I vaguely remember the time I was planning my first ever motorbiking trip in the Himalayas, I was scared more than ever. I had never done something like this before and I had no idea what to expect from it. To make it worse, I had decided to go solo, and that too to 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 the entire route map in detail and had equipped myself with a bit of mechanical knowledge. I was even carrying all necessary spare parts if need be!
For 9 days, I rode 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. I mean the idea of solo-riding on the world’s most isolated roads, with no one around you, but an eerie silence to keep you company 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 you carry a few spare parts. Parts like puncture kit, clutch wire, break-wire, chain lock, gear oil, engine oil, spark plugs, etc are must carry — 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 it, more than anything else.
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 leaving early.
I remember while I was riding in Spiti Valley, there were days when I started at the first light of dawn, rode all day with a few to no stops, and still only reached my next destination after sunset. And riding in dark, in the Himalayas is no fun. It’s scary.
Another way to make solo riding feel safer is by carrying a tent with you so that if you ever got stuck in the middle of nowhere, you can at least find a flat surface, pitch your tent and spend the night. [Read: Camping In Spiti Valley]
In the Himalayas, particularly on trails like that of Spiti Valley and Zanskar, even a 100km stretch of a road can take hours to complete. And there are moreover times when you ride 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.
Weather Can Always Change
There’s an old running joke on any motorcycle trip, and at any point, you can end up feeling 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 riding in a very dry season, it was crazy how that joke ended up being true a few times. Even though the temperature never got unbearably hot, my safety gear conspired to roast me like a Christmas ham. When it started raining, it was a relief for the first few minutes, before feeling miserable again. By the time the rain stopped, I was absolutely freezing and desperate for the sun again. And as the sun returned, it was only a matter of time before it felt like being steamed alive. Well, that’s life as a rider, in a nutshell.
So make sure you’re prepared for all weather conditions. 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 Imagine
During all the motorcycle rides I’ve done so far, I take a break every two hours of riding. Taking time to drink some water, stretching your legs and back is necessary. With increasing fatigue, after a few days of riding, the need became more crucial.
And last, but not the least, stay motivated! The challenge of riding a motorcycle, and riding it alone is that once you start your journey, it only gets tougher.
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 had initially planned to reach, before dusk. The night came quickly. Now picture this: Feeling homeless in the middle of nowhere, with your phone having no network to call for help. 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 out there.
In the Himalayas, even the most skilled riders make mistakes, but the ones who remain stronger at all times are the real rider.
Also read: My Delhi to Bangalore Motorcycle Ride