If a ride through Spiti Valley is on your mind, then you know that you cannot just take your motorcycle the way it stands in your garage. A trip to terrain like this demands that you not only prepare yourself but also the machine. While the trip will take you through some mesmerizing vistas; there is no denying the fact that it will also put a lot of stress on your motorcycle. Add to it the fact that you will be traveling through some very remote areas where nearest help will be miles away. Here, something as simple as a flat tire can prove to be catastrophic; if you are not prepared. In this article, I will provide some details on how to prepare your motorcycle for Spiti trip; some basic but necessary details that you must pay attention to in order to ensure you a hassle free trip.
A common question that usually gets asked is whether or not a certain motorcycle is good enough for Spiti. To be quite honest; there is no best motorcycle as such. While some bikes will definitely have few advantages over others; in the end it all boils down to how well maintained your machine is. I have known people who have completed Spiti circuit on 100 CC motorcycles and even scooters. Take a ride through the valley and you will find several locals riding around smaller engine bikes. All that matters is that your motorcycle is not too old, well maintained and you are decently skilled as a rider.
You are free to take any motorcycle there as long as you know its capabilities, limitations and how to maneuver it. If you are riding a 350CC or 500CC engine, then you can take a pillion as well but if riding a 100CC bike, then you know that it is better to go solo and travel light. Just a few basic things that you need to keep in mind which I have covered in a separate article at the link below. Please read Which is the best motorcycle for Spiti Valley Trip.
An important thing to remember when you are preparing your bike for Spiti that it is all about you, not the motorcycle. It is you who is taking the machine to Spiti, not the machine taking you there. While a powerful motorcycle will definitely be of help, but more than that you need to be confident of yourself and your riding skills. You must know how to maneuver a bike up in the hills and if you do not, then please ensure that you first take a couple of short trips to hilly region. Equip yourself so that you are able to ride for long hours. You need to know how your motorcycle sounds and behaves while it is running smoothly so that any unusual sound coming either from the engine or any other part of the bikes becomes an immediate and first indication of trouble.
A puncture repair kit can really come to rescue while traveling through areas like Spiti. Though it is well populated area and you will continue to come across villages after regular intervals; there are several areas where the nearest help will be miles away. After you cross Reckong Peo and towards Kaza; you will start to be on your own and in the middle of nowhere more. A flat tire here can be a big hassle if you do not have the necessary tools.
You must carry a foot pump and a couple of spare tubes. Go to a nearby puncture repair shop and ask the person there to show you how to take the wheel out, replace tube and put it back in. Replacing tube is more of an easier task rather than trying to fix the puncture yourself. 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.
Apart from fixing flat tires, it wouldn’t really hurt to learn a bit of other minor repairs as well. I know it is not really something that you will become an expert on overnight but things like changing the bulbs, carburetor tuning, tightening the brakes etc are quite easy to learn.
How to prepare your motorcycle for Spiti Trip?
With all that being said, mentioned below are a few check list items that you should go through to ensure that your motorcycle is fully ready for the trip ahead.
Get it serviced
If it has been over a thousand kilometers or more than a couple of months since the last time you had your motorcycle serviced; then it would be wise to get it done again before the trip. Get your entire motorcycle checked, every major and minor part and if anything seems dicey, either get it fixed or replaced. Mentioned below are a few check list items that you must closely look at.
Replace clutch, accelerator, brakes and possibly the speedometer cable as well. Get new ones installed and keep the old ones as spares. Do however make sure that the old ones are not too worn out before you decide to use them as spare.
One of the most important things to check. If either of the tires is too worn out, then get it changed immediately. 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.
Get the alignment of both the wheels checked and if required, corrected. Also check the rim for any bents or unevenness.
Take a look at engine oil, gear oil, brake fluid and suspension oil. If it has been over 500 kilometers since the last change, then better to get these changed again altogether. If you had recently gotten it done, then make sure to top up all of them.
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 it 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 back firing on deceleration. Best would be to keep carburetor setting as close to stock as possible.
Get the clutch plates checked to ensure they are not too worn out; because if they are then your motorcycle will struggle to climb at steep ascents.
Get the chain set checked and if it has been a while since you changed it, best would be to get a new a one. Also carry a couple of spare chain links.
Swing Arm Bush
Get the swing arm bush checked and changed if needed.
A trip to Spiti would mean several days of traveling and a lot of luggage. If the suspensions of your motorcycle are not in good condition, it will make the ride a lot more difficult. Get these checked and replaced if required. Also check the suspension oil for replacement or topping up.
Give a total estimate of kilometers you will be riding to the mechanic and ask him if your current brakes will last that long. If he says no then get these replaced. Also check the brake fluid if it needs changing or topping up.
Ensure that all the nuts and bolts to are fastened properly and there is no rattling noise from the vehicle while riding
Get the entire wiring of your motorcycle checked including the battery, headlamp, tail light 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.
This I am speaking out of my own experience. On one 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. Also get the greasing done.
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.
Necessary Spares to Carry for Spiti Trip
To be honest, finding a mechanic in Spiti may not really prove that troublesome. Bigger problem however is of spare parts. Spiti valley is still a remote region and in case of a breakdown, you may find someone to help you fix it but he may not have the necessary spares to do it. Hence it is a good idea to carry some essential spares with you before you head out. Mentioned below is a list of items that you may consider 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.
How to carry Luggage for Spiti Trip on Motorcycle
After all this preparation, the next question is of how to manage all these items with your luggage on the motorcycle. For almost all the motorcycle these days, you will easily be able to get a luggage carrier. Question however is whether you absolutely need it. To be quite honest; while it is of a big convenience, I do not think installing a luggage carrier is must. I have been on several rides through Ladakh and Spiti and I have never felt the need. All that you need to know is how to secure your bags on both side of the motorcycle; and if riding without pillion then on the rear seat as well. Three things I would recommend for the purpose;
Get those big black poly sheets that you can get at any hardware stores. The first thing to do is to wrap your bags in those poly covers to ensure they do not get wet, dirty or damaged. Next thing to do would be to get a few good quality bungee cords and a long enough nylon rope. First saddle your bags on the motorcycle using the bungees and then secure it tightly with the nylon rope. Always do both to ensure a double safety. If either one gives away, at least there is a second protection to keep the bag intact. You need to remember that you will also be riding at great speed at several places and a bag coming lose will definitely result in a fall.
Riding Gear for Spiti Trip
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 or at least the knee and elbow guards. Again, this is really a personal choice and there is no firm yes or no around it.
Spare Fuel for Spiti Trip
For a ride through Spiti, you do not really need to worry about carrying spare fuel; unless your vehicle has a really small fuel tank. Please take a look at the article below for a list of petrol pumps on the route which you will notice are on regular intervals. The only long stretches without a fuel station are between Reckong Peo to Kaza and then Kaza to and Manali. But even here; a tank full at Peo will safely see you to Kaza and a full tank from Kaza will easily see you to Manali.
If however you are riding a scooter or a really small tank, then you will definitely need to think about and make arrangement to carry spare fuel. You can either buy one of those 5 liters jerry cans or better yet; carry a couple of 2 liters Coke bottles. 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.
Also read: Petrol Pumps on Spiti Circuit
I think that covers most of how to prepare your motorcycle for Spiti trip. I am not really an expert on the matter and all that I have shared above is completely based on my own personal experience. If there is any information that can be added or you have inputs that can be of help to others, please do mention the same in comments section below. For any further questions, please feel free to comment and ask or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.