If a bike ride to 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 becomes demanding not only for the rider but also for the machine. In order to ensure that it survives the trip and brings you home safely, you must prepare your bike for Spiti Valley and pay close attention to its overall performance and each part.
Why so much stress on preparation? While the trip to Spiti Valley 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 the nearest help will be miles away. Here, something as simple as a flat tire can prove to be a disaster; if you were not prepared for it.
In this article, I will provide some information on how to prepare your motorcycle for Spiti trip. These are some basic but necessary details that you must pay attention to in order to ensure that your trip remained hassle-free.
Please note that in this article, I am only discussing getting your bike ready for Spiti. If you want to get a complete travel guide covering each and every part of the trip, please read How to Plan a Trip to Spiti Valley.
Best Bike for Spiti Valley
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 a 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 the 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, is 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 100 or 150CC 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 Which is the Best Bike for Spiti Valley Trip.
Prepare Yourself First
An important thing to remember when you are preparing for a bike trip to Spiti Valley is 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.
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 handle a bike up in the hills and on extremely bad roads. If you do not, then please ensure that you first make a couple of short trips to some other hill station. Spiti is not the place that you want to be your first as a bike trip.
You also need to better equip yourself so that you are able to ride for long hours. You should be able to sit through on a bike on roads that literally feel like as if they were custom-built to test your bike’s suspension, your stomach, and your butt.
Most of all, 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. For this, you need to first make a few short trips in the hills if you haven’t done so already.
How to prepare your Bike for Spiti Valley Trip?
With all that being said, mentioned below are a few checklist 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 service; 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.
You should replace all the cables including clutch, accelerator, brakes, and possibly the speedometer cable as well. Do not think over it too much, just get it changed. Get the new ones fitted in the bike and keep the old ones as spare. These will come handy if you have the need to replace any of the cables during the ride anywhere.
Do however make sure that the old ones are not too worn out before you decide to use them as spare.
This is one of the most important things to check. If either of the tires is too worn out, then get it changed immediately. You should also 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.
If your tires are a little old, I will recommend going to a mechanic and get his opinion. If he says they will not survive another few thousand kilometers, you should change them immediately. Do not go to a tire shop because they will try to trick and sell you. Instead, go to a known mechanic who will give an honest opinion.
Also Read: What to Buy in Spiti Valley and Where
Get the alignment of both the wheels checked and if required, corrected. Also, check the rim for any bents or unevenness. I will recommend going to an open area and test your bike a little. Do some sharp turns, slow down the bike to a bare minimum speed, and see how the weight and balancing feels. If you think there was some wobbling, get it checked.
Take a look at engine oil, gear oil, brake fluid, and suspension oil. If it has been over 500 kilometers since you last changed the oil, it would be better to get these changed again altogether. If you had recently gotten it done, make sure to refill and 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 backfiring on deceleration.
The best thing to do is to keep the carburetor setting as close to the stock setting 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.
Also Read: Food that you must try in Spiti Valley
Take a look at the chainset. If it has been a while since you changed it, it would be best to get a new one. Inspect the teeth closely and if they seem broken or worn out, get it changed.
Also, carry a couple of spare chain links (locks).
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.
In case of disc brakes, 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, taillight, brake light, and indicators. Take your bike out at night and ride around in pitch black dark. Turn on the headlamp and check its efficiency. If it feels a little dim, get a new one, and keep the old as spare.
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.
Get the battery checked as well. If it is 2 or 3 years old, has been losing charge frequently or taking a while to get recharged, it would be better to get a new one.
I am speaking out of my own experience on this one. During one of 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. While you were getting those looked at, get the greasing on the bearings done.
Puncture Repair Kit / Foot Pump
A puncture repair kit can really come to rescue while traveling through areas like Spiti. Though it is a 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 / Kalpa 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. The same issue will also remain on Manali Kaza Highway.
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 the tube, and put it back in. Replacing a tube is more of an easier task rather than trying to fix the puncture yourself. You can just keep the punctured tube in the bag and get it fixed at the next repair shop.
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.
Learn Minor Repairs
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, changing tubes and wheels, etc are quite easy to learn.
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.
Write these things down on a piece of paper and run it with the mechanic to make sure that everything was covered.
Necessary Spares to Carry for Spiti Trip
To be honest, finding a mechanic in Spiti may not really prove that troublesome. The 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 another 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 how to manage all these items with your luggage on the motorcycle. For almost all the bikes these days, you will easily be able to get a luggage carrier. The 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 a 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 sides of the motorcycle; and if riding without pillion then on the rear seat as well. Three things I would recommend for the purpose.
Also Read: When is the Best time to Visit Spiti Valley
Protect the Bags
Get those big black poly sheets that you can get at any hardware store or tarpaulin. The first thing to do is to wrap your bags in those poly covers to ensure they do not get wet, dirty, or damaged. It is extremely important because you will be riding through a lot of dirt, mud, and water.
Bugee Cords / Nylon Rope
The next thing to do would be to get a few good quality bungee cords and a long enough nylon rope. First, mount your bags on the motorcycle using the bungees and then secure it tightly with the nylon rope.
Always do both to ensure double safety. If either one gives away, at least there is second protection to keep the bag intact and in place. 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 Spiti Valley, 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. I would surely recommend at least buying 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 Petrol Pumps on Spiti Circuit for a list of petrol pumps on the route which you will notice are at 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 making arrangements 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.
If you are buying a jerry can, I will recommend a metal one. These are easily available online as well if you could not find one at the local store.
If you decided to go with a plastic can, then carry a thick enough cloth that can be used as a cover for it. The can will be hanging on the side of the motorcycle and even a small stone will be enough to puncture it. The cloth will protect the can against any such mishap.
I will strongly advise against using Coke or Pepsi bottles. These are not meant for carrying fuel and should not be used as such. But nonetheless, it is still an option to carry spare fuel. You can fill these up with Petrol, secure them tightly, and put inside a bag that you can use solely for this purpose.
Prepare your Motorcycle for Spiti Valley – Conclusion
I think that covers most of how to prepare your bike for Spiti valley trip. All that I have shared above is completely based on my own personal experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.