Are you planning a bike ride to Ladakh or Spiti Valley? This guide helps you with how to prepare your bike for the Ladakh ride or Spiti Valley ride.
Ladakh is every biker’s dream destination, thanks to the staggering height of over 10,000 ft., some of the highest mountain passes of the world, and mesmerizing views. But, having your motorcycle ready to face the music of tough conditions of trans-Himalayan Region like Ladakh or Spiti Valley requires patience, due diligence, and, of course, some preparation.
So, to help you prepare, today, I present you the MOST complete guide on how to be fully prepared on your bike trip to Ladakh.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Tips and Tricks when preparing for your Ladakh Bike Trip
Remember, that the biggest tip to manage the grueling grind of a Ladakh – Zanskar road trip is not to take yourself too seriously and enjoy the moment. But, how do you do it – when you’re completely out of your element, and the tough task of traveling through the most rugged region gets too overwhelming?
Well, it isn’t that difficult – as they say, well begun is half done. Hence, preparation, preparation, preparation – that’s the key.
Engine & Transmission Inspection Checklist
Here are some tips related to Engine and Transmission for preparing your bike for Ladakh or Spiti Valley trip.
1. Get your bike serviced before the trip
If you are taking your motorcycle, get it serviced before making the trip. A mechanic will be the best judge to inform you about the state of your motorcycle.
2. Check for excessive smoke
Another thing to check out is that you should look out for excessive smoke coming out of the exhaust. If you’re facing this issue, you’ll need to get a piston job. Diagnose the problem, or you might have to cut short your trip.
3. Is your bike 50000 km old?
Anyways, if your engine has clocked 50,000 km or more, you should get it checked properly. It might need some piston, engine, or clutch changes. Just remember trans-Himalayas are harsh on your bike.
4. Is there any random noise in the bike?
Another thing to keep in mind is the irregularity of the sounds. If your bike is making random noises, do get your engine fully checked.
Are you self-driving to Ladakh or Spiti valley or Zanskar Valley? If yes, don’t forget to check the must-have list of items to carry on a self-drive trip to Ladakh or other parts of the Himalayas.
5. Check Carburetor, Air Filter and Spark Plugs
Ensure that the carburetor, air filter, and spark plugs are cleaned and adjusted properly. If your air filter has seen over 5,000 km of mountains, consider replacing it and never think of removing your Air Filters in the mountains, it will ruin your engine, and you will be in a big mess.
6. Test for Balance and Weight
Take the motorcycle for some curves at normal speeds. If you’re facing any issues with the balance and weight of the bike – ask the mechanic to sort this out for you. For heavy bikes like Enfield, you don’t want to take any chances.
7. Check for clutch wear and tear
If the motorcycle is not pulling cleanly through the gears, Adjust and/or replace clutch plates if required. Keep spare clutch plates along with you.
8. Check the chainset for wear and tear
If you spot more than one teeth on the sprocket which looks broken or worn out, replace the chainset at the earliest and always keep a spare chain set along with you. Just remember that when you’re in Ladakh, your bike has to climb three of the World’s Highest Motorable passes so keep your chainset in good shape.
Tires & Suspension Inspection Checklist
Here are some tips related to Tire and Suspension for preparing your bike for Ladakh or Spiti Valley trip.
1. Check the tire for wear and tear
On to the big daddy of the bike. Ensure that you check tires for excessive wear and tear. Even if the tires aren’t very worn out, you can consider changing them before the Big Ride in those extreme roads.
If tires are older than three years – you should change them as they might not get you the traction you need in harsh conditions such as driving through mud and crossing river beds.
Always check tire pressure every morning and try keeping pressure pump along with you.
2. If replacing then get dual tubeless ones
If you are replacing tires, then consider a set of dual tubeless sport tires for your Ladakh ride. Because you will just not be riding on tarmac, but also slush gravels and river beds. And these tires tend to perform better on all terrains.
It is wise to check both tubes. It’s always a good idea to replace both tubes before embarking on such a long ride. I will again suggest Tubeless Tires.
3. Check shock absorbers & rear suspension
Check both rear and front shock absorbers. Replace front fork oil and oil seals if required. Try keeping a spare pair of seals with you.
Check rear suspension for rigidity and firmness. If they feel too springy or soft and bottom-out easily over a speed bump, replace rear shock absorbers. The road conditions up there in places like Spiti Valley and Ladakh aren’t in the best of shape and you will be constantly getting bumps here and there.
4. Check brake shoes and pads
Check the brake shoes/pads of both wheels. Replace if required. If your bike is equipped with disc brakes, then top up brake oil.
5. Is your wheel wobbly?
If you have wheels with spokes and feel the slightest of wobbles, then it’s time to get your wheels aligned. If you have spokes or alloys, go for tubeless tires and keep a spare tube along with a puncture kit, so there is no hassle in case of a puncture.
Electricals, cables and other odds & ends
- Check your battery and get it charged if it is older than two years and replace it if it is not charging timely or discharging quickly.
- Check all lights – high beam, low beam, indicators (both front and rear). Also, ensure tail light and brake lights are working fine. Try going on a ride in pitch dark as it will help you ascertain the light status. If you do find the light to be lesser, get the bulb changed and keep a bulb along with you in your kit. Also, remember to always ride in the low beam, so you don’t blind rider’s coming from the opposite direction
- Check your horn and ensure the horn mounts are in good condition. Also, remember not to use the loud horn as you are going to disturb the environment up there in the Himalayas.
- Ensure both rearview mirrors are mounted and are in working condition. If they are not, just get this part fixed and ready to go! I can promise you that you will miss having these installed especially on the highway and the More Plains.
Other things to keep with you on your motorcycle ride to Ladakh or Spiti
- A good pair of gloves because wet hands are a pain in the ‘you know where.’
- A good pair of shoes, say Quechua Foreclaz or (if you don’t mind) Gum Boots.
- A good jacket that keeps you warm.
- A muffler to cover your neck area and a full-face helmet. Repeat full face.
- Carry plastic-polythene bags to wrap them around your lower or riding pants in the form of gaiters. You can even wear them on your socks and remember to bring them back.
- Sunglasses are a must.
- Carry bungee cords in place of ropes because bungee cords are easy to tie and untie.
- Waist Pouch and a tank bag. Tank Bags are easy to fit on the tanks, and your camera nicely fits into them. So you don’t have to carry the backpack all the time, and you can instantly take the camera out if you come across a beautiful picturesque moment.
- Carry floaters or slippers. Tie them to the back of your bike. Whenever you come across a large water stream, just take off your shoes, wear the slippers, and jump into the water. It is a time-consuming exercise, but it saves your energy and keeps you dry in the long run.
- Carry a poncho. In case it rains you can cover your clothes and ride ‘in it.’
- Make a small bag just for the riding because you are going for the ride, in the extra bag keep the medical kit and toiletries that you might need on the way.
- One Headtorch.
General Tips for Himalayan Bike Ride
- Get adequate sleep, keep your body hydrated, and do not ride without your gear (duh?!). Remember that AMS can hit you in a high-altitude region. Fatigue increases the probability of it.
- Take frequent breaks in between, say 10 minutes every hour of riding to straighten your back.
- If you can and are willing to, meet a local mechanic who can adjust the padding inside your seat to give you optimum height and comfort level.
- Keep your rain gear ready. A complete rain suit plus shoes are essential on long rides to places like Ladakh or Zanskar. Have a long plastic cover for your luggage as well.
- The helmet is your best friend. Get a helmet that fits you perfectly, and there should be no glitches in that. Also, ensure you have a new scratch-free visor on the helmet.
- Drink lots and lots of water throughout and don’t forget to carry a water bottle.
Travel Tip: If you are trekking up there, then do not forget to check the 12 must-have things to carry on a trekking or hiking trip.
Other Articles in Spiti – Ladakh Bike Ride Series
- The Complete Guide: Long Distance Motorcycle Riding
- Packing List for long-distance motorcycle riding
- Safely Carrying Spare Fuel & Luggage on Motorcycle
- Tips for Cold Weather Motorcycle Ride in Ladakh or Spiti
- Clothes & Accessories to Carry on Ladakh Bike Ride
- Tips for Tackling Water Crossings on Ladakh – Spiti Bike Ride
Try Servicing your bike or at least know important parts and components. Because if you know your bike, you will never end up in many problems – you’ll be prepared for all eventualities. Also, Bullet guys – you need to put some muscles as you have to work very hard to work out a flat tire.
I have other advice to give you as well – particularly – remember you’ll be in the heart of the mountains, and you must cherish every moment. Also, be respectful of your fellow travelers – don’t ride rash or be in any kind of race.
Remember you should set yourself some realistic targets which you can achieve. And above all else, try making friends with fellow riders – you will find the most interesting characters and stories along the way. Be mindful of your body’s needs, and take a ton of breaks to enjoy the views and stretch yourself out!