Any bike lover will vouch for the fact that there is nothing more thrilling and satisfying than undertaking a bike trip through the beautiful yet dangerously inhospitable terrain of Leh Ladakh. The roughly 469 km stretch between Manali to Leh, regarded as the Mecca for bikers not only in India but elsewhere as well, is bound to test your courage, patience and stamina every step of the way. However, as every biker who has undertaken this pilgrimage will tell you, the spectacular ever- changing landscape that accompanies this journey makes every inch of the journey worth it.
Taking a bike trip to Leh and Ladakh is not like your everyday road trip. It needs months of advance preparation to make you ready both physically and mentally for the hard and arduous journey ahead. Since your journey and possibly your life can depend on the ability of your bike to perform under pressure, a thorough check and complete overhaul of your bike, if required, should be on the cards before even considering the journey.
There are no shortcuts to bike preparedness when it comes to Leh Ladakh, so go through this checklist to ensure your bike is as adventure ready as you are:
• Clutch Plates– One of the first things to have checked when you need to traverse the hilly terrain is the bike’s clutch plates.
• Suspension– Before you set out on that journey which is likely to take a toll on the bike’s suspension, ensure you have both the front and rear suspension checked.
• Tyres– Consider replacing tyres if they look worn out or are more than 3 years old as they need to undertake a treacherous journey.
• Battery– Ensure that the bike’s battery is performing well. Also check to see that all electrical wiring is in place. With limited help available in the remote areas of Ladakh, this is a risk you cannot take.
• Brake shoes– It is imperative to ascertain that the break pad will last for 5000 Km else it may need a change before you set out on your journey.
• Engine Oil– It may be time to change the engine oil if it is over 500 Km old.
• Lighting– Ensure that the Head Lights, Rear Lights and Indicators are working fine as you will be driving on difficult roads where there is no margin of error
• Nuts and Bolts– Check to see that the nuts and bolts are fully secured and tightened
Other than all these checks, it is prudent that you also learn small issues such as fixing punctures, replacing bulbs and changing clutch cables and more, yourself so you can overcome any minor issues that you may face on deserted roads, yourself.
Since your bike has to carry not only your weight but also of your gear, go light on non- essentials. At the same time, however ensure that you do not forget any of the basics when considering a bike ride up the adventure ridden Himalayan terrain. Here’s a handy checklist of the basic stuff that you need to carry:
• Keep the bike tool kit handy for unexpected repairs
• Petrol pumps are few and far between in the highway that connects the mainland to Leh Ladakh so ensure you have an adequate supply of petrol to avoid being stranded. (Pro Tip- There is only one petrol pump between Manali and Leh, which is at Tandi, 370 Kms away from Leh. Do remember to Tank Up here for the rest of your journey!)
• Spare tyre tubes, a spare key and cables can prove to be of invaluable help since help is hard to come by on the mostly deserted road
• It will also help to have essentials such as spare engine oil, headlight bulb, clutch and accelerator wires, fuse and coolant handy.
• It is prudent to carry a jumpstart cable to deal with sudden battery failure.
• Ensure you have a torch handy for any late evening issues.
• Last but most importantly keep documentation related to the bike like registration and insurance certificate, pollution under control certificate and your driver’s license always handy.
Even with all the advance preparation, there is always scope for last minute glitches and failures which is why it is important to keep an extra day in Manali to take your bike for a spin and possibly to a mechanic before undertaking the journey that most bikers dream of but few are able to turn into reality.