Riding to Ladakh is not your regular weekend trip or a fun ride. It is a serious journey that requires careful planning and preparations. This entire region including both the highways to it is a terrain that is tough on man and the machine as well. It is a test for the motorcycle’s capability and the rider’s skills. Hence it is always preferred to take this journey solo and not have a co-rider because of several reasons. First and foremost is that you want to travel light while on a motorcycle here. You will find roads here that can literally be termed as a nightmare and a heavy motorcycle with tons of luggage, additional fuel and a pillion is the last thing you want. If you are riding solo, you will be able to ride better and enjoy the journey. However, if you are riding to Ladakh with a pillion, , there are a few things you must consider and prepare accordingly.
1. Machine: Several people including myself have travelled 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 older than 3 years and is 150 CC or less, do not even think about taking it up there with a co-rider. 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.
2. Travel Light: 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 travelling 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.
3. Itinerary: 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 and several 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 way to strike off these places from your itinerary.
4. Riding: 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, especially if it’s a woman you are travelling with [no offense to women but you know what I mean by this].
5. In Ladakh – While visiting Nubra or Pangong, do not carry your luggage with you unless you plan to return home from there. If your plan is to return to Ladakh from both these places, then keep the hotel room that you are checked in and leave your luggage there. This way you will be able to enjoy the journey more and your motorcycle will also perform better.
Apart from this, please learn how to tweak your motorcycle a little, like tuning for increased pick, removing the air filter etc so that in case your machine refuses to climb up, you can handle it on your own rather than getting off and pushing it up. 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.