Motorbiking to Spiti valley on Pulsar 180 cc was a true test of nerves and will power. I had been doing research on the route and day by day plan for months, but nothing was enough for the challenges we actually faced while we were on the road. It was a trip of our lifetime for various reasons, and I would do it again for sure. But, here are some of the safety precautions for motorbiking to Spiti valley that I learnt from experience and mistakes –
Opt for Enfield only –
- I have done a road trip to Bhutan on an Enfield classic 500 cc. The telescopic 35 mm folk front suspension and rear twin gas charged shock absorbers of Enfield are much better for long distance motorbiking as compared to the suspension of Pulsar
- Enfield classic 500 has a bigger wheel base and larger tyres as compared to Pulsar, and hence can absorb shocks of smaller potholes more effectively at high speed
- The kerb weight of 190 kg coupled with displacement of 500 cc gives an Enfield more power, thrust and stability at high speed in mountains. Pulsar comes at 143 kg and 180 cc, and it took me more effort to keep it stable at high speed on highways
Avoid night driving –
- Utilize early mornings to cover maximum distance because of low traffic density. We usually started after 11 am each day, which was a mistake, and ended up driving all day and even into the night to reach our next destination. An early morning start would have given us sufficient time in afternoon to relax
Day by Day planning –
- We planned to do more than 400 km each day for the first two days. Ideally, you should take it easy and slowly increase the intensity as you get accustomed to mountains. After Rohtang pass, you speed will never be beyond 10 kmph on an average due to broken roads and slush
- Take meal breaks on time and drink plenty of water to avoid mountain sickness or AMS. Keep sufficient quantity of ORS and avoid caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee
Bike accessories –
- Get new tubeless tyres in your motorbike. I got new tyres in Pulsar so that they could take load of driving through slush, ice, rocks and broken tarmac
- I carried a basic tool kit of Pulsar, but got my bike checked at every 250 km for oil leaks or loose nuts and bolts
To pillion or not to pillion & luggage –
- If you have a pillion for a long distance ride, ensure that both are experts in driving. Switch the rider after every 150-200 km for the other person to relax and gather senses
- Our homemade saddle bags gave us a bit of trouble because one of them got burnt by the heat of silencer. I would suggest getting proper frames installed on motorbike for luggage
We took the following route throughout our 11 day motorbiking trip to Spiti valley. You can make Langza as base stop for day trips to Hikkim and Komic villages. We did Nako to Delhi in one stretch because we were in a hurry to catch flight from Delhi. I wouldn’t recommend taking such a risk. Ideally, I would suggest taking pit stops in Sarahan and Simla.
Delhi – Swarghat – Manali (acclimatization) – Chhatru – Kaza – Langza – Tabo – Nako – Delhi
It is not advisable to drive straight for high altitude. A pit stop to acclimatize is recommended. We took ours at Manali. At altitudes beyond 10,000 ft, oxygen level in atmosphere drops drastically and could lead to shortness in breath, headache, dizziness and nausea which are all symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
- Keep your body warm with multiple layers of thin clothing and avoid from getting wet
- Carry Diamox but only after prior prescription. Many travel companies give Diamox straight away but that is not advisable
- Avoid going to sleep during AMS, rather hydrate your body and keep away from any stressful physical activity
P.S.: This journey was not taken for the sole purpose of slamming the bike to the destination. It was meant to be done at a leisurely pace so that we could enjoy the journey while aiming for the destination.
Got more questions? Please ask in comments below.
Feature image: Rohtang Pass on the way to Spiti, Gaurav Bhan Bhatnagar
Software Engineer turned Travel Writer, Photographer, and Public Speaker on Responsible Travel. Entrepreneur in Responsible Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com