The first thing to remember when planning a bike trip to Ladakh is that you cannot just bring your motorcycle the way it stands in your parking lot. If you want your ride to be smooth and hassle-free, you must prepare your bike for Ladakh trip well in advance. The uncertainty about anything must be removed entirely and every little thing must be taken care of.
Why do you need to worry about it so much? It is because a trip to terrain like Ladakh puts more stress on the machine than it does on the rider. Add to it the fact that you will be riding in a remote region with no sign of a mechanic for hundreds of kilometers. Out here, even something as simple as a flat tire can result in a catastrophe if you weren’t prepared for it.
Before you go, you will have to pay attention to every minute detail otherwise you risk your bike breaking down on you in the middle of nowhere.
But then the question is how to prepare your motorcycle for Ladakh? What are some of the important things you must consider or closely inspect to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip? These are the questions that we will discuss in the article below.
How to Prepare Your Bike for Ladakh Trip
The first question that usually gets asked is whether or not a certain motorcycle is good enough for Ladakh. People who pride themselves with larger engine motorcycles like a Royal Enfield do not ponder upon it so much, but people who own a 100 CC or 150 CC motorcycle will definitely wonder if their bike is capable of the trip or not.
This also becomes a serious concern if the motorcycle was a bit old, no matter the engine size.
To answer the question, there is really no best motorcycle as such. All that matters is that the machine is well serviced, well maintained and the rider is decently skilled. I have known people who have been to Ladakh on a 100CC motorcycle and even on a Bajaj Chetak. The Chetak was not only of a small engine but also a bit old yet the rider went all the way to Ladakh, explored the region, and returned home safely.
For more information on this topic, I will recommend taking a look at Which is the best motorcycle for Ladakh Trip?
If you were going to travel to Ladakh on a smaller engine bike, please read How to travel to Ladakh on a 100 CC motorcycle or a Scooter for information that can be of help in successful completion of the trip.
Bike Preparation for Leh Trip
Coming back to the topic, let us now talk about what you should be doing in order to get your bike ready for Ladakh.
The most important thing you need to keep in mind during your preparation for bike trip to Ladakh is that it is all YOU. Remember that it is not the motorcycle that is taking you to Ladakh, but it is you taking the motorcycle there.
You need to have some decent enough riding experience; both in plains and the hills. If you do not then please ensure that you first ride around a motorcycle for a month or so. Take it up the hills a couple of times; and then plan your journey towards Ladakh.
Know your Bike
For a successful trip, you really need to know your motorcycle. A friend of mine says that it is all in the sound and to some extent it is true. You need to familiarize yourself with your machine when it is running smoothly. If something is wrong or broken, it is the sound that pretty much becomes the first indication.
Learn Minor Repairs
It wouldn’t really hurt to learn a bit of minor repair work yourself. I know it is not really something that you will become an expert on in a single day but things like changing the headlamp, carburetor tuning, tightening the brakes, changing tubes, fixing a puncture are a bit easy to learn. You should at least know how to do these minor fixes to ensure a smooth ride.
Puncture Repair Kit
The most important thing of all is a puncture repair kit. Carrying a foot pump is of utmost importance. You will be traveling through some very remote areas and a flat tire can happen anywhere. If your motorcycle runs on tubes than the best thing would be to carry a couple of spare tubes and learn how to replace them.
Go to a mechanic or a puncture repair shop and ask the guy there to show you how to take the tire out, replace the tube, and put it back in. This is more of an easier task rather than going through the hassle of trying to fix the puncture.
In case of a flat tire, just replace the tube and continue. When you come across a repair shop, get the punctured tube fixed. If you are on tubeless tires, then a foot pump will be a blessing in disguise if you start to lose air pressure in a remote area.
Get your Bike Serviced
This is the first thing you got to do for your Leh Ladakh bike trip preparation. If you were careful enough and went to a good mechanic, then it may be the only thing you got to worry about.
It is always wise to get a complete servicing done if it has been over a thousand kilometers since the last one. Get your entire motorcycle checked including every major and minor part. If anything seems dicey, either get it fixed or replaced.
Always get your bike serviced at least 7 to 10 days before the trip. Then ride it around in the city to ensure everything is working per expectations.
If your bike has already run over 50,000 kilometers, it would be wise to get the piston and the entire engine looked at.
Mentioned below are a few items that you must pay close attention to.
By this, I mean the clutch, accelerator, front brake, and possibly the speedometer cable as well. Two things you need to do here. The first is to replace the existing cables with new ones, even if they are just a few weeks old. The second is to keep the old ones as spare.
There are no second thoughts around it. Buy new cables, put them on and keep the old ones in your bag. However, do check that the old cables are not too worn out.
Why are we doing this? In remote areas like Ladakh, you may end up finding a mechanic but spare parts are still a big challenge. Cables are the most common parts to break due to the constant use and stress.
I once spent two days in Karzok because of a broken clutch cable. I luckily found someone who knew how to change the cable but we did not have one in spare. So my co-rider mine went to Leh to get a new one while I stayed in Karzok, adding two full days to our trip plan.
Tires too will be an important thing to check before you finalize your travel plan to Ladakh. If either of the tires is too worn out, then get it changed immediately. You should check for any signs of damage, cracks, or cuts. Go to a puncture repair shop and get it checked for any nails that may have found their way in but did not come to notice because they did not cause a puncture yet.
I will recommend doing a 1 Rupee coin test to check the depth of the tread. Insert the coin in each groove and see how deep it goes. It should measure at least 2-3 mm for the tire to be considered safe enough for the trip.
If you are unable to figure it out and decide on our own, just bring it to a mechanic and he will tell you. Do not go to a tire shop because they will try to trick you into buying from them. Go to a trusted mechanic who will tell you the truth.
If your tires were 3 or 4 years old, I will strongly recommend getting a new set. This will ensure that you are getting proper traction while driving on dirt, gravel, slush, and crossing water streams.
When on the trip, always check the tire pressure every morning before you start your ride for the day.
While you were taking a look at the tires, it is also a good idea to get the alignment of both the wheels checked and if required, corrected. Another thing to do is to check the rim for any bents or unevenness.
Take the bike out for a spin. When I say spin, I mean on empty roads when there isn’t any traffic. Do some sharp turns on the bike to test its balance and weight. See if the bike was dis-balancing on sharp turns or if there was any wobbling.
This will include your motorcycle’s engine oil, gear oil, brake fluid, and suspension oil. You need not worry about it if you recently got it changed a few weeks or a couple of hundred kilometers ago. In this case, just get a refill done and that will do.
But if the odometer shows between 500-1000 kilometers since the last servicing, it is wise to get them all changed.
Another important thing to change here will be the oil filter.
Get the carburetor tuning corrected to ensure that it is neither rich nor lean. If you kept it rich then it would mean too much fuel and too little air; resulting in too much fuel consumption, poor power output, and bad performance while climbing up an altitude.
Keeping the tuning as lean would mean exactly the opposite. Less fuel relative to air than ideal would result in poor power output, starting problem in cold weather, lengthy warm-up, heated-up engine, and slight backfiring on deceleration.
The best thing to do is to keep the carburetor setting as close to stock as possible. I know this is not something that a common person would know much about but the mechanics will. Tell them where your bike is headed and that it needs to be tuned accordingly.
Burnt out clutch plates means that your motorcycle will struggle to climb at steep ascents. Get these checked and replaced before starting on a trip to Ladakh. If you are riding a smaller engine motorcycle, like 100 or 125 CC, best would be to get these checked again once you arrive in Leh. Chances are that you may have to get these replaced once more in Leh.
A common item that people tend to ignore is the chainset. If it was worn out, then the chain will start slipping, especially while climbing up the mountains.
You must get the chainset checked. If it has been a while since you changed it, the best would be to get a new one.
You should also carry a couple of chain links (locks) to be on a safer side. Just ask the mechanic and he will give you or buy from a spare parts shop.
A trip to Ladakh would also mean a lot of luggage on the motorcycle and if the suspensions are not in good condition, it may just make the entire ride a nightmare. Get both the front and rear suspensions checked and if required, get them replaced.
Get the swing arm bushings checked. It is the main component of the rear suspension of most modern motorcycles. It is used to hold the rear axle firmly, to allow the suspension to absorb bumps in the road.
This is another extremely important part to pay close attention to. Tell the mechanic that you are riding to Ladakh with an approximate idea of the total kilometers you will be traveling and ask if the current brake shoes or pads will last that long. If not, get them replaced immediately.
For disc brakes, get the brake fluid changed if it has been a while since you last got it done. If it was changed recently, check its level and top it up if needed.
Get the entire wiring of your motorcycle checked including the battery, headlamp, taillight, and indicators. When I say wiring, I do not mean just the connections to these bulbs but all the wires that run through your motorcycle. If there is any sign of wear and tear, get it changed.
A regular mechanic may not be able to check the wiring for you and may ask you to go to someone who knows the electricals. If you went to the authorized service center, they will check it all.
If the battery of your bike it is 2 or 3 years or older, not charging timely or discharging quickly, a wise thing to do would be to get it changed entirely.
Check the headlamp at both high beam and low beam. I will advise taking the bike out at night in a pitch-black spot. Turn on the light here and test its efficiency. If you feel that the light was a little dim, get the bulb changed and keep the old one as spare.
Also take a look at the indicators, both front, and rear. Taillight and brake lights should also be checked and replaced if necessary.
Also Read: A Complete Road Map of Leh Ladakh
I am speaking about this out of my own experience. During one of my rides to Ladakh, the bearings of the rear wheel were cracked and I know how much trouble I had to go through because of it. Get the bearings checked to ensure they are not worn out.
If the bearings were OK then at least get the greasing done.
Nuts and Bolts
Take a look at all the nuts and bolts to ensure that they are fastened properly. There should not be any weird or rattling sounds coming from anywhere. Since you ride your bike regularly, you may not notice it. So ask a friend of yours to ride pillion with you and listen closely to anything out of ordinary.
When you go to get your motorcycle serviced, the mechanic would himself check parts like timing gear, piston rings, valves, swing arm bush, air Filter, spark plug, con set as part of the usual service but just check with him to be sure. Write down all these parts as a checklist and run down the list with the mechanic to be on a safer side.
Essential Spares to Carry to Ladakh
One of the biggest challenges in Ladakh is finding spare parts, especially at remote locations. You may be lucky enough to find a mechanic in case of a breakdown but if you do not have a spare, it would be completely futile.
Hence, as a part of your Ladakh bike trip preparation, you must pack in some essential spare parts. I am not talking about anything huge or bulky because those you will have to get taken care of before you leave.
I am rather talking about the small parts that you can keep with the rest of your luggage. Mentioned below is a list of some essential spares that I would recommend carrying.
- Foot Pump
- Puncture repair kit including tools to take the wheel out
- Tool Kit
- Spare fuse
- Spark Plug
- Spare tubes for both front and rear wheel
- Clutch, Brake, and accelerator cables
- Chain Links
- Engine Oil (About half a liter of it)
- Screw Driver Set
- Spare Tubes for front and rear wheel both
- Spare Key
- Nylon Rope
- Bungee Cords
- Petrol Pipe: Can be used to take out petrol from other vehicle in case you run dry and someone else is ready to lend you some; enough to reach next gas station
- Documents: Carry all necessary documents including your driving license, RC, PUC and Insurance certificate. Carry both original and photocopies of each.
Also Read: How to Travel to Pangong Tso from Leh
How to Carry Luggage on Bike to Ladakh
The next big question is how to manage this entire luggage on a single motorcycle. You will be carrying several bags carrying your clothes, other personal belongings, spare parts for the bike, a can for spare fuel and you have to manage it all on the same motorcycle. How do you do it?
Well, luggage carriers are always the most convenient option. For almost all the motorcycles, there are luggage carriers available nowadays which you can buy at any motorcycle market in your city. You can buy one or even rent it at some places for a few days.
The real question however is do you really need a luggage carrier? The answer to that is that while it is really of great convenience, you do not absolutely need it. I have been on numerous rides so far; some of which lasted for weeks and I never needed getting a luggage carrier installed. All that you need to know is how to secure your bags on both sides of the bike and on rear seat as well if riding without a pillion.
Cords and Ropes
Two things I would recommend to buy here. First are a few good quality bungee cords and second is a few meters long nylon rope. First, tie your bags on the motorcycle using the nylon rope and then secure it with bungee cords, or the other way around.
Do not just depend on bungee cords as they have a habit of snapping sometimes and will not keep the luggage firm at one place; especially while riding through rough terrain.
It is like an insurance policy. If the cord breaks, the rope will hold the bags and if the rope came loose, the cord will do its job.
Before you mount the bags, make sure you wrap them in a tarpaulin or plastic cover to protect it from dust, water, and mud.
For more information on this topic, please take a look at How to pack your Luggage for a Long Distance Motorcycle Ride.
Riding Gear for Ladakh
A question I often get asked is whether a riding gear or suit is required. This is really more of a personal choice. I have never used it myself because while riding to a place like Ladakh, you anyways have a thick windproof jacket on the top and a thermal and trouser on the bottom.
But if it makes you feel any safer then, by all means, buy it. I would highly recommend buying at least the knee and elbow guards. Again, this is really a personal choice and there is no firm yes or no around it.
How to carry spare Fuel for Ladakh
Depending on which motorcycle you are riding and your itinerary, you may be required to carry spare fuel at several stretches on your trip. Most of the luggage carriers have a slot of putting jerry cans in them which makes the whole process very convenient. My strong advice would be to buy a metal jerry can and not the plastic one. The metal ones are available online as well on Amazon if you could not find at the local stores.
The risk with the plastic jerry cans is of getting damaged. Sometimes, it may even burst at such a high altitude. To be on a safe side, the best thing to do would be to wrap the jerry can in a thick cloth before hanging it to the side. It will protect the can from getting punctured.
Another option that a lot of people opt for are 2 liters Pepsi or Coke bottles. I will not however recommend it because of the risks involved. These bottles are not meant to be carrying fuel and should not also be used as such.
But if you are planning to do it anyway, you can about 5-6 of these. You can fill these up with Petrol, secure them tightly, and put inside a bag that you can use solely for this purpose. As you travel along, just take out the bottles one by one and keep pouring the fuel in during your breaks.
For more information on this topic, please read How to Carry Spare Fuel on a Motorcycle Safely.
Do you Have to Carry Spare fuel for Ladakh
Is it absolutely necessary to carry spare fuel though? The answer is no it is not. During my last 3 rides to Ladakh, I did not bother about fuel at all. It is an unnecessary hassle and a risk that is best avoided.
So how did I manage the fuel then? Long gone are the days when facilities were scarce in Ladakh. With the increase in tourism, everything is getting better, including the availability of fuel. There is Petrol and Diesel available in black almost everywhere in Ladakh, on all routes. Just ask at your hotel or any of the dhabas en route and they will sell it to you at a slightly increased price.
Is fuel quality safe? To be honest, I do not know. But since it is not a regular thing and just once in a year affair, I do not mind it at all.
For more information on this topic, please read How to Manage Petrol and Diesel in Ladakh.
Prepare your Motorcycle for Ladakh Trip – Conclusion
I think that covers everything that you need to know in terms of preparing your bike for Ladakh trip. Just take care of these things and go have the adventure of your life. Just remember, whatever happens in these days is going to be memorable moments for the rest of your life. Have fun and make the most of out of your time.
If you have any further questions or need any other details, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or at our Community Forum, and I will be glad to answer. If you have any other tips to share, that can be of help to others, please do kindly comment and mention.