Touring on a bicycle from Manali to Leh is a dream ride for cyclists across the globe. The Manali Leh Cycling ride takes you through five treacherous high mountain passes on the way, out of which 2 are above 5000 meters. wherein one used to be (falsely) claimed as the second highest motorable road in the world.
When you plan a bicycle trip on Manali Leh Highway, it generally takes 7-14 days to complete the 474 km long stretch between Manali to Leh. However, it all depends on your pace, motive, and time available for this bicycle ride.
I completed this bicycle ride from Manali to Leh in 10 days as I wanted to do at ease, with the comfort of stopping anywhere I feel like to enjoy the views, a cup of chai, or to make conversation with locals on the way.
Today, I am going to share with you how you can prepare yourself for a Manali Leh cycling trip in the coming seasons. In my subsequent blogs, I will also cover about Manali to Leh cycling itinerary in detail.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Manali Leh Cycling Preparation
When I started preparing, I could not find any Manali to Leh cycling blog. Hence, I thought of starting a series on Devil On Wheels for making a successful Manali to Leh cycling trip. I am sure with this platform the blog will help 1000s of adventure cyclists looking forward to this adventurous journey on Manali Leh Highway.
Of course, needless to stay, before I get into the details, you would need some physical training for Manali Leh cycling trip before starting this trip. So, start taking short bicycle rides around the home or in smaller hills near you to build up the stamina.
How to Carry your Bicycle & Reach Manali
The best way to reach Manali from Delhi is to take an overnight HPTDC or HRTC Volvo bus from Delhi. These buses generally take anything between 12-14 hrs depending on the road condition and traffic.
The safest way to carry your bicycle on the bus is to pack it in a bicycle/TV box which easily goes in the luggage compartment of any Volvo buses. This makes sure you do not have any surprises when you start your bicycle trip from Manali to Leh
Some important tips for carrying a bicycle on Manali to Leh trip:
- HPTDC Buses are the best bet as they only charge Rs. 300 extra for your bicycle. If you take a private bus, they can charge anything between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 for the bicycle.
- The Bike Shop at Greenpark, in Delhi, is a recommended place for getting your bike packed at a nominal charge. They pack it pretty well to ensure the bike is safe.
- I have always preferred touring on my bicycle and would carry it with me. However, another option is to rent a bicycle from Delhi or Manali. In Delhi, a decent MTB bike is available for RS. 500/- per day at The Bike Shop, and in Manali, it is available for Rs. 700/- per day. Eventually, both come down to the same price after the trip as you keep the bicycle for a longer duration when renting from Delhi than Manali.
- It is next to impossible to find carrier racks and pannier bags on rent for Manali Leh cycling trip. So, it is advisable to buy it yourself. Decathlon and Happy Earth has good options at decent price points.
- Once you reach Manali, Naveen at the local Firefox Store in New Manali is always up for help. He has every tool and spares for your bicycle and has extensive knowledge of the Manali Leh route.
- Stay closer to the bus station in New Manali as you would not like to move around with the big bicycle box in Manali town.
So, now that you know how to pack and carry your bicycle for Manali Leh cycling trip, let’s get into the next steps.
Physical & Mental Fitness for Manali Leh Bicycle Ride
It is a popular saying that no amount of physical training is good for the Manali Leh cycling ride in the Himalayas as it all comes down to your mental fitness. Your body will be the last to give up in most of the extreme situations you would encounter in the route. However, anyone who has been regularly cycling and is comfortable on the saddle for a long duration is fit enough for the ride physically.
As I said, in the end, it all comes down to your mind. You need to be strong-headed to be able to complete the ride and need to have control over your emotions. Since you will be riding through some of the most extreme terrains on this trip to Ladakh and weather, emotions of all kinds will be spurting out in abundance. I will enlist some basic ways you can keep yourself mentally strong and control your emotions during this Manali Leh bike ride.
Training for Manali to Leh Cycling Trip
Here are some important tips for the training for Manali to Leh cycling experience:
- Understanding your route and terrain makes you a lot more confident about the ride. So, make sure you read through the list of places on Manali Leh Highway and understand where you expect what.
- Small things like being able to repair your bicycle, having camping gears to camp in the middle of nowhere, enough food and water to survive also makes you mentally strong. It provides you with a cushion when caught in an adverse situation.
- Be euphoric and proud for even thinking of doing this ride and for reaching Manali to start your ride. It is the biggest first step towards a lifetime adventure you are about to experience from Manali to Leh. Not many get to take that first step, remember and be motivated with this thought.
- AMS/ High Altitude Sickness is a reality. To understand better, it also makes you way more comfortable as you will be able to take care of yourself in extreme situations on this bike ride from Manali to Leh.
- Make sure you stay in Manali, preferably Solang Valley, for a couple of days to acclimatize and go short rides around Solang Valley and back. These extra days and ride in Manali or around Solang Valley will be a Manali for the next two weeks.
Know Your Bicycle
The foremost important thing during the Manali-Leh cycling experience is to know all about your bike and its mechanics. Once you leave Manali, you won’t find any mechanic to repair your bike for the next 400+ km till Upshi, Ladakh, or Leh.
There are few bicycle repair shops on Manali Leh Highway at Koksar, Keylong & Zing Zing Bar who can help you with your flat tire but nothing beyond that.
Things to know before the trip
Knowing the following things will definitely be of great help during this bicycle trip from Manali to Leh and will also make you mentally strong:
- Practice repairing a flat tire & replacing tubes.
- Know how to change or remove the chain links. It always helps to know the basics of cleaning and maintaining a bike chain.
- One should know how to adjust and change brake/gear wires.
- Learn how to change spokes without using the spoke tools (It’s a jugaad :))
List of Spares to Carry on Bicycle trip to Ladakh
Beyond this, here is a list of spares & tools you should definitely carry on Manali Leh cycling trip:
- 2 sets of spare tubes, puncture repair kit & hand pump.
- 1 set of spare chain link and chain link removal tool
- Basic bicycle tool kit
- Spare Spokes (2 pc)
- Break/Gear Wires (2 pc)
- Commonly used extra screws and nuts.
- Machine oil or any lubricant. I personally prefer Machine oil over anything else.
Pro Tip: Make sure your tubes are matched with your bike and it is preferred to carry tubes with thicker nozzle.
Understanding Your Route from Manali to Leh
We need to understand that cycling in the Himalayas isn’t even close to cycling in your regular terrains. On this Manali to Leh cycling trip, there will be long stretches with almost no population, places to stay or have food; you will be cycling at an average elevation of over 4500 meters, with thin air, deserts, strong headwinds, and nature around will never fail to surprise you with a new challenge.
It is, therefore, advisable to have some basic plans with destinations for night stays pre-identified. Also, it is important to understand every place on the way from Manali to Leh where you will find places to stay or eat, at minimum.
The route I took was as per my riding pace, places to stay and availability of food. I did carry my own camping gear but eventually camped only once in Darcha.
Here is a route that can be considered for completing the ride in 10 days.
|Starting Point||Destination||Distance||Elevation Gain|
|Manali / Solang Valley||Marhi||37||1300|
|Darcha||Zing Zing Bar||29||900|
|Zing Zing Bar||Sarchu||49||1400|
Food & Stay Places on Manali to Leh Cycling Expedition
Here is a list of some important places on Manali Leh Highway where food and accommodations are available on this bicycle trip on Manali Leh Highway.
- Zing Zing Bar (Lower & Upper)
- Whiskey Nala
- Debring (Lower & Upper)
Things to Carry on Manali to Leh Cycling Trip
Here is the list of things you should carry on a cycling trip from Manali to Leh. I am sharing this list based on my experience limited to cycling trips in mind. You can also refer to a comprehensive list of things to carry for Ladakh trip in addition to it.
Clothes for Bike Ride
- Cycling Shorts (2)
- Jersey/Dry Fit T-shirt (2)
- Cotton Shot (1)
- Cotton T-shirt (2)
- Towel (1)
- Socks (2)
- Running Shoes (1)
- Cap (1)
- Woolen Gloves (1)
- Underwear (2)
- Thermal Top (1)
- Thermal Bottom (1)
- Fleece (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Spares & Tools
As mentioned above in Know your bike section in the article above. Hence, will not duplicate here.
On Bicycle or Bike
- Tail Light
- Pannier Bags
- Frame Bag
- Saddle Bag
- Bungee Cord (3)
- Bottle (2)
- Butane Gas
- Burner Adapter
- Bowl (1)
- Fork & Spoon
Eatables & Food to Carry
- Oats, Poha, Noodles, Maggie, Upma, etc..
- Dry Fruits
- Milk Powder
- Sugar, Tea & Coffee (Only if you want to be at the comfort of your own pace and like starting the day early without disturbing others)
During our ride, we tried to keep an average total weight of 15 kgs on our bike distributed evenly in the rear pannier bags, frame bag and on the handlebar.
Pack Wisely for your Bike Ride
Now many would understand the importance of packing if you haven’t been on a bicycle tour before. When making a Manali Leh cycling trip, it becomes all very important.
I have traveled through Thailand, Vietnam, and places in India on my bicycle and have learned over the period that packing your belonging wisely is the most important thing for any bicycle tour.
It not only keeps you less messy but also helps a lot with the ride, pace and balance. Here are a few things I consider while packing:
- Frame bags should have the entire go-to thing you would need like money, gloves, camera, mobile, food, etc.
- Both the Pannier Bags should weigh the same for a good balance.
- One of the pannier bags should have things you use less whereas the other one can have more regular things. It helps you with being less messy.
- If you don’t have front bags, do have some weight on the front while climbing or downhill for the right balance and control over your bicycle.
- Solar Chargers should be kept on top as you will be using it while riding for charging the batteries. The best place is on top of the rack.
High Altitude Sickness is Real
High Altitude Sickness is a reality and we should never joke about it. Being on a bicycle will help you with acclimatization over the days as you climb gradually over the days and generally stays at high altitudes. However, I always advise taking preventive steps to help you complete the ride without any troubles.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Drink as much water as you can and always remember that waters in the stream are safe and good to drink.
- We used to carry a thermos filled with hot black tea. It used to be of great relief when the temperature starts dripping en route to the passes. Perhaps the best way to keep yourself warm.
- If you have not been on high altitude earlier, it is advisable to consult your doctor and get prescribed for high altitude medicine, which can be taken a couple of days in advance. It helps a bit but you must consult the doctor.
- Always remember the golden rule: Ride higher and sleep lower.
- On Day 0 of your trip, make sure you do an acclimatization ride in and around Manali or Solang Valley. The ride to Solang Valley – Manali and back are most advisable.
There won’t be any good mobile network post Marhi till you reach Leh. You will notice some network in your BSNL phone in places like Keylong, Darcha, and Sissu but mostly limited connectivity will be present.
The army camps at Sarchu and Pang has a satellite phone and you can call anywhere across India and globe on payment of nominal fees. The rates for domestic calls were just under Rs. 2/- per min.
Navigation & Maps
Since there is no network Google Maps will not be of much help as even its offline contents need some internet to retrieve information. However, maps.me works flawlessly and is a savior in this route. So, download and take it else take a print out copy of this article for reference.
It works offline, has extensive details of the settlement, places to eat, treks & hikes and more. It even gives you an elevation profile for your ride.
In the end, whether you are making a trip from Manali to Leh or Manali to the Khardung La cycling trip, the tips mentioned in this article are more or less the same for preparing yourself to carry things for a cycling trip to Ladakh.
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In the next article, I will talk about a detailed itinerary for cycling from Manali to Leh trip.
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