruits, energy bars, cookies and biscuits for the journey.
Some common symptoms of high altitude sickness are giddiness, loss of appetite, lack of sleep and difficulty in breathing. The best way to get acclimatize in Ladakh is a natural rest for at least 48 hours before starting to explore and travel.
Yes, it is possible to go from Manali to Leh with 1 stop at Sarchu. However, you will have to begin very early for this trip. If you have enough time on you, it is strongly recommended that you cover the trip in 2 days and 2 night stops to enjoy the beautiful and serene views. The point of the trip is lost if you only spend it in riding. Moreover, it is extremely tough for your body to do it in such a short span of time.
If you wish to take it up as a challenge and race up there, you can. The distance from Nubra to Leh is around 150km. Attempting to cover it in 1 day is a lost cause because you will not be able to enjoy the beautiful sights that the valley has to offer. The distance may look coverable on paper, but also keep in mind the terrain that you will be traversing. It will take a lot more than you expect. Also, do not forget that you have to conquer the Khardung La pass.
Yes, if you wish to not take a detour you can go directly to Pangong Lake to Nubra valley. The route that you can take is via Agam Shyok. From Khalsar you reach Agham rather than ascending to Khardung La, and from Agham you take the road that goes towards Shyok rather than ascending to Wari La, and from Shyok you reach Durbuk and continue towards Pangong. This is the most difficult of all the available routes but also the least time consuming. On this road, you can reach from Nubra valley to Pangong Tso within a matter of 6 hrs.
The best route to take while on bike is the Agham Shyok road. It is so because the ascent is not that steep and with motorcycles you can always make way even on bad roads. However, please be very careful while riding through this terrain. This road can be highly dangerous at worst of times and challenging at best.
It is strongly recommended not to take small kids on a bike trip to Ladakh as the roads are not always very good. Moreover, the weather can get unexpectedly harsh, and it is a lot of risk for children.
Traveller Tales from Ladakh
07 March 2017
Such an amazing bike ride, challenging but with thrill till the end. Make sure that you are prepared to prevent the cold, the rough wind, the altitude sickness etc because even the symptoms of sickness will affect your trip. Khardung La Pass is quite a challenging one, also there are different shorter and longer passes throughout the journey. The service was also nice, not many complaints. The guides will know the place better because they are doing it for long. But still keep the track of the route before you start the trip. The guide was nice to us, keeping everything coordinated. The accommodation and food were also flawless to me.
02 August 2015
We started our tour by sightseeing of Manali. After the sight seeing, we rode our bikes on various high-altitude roads, including the Khardungla pass, the world’s highest motorable road which is more than 5600 m, above the sea level. I was all alone, feeling like the king of the road. We got to stopover at lovely lakes, some antic terrains, and peaceful out backs. We drove through there. It was awesome.
18 February 2016
To start with I had the most adventurous ride of a lifetime. Bike trip allows you to experience the best just in front of your eyes and Manali to Leh was one of my dream destination. The word that follows will be a huge WOW. Be it the surroundings or the roads the highway connecting Manali to Leh is brilliant. The roads are quite tedious, but that also means that more the adventure and more the fun. Everything was well organized from our accommodation to food. I went with my 2 friends and once we reached there we were provided with our bikes. Another best thing was that the fuel was included in the package. This is a must trip for the bikers.
30 November 2015
Fantabulous time spent in the lap of the mountains, our entire cycling group had gone together and we enjoyed immensely. The cycling trip was really difficult at some time but the feel of it was really good. so positivity and cycling through high passes and snow clad peaks was really good. even the camping was good. after a long day of cycling they served us really good food everyday . The group leaders were also very helpful and were able to handle the fairly large group with utmost ease.
29 October 2015
I think it was one of the best trips which I had in last 4 years. Our trip from Manali to Leh was of 12 days and it was an adventurous one. We were provided with all the facilities. Our bikes were provided to us and also a mechanic for our trip. Most of all your fuel is included in this package which is super good. We covered all the amazing passes like Keylong, Khardungla pass etc. The sight around the Pangong Lake was one of kind. And ya we did click a lot of pictures. This trip is a must do for the bikers as well as the nature lovers.
25 November 2013
The travel to Ladakh was good. This thing seems a little expensive, but it is highly worthy. To start with it covers a lot of places and two major motorable roads, so the whole package is worth it. This does not involve any physical exertion except of course driving along. That being said, the trip was well planned and nicely done. The co travellers were all too friendly too. I really liked this travel experience a lot. I learnt a lot from this trip. I wish more such trips are done across India.
10 March 2015
Rougher dirt tracks needs to be covered. Along with this we also made some very tough climbs. The descents were gut-wrenching yet interesting. If you think that it is very stressful, the distance we covered were somewhat less. It almost ranged from 40 to 80 km on an average. However, the traversing altitudes were over 4000 m. To be honest, if you are not an avid cycler, this can be really tedious and dangerous too. Also, with the altitude and weather conditions, I felt quite dizzy and easily dehydrated. If you are planning to do this, make sure to have great physical fitness. That all being said, this trip was fruitful.
09 November 2015
It was a truly amazing experience as we rode on our bikes from Manali to Leh. From the snowy mountains to the vast green trees covered with snow makes everything perfect for us. We also had a back up bike and 01 backup jeep to carry luggage and mechanic. While riding my bike broke down near the Tsomoriri Lake. But the backup mechanic was real in dealing with the issue and it was good to go again. While riding you will be riding at a speed of 120-130 on the highways. Also, be careful while you ride in the roads of Leh passes. It was really an unforgettable experience for us.
31 March 2015
This trip was awesome. I had the best biking experience ever with this trip. It was so brilliant. The drive through was mind boggling. I loved it totally. If you are a biker, then it is a sin, if you have not taken Ladakh bike trip. Visited almost all the famous of places of Leh. I had an amazing 7 days in the paradise of bikers. The whole trip was very well organized.
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