Many of us have a dream of a bike ride to Spiti Valley, and today, I, Kaushal, in this guest post on Devil On Wheels blog will share the most important tips for a biking trip to Spiti Valley.
Mountains are a masterpiece of nature, and they never cease to surprise me from breathtaking landscapes to mysterious stories. Being in the mountains is like time has stopped. It feels like my surrounding is having a conversation with my consciousness in mysterious yet obvious ways. A long road bike ride to Spiti Valley is no short of such experience.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Planning a bike ride to Spiti Valley?
To make the most of my journeys in the Himalayas I travel through motorbike; Chilled air hitting your face, Adventure of riding a motorcycle, Pleasure of exploring curves and Experiencing freedom in your life. But more often than not, you also face ‘Rough terrain,’ ‘less oxygen in Air,’ ‘Puncture tire in the middle of nowhere,’ and ‘Very less to no petrol pumps.’
Being a frequent traveler to mountains, most of my trips include riding a bike and I often get asked for tips about being safe. Here are a few things I follow when making a bike trip to places like Spiti, Leh Ladakh and these have kept me safe so far.
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1. Always Alert Avoid Accident
Riding causes a lot of mental exhaustion. You know why – because it demands a hell lot of alertness. You need to be aware of your surroundings. Do not miss the road signs. Always keep track of the distance covered and distance remaining.
Before you actually start your trip, try to gather as much information as you can about the road conditions and weather predictions. Watch out for animals crossing the road and blind curves.
Ask the travelers coming from the other side about the road conditions, availability of repair stations and petrol pumps. All this comes from ingenuity and awareness. I can never emphasize enough of this ‘Always mind your surroundings‘.
2. Understand Your Motorcycle
Imagine being stuck on a high altitude pass with broken clutch wire or punctured tire with no repairing shop around or being out of petrol in no man’s land; I have seen all this stuff happening to people. And trust me, it gets life-threatening way sooner than you imagine.
Always take care of your bike more than you take care of yourself. Know your bike; Understand it; Feel it an extension of you; How much mileage your motorcycle will give at high altitude; what are the condition of parts; How your bike will behave with too much weight on one side; How does it act on sand, snow, and mud; how much tilt can you control on curves; At what speed you can control your motorcycle without second thought; how things change when there is pillion with you.
These are some of the many questions you should be able to answer and understand at any point in time when traveling to Spiti Valley by bike.
3. Follow the Rules
No, Rules are not meant to be broken; at least when it comes to riding a motorcycle in the mountains. And mountains have got a few extra rules of their own. Such as,
- On a narrow road, let the climbing vehicles pass first.
- Always drive in your lane.
- Never overtake from the wrong side.
- Always blow a horn at the curves.
- Use dipper at night.
- Never overtake on the curves.
Are you planning a trip to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur Valley side?
4. Anticipation is Important
Call it an advantage that when you ride through high mountains landscape becomes barren, without trees. It allows you perfectly to look far ahead. Before entering a hairpin or switchback, always look up or down, so you know in advance what you will encounter during the turn.
Usually, you can see through more than one corner (even when the corner before you itself is blind). The more you try to see what is in front of you on the road, the more you know about the oncoming traffic, and where you can expect them.
I count oncoming cars, so I know how many I will encounter at #least#. Don’t make a mistake to assume that you have seen them all! Sometimes, a vehicle may be running in blind space which was invisible, and suddenly appear without you having seen it in advance.
Also watch out for hoarfrost/frost on the road. At higher altitudes, you will find more snow in shadow regions. So if you have been riding on a clear road, don’t take it for granted. There is a good possibility to encounter ice on the road once you cross a corner into shadow region.
5. Mind Your Brakes
While riding upwards, you can use the rear brake during turns: that will stabilize the bike, and it allows you to keep the throttle open during the turn. But downward, the rear brake is of no use: the rear wheel almost carries no weight, which means it will stop turning very easily when you apply the rear brake.
And when you ride downward, the most the weight of your bike in on the front wheel, so you have to use the front brake. When descending, it is straightforward to lock the rear wheel when you use the rear brake. Try to use the compression of the engine to brake, and when you need more brakes, use the front.
6. Turning Points / Curves
Lanes are significant in the mountains, especially when you are turning through a corner. Always start at the outside: if a corner is at your left, start at the right side, and in a corner to the right, you start left. This is especially true when you are riding on Hindustan Tibet Highway.
If the road is narrow, you can even use the part of the road for oncoming traffic. The advantage is that you will see oncoming traffic earlier than when you stay inside the corner.
On really narrow roads with hairpins, don’t begin on the lane for oncoming traffic: in that case, there might be not enough time to get back to the right side of the road when a local arrives from the other side.
7. Way Down – Use Gear Braking
Riding up is not a problem. You have to shift the gears down and throttle up. Most of the time, it is riding downward, which is difficult. Try to use the engine brake as much as you can: shift gear downward until you have the right speed without the throttle, or with a bit of throttle. When it is so steep that your speed is too high, even in the first gear, you will have to use the brake as well (the front that is).
8. Take A Break & Energise
Riding feels good. But stretching your body with a hell of view in front of you and a cup of tea in your hand feels even better. So why not do it more often. On average, I take five to ten minutes of break-in every hour or so. I stop at everything that catches my attention.
Sometimes, I will just park my motorcycle and listen to my favorite song while looking at the valley or sitting beside the river. On a bike trip to Spiti Valley, you will get plenty of such spots especially between Sangla – Chitkul, Nako – Tabo – Kaza, etc..
There is a limit to the amount of time you can keep yourself concentrated. Plus, always remember that what matters most is the journey, not the destination. So take enough breaks, enjoy your journey, I am sure these breaks will last in your memory forever.
9. Park Safely
Never park your motorcycle facing towards a downhill. Motorcycle stands are designed to lock when the motorcycle goes backward. Always try to find a plane surface as you can and park the bike facing uphill. Also, look around of loose stones that may fall from above.
Park the motorcycle away from such places. Parking it under a tree will also protect the motorcycle from any such stones that may come down rolling off a mountain. You do not want to be stuck in the middle of no man’s land like Kaza to Manali road amidst an accident or damage.
10. Kill the Speed Demon
Though the amount of distance you can cover in a day, largely depends upon road conditions, landslides, weather, and traffic. Yet, always plan your journey and keep your targets practical. In the mountains, roughly you can cover 150-180 km of distance in 08 hours.
It might be lesser if road conditions are not good. So always keep it planned to avoid the rush. Keep your speed in check. Even if you are running late, never try to compensate it with your speed. Rather than improvise your plans and leave early the next day. Hence, always follow the Leave Early, Sleep Early principle when making a bike trip to Spiti Valley or other remote parts of the Himalayas.
11. Use Right Bike Accessories
Utilize your resources to the maximum. See in your mirrors more often. Use helmet, knee & elbow guards. Always give indicators before turning.
Get yourself a mobile charger powered by the battery of your motorcycle. Wear Gloves; otherwise, the skin over your nails might start to peel off. Always carry a water bottle with you as you have to keep your body hydrated no matter what.
Keep spare bungee cords with you, protect yourself from sunburn and I suggest you use saddlebags for carrying your luggage.
Do not forget to refer the top 40 must-have things to carry on a self-drive trip to Spiti Valley. They may be self-drive related but most of them are applicable for a bike ride trip as well.
Some Random Spiti Valley Bike Ride Tips
These are some random tips for making a bike ride to Spiti Valley apart from the ones described in the article above.
- Before overtaking a vehicle, look through his rear and front mirror for a clear road.
- Before you cross over a parked vehicle, look below the tires for the image of any animal, there have been many instances when the sudden appearance of an animal causes an accident.
- If there is a vehicle ahead of you at night, follow his wheels trail to avoid bumps on the road.
- Learn some basic repairing of your motorcycle (Cleaning of the spark plug, removing the filter, changing the clutch and throttle wire, start your bike without a key, puncture repair, etc. ) and use hand signs to communicate with your travel partners.
- Keep your water intake high and body always hydrated.
- If there is a landslide, then please act as per instructions from the local administration. They understand the geographic conditions of the localized landscape better than us. Don’t do any foolish act.
- Most of all enjoy every moment of the ride to this beautiful place called Spiti Valley.
Traveling after Disaster in Life – A New Start
Now that I shared the important tips for a bike trip to Spiti Valley, let me share more about how traveling has helped me get through the most difficult phase of my life.
When I couldn’t make it through the UPSC exam, I went to Spiti Valley. When Love of my life left me, I did my first solo trek. When I get pissed at my boss, I opt for a weekend getaway. When I can’t handle tantrums from my parents for my marriage, I travel.
Whenever I can’t figure out my goals or me hit a wall in life or I am surrounded by uncertainties and I don’t know which way to go, I travel.
Traveling helps me highlight my strengths and weaknesses and helps me develop tools to live a richer & more fulfilling life. Traveling helps me to focus on what I actually want out of myself.
“It is a meditative, cathartic and an unforgettable experience every time I go out on a journey to an unknown place, which gives me time out from this mundane reality.”
Traveling gives a new dimension to your life
Travelling sets you free, it gives you a clear time out of everyday life. It also gives you time to think through what’s important to you. For me, a serene trek or bike ride to mountains is the perfect way to give myself the time to reconsider where I am headed in life.
Suddenly your day isn’t about battling through another data entry shift or trying not to think of your ex – it’s about surviving under the blue sky, treating yourself with the new experiences and seeing how many Beer pints you can drink before you fall over.
Regardless of where you travel to, you are guaranteed to find something new, something to be discovered. It could be a new cuisine, a new hobby, a new friend or even a new truth about yourself. Whatever it may be, it will make you a better, more a defined person.
Traveling helps you meet new people
Every day there are new people you could meet. Inspiring stories from other lives to be heard. New adventures to be experienced. You learn about other cultures. You see the good and the bad. You see people living a pleased life with very little they have. And it forces you to realize that life isn’t so bad after all!
“Traveling reminded me that it is OK to listen to my heart and do what I want. It reminded me that it’s OK to break away from the norm of what society expects of us. It reminded me that it’s OK to follow your heart, chase your dreams, and live for yourself.”
Traveling makes a positive impact on your life
Over the years I noticed traveling had an immensely positive impact on me. Traveling can make you smarter, more creative and improve your problem-solving abilities.
Especially solo traveling push your limits and help you understand more about yourself as a personality. It makes me feel good about myself. It boosts my self-confidence that ‘Hell, yeah! I did it or OMG! I survived that’. Also, Traveling gives me a chance to be myself.
“Traveling doesn’t change the situation back at home. But it helps you grow as a person who is better equipped to face the situation back at home. ”
Traveling will get you through the grief
After a time span full of grief which feels like forever, it comes to you automatically that something has to happen. It has to come to an end at some point.
Traveling never subsidize the pain you feel after the disaster in your life. I don’t know how but it always helps you to make terms with your pain. It creates a harmonized barrier between agonizing reality and huge excitement.
You will still be asking yourself questions like – What am I doing here?! Why am I in this airplane all alone? Am I just running away? Is that all senseless? Would I find happiness? Friends? And would I ever get over him/her? Why didn’t I find a job back home?
And that is okay because at some point in your journey you will also realize it’s not important to know all the answers. Sometimes, you just got to live the moment.
“Traveling helps you understand the fact that it is more about the journey than the destination. The destination is just the beginning of another journey.“
Traveling helps you make new friends
The easiest thing to do when traveling is making friends. People are more open to new experiences when they travel. Hence you get to meet many like-minded/crazy/inspirational/creeps during your travels. So you get to meet all sorts of crazy characters to create unforgettable memories with.
And I can say from my experience that you’ll meet far more friendly people on the road than you will under ordinary circumstances at home. You will get to hear their insanely interesting stories, and they will listen to yours. And that feels therapeutic.
Traveling helps you move forward
Another thing that traveling helps you realize is ‘Keep Moving Forward’. You are going to have some awful days, and some days will be just awesome. You will encounter different things every new day. So you will see that every day isn’t the same, life is never the same.
Everything changes with time. But you need to keep moving forward. If it’s a bad day, you need to keep pushing through despair, and it is a good day you have to enjoy it to the maximum because you never know what tomorrow brings.
Like Dheeraj went through a metamorphosis in life through travel and made him feel alive is AWESOME
Traveling is not the solution or a silver bullet
I am not saying that Traveling is a solution to everything. Traveling is not the answer always, but if your heart is whispering the need to break the chains your soul is holding and feel liberated, then go ahead.
Mend your broken heart, give yourself time, forgive yourself for the past, stop being anxious about the future, let yourself feel free from burden of responsibilities; Let yourself feel that – you are not the society you live in, you are not your job, you are not your liabilities and responsibilities; You are just YOU.
Your trip need not be a planned trip. You don’t need to sort out accommodations or an itinerary, and maybe none of your friends have time or money to accompany you. Despite everything, go. You need to collect the impetus and move your sorry a** and let destiny decide the rest along the way.
I hope this article will help you with some tips on making a bike trip to Spiti Valley and other parts of the Himalayas. I also tried to explain how travel helped me overcome the difficult phase of my life. I hope you get to learn things from travel as well and come out of your difficult phase.
Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.
Feel free to share this article with others you know who may need bike riding tips for the Himalayas or who are fighting with something in life and needs the inspiration to try out something different, travel !!
‘WISH YOU ALL THE BEST’