Ladakh bike trip with a pillion or solo, if you ask me this question then a straight answer is that solo is better. And by solo I do not mean that you ride all alone but one motorcycle per person. There are several reasons behind this. The entire region of Ladakh and both the highways; leading here are tough on man and machine both. It is a test for the motorcycle’s capability and the rider’s skills. You will find that some of the roads here can literally be termed as a nightmare; and a heavy motorcycle with tons of luggage; additional fuel and a pillion will be tough to manage. However, if Ladakh bike trip with pillion is the only choice you have for any possible reason; then mentioned below are a few things you must consider and prepare for.
The first reason why I say that riding alone will be better is of convenience. Your bike will be lighter, easy to maneuver and you will be able to sit in a more relaxed manner. The ride quality too will improve. Roping all the luggage of 2 people on the same motorcycle too will then get avoided. Sitting all day on a motorcycle is bound to get boring for the pillion; no matter how interesting or scenic the terrain is. On the other hand, riding the motorcycle and handling the challenging roads ahead is fun for the entire group if everyone had their own bike to ride.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh
Ladakh Bike Trip With Pillion
With that being said, not everyone really has the option of riding solo and lots of people travel to Ladakh each year with pillion; especially couples. Here is what you need to keep in mind while preparing for this ride.
Several people including myself have traveled to Ladakh with a pillion. I have a Royal Enfield 350 CC but I have seen people here with a co-rider even on a 150 CC motorcycle. It all depends on how old your machine is and the condition it is in. If your motorcycle is old, say about 6 -7 years or older, and is 150 CC or less, do not even think about taking it up there with a pillion. It would only give trouble, refuse to climb at steep ascents and you will end up getting frustrated.
There will even be times when you will have to get off the motorcycle and push it up; trust me I have seen that happening. If you have a motorcycle that is 200 CC or more, please get it checked thoroughly. Get the clutch plates changed and ask the mechanic to tune your engine for strong pick-up. After you reach Leh, get your bike serviced before you start on your journey home.
Riding to Ladakh with a pillion means that It will just not be you and your co-rider on the motorcycle but the luggage as well which will include your own bags plus puncture kit, some tools and additional fuel if you are traveling on a Bullet; hence it is extremely necessary that you travel light. Think twice before packing about what is it that you will really need and what is it that you can live without for a few days.
There are places where you just cannot go with a pillion, no matter which motorcycle you have and how excellent its condition is. Places like Marismak La, Wari La and several other passes in Changthang region are way too high where the machine will just refuse to perform due to lack of oxygen. If you have a pillion rider with you, you may want to strike off these places from your itinerary.
Seat of the Motorcycle
This is of utmost importance. Pillion rider seats of some motorcycles like Pulsar or RE Himalayan are a bit too narrow for long rides everyday. If your bike falls in the same category then visit a nearby mechanic; or someone who does seats work; and get a bit of cushion added to the rear seat. Otherwise your pillion rider will keep complaining about their butt throughout the journey.
Be very careful around the turns and at water crossings. Ride in first gear if you have to but take the turns slow. At water crossings, ask your pillion rider to get off and cross it on foot; while you take the motorcycle across. Do not get off the tarmac and ride in dirt unless you do not have another choice. Do not indulge in unnecessary chitchat and keep your focus on the road. If you are on a smaller engine bike then your riding skills at steep ascents will be put to tests. However do not stress the motorcycle unnecessarily. If at any ascent, your bike starts to show signs of extreme stress then do not force it. Just ask your pillion to walk a little while you handle the steep climb.
Leave Extra Luggage in Ladakh
Not everyone will be able to do this but if you can, keep a room at the hotel in Leh city; and leave your extra luggage there while you went sightseeing in Ladakh. Just carry some essential items and night clothes for visiting Nubra valley and Pangong and leave everything else in Leh itself. This way, you will be able to ride light to at lease these 2 places. While you start your return journey, just pick up rest of your luggage from Leh and be on your way.
Apart from this, please learn how to tweak your motorcycle a little, like tuning for increased pick up, removing the air filter etc so that in case your machine refuses to climb up, you can handle it on your own; at least for a while before you found a mechanic. Another important thing you must keep in mind is that more the weight you have on rear wheel, greater are the chances of a puncture. So you must carry a puncture kit, spare tubes and should know how to fix it on your own.
Make a reasonable judgement
Think about why do you want to ride with a Pillion and then decide whether or not you should do it. A few reasons could be,
You want a pillion rider because of budget problem; so that you can share the overall cost of the bike with some. If this is the reason than you may also want to consider traveling by public transport which will be equally fun and for a much smaller cost. Read How to Travel to Ladakh by Bus and Taxi Services for details on how you can do it.
You are going with Pillion because you have your lady accompanying you on the trip. In this case, hiring a private taxi for the trip can also be considered if budget is not really a problem.
Lack of another machine could be a reason; that you are going with Pillion because there is just one bike available. In this case, a wiser choice would be to reach Manali or Srinagar; and rent an additional bike from there for your pillion.
If you have a pillion rider accompanying you because the other person do not know how to ride a bike then either both of you can travel by public transport. In this case, if your motorcycle was of a smaller engine, then you can use it until Srinagar or Manali and rent an Enfield from there.
All the 4 reasons are however applicable only when you think that your motorcycle is not capable of taking two people to Ladakh. If you are confident that it can last the trip then by all means, bring it along.
Best Bike for Ladakh Trip with Pillion
Without any doubt, a Royal Enfield will be the best motorcycle for riding to Ladakh with a pillion; be it a 350CC or 500CC. The obvious benefit is of course of the larger engine; which will be a great advantage. You will have all the juice needed to make it up the steep climbs with all the weight. A greater reason however is of overall seating position and space to mount the luggage. Both you and the pillion have plenty of seat to sit straight without leaning over each other. This becomes a must when you have to ride around all day long everyday. Another benefit is that it is easier to mount the luggage of two people and Jerry cans on an Enfield than it would be on other bikes like Pulsar.
I hope the information above was of help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.