Whenever some talks or asks or thinks about a bike ride to Ladakh, our minds right away imagine about boys or girls riding those high power cruiser bikes such as REs, Bullets or Avengers etc.. Thousands of pictures floods over the Internet with biker groups riding those cruiser bikes in the barren lands of Ladakh or Manali – Leh Highway. The high powered bikes always looks like a charming option but are they always needed for a Ladakh trip? What about those who do not have such high powered bikes but still want to experience the adventure of a bike ride to Ladakh? Can you make a Ladakh trip on 100cc bike or 125cc bike? Or what about those lower powered scootys such as Activas or Maestros or Gustos; can they live up to experience a Ladakh trip? In this article today, I will talk about the tips and tricks that you must know in case you want to make a Ladakh trip on 100cc bike or a scooty?
Many of us do not have the luxury to afford owning those masculine looking cruiser bikes such as REs, Bullets or Avengers etc.. Yes, you can always rent bikes in Leh or Manali and there are numerous rental shops available both in Ladakh and Manali to rent such bikes. However, sometimes it does not make any sense when you have your own ride and still rent a bike you do not know about to make a Ladakh trip. You will agree when I say that, many of us are connected to our machines by heart or soul. We are familiar with how our own machine runs, how it moves or how it reacts on certain days, much like we know our gals 😉 (or perhaps better than them :P). Hence, renting another bike with which we are not familiar or compatible, can be a recipe of a mishap or mis-adventure.
So, does it all mean that it is an end for you for making a bike trip to Ladakh since you don’t own a high power bike or don’t want to rent it? Well, the answer is a big “NO”. The simple answer is, “It is not required to have a powerful bike like Bullet/RE for a Ladakh trip but is always a preferable option not a mandatory one. You can surely make a trip to Ladakh on a 100cc bike or a scooty like activa, maestro or gusto as well.”.
One of my friends and an avid reader Dr. Ravindra Gavali says:
Most of us have daily commuting and 100cc bikes small cars. Still we have dreams to travel high on these beautiful and challenging roads. Its always preferable to travel on these roads using powerful, 4×4, SUV, high ground clearance kind of vehicles. But very few fortunate traveller could afford it. So, what about our dreams? But the impressions changes as you see the local people defying all these norms for travel vehicles and still commute daily and comfortably on these roads.
You may travel on 100cc bike, although it doesn’t sound so comfortable. I have done it on the Langza -Tashigong – Gete and on Demul roads in Spiti Valley, using 100cc bike (star city). I did it with pillion riding, but I had to ask my friend to get down at one point (my bike got breathless while attempting a short-cut) near Gete. Apart from this, there was no problem.
Thanks to him for some wonderful tips and surely I have included them in the article as well so that all of us can benefit from them.
Tips for making a bike trip to Ladakh on a 100cc bike
Below are some of the worth-noting tips and suggestions for making a successful bike ride to Ladakh on a 100cc bike or a scooty, that is less powered two wheelers.
1. Respect the limitations of your 100cc bike or scooty on a Ladakh trip
One of the most important thing on a Ladakh trip is to understand and respect the limitations of your bike or scooty. Low power means that it will surely struggle or gasp for power especially on high mountains passes where air is very thin. Not an issue, even our lungs do so 😉 … At times the bike or scooty can be painfully slow but it will surely make it through. Just ride slow and don’t exaggerate your engine as it may die overdoing something it is not supposed to do.
2. Avoid over speeding or try to catch other bikes
It is in you best interest that you do not over speed your 100cc bike or a scooty on Ladakh trip. Don’t fool yourself to try to catch another high powered bike zooming past you because a breakdown in the middle of nowhere can surely means curtains down to the entire bike trip to Ladakh before you start to enjoy the ride at all. Over speeding light bikes also does not help in the traction as well.
3. Avoid low gear riding for long hours, it heats up engine
Overheating your engine is the last thing that you will want on a bike trip to Ladakh. Make sure you do not ride in low gears for very long time. In case some stretch is very punishing and bike needs a low gear ride only, please take a break every 4-5 KMs or 25-30 minutes just to let engine cool down a bit. You will come to know your engine is hot in case bike is rapidly decelerating or it is not accelerating properly.
Keep in mind that engine heat up does not necessarily means end of your dream trip. You just have to make sure when you notice it, you stop by for some break of an hour or so to let it cool down.
4. Maintain or take care of your bike or scooty before and on the trip
You should know about the basic maintenance of your bike. Make sure you keep the air filters or carburetor clean enough else the dusty roads in Ladakh will choke them. This will not help the situation at all and your bike will crave power to pull making it painstakingly slow.
Keep a tab on the noise coming out of chain or sprockets. The dust/slush stretches over the bike chain can make them noisy and may cause issues. It is better in case you find your bike chain or sprockets are making noise, just pull on the side and lubricate the chain/sprockets with oil or grease. This will ensure its longevity.
5. Carry enough spares to keep you out of trouble
You must always carry enough spares for your bike on a trip to Ladakh because it is possible that you find the mechanic but he may not have the spare your bike need. Having a spare part handy can keep you out of deep trouble easily. At a bare minimum, you should be carrying a clutch cable, accelerator cable, couple of headlight bulbs, a spark plug, brake cable, adhesives like m-seal, fevi-quick, elfy, coolant, puncture repair kit, etc.. For comprehensive list you may refer: List of things to Carry on a bike trip to Himalayas
6. Avoid shortcuts on the mountains as it can mean catastrophic
Shortcuts on mountains can really become shortcut of lives. NEVER EVER try to copy someone taking shortcut just because he/she did it alright. I may be sounding pessimistic but I consider my life to be very precious than few minutes more spent on beautiful roads of Himalayas. This is not applicable just for light bikes but also any vehicle doing Ladakh trip. The shortcuts do not follow the laws of physics and can really harm the vehicle badly. It can burn your brake pads and you can loose brakes. Light bike or scooty means you can easily topple over descending a high degree gradient. In case, you are ascending, you will be putting too much load on your engine and may burn the clutch plates or over heat the engine eventually. So, it is in your best interest to avoid any shortcuts you may find especially on Manali – Leh Highway.
7. Lesser power means lighter bike, an advantage in itself
Ironically, the less power means lighter bike in weight than the REs/Bullets and hence, it is fairly easy in comparison to navigate or ride them through the slush stretches or water crossings. Lesser weight also helps you carry it or push it with much ease than a heavier bike 🙂
8. Travel or ride as light as possible
Traveling light means putting less weight on your bike and hence, the engine needs to pull that much lesser load. It will give engine a breathing space as required and your bike should perform better as compared to when traveling with heavier luggage.
9. Riding with pillion on 100cc bike to Ladakh, hmm?
Well, riding with pillion to Ladakh on a 100cc bike or scooty is again possible but you need to consider riding more lighter and adjusting your pillion weight over it. There will surely be situations when you will have to ask your friend to get down to either push the bike or walk across few mtrs. If this suits, you may choose to ride with pillion on less powered bikes too in trans-Himalayas.
10. Start early in the day so that water crossings are not swollen when you cross them
This is an important factor because starting early in the day means less water in the gushing water crossings especially over Manali – Leh Highway. Your bike will need to struggle pass through the power of gushing water. Since, you lack power while riding a 100cc bike, it is better you face less power of water streams early in the days. There is more to start early in the day as you may read: 5 Reasons to Start Early & Sleep Early on a Ladakh Trip or Spiti Valley Trip
In case you encounter a very ferocious water crossings and wondering what to do now, well, better wait for some pickup to come or other riders who can help you with a push or carrying it over to the other side.
11. Ride solo or may be in a group of 1-3 good friends who can stop for you when in need
Best is to ride solo or may be 2-3 friends who can stop for you and maintain pace/rhythm with your speed, which of course will be a bit lower in case they are riding high power bikes. Hence, I quoted some friends who can understand it and support you when in need. Otherwise, it may become very frustrating for other bikers for whom you becomes the bottleneck. Keep in mind if you try to push yourself or your bike and match their speeds, you may end up causing more hassles or delays due to mechanical issues with the bike. Hence, it is best to either ride solo on a low power bike or with those who are ready to match you and be with you.
12. Keep the grit and determination high
Last but not the least, your grit and determination will ensure how you make your bike trip to Ladakh successfully on a 100cc bike or scooty. There will surely be time when you feel the need to high power but that is where your own will power to do such a challenging ride comes into play. If you are determined enough, there is no one who can stop you in making a bike trip to Ladakh on a less powered bike.
Well, as you can easily read that you can make a Ladakh trip on 100cc Bike or a Scooty. You just need to take care of some necessary precautions and bingo !! You will be smiling on the pictures once back from your Ladakh trip, cherishing each and every memory of the arduous ride to Ladakh thereafter.
I hope that the above article helps you making your dream bike ride to Ladakh possible even on a low powered bike which you may be using a commute in your day to day life. In case, you know your friend or family person who is making a bike ride to Ladakh on 100cc bike or a scooty, please fee free to share this article. I will be looking forward to your comments and feedback which can help other fellow rider of Ladakh too in the comments section of the article or in DoW Community.