The Air Up There | Himalayas

36 days in the Himalayas; 1 Man – 1 Machine

(Talking to myself inside the helmet); it’s been 12 hours since I left Kargil and entered Suru – Zanskar Valley. Couldn’t find an ounce of food to eat. Have been just on water… Yeah! This ride is definitely the most testing and challenging one done till date. Common Om focus; one mistake and you gone forever. It will take weeks just to know you are missing.

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I never imagined my life would revolve around Biking. May be it’s a passion or just an addiction but Motorcycles and Biking is now a culture, a family, a place where you make good friends; I’m grateful for this and the fact that it has given me the ability to reach any corner of the country in any environment. Freedom to explore the world on two wheels. Is it possible to push your limits in this world and to know where you stand by? Can two wheels teach you lessons of life? And what happens when you fall! So why not take it to the extremes and test the limits of man and machine, a place like no other, The Himalayas.

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Hi, my name is Om Vaikul and I set on a journey to the mountains for 36 days, covering 8000+ kms through 7 states, 9 valleys, 9 mountain passes and came back in a state of bliss. What makes any of this even more special is that I made this solo on my bike – on a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500.

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The joy of being in Himalayas for me is unexplainable. We all have one place in our lives where we come to in peace with ourselves. For me Himalayas has always been the answer to the chaos in today’s living. Material, Spiritual and in Superficial terms, being just in Himalayas has become an annual thing. They are not just the youngest mountain range in the world but also the liveliest ones.

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Why Solo?

Till date I have made 6 trips to Himalayas and each time I was fascinated to hear some stories off this and that valley or come to know about some amazing place across a river that is very less explored. Also in each trip some of the places from the plan use to get skipped because of short of time or road block; some reason or the other. So once I had decided that a trip to Himalayas solo is a must. And it’s the only way I could quench my thirst of photography in the mountains fully.

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Why Thunderbird 500?

For the simple reason, I had carried ample luggage on this trip. Something that may or may not come handy was also in the bag. Couple of places was quite off the map, remote and isolated so carrying atleast 10 litres extra fuel was mandatory. And I wanted to enjoy this ride in a cruiser position; also not compromise anywhere in power. I saw Thunderbird 500 has the only option that fit aptly. The 20 litres large fuel tank, tried and tested 500cc engine from the best selling Classic 500 and the many other modern technology incorporated in this bike, made this a feasible choice.

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Priceless Experiences?

From the whole 36 days. I would like to narrate 9 incidents that made me think in a renewed way towards life granted by the almighty one.

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1st Incident | Location: Somewhere on the highway

Just when I had taken a small tea break by the highway, a guy riding a motorcycle came and stopped besides me. He seemed a local fellow and I guess was also stopping for tea. When I turned and looked at him properly, my glass almost fell off after the sight I witnessed. The guy had no left arm; yet he rides a motorcycle properly.

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I exchanged few words with him, took a photograph with his permission and carried on. He was such a casual personality as how we express ‘no big deal’ phrase. The only thing that kept rotating in my mind was ‘Impossible is truly nothing.’

2nd Incident | Location: Chail, Himachal Pradesh

It was past 5 PM and I was coming down on the Chail Kufri road to get back on the main highway and as per my itinerary, today’s halt was in Narkhanda. As I was cruising, calculations were in full flow in my head that in an hour I’ll lose the day light and Narkhanda is still another 2 and a half hours away, max, that too if I rush a little. One thought was, maybe I’ll check in to a hotel nearby. Probably before the sun sets! And just after passing of this thought a hotel kind of thing passed by. I was little fast so couldn’t get the whole glance. I stopped ahead and thought for a second whether it was what I saw or may be try my chance little ahead!

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I don’t know why and how, but the next action came naturally. Without wasting a moment I turned back and went there. Parked my bike, removed my helmet and took in the whole view of the place. It was quite something. A hotel which looked like a home, totally built on a slope with stones and concrete pillars. When I was bargaining for a fair deal, the lady who came at the door told me to go up at the top and her husband is sitting there, please speak with him.

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I met him on the terrace of the hotel and spoke with him for about 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised to know that it was not at all about the rate or tariff to stay here, he was curious to know why I’m traveling alone, who I am and the curious questions usually asked to a solo traveler. After a moment of silence he started praising of what I am on to and wished me the very best for the journey ahead.

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The lady got me some tea and then finally topic came on the price for the accommodation. Rs. 500/- was finalized. I was little tired that day and the owner also insisted to sit and relax for a while before going down again for luggage and stuff. Here is when a new topic got initiated. In that moment I got to know from him, this place is their home and now made into a hotel, their village is close by and this was their parents’ dream. Many other little and big intimate details of the place I was told. I also got to know he had given a job to someone to make a website for his place and the guy never corresponded back. This is when I interrupted and told him it’s not that difficult to make it. It is hardly expensive to make just a simple static website for a place like this on a platform called WordPress. I quoted him a small figure of Rs. 2000/- that is sufficient to create one.

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He asked me do you also make a website. I replied yes. Here are his next words, “Son, please make one for us and don’t pay us anything for the stay here. Enjoy 3-4 days here. Have the best of food that my wife will prepare. My sons will take you around and show you the place.” I don’t know how and why but to this I agreed so spontaneously that I didn’t even understand whether I myself said yes or just my soul was answering. For the first time I felt of higher powers at work.

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I stayed with the family for 3 days. Each meal given to me was king size. I ate with them in the kitchen as well as the dining room. On cold night, food was served to me in my room. Every item consumed is grown there and like he promised, his 2 sons took me on a tour of the whole mountain. Before leaving he even told me, “I have good contacts further ahead in state, if any help needed then do not hesitate to ring me up.”

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When I reached Mumbai after 30 days from their place, exactly on the 35th day I got a call from them to know whether I have reached safe and was my journey a success! I was touched by their approach. I’m still in touch with them and have been invited to come there again in winter months to see a whole different Chail. First time I realised the meaning and got a true experience of the phrase “Guest is God”.

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3rd Incident | Location: Maling near Nako village, Himachal Pradesh

When I was closing in on Nako village I got to know via Bcmtouring.com that the Malling Nallah area has a disastrous drop. The road has totally gone down. And no way will it be ready in the next 15 days, that was the degree of damage. I still took my chances and settled in at a home stay in Nako. It’s a very remote village high in Himalayas so accommodation charges amount to hardly an expensive figure.

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On Day 2, I made reckon of the situation and decided to give 7 days’ wait, for it to improve. But right after passing of the 3rd day I realised this is no way going to get ready even for lighter vehicles like a bike anytime soon. I was discouraged and disheartened. But just when I was getting ready to turn back, an army fellow met me at the village. There was a wedding in the evening so some army guys had come down for some work. He told me that he was observing me since last 3-4 days and inquired about my intentions. The next thing to come from his mouth was, “Sirji you come up tomorrow morning with your bike, with luggage and everything. We have just put a railing on the patch and with some efforts we might be able to get you across.” I was delighted to hear this. Very eagerly I waited for the next morning.

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At the first light I was full ready to roll. Even before breakfast I was ready up there. The same army fellow met me and gave me 2 helpers to assist me out. And with some daring efforts, me and my bike were taken across. I could not express the joy of the current happening. Some other labour or person would have asked for money or some compensation. But the moment I went across and looked back, the 2 people immediately went back to their camps without showing any expectation. I whistled and waved to show my gratitude. I experienced the phrase, “Yes, even today there are people who will help you whole heartedly.”

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4th Incident | Location: Chandra Tal

During my 7 days stay in Nako, via a working cyber café I was communicating and updating on BCMT forum about the road status here. I didn’t realise who all were reading or following it. After my departure from Kaza in Spiti valley I arrived at Chandra Tal. Kept my stuff in a camp and headed towards the lake. I met a guy over there ‘Jamaica’ and with just some talks exchanged he recognized me the one who was in Nako for 7 days. He was overwhelmed to meet me and I was taken away by his hospitably.

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So many mutual friends and topics opened up that an amazing bond got created with the man. He made an amazing food for me that night. It’s not easy to cook non-veg items at that altitude in severe cold weather. Also insisted to come and have breakfast with him next day morning. He prepared everything by himself. At the end of our meeting it happened so that he didn’t take a single rupee from me for his services offered. People ask me; tell me a person who will work not for money? Today I can proudly say, come with me and I’ll not just tell but show HIM to you.

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5th Incident | Location: Keylong

I had plans to explore the hike route to Keylong monastery before I set riding for the day. I started at 6 in the morning and since there was nothing open at that hour, I just grabbed couple of bananas for the trek. Within 40 minutes of climb I was lost and the 2 bananas disappeared in my stomach. I didn’t want to go back, was totally determined to make it to the top of the monastery. So finally after zig zag climb I was inside the main building. Totally drained, hungry, thirsty and exhausted enough to fall down. Over the top I got to know that all monks have left for the Hemis festival.

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Just when hope was dying out, I was greeted by 2 little monks (kids) who took me in the kitchen. I think they noticed me tired and exhausted because the next thing I see is hot herbal tea and a jar full of biscuits kept in front of me. I was trying my level best to control the tears that were trying to burst out. Both of them gave me a tour of the place before I started downhill back to the hotel. Quote, “God walks with you. He takes care of you. His love can take you across the universe.”

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6th Incident | Location: Leh

When I reached Leh I was looking for the cheapest possible accommodation and close to the main market as much as it can get. After some snooping around I finally found a homey stay that fit my budget. My very thought before closing my eyes was that after 5 days I’m gonna have a royal English breakfast at German Bakery. A must do for bikers coming to Leh. Next morning, excited, ready and just when I was about to exit the room, the house lady grabs me, “Hello ji good morning, where are you going in such a hurry, come have breakfast first.” I couldn’t say no and sound rude. So I agreed. When I went in the kitchen I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, a royal Ladakhi breakfast, homemade, just for me.

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Here is my point, for the 4 days I stayed in Leh home stay; the house lady didn’t let me leave the house without having breakfast with them. I was given variety each time the morsel was presented to me. What makes this special? On the 4th day when I was clearing the payments for accommodation and food, the house lady refused to take money for the food. I couldn’t do anything but bow in front of them. The only line that kept going in my head that day, “Who are these wonderful people, I know nothing about the real Indian.”

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7th Incident | Location: Rangdum village

Deep inside the Suru – Zanskar Valley is the village called Rangdum. It consists of just 4-5 houses and 1-2 hotels (namesake). Before reaching Padum, one night has to be spent here. It’s the only feasible halt in between the journey of 300 kms off-road stretch.

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I stayed in one such home stay and didn’t dismount much luggage from the bike; just got the camera bag with me up in my room. There was a hotel at walking distance on the other side of the village and I had inquired that dinner will be available but served after 7-8 PM. So till then I rested for some time in my room. By night it was so cold that even stepping out of the room was discouraging. And yes I was hungry enough; since morning I had nothing but a cup of Maggi noodles.

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Just when I couldn’t make up my mind, the man of the house arrived. He looked very aged but strong in stance. The first thing he said was let’s get your luggage inside. Since you are traveling alone, you don’t want to risk your luggage here at this place. Surely nothing will happen but theft doesn’t come in definite conditions. I was speechless. I agreed to him quickly. The next thing he asked me was whether I have eaten? My expression was enough to speak out the answer. He immediately tells his wife, please serve him too, with the food prepared today. I did mention to him that don’t take any trouble as I was about to go to that hotel, he replied, they serve only junk food. No taste, no nutrition. Eat here at home.

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I was presented with rotis, vegetable, curd and Tibetan bread. Prepared exactly how they eat and quantity that will suffice 2 people. I ate and never in my life slept so peacefully. I realised, “Food is truly Brahman; and Vishnu can get him to you in any form, any way and any manner. And Allah blesses the Family who treats the guest as their own.”

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8th Incident | Location: Pensi La

A very small incident took place at Pensi La that left a big impact on my thinking and approach towards life. I closed in on Pensi La pass and took a break near a view point. I noticed a man standing there and staring at me. It didn’t bother me at all. I even exchanged pleasantries with him.

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Just when I was about to pack and move ahead, he stops me and gives me black tea. For a moment I assumed it’s a stall kind of thing he is running under the shed at the corner of the view point structure. When we were talking, the next thing he serves was hot fresh puris. I was totally taken back at the availability of this delicacy at this altitude and weather. I enjoyed every bite of it.

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So what was the big impact? The moment I asked him how much do I owe him for the tea and snacks, he was shocked. In a very heart touching tone he said humbly, “What Sir, you are guest in the Himalayas. To serve you is to serve our father.” (Pointing to the Himalayas). I later got to know that the man was just up there to collect some dry grass for his village. It will take him the entire day to do so; hence he carried materials to make his own meals till sundown. On seeing me, he shared what he had made and forever changed my perspective towards life.

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Values of Being Human are deep rooted in us. We have forgotten them, but somehow our soul still knows it. Only incidents like this, it takes, to re-activate them. No education, no money, nothing but just a humble gesture.

9th Incident | Location: Karsha Monastery

When exploring the monastery on foot, I reached to the top and was busy in photography. A very old monk came by and asked me something. I could not figure a single word that he was uttering. But I figured this much that he is asking to stay for some time. I gladly obliged. I had all the time to give. In about 20 minutes, many little monks came running and this old monk grabbed my hand and made me sit next to him. The next thing I know I’m having my lunch with them – white rice and a boiled egg.

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Food has never been so tasty. Not my stomach but my soul was fed by the Lord himself.

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The 36 days on the highway has taught me lessons of life. Lessons you can’t read about or see on TV. I rode and lived my life in a perspective not seen by many, to a place where you can’t afford any mishaps of judgment.

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I conquered my fear, received the love of my people and country, driven by willpower at times, composed myself in situations of threat and got in touch with my true self.

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This journey made me a better man and I feel privileged to come back alive.

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Checkout all the 600 pictures from the ride HERE.

– Om Vaikul

The story was also published in MotorBeam mag; you can checkout the link Here.

10 Things to Do in Ladakh for a Biker

‘The Roof of the World’, as Ladakh is referred to as, bears the ultimate challenge for every two wheeler enthusiast. I’m fortunate to ride there twice in my lifetime, and all the way from Mumbai. After reading and exploring the region I felt there are some places or activities here that many riders often miss out on. Hardly any detailed info is mentioned about them or if there is then its in bits and pieces. Here I tell you about 10 things to do in Ladakh for a biker once entered into the high land.

Ladakh Himalayas

Ladakh Himalayas

There are the usual things one does, or rather must do/ visit, having gone up to Ladakh — the ride up to Khardung La, an evening visit to Shanti Stupa, exploring the Nubra Valley and an overnight stay at Pangong Lake, are some of the must do – must see list every Ladakhi rider indulges in. But, there are some less visited and unusual destinations that a biker must not miss out on and a few must-do things, after having successfully reaching Ladakh.

1. Tso Moriri

This is one of the largest salt water lakes of the Ladakh region in northern Himalayas. The lake is completely frozen – totally ice during the winter season while a magical sight greets you in the warmer months. Other than the mesmerising natural scenery, the area is also populated with some flora and fauna. It’s at a distance of 250 kms from Leh, situated at the end of Rupshu valley.

Due to the distance and offset location, many bikers chuck the lake from their itinerary for obvious reasons. However, if you can make it to this lake, every minute and effort invested will be worth it! The camping site, crystal clear lake, beautiful ambience, spellbound roads and the magnificent sunset are enough to make your stay memorable.

Tso Moriri

Tso Moriri

2. Druk White Lotus School

The school was all over the papers when the Aamir Khan starrer Bollywood movie, ‘3 Idiots’ released world over. The school spreads across a large area and is wholly sustained on solar energy. The architecture and design of this institution is marvellous. The school was damaged in the 2010 floods but has now been fully repaired and restored.

Here’s a tip: Make a contribution to the school, not in terms of money, but resources – books, stationery, etc., go a long way in the education of the Ladakhi children.

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Students landscaping at the Druk White Lotus School

3.  Zanskar River Rafting

The real colours of Zanskar are a sight to see. It doesn’t stop there – the rafting experience in Zanskar itself is enough to get the adrenaline pumping.

The valleys of Zanskar are also referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of Asia’ but why compare it with the west when it’s a unique site in itself!

Fun fact: The Zanskar River freezes in winter and is used by local people to commute through for trade. Otherwise, the temperature of the water is around 7 degrees centigrade and the river route has been graded as class IV.

River rafting in Zanskar valley

River rafting in Zanskar valley

4. Hemis Monastery Ladakh

“Jesus lived in India” – A Book by Holger Kersten says that Christ once lived in the Himalayas. The book itself was controversial, due to several controversies; the fact is, as the author has mentioned, Jesus once resided in Kashmir and in the Hemis Monastery of Ladakh.

The Hemis festival is held in June or July every year; it is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. Hemis festival is the most popular of all the festivals celebrated in Ladakh. It’s a delight for the photo enthusiasts and a pleasure to watch for the avid tourist.

Hemis Monastery Ladakh

Hemis Monastery Ladakh

5. Photography in Ladakh

Indulge in some genuine photography of Ladakh and capture the true mesmerising colours of beauty around you – there’s plenty to capture.

Ladakh is a playround for photography — rivers, mountains, snow, desert, animals, vegetation, people; fields… the options are endless.

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Prep your camera and gears for photography in Ladakh

6. Volunteer

We know you are on your holiday ride but it wouldn’t hurt if you volunteer for a cause in Ladakh. At the end of this task, you’ll really feel happy for what you did.

Go to the monastery and offer a helping hand. Enrol as a volunteer to organise a local program or try out our favourite — teach some skill or perform at the Druk White Lotus School.

7. Ladakhi Food

Feast your eyes on the Ladakhi Menu. Submerge in the sweet taste of apricots or challenge yourself in a momo-eating competition. Food in Ladakh has a wide variety to it. Lookout for organically produced goods and dairy-products in the Ladakhi menu. The most favourite of all foods are the Thukpas, Momos, Laksa, Phalley and a variety of noodle and soup based preparations always served up in amazing combinations of condiments and sauces.

Some restaurant suggestions from my side – German Bakery, Himalayan Café, La Pizzeria, Lamayuru Restaurant, Tibetian Kitchen and Summer Harvest are a few good ones in Leh.

The delicious thukpa

The delicious Thukpa

8. Shop Hop

When it comes to shopping, you have the Ladakh Apricot Store, the Tibetan market, locally made clothing and handicrafts and a whole lot of souvenirs. The place has local art work on offer, too; many of which are beautiful enough to decorate your drawing room with. By-products of apricots is what we suggest the most and get yourself a lot of souvenirs too, you’ll find many unique ones in the market and in the narrow streets of Leh.

Shopping done, hop into the local DTDC office to courier your baggage back home rather than carrying it back on your motorcycle.

9. Lala’s Art Café 

It’s the ideal place to sit with a nice book, sip up some tea and get lost in thoughts.

The ambience of Lala’s art cafe gives you the feel of ancient India. The stone steps, the old restored building and warm people – everything feels right out of a story book. The café showcases some amazing black and white soul photography and the entrance downstairs has deep carvings.

Sit out with your biking buddies and throw some light on interesting tales to share and entertain.

10. Kargil War Memorial


“The land of the fallen”
 – Yes, many Indian soldiers have either dedicated or given up their lives so that we can live free. Once a battleground, Kargil is now a peaceful place and although tension does emerge at times, our heroes are always high on alert.

A war memorial dedicated to the soldiers of the Kargil War has been erected just outside of the town of Kargil. A visit to this place is a must to know what exactly happened here. Feel the loss and offer your prayers and gratitude.

Kargil War Memorial

Kargil War Memorial
Also published in MyBikeMyWorld.com

How To Prepare Your Motorcycle For the Leh Ladakh Ride

To make a successful motorcycle trip to Leh Ladakh one needs to have his bike in the best condition. If properly work done on the bike and cross checked thoroughly then a break is impossible. All you’ll need to focus on is your riding style and holding patience.

I have put down a quick piece on a checklist of things that should be in thorough inspection on your motorcycle.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

Ladakh Ride is a dream of every biker

Ladakh, the home to the highest motorable road in the world – Khardung La, a well known area in the Himalayan region, a place that is visited by thousands of travel enthusiasts from all over the world, a paradise for bikers, needs no introduction.  But if you have made up your mind to go up there, don’t let anything stop you, especially not lack of preparation. There are two important aspects where you would need to prepare. One, the bike itself, and the other, your own strength – physical and mental!
Okay, so let’s take this step by step.

Preparing your Motorcycle

Despite however technologically advanced your motorcycle is, there are certain elements that have to go into making it — clutch, brakes, suspension, fluids, oil, tuning and various other particulars is what makes the bike. You have to make sure all these elements are in good condition to take on the path that leads to the highest motorable road in the world.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

Rohtang Pass, located near Manali

Complex Mechanical Checks 

  1. Certain things in a motorcycle can only be ascertained by the mechanic. It’s best you have a word with the service-in charge at the service station, about your ride plan and get the Clutch Plates, Piston Rings and Timing Chain checked thoroughly. The engine performance should be up-to-date for a high altitude ride.
  2. Check the swing arm of the bike and the suspension — Replace the swing arm bush if necessary and ensure that the suspension is free and smooth.
  3. Con set, Chain – Sprockets, Air filter, Sparkplug, Electricals and Carburettor tuning or FI inspection comes next. It’s best to get a new air filter and spark plugs, a well tuned carb/ properly functioning FI system and battery with adequate life.

Easy Checks

  1. Check and replace if necessary: Clutch and Accelerator cable (Carrying the replaced one as spare is also a good idea).
  2. If any nuts, bolts, screws or connections are loose, ensure that they are all tightened and secured correctly.
  3. Brake pads, if worn out, or nearing there, require replacement. Carrying a new spare set would be advisable.
  4. Tyres are important aspects that need to be inspected. Have a look at the thread life and decide whether or not a new set might be needed. A puncture repair kit is a must-carry in your list.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

On the Go Checks

  1. Ensure that the fluids and lubrication are up-to-the-mark. Carrying spare Lube Can is necessary as you’ll be covering 500+kms and chain will run dry rather quickly in the Himalayan region.
  2. Ensure that the lights, horn and indicators, are all in good working conditions. Hazard light, if a feature on your bike, may be a great help.
  3. Ensure that you check tyre pressure every 800-1000kms depending on the tyre type.
  4. Most importantly, ensure that you carry the tool set used for your bike. There will be moments when, though you might find a mechanic for your bike, in times of need, out there in the hills, they may not have any spares and tool set!
  5. Ensure that you carry a photo copy of your bike documents in the utility box or in space provided for small items under the seat.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

You’ll cross many such streams on the highway to Leh

As Bullet Bose, a racer with near-legend status in the Indian biking community, says, “To know the true potential of your motorcycle you must know your motorcycle in and out.”

Not just for long trips but generally it’s a good thing if you know to fix minor issues in your bike. At least the basics like, checking the oil level in the engine, replacing clutch or accelerator cable, how to judge chain is loose, fix puncture, replacing bulbs, etc… Much depends on how much you can grasp and execute efficiently.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

View of Leh from the Fort side

Must-Carry Essentials

  1. The four important documents: Original Driving license and PUC along with bike papers, valid insurance and registration.
  2. Your OEM toolkit, along with small scotch tape, small pen size torch for emergency, foot pump and puncture repair kit.
  3. A spare bike key, spare bungee cords, spare fuse, extra chain lock, spare clutch and accelerator cable, chain lube, if tube tyre then one spare tube, engine oil to top up and a spare headlight bulb.

Some Important Tips

  1. Never underestimate mountain roads.
  2. Expect the unexpected.
  3. Be prepared for sudden weather change.
  4. Respect the mountains; respect the road.
  5. Don’t be in haste; ride relaxed.
  6. Share experiences of any discomfort with fellow rider/s.
  7. Take care of self; take care of bike.
  8. Do not push yourself or the bike over the limit.
  9. Conserve water; it’s precious.

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Ladakh Ride

You’ll encounter many icy roads in the Ladakh Ride

Ride Safe and Take Care…

Also published in MBMW Emagazine March 2013.

Original post in MyBikeMyWorld.com

How to Prepare Physically for Leh Ladakh and Kashmir Bike Ride

The Ladakh season goes hot when the May month comes close. Everyone is ready to set out on an adventure trip of a lifetime. But before you wait for this day to come and start your preparation for ladakh trip, you need to be physically fit and strong to make everything happen.

Here are some insights on how to prepare physically for Leh Ladakh motorcycle trip.

Leh seen from the Old Fort
Leh seen from the Old Fort

 

It’s most important to evaluate your own physical condition before you decide to set out on a long ride, especially to a difficult terrain like Ladakh. You can prepare your bike or get your luggage packed in just matter of 2-3 days but physical strength and capacity for the ride requires larger efforts and focused attention consistently, over a period of time, and not overnight!

The most common problems faced by riders in Ladakh region – loss of appetite, difficulty digesting food, nausea, acute mountain sickness (AMS), fatique, dizziness, insomnia, shortness of breath upon exertion, nosebleed and drowsiness. It can get extremely difficult to move ahead even if a single problem attacks the rider.

These problems associated with riding in the mountains can be attacked only and only by increasing your strength, stamina and lung capacity.

Dr. Amit Girey, Mumbai based physiotherapist and fellowship in sports and science stresses on the importance of increasing one’s stamina for a Ladakh trip.

“Breathing technique plays an important role for optimising you’re riding and increasing your performance on the trail,” he explains. “Higher altitudes are always a matter of concern for a rider who starts panting and receives less oxygen,” he highlights.

These are a few things that one can practice to increase stamina.

Blowing balloons: Whether the trip is well planned or you are leaving in a hurry, you can always do this exercise of blowing balloons anywhere. It increases your lung capacity with enough oxygen to meet body needs.

Aerobic Exercises: Cycling, swimming and playing soccer is highly recommended to increase your breathing stamina.

Rhythmic breathing: Get your breathing in sync with pedalling, in the ration of 1:1. If that proves to be tough, you can try 1:2 and see what suits you best. Practice different combos, as it will help a great deal.

Mouth and Nasal breathing: People suffering from any nasal problems such as sinusitis or nasal congestion, should practice breathing through the mouth at higher altitude as they will then be able to move air rapidly and obtain a higher level of oxygenation.

Exercises: Try to increase anaerobic capacity through exercises like holding the breath for a while. You can practice this off your bike. Let your body get used to being under oxygen deprivation for a period of time. After a while, it will help you.

Physical preparation for the Ladakh
Physical preparation for the Ladakh ride should not be given a low priority

 

Despite physical preps, there is every chance that you feel sick while riding high altitudes for a long duration. There are medications, like Diamox, available that bikers often use to cure altitude sickness.

Says Dr. Waman Kale, Mumbai based physician from Sanjeevani Hospital, “Diamox may cause drowsiness and other side effects that can have multiple effects on you. It may affect your ability to ride, and you may even develop some skin rashes, itching or some unexplained reaction. You should always consume it under a doctor’s guidance only, and have it only if it is prescribed for you. Don’t be a doctor as you may not know the harm it can cause to your body. Those who consume it regularly under a doctor’s guidance should have a regular blood test to monitor the level of electrolytes.”

However, the only sure shot way to tide over difficult terrains, is to be fit and gear up with enough strength and stamina in the natural way.

This piece was also published in the MBMW Emagazine March 2013 issue.

Originally posted in MyBikeMyWorld.com