In this article, we will briefly take a look at the necessary preparations and things to carry for Manali Leh bike trip. I will discuss what kind of clothes you should be packing along with some accessories that you must carry. I will also talk about the best way that you can carry all these items on your bike in a hassle-free manner.
Please note that in this post, I am focusing only on what your planning should be when you are thinking about traveling from Manali to Leh on a motorcycle. If you were catching a flight to Leh and traveling by car, then I will recommend you to read Ladakh Checklist – Things to Carry for Ladakh Trip.
A bike ride on Manali Leh highway has lately become the very synonym of the word ‘adventure’ in India. Traversing on a motorcycle from the lush green valleys of Manali to the barren brown landscape of Ladakh, through challenging terrain, is a dream for hundreds of thousands of people. But is it really all that easy? Can you just kick start your motorcycle and be on the way? The answer is no.
The highway between Manali and Leh is one of the most difficult roads in India. I am not talking about the actual condition of the road but the weather and the region it passes through. It is definitely not just another vacation or another weekend getaway. A simple miscalculation here can cost you dearly and become a nuisance. Thus, you must be prepared to handle any kind of condition that you may face and your packing must really be thorough.
Clothes to carry for Manali Leh Bike Trip
Let us first take a look at what kind of clothes you should be packing for the trip. The thing about Ladakh and both the roads leading to it is that the weather here is very unpredictable. The temperature will vary highly depending on the month of your travel, time of the day, and the place you were at. One thing is for certain though. It is always going to be cold and the only difference will be of how cold.
So in order to handle it better, the clothes you need to bring should also be in layers. What it necessarily means is clothes that you can wear on top of one another, if feeling cold, and clothes that you can remove in layers, if feeling warm. You cannot bring all heavy woolens but you also cannot bring all light cottons.
Also Read: Clothes for Ladakh Trip – What to Pack
Thermals / Warmers
Wearing thermals is not for everyone but is an item of essential clothing that you must bring. They hug your body, preserve the heat, and protect you from any wind that may find a spot in your clothes to sneak in. An added benefit of thermals is that you can wear them comfortably even while sleeping. Speaking from my own personal experience, they come in very handy if you decide to stay at a camp for the night.
During the ride, we wear several layers of clothes and a jacket waist above, but the legs often get neglected. The only protection they get from the cold is just the trousers. This is where a thermal will again come in handy. Wear one under your jeans and it will help keep your legs warm.
In terms of clothes, you can pack your regular cotton ones. Do not pack anything too heavy or too light. There are really no specific rules around it. Just pack your regular shirts and T-Shirts that you would for any other trip and you will be OK.
I am stressing on the word ‘light’ here. Do not bring heavy woolens because, with a jacket and thermals, heavy woolens will make it impossible for you to ride. You will start looking like a fluffy Teddy bear and the bike will become impossible to handle around sharp turns. Most of all, the moment the sun comes up, you will be getting roasted underneath so many clothes.
If you bought a complete riding gear and it came with the pants, then you already know what you will be wearing. But if you are someone like me who does not own riding pants, then you need to find a pair of Jeans that you are most comfortable in. Just find the one that is thickest and is lose enough for you to wear a warmer inside. I actually bought a new pair of jeans a little larger than my size and have been using that for my rides.
Now you already know that your jeans will definitely get dirty and there is no point in getting all of them dirty. So keep one that you will wear while you are on the bike and continue wearing that only. Change into your pajamas or something else in the evening and the next day; put it back on for the ride ahead. This way, you do not get all your clothes muddy or dirty.
Now to the most important piece of cloth that you will pack for this trip, a jacket. Your normal jacket will not do and you need something more suitable for this ride. Do not make the mistake of bringing your expensive leather jacket because that will just get ruined and will not stand guard against the water. You need one that can protect you from the wind, keep warm inside, and is also water-resistant.
Another thing to note would be to buy a jacket that has elastic cuffs around the wrists. This will help prevent any air slipping into the wrists and make your arms freeze.
If your jacket also has a hood, then it will surely be an added benefit. This will come into use after you have reached your destination and need something to cover your head and neck in the evening/morning.
My favorite spot for buying these jackets has so far been Manali. There is a large variety to choose from there and the price can be reasonable if you are good at negotiating. All 5 of my riding jackets in the last decade have all been bought from Manali only.
Accessories to carry for Manali Leh Bike Trip
After clothes, now let us take a look at some of the other accessories and spares that you should be carrying for this trip. While traveling between Manali and Leh, you need to remember that you will be traveling through a highly remote area with no facilities at all. So you should be hoping for the best but at the same time, also be preparing for the worst. Below is a list of items that I will recommend.
This definitely is the first and one of the most important items. Speaking out of my own experience, the worst part about riding in cold weather is freezing fingers. You can manage with the rest and try to work it out somehow but once your nails start to freeze, there is absolutely no way that you cannot continue. It turns into unbearable pain and you will be forced to stop every few minutes to warm up your hands.
How do you counter that? You need to get yourself a pair of good quality gloves. Do not bring your regular woolen ones because they will not work. You need to get gloves that are both windproof and waterproof and are warm inside. Your gloves should also have a clasp or elastic around the wrists to seal it off completely
Do you need them if you were riding in June and July? Yes, you do. Irrespective of the month of your travel, there is absolutely no way that you can survive on Manali Leh stretch without a good pair of gloves.
Also Read: How to Handle Mountain Sickness in Ladakh
Shoes for Ladakh Trip
Now that your hands are protected, let us discuss what kind of shoes you will need. You would read articles asking you to get good trekking boots, waterproof shoes, Gum Boots, etc which are all equally a great choice. You will be crossing several water streams on the way and your feet are bound to go underwater. If you can find a pair of shoes that can keep you dry completely, then it will be a great comfort.
But let us be honest, those shoes can be a little expensive and not everyone is willing to get a new pair of waterproof boots for a trip. More than that, if you come across a water stream that is more than ankle-deep, there is no shoe that will keep your feet dry until it was of knee-length. What do you do then? Let me give you my example.
I carry two pairs of normal sports shoes. Nothing too fancy, just the regular sports shoes that I wear at home. But along with that, I carry a pair of Rubber Sandals like the one in the picture below.
These I specifically use for crossing water streams. Whenever I come across a rivulet where my feet will go completely underwater, I stop for a minute and prepare to cross. I take off my shoes and socks and put on these sandals. Then I fold my trousers up and get across. Once on the other side, I give it a minute for my legs to dry, put on the shoes again and be on my way. These sandals cover my entire feet so there is no chance of getting hurt while crossing the stream and since these are of rubber, it takes them only a minute to dry.
Polythene / Plastic Bags
Another thing that you can do is to carry a few plastic or polythene covers. When you are crossing a stream, just wrap them around your feet and ankles to protect your shoes and prevent any water from getting inside.
Full Face Helmet
Please make sure that you are bringing in a sturdy full-face helmet with good protection and a white visor. Do not buy one with a dark visor because you may have to ride in low light conditions or at night. If that happened, you will have to ride in cold weather with the helmet glass up.
Also, while buying a helmet, please make sure that it has proper ventilation and cushioning; and is comfortable enough to wear for long hours. It should neither be too tight nor too loose.
Also Read: How to Travel to Ladakh with Family
Balaclava / Scarves
Balaclava is really a personal preference but can be of great use. If you are OK wearing one, it can add another layer of protection underneath the helmet. More than that though, it can help protect your neck, an area that is most exposed during the right because neither your jacket nor your helmet can cover it. Since the Balaclava wraps around your head, face, ears, and extend well into your clothes, it can protect the entire portion against the sneaking air sneaking.
I myself cannot use it because it starts to feel a little suffocating (just my personal thing). So what I rather do is wrap a scarf around my neck, extend it a little up to my face, and then wear the helmet on top of it. Either way you do it, a Balaclava or a Scarf will really come of great use during a winter ride.
Irrespective of whether you were traveling in a car or motorcycle, in summer or winter, a pair of sunglasses is a must-have item for visiting Ladakh. The sun up here is really harsh and can put a lot of stress on your eyes. But make sure that you are bringing good quality and lightweight sunglasses that you can wear for long and inside the helmet as well.
A luggage carrier is really an item of convenience. I have been on numerous rides to Ladakh and have never used one. But at the same time, I know that this can make things a lot easier if could get it installed on your bike.
Bungee Cords or Rope
One of the most commonly asked questions is whether to use a rope to tie the luggage or a bungee cord. My advice would be that you use both. I know that it will be added work and will take a bit of effort and time, but will ensure that your entire luggage is securely tied.
There are two types of bungee cords available in the market, round and flat. I have used both and found the flat ones to be more durable and long-lasting. But as long as you are buying a good quality cord, either one will do. You can get it online or any sports store like Decathlon.
I have used several kinds of bungee cords. The thing with them is that the hook can give away anytime, especially when it is supporting heavy luggage. Even the most expensive ones have ditched me in the middle of the ride several times and that is why I do not entirely rely upon them.
To be on a safer side, I first use bungee cords to mount the luggage on the bike, and then I use a nylon rope to secure it even more. It is just an added layer of protection for peace of mind. The rope takes the stress of the cord so the chance of it snapping gets reduced.
This way, In case the rope came undone, the cord will still hold the luggage. If the cord snapped, the rope will keep it in place. Trust me; you do not want your bags coming loose when you are riding at 90 kmph on a highway.
Also Read: Petrol for Ladakh Trip – How to Manage
Even if you were not buying complete riding gear, I will still recommend getting knee guards and elbow guards. Not a lot of people wear these while riding but it is a great safety item. You will be thankful for it if you took a fall somewhere.
Also, keep a sunscreen lotion with high SPF and a lip balm handy and keep applying at regular intervals. All the constant dust and heat will take a toll on your screen and you must protect it.
Spare Parts and Tools
Do you really need to carry spare parts? The answer is that you must. These are among the most essential things to carry for Manali Leh bike trip. It is not only about traveling from Manali to Leh but also for other places in Ladakh. You may be able to find a mechanic but spare parts and tools related to your bike may sometimes become hard to find.
I was once stuck in a mechanic’s shop for an entire day and night because of a broken clutch cable until he arranged a new one the next day. To ensure this does not happen to you, I recommend carrying the following items with the rest of your luggage.
- Basic toolkit and a Screwdriver set
- Jerry Cans to carry fuel. Buy metal can like the one in the picture below. These are available online on Amazon as well.
- Spare Tubes
- Foot pump
- Puncture Repair Kit
- Tools to remove the wheel and changing tubes
- Spare Bulbs
- Cables (Clutch, Brake, Accelerator)
- Chain Lock
- Spark Plug
- Spare Bike Key
While carrying these items, also visit a mechanic and learn some minor fixes and repairs. You should know how to change bulbs, refill oil, change a fuse, remove the wheel, and change tubes.
Things to Carry for Manali Leh Bike Trip – Conclusion
And that is pretty much it. These are your things to carry for Manali Leh bike trip. Just get your bike serviced in advance, replace or remove whatever seems dicey, go slow and carefully and you will be Ok. Remember, this bike trip is a marathon and not a sprint. So make the most out of your time, enjoy the vistas, and stay safe.
I hope the information above was of help. If you have any 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.