I vaguely remember the time I was planning my first ever motorbiking trip in the Himalayas, I was scared more than ever. I’d never done something like this before and I’d no idea what to expect from it. And to make it worse, I’d decided to go solo, and that too on the world’s most isolated and treacherous roads — Spiti Valley, in Himachal Pradesh.
But where on one side I was scared and confused, with no past experiences of riding in the Himalayas, on the other side, I knew I was ready for it — at least if technically speaking. I had researched about the entire route map well enough, equipped myself properly, and was not carried away by the romanticism of riding only a Royal Enfield.
For a total of 9 days, I drove an average of 200 kilometers per day, covering a total of 2200 kilometer distance from my home (in Delhi) and back, and it was a whirlwind experience. Another fascination I was bitten with was doing the entire journey to Spiti Valley on a budget — in under 5 thousand Rupees.
At times I was scared, at times I was thrilled, but mostly I was taken aback by the beauty of nature. It felt like a drug. I mean driving on the world’s most isolated roads, with no one around you, but an eerie silence, is an addictive adventure. So if you too are planning your first motorcycle tour in the Himalayas, but aren’t sure from where to start, read ahead. And remember, if you’re unsure about how to do it on your own, joining a group bike trip to Leh Ladakh and other places in the mountains is always an option!
Tips For Your First Solo Motorbiking Trip In Himalayas
Packing Your Motorbike Essentials
When you’re riding on your own, it’s most important for you to carry a few spare motorbike parts. Parts like puncture kit, clutch wire, break-wire, chain lock, gear oil, engine oil, spark plugs, etc are a must pack in your bag — definitely more necessary than your camera and other personal things. Because if you’re stuck somewhere on the way, with a broken clutch wire after 5 in the evening, with no one around you but pure wilderness, you’re going to regret not carrying a few spare parts, more than any other decision in your life.
Moreover, it’s always a good idea to get a few repairing lessons before your ride, but even if not, you can always ask other passing-by riders/drivers for help. And they’ll only be able to help you, at least in many parts around the Himalayas, if you’ve spare parts — for in Himalayas accessibility of things is always a question!
Leave Early. Always!
As much riding in the Himalayas is about hardship and pushing your limits, a part of it is also about punctuality, and of leaving early.
I remember while I was riding in Spiti Valley, there were days when I started at first light of dawn, drove all day with a few to no stops, and I still only reached my next destination after dark. And riding in dark, in the Himalayas is no fun. It’s scary. Another way to make it safer is carrying a tent with you always so that if you ever got stuck in the middle of nowhere, you can at least find a flat surface, pitch your tent and sleep inside. [Read: Camping In Spiti Valley]
In the Himalayas, even a 100km stretch of a road can take hours to complete. And there are moreover times when you drive for hours only to end up at a broken trail, or a blocked road due to a landslide, and the next thing you know is that you need to head back from where you started, and that point is 6 hours away. Though it’s a rarity, but rather still, a possibility at the same time.
Weather Can Always Change
There’s an old running joke that on any motorcycle trip, and at any point you can end up hot, cold, and wet all at the same time. And when you’re in the Himalayas, at 10,000 feet above sea level, the joke becomes even truer. And harsher.
During my solo motorbiking tour in Spiti Valley, despite the fact that I was only driving in a very dry season, it was crazy how that joke ended up being truly a few times. Even though the temperature never got excessively hot, my safety gear conspired to roast me like a Christmas ham. When it inevitably started raining, it was a relief for the first few minutes, but before long, being soaking wet started to feeling colder. By the time the rain stopped, I was absolutely freezing and desperate for some sun again. And the sun returned, it was only a matter of time before it felt like I was being steamed alive. Well, that’s life as a rider, in a nutshell.
So make sure you’re prepared for the weather. Well-ventilated waterproof equipment will make the hot parts cooler, the wet parts dryer, and the cold parts warmer! So invest in good equipment, and still, be ready to change your clothes a few times.
You Will Have To Rest More Than You Imagined
During all the rides I’ve done so far, my original plan has always been of taking a break after every three or four hours. But as you ride for a couple of days or three days in a stretch, you have to stop much more often than every few hours. Taking time to drink some water, stretching your legs and back, becomes a necessity. And with increasing fatigue, the need became more crucial.
And last, but not the least, stay motivated! The challenge about riding a motorcycle, and riding it alone is that once you start your journey, with every passing minute, it becomes tougher to look back.
During my Solo trip to Spiti Valley, I rode for 9 consecutive days, while camping along the way, in the wilderness. During one of the evenings, I did not reach the town I’d initially planned to reach, before dusk. The night came quickly. Now picture this: Feeling homeless in the middle of nowhere, with your phone already having no reception. You also don’t know if the next village will have a place for you to stay or not, and even worse — how far it’s going to be. Under such circumstances, losing hope means losing your chances of surviving.
So always stay motivated & excited, even if you fall, skid or get a flat tire. Getting panicky & scared isn’t really useful, from what I’ve realized on my solo rides. Because in the Himalayas, even the most skilled riders make mistakes, but the one who remains stronger at all times is the real rider.
Related Read: An Offbeat Motorbiking Trail In Jammu