Ladakh is commonly referred to as a Biker’s paradise and quite rightly so. There are of course other modes of transport available as well to visit here; but the fact in the end is that nothing compares to a motorcycle ride to Ladakh. The entire journey becomes an experience in itself; one that you are bound to cherish for years to come. An important question however about bikes that I often get asked by several people; is whether it is wise to bring your own motorcycle or to rent a motorcycle for Ladakh trip. Rented motorcycle vs self owned and which one is a better choice. To be honest, there is no straight answer to this question; as both have their pros and cons and several factors would have to be taken into consideration; which I will talk about in this article.
At any given day, bringing your own motorcycle for the ride is the preferred choice. Reason behind this is pretty simple, it is your own motorcycle and you are familiar with its pulse. You know its shortcomings and can get those taken care of specifically before the ride. The biggest factor is that you will be riding on a tough terrain and knowing the machine here helps a lot. I think everyone will agree to the fact that it takes a couple of days at least before you actually get well versed before riding a new motorcycle.
Another factor is of the condition of motorcycles available on rent. I am not saying that they are all in terrible state though. Depending on which rental you got the bike from, some of these can even be in a mint condition. The fact however can still not be denied that most of these motorcycles are badly used by multiple people and always on steep and tough roads of Ladakh. There is no telling about the actual condition of the bike. They will all be properly washed and cleaned to give an upper image of a reliable motorcycle; but you cannot be sure of its engine performance until you start riding it.
Last but not the least is the cost factor. Depending on which motorcycle you chose, you will end up paying a daily rental of Rs. 1200 to Rs. 1800 per day; which will definitely cost you more than the total cost incurred if you brought your own bike. Then there is also the hassle of returning it. If you rented a bike from Manali, you will have to bring it to Manali to return. If you left it at some other place, it will cost you another roughly Rs. 15000 more. This also becomes a problem while drafting your itinerary because then you are bound circle back to the same place and cannot exit via another route.
With the above being said, renting motorcycles is not really all that terrible either. It definitely has its own advantages as well and if you chose the bike right, overall experience can really be a pleasant one; saving you a lot of hassle.
Why and When should you rent a motorcycle for Ladakh Trip
There can really be a few situations when renting a bike will be much easier a task than bringing your own vehicle. Let me run down a few reasons.
I think this one goes without saying but still thought to add it here. If you do not own a motorcycle, do not even want to own one; but want to ride to Ladakh then what do you do? Do you buy a new motorcycle just for the trip? No, you rent one.
Distance and time to reach Ladakh
This is the biggest reason when you should seriously consider renting bike for Ladakh trip. For people living in northern part of India, it is a bit easier to kick start your motorcycle and start riding to Ladakh. For people living in other parts of the country, a bike ride from home means riding for several days in plains before you finally get to Ladakh. This may get boring; will be time consuming and add further cost to the trip. To avoid this hassle, you can reach either Srinagar, Manali or even Leh by other modes of transport and rent a bike there for the trip.
Also read: How to Obtain Inner Line Permit for Ladakh
Transporting the Motorcycle
If you were living far off, then a choice can be to transport your personal motorcycle by either train or a personal movers and packers. This will again mean the hassle of making all those arrangements both while going to Ladakh and returning home. This also to some extent runs the risk of a possible damage to the machine which can be avoided if you rented one.
Under-powered or Old Motorcycle
Do you own a 100CC motorcycle which already has 40-50,00 kilometers on the odometer? Do you have a bike that you have been using for last 12-13 years? Are you not really confident that your machine can last the trip? If the answer to either of this question is yes then you are better off leaving your bike at home and renting one.
Short on Time
Do you want to ride to Ladakh but only have 4-5 days in hand? If this is the case then you do not really have time to ride your own bike from Leh. Your only option is to reach Leh by Air and rent a bike there for the trip.
Not Confident of your Riding Skills
I know, this will be the case even if you rented a bike. But if you were not sure of your riding skills but eager on a bike trip, then a way around this is to reach Leh directly by Air or other means of transport. Once you are there, you can rent a motorcycle and take a short ride to judge your riding skills. If you are confident, then rent the motorcycle for the entire sightseeing there.
How to rent a Bike for Ladakh Trip
Depending on your itinerary, you can rent a motorcycle from Manali, Leh or Srinagar. As a ground rule, do not book the motorcycle in advance anywhere. Just reach your destination first, ask around a bit; take a look at a few motorcycle; take a test ride and only rent it on the spot after you are sure of the bike. No matter where you rent it from, ride the motorcycle around in the town before taking it to the hills.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with Children
Check the condition of the chain set and ensure it is not worn out. If the motorcycle is electric start, try bringing it to life a couple of times; and ensure that it doesn’t cough or give trouble when you press the start switch. If it is kick start, ensure that there is no starting problem; and the motorcycle is a single or at most two kicks start. Check the condition of the tires if they are worn out. Sit down on the motorcycle to check that the seats are comfortable enough. Do a thorough inspection of the motorcycle for any oil leakage, either from engine or front shock absorbers. Check that the headlamp is bright enough and get it replaced if it is not. Also check the tail light and that both the indicators are in working condition.
Rented Motorcycle Vs Self Owned
Without any doubt, a self owned motorcycle will always win hands down because it will always be more maintained and better performing than a rental one. If you do not mind riding in plains for a few days; or the additional hassle or cost of transporting your bike; then by all means, you must bring your own bike to Ladakh. But if there is any of the above mentioned reasons involved, then you must chose to rent a bike.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.