About The Listing
Type of Trip : Cycling
Level : Hard
Location : Leh and Ladakh
Duration : 13 Days 12 Nights
Trip Start : Manali
Trip End : Leh
This is once in a lifetime cycling expedition in Upper Himalayas. The green Kullu Manali valley, strongly Tibetan influenced high valley of Ladakh, and the semi desert region of Lahaul are three distinct geographical areas of the Himalayas. It’s every cycling fanatics dream to ride in this terrain through the roads, which cling and wriggle through some of the highest motorable passes and the most spectacular landscape in the world.
Day 01: Riding Around Town / Arrive Manali / Acclimatization Ride.
Arriving early in Manali is recommended. Board the evening bus/Overnight journey bus to Manali (580kms). You will be picked up from the bus station and drive to the hotel. Early afternoon Ride to Naggar and Roerich art Gallery (19kms one way). The evening is free to explore the local surroundings. Manali is surrounded by beautiful fir and pine forests and there are lovely walks in and around the town. There is also a colourful Tibetan bazaar famous for its shawls, caps, jewellery and handicrafts made by Tibetan refugees.
Day 02: Manali – Marhi (Uphill to Camp at Marhi 35 Km, 5-6 Hr, elevation gain 1250m).
The day starts at 8:00AM with a level ride till snow and avalanche centre on the Manali – Rohtang road, a 5 kms ride where your first nutrition halt is also located. From here on it gradually inclines till Palchan, with the incline increasing till Kothi. It’s long switchbacks from Kothi onwards till Gulaba at a total distance of 26 kms from Manali. Gulaba stands at 2600mts and is also your lunch halt. The tree line starts leaving you for a while after Gulaba and Marhi your camp for tonight is 14 kms away. You do encounter headwinds on the uphill on your way into the camp at about 3 kms.
Ride Plan: An average speed of about 5kmph should see you finishing the ride in about 8 hours, just in time to catch the last bit of sunshine at the camp. Time the ride into two stages – 1st riding into Gulaba and the second – burning up on your calories for the last 14 kms into the camp. Taking a breather halt every 3-4 kms will help. To make things easier on your stride, most of the surface is Tarred till Marhi.
Day 03: Marhi – Sissu (The first pass Rohtang, Marhi – Sissu 53kms, 5-6 hours, elevation gain 1600m).
A tough start to the day as you continue the uphill ride towards Rohtang Pass 16kms from the Marhi camp. The ride is on tarmac for about 6 kms, thereafter you ride on broken tarmac, slush and a rocky surface. The climb is on switchbacks and a 2-4 (recommended gear ratio) should see you easily being able to clock 4kmph, enabling to finish the climb in 4 hours. The first 5 kms of the 18kms downhill to Koksar are a delight and the rest 14kms on offroad. You keep straight most of the way, stopping, looking and going and not going wrong in the direction of Spiti valley at Gramphoo. It’s a wave of a ride after Koksar till Sissu, 12kms going up and down on a brilliant tarred road.
Ride Plan: Fairly simple, 3 stages, 1st-Uphill to Rohtang, 2nd-downhill to Koksar 3rd after lunch at Koksar to camp. 4 hours to Rohtang top and a safe downhill of about 20kmph to camp at Sissu. A total riding time of about 6 hours and a relaxed lunch halt should see you at the camp by 4:00PM.
Day 04: Sissu – Jispa (‘Lahaul’ Sissu - Jispa 59 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 600m).
A deceptive uphill of 14kms gets you from the camp to Gondhla. Overall face masks and hydration comes in very handy as the course is very dusty and broken tarmac. From Gondhla it’s a technical downhill of 8 kms through a very dusty road, following the course of the Chandra river till where it meets the Bhaga at Tandi. A hard sun (if it’s not cloudy), dust and pebbles on your way up to Keylong, another 8kms from Tandi, you should keep your hydration bags ready. A level ride of another 7kms brings you to Stingri, your lunch halt. It’s another 6 kms of uphill, a respite from the offroad though and another 16 kms of a downhill brings you to Jispa.
Ride Plan: It’s a 4 stage ride today – Camp to Gondhla, Gondhla to Tandi, Tandi to Jispa top, and the final 16 kms to Jispa. At about 7kms an hour you should be at the start of the downhill at Gondhla in about 2 hours. The downhill to Tandi should take about 40 minutes. The rough patch of the uphill till Jispa top at about 5kmph should take you 5 hours with the lunch halt and another hour for the downhill till Jispa. It is important to note that out of the total 16kms downhill to Jispa not all of it true downhill – it has short sections of 300-400 mts climbs on slopes, however the respite comes on the Tarred road. Do expect headwinds on the downhill towards late afternoon.
Day 05: Jispa – Patseo (Entering the Higher ground – Jispa – Patseo 22 Km, 3-4 Hr, elevation gain 500m).
The shortest day of our ride and for a reason; spending a longer time at higher altitude, to get acclimatized for the long road ahead and the second of the highest passes Baralacha La. Your ride starts on time at 8:00AM from the camp at Jispa to Darcha (6kms, tarmac, up and down). From Darcha; Patseo camp is 16kms. After crossing the bridge at Darcha it’s an 8kms uphill and then a breeze of a downhill till the first water crossing. 3 kms of yet another deceptive flats brings you to Deepak tal, not before you cross another water crossing. The camp set by the Bhaga river side is another 2 kms.
Ride Plan: Lunch will be served at the camp, today an average speed of 5kmph should see you finishing the uphills in about three hours and will give you an hour more to get to the camp. No headwinds, a little offroad, lots of photo-ops – it’s a good day’s ride.
Day 06: Patseo – Sarchu (The second pass – Patseo – Sarchu Plains 63 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 1400m).
The first actual tough day on higher altitude. A gain of 150 meters as you ride 10kms on Tarmac to ZingZingbar base. A very nice surfaced road of 4 kms through switchbacks brings you to ZingZingbar top. From here one can see the High Baralacha pass looming ahead, at 15 kms from the zingZingbar top. The ride is through long switchbacks and you will gain altitude slowly. The hard ride is rewarded with stunning views of the Surajtal lake, just 3 kms short from the pass top. From the pass it’s a downhill with caution as you ride through an offroad track to reach Killing Sarai. The first views of the Rupshu plains await as you breeze through 20kms to reach the camp at Sarchu.
Ride Plan: Three stages, lots of hydration stops. The first stage is at the 10kms to ZingZingbar base. The second is at the 19kms uphill ride to Baralacha top, where you take a stop every 3 kms and the last is at the downhill ride to Sarchu after lunch. Avoid 1:1, it will make you push harder, instead go towards a 2:3, 2:1 to enable a steady speed to keep the breath and pedaling in tandem – a rhythm which you should get to get maximum from your personal level of fitness. Stay hydrated at all times, chocolates, iced tea, rehydration salts, boiled potatoes, bananas and eggs do help. At about 5kmph the top should be reachable in about 6 hours. And a safe downhill speed of 25kmph, should see you reaching the camp at Sarchu in about an hour and a half.
Day 07: Sarchu – Pang (A hard day’s night – Sarchu - Pang 79 Km, 8-9 Hr, elevation gain 1200m).
This will be our longest and hardest day of cycling so we will set off early. 21 switchbacks gaining 400meters in 11kms, two high passes Naki La at 4900mts and LachulungLa 5150mts makes this sixth day real tough. ‘Out Here’ resolve is everything and it’s a mind game thereafter. If you consider cycling spiritual, then cycling here is meditation. The first 24kms to the base of Gata loops is a mix of downhill and little uphills. 21 loops which are called the Gata loops are 11kms and each loop is between 300-600meters. The longest loops are the last two ones being 800meters and a kilometer and a half respectively. Another 11kms of strenuous uphill gets you to Naki La. Takh is a respite from the continuous uphills for a while, before you tackle yet another high pass Lachulung La, 8kms and 5150mts high. The last 17kms of downhill is very picturesque passing through a canyon. It is an offroad section though. The Mantra today is to take it easy, being not intent on arriving somewhere, just keep your pace and enjoy the rhythm of your breath in this altitude.
Ride Plan: Treat the 24kms ride to Gata loops base as the warm up ride. Pace it at about 20kmph on the downhills and about 8kmph on uphills and you should be there in an hour’s time. Tackling the Gata loops is not such an uphill task as it might seem to be, just the planning and pacing has to be right there to your level of fitness. Stop at the end of every third loop till you reach the 18th one. On the last 3 loops stop at a km each. At about a speed of 5kmph one should be able to be done with the Gata loops in about two hours and a half. The next big one is Naki La – Stop, Look, Pedal – A break every 4 kms will find you reach the lunch halt in another hour. Burn your calories as you climb another 5 to the top of the pass after lunch giving yourself an hour to do it. Breeze down to Takh at the base of Lachulung La and try to move in a peloton. The 8 kms should take about two hours at 4kmph, however you should be aiming to speed till about 6kmph. The last 17kms to camp should take an hour with a safe 20kmph. Some sections towards the last of the passes are steep and should see you shifting gears to 1:4. Still avoid the Grannies, would come in very handy at Tanglang La and Khardungla with better acclimatization.
Day 08: Pang – Tso-Kar (Into thin air – Pang – Tso - Kar 41 Km, 4-5 Hr, elevation gain 400m).
Two tough days call for a shorter ride, magnificent vistas and good times. It’s a 6kms uphill from Pang to reach the start of Moray plains, a part of the Changthang plateau of Ladakh, 40kms long and 3 kms wide. The ride for 24kms is on expressway esque tarmac, all of it descending and flat in stages. The hard part is after the tarmac when it gives way to offroad, the snow cutting machines making it a very bumpy ride. It’s a true cold desert today and mirages are not uncommon, after a bumpy offroad ride of 9kms you turn towards a sandy trail of 4 kms leading you to Pangonago your camp on the banks of Tso-Kar lake. You also cross yet another pass today – unmapped yet – The Polakongla at 4700mts.
Ride Plan: A short uphill, 31 kms straight and 4 kms of desert riding, makes it pretty simple. Lunch is at the camp today and allow yourselves a maximum of 6 hours of riding.
Day 09: Tso-Kar – Rumptse (The Big Ascent – Tso Kar - Rumptse 80 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 900m).
The first thing in the morning is tackling the sand tracks again for 3 kms, thereafter you catch up with the narrow tarmac road leading you to Debring, 11kms. The Debring Dhabas are 4 kms from the TanglangLa junction. TanglangLa has no base as such, as the earlier passes. From here Tanglang La top is 22kms, all offroad and gaining altitude slowly however steadily. Take your time, do not hurry, pace yourself, stay cheerful or else burning out is not uncommon here. After the long climb and the arduous and terrible offroad you will be rewarded with the 31 kms downhill leading you to the campsite at Rumptse.
Ride Plan: As usual you start early and allow ourselves 45 minutes for the ride till the TanglangLa junction at Debring. TanglangLa is 26 kms from this point and cycling at about 5kmph with a stop at every 3kms should see you reaching the top in about 6 hours. The downhill is a melody and you should be in the camp in about an hour. Avoid spending too much time at the top because of the thin air. P.S – 1:1 will come into play today at about 6kms before the pass, and try to take it easy, by still maintaining the steady pace.
Day 10: Rumptse – Leh (Leh 83 Km, 7-8 Hr, elevation gain 450m).
The ride through the canyon leading to Upshi is 33kms of real downhill. From here Leh at 50kms is an up and down ride. Most of the uphills are till Stakna village 14kms from Upshi. You take a halt at Karu at the world’s highest Dosa point, where the Trishool Warriors of the Indian army dish out tasty south Indian snacks. The next stop is at Thiksay monastery and then it’s riding into Leh and stopping for photo op.
Ride Plan: Much easy, at about 15kmph you ride into Leh taking about 6 hours. Allow yourself lots of stops for photographs. Do use the facemask as it comes in handy with dust laden and heavy traffic roads of Leh.
Day 11: Rest Day & Explorations (Explore Leh).
It’s a much needed rest day. Options are open to make day trips to Pangong Lake (8 hrs to and fro journey costing approx 2000/- INR per person) or rafting on the Indus (2 hours approx 1100/- INR per person). The ideal is cycling down to Nimmu and indulging in rafting there.
Day 12: Leh – Khardungla – Leh (The Big Climb – Khardungla Pass 80kms, elevation gain 2100m).
You have done five passes in the past ten days, gained a total of approximate 7000meters in total cumulative elevation gain, got your cycling muscles in shape and have increased the prowess and intake of your lungs. The 40kms climb to Khardungla, remains one final challenge which rightly sums up to be the ‘Mount Everest of Cycling’ – and yes – ‘OUT HERE’ resolve is everything. The climb begins at your accommodation place itself. Its 18kms on a fantastic tarmac road till South Pullu, a ride which should see you taking a stop every 4 kms. From south pullu onwards it’s an off road of 19kms towards Khardungla top. You will meet many cyclists coming at you from the opposite direction, that should not frighten you from climbing up. Take a breather every 3kms now. The last 5kms to the top is a challenge. Meditate and bring your positive spirits together.
Ride Plan: Try and maintain a steady 6kms an hour till south pullu, giving yourself 3-4 hours till the base. At about 4kmph it will take another 5 hours to the top. Keep yourself hydrated and in good spirits. Reward yourself with fantastic views at the top and without spending too much time, the downhill take you an hour and a half back to Leh.
Day 13: Leh - Destination.
Post breakfast departure from Leh.
- Accommodation on twin sharing basis.
- All meals.
- Scout mountain bike Hardtail.
- Mineral water.
- Chocolates, fruits and dry fruits.
- Two nutrition halts during the cycling course everyday.
- Support vehicle.
- Mechanic support.
- An equipped vehicle with oxygen cylinder and high altitude first aid kit.
- Permit fees.
- Luggage vehicle.
- Well marked route.
- Strong 10 member crew for daily operations.
- Celebration in Leh.
- Personal expenses.
- Camera fee.
- Air fare.
- Costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances.
- Return airfare or road transport expenses from Leh.
- Alcoholic beverages.
Terms & Conditions
- Cancellation 30 days prior to departure: Full refund (after deducting any expenses that have been incurred for hotel bookings, transport, etc.)
- Cancellation 21-30 days prior to departure: 75% of trip cost will be refunded (after deducting any expenses that have been incurred for hotel bookings, transport, etc.)
- Cancellation 14-21 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost will be refunded (after deducting any expenses that have been incurred for hotel bookings, transport, etc.)
- Cancellation less than 14 days prior to departure: no refund.
Tips, Hints, Precautions
1. What type of cycle is recommended for this expedition?
The roads generally are not suitable for bikes fitted with road tyres (slicks), even though some sections are in reasonably good condition. There will be sections higher up that will be in poor condition due to snow/slush from the winter months, possible landslip, and use of the road by heavy vehicles at times. Hybrid bikes with 'chunky' mountain tyres are most suitable. Riders should also bring a range of spare parts which may include; chain links or chains, spare tyres and pump, at least 4 spare tubes and puncture repair kit, cables, pedals and a good tool kit. Though there would be a mechanic accompanying you carrying a good repair kit and spares but it is still necessary for everyone to bring some spares; this also ensures you have parts that will fit your bike. There will be a staff member to assist with running repairs when you are biking. As a general rule, less complex or high tech bikes are easier to fix and obtain parts for if necessary. If you plan to buy a new bike before the trip, make sure you are completely familiar with it prior to departing. You should fit at least 2 one liter water bottles to your bike. Water will be available from the back up vehicle.
2. Is there medical back up on the tour?
Yes, the trip is accompanied by qualified paramedics and HAPS.
3. What is the sleeping material provided in the tent?
You get a cotton wool mattress, a trekking mattress of foam, a sleeping bag. If you still feel cold after the arrangements they do give you blankets and duckback hot water bottles.
4. Are any spare cycles carried on the bus, incase of a major cycle breakdown?
Yes we do, though these are Firefox targets. We have a mechanic accompanying us who does carry some spares.
5. Is there any physical preparation/ diet, that needs to be done, to reduce the chances of altitude sickness?
The simplest things are the most difficult. In this scene lets keeping it to the basics. No smoking, no drinking. If you do, then please reduce. Stick to your regular diet, increase carbs, greens. At least 5-8 ltrs of water everyday and other liquids (citrus). Mix your cycling with aerobics and swimming. As such there is no golden thumb rule to avoid High altitude sickness, the mantra is to go high on fluids. Lots of water helps. The ride is slow paced which aids in acclimatization.
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