Leh Ladakh on Scooter – An Adventurous Journey

by Mohideen Wafar

Initially, it was a dream for me, for 30 years, to drive a car or ride a bike from Jammu to Leh. Yes, you read it right, 30 years. I am not your usual youth in their 20s or 30s (or even 40s) planning to take an adventurous ride to Leh Ladakh. I am a Goa-based scientist and I  was 69 years old when I rode to Leh Ladakh on scooter. Surprised? A lot of people were when I  shared my initial thoughts with them.

The idea was of a car or bike first but then I felt that it would be a real challenge if I could ride a low-powered two-wheeler rather than a bike like a Bullet. I was following for many years the posts of Mr. Gautam who rode a geared scooter to Leh, and of Mr. Khan who was confident that a 110 CC bike also could make this trip.

These led to my decision to ride to Leh Ladakh on scooter, a non-geared one. Two other reasons that helped me in this decision were the non-availability of geared scooters now in India and my inexperience in riding a bike!

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide

Leh Ladakh on Scooter – The Plan

The original plan was to undertake a ride from Jammu to Leh. If this was successful, then add a trip to Khardung La. If this also turned out to be doable, then why not return by Leh – Manali route?

My preparations were minimum. The scooter (TVS Jupiter) had 22,000 km on the counter but was serviced 3 weeks before leaving. I had only windcheaters but bought a jacket, on the insistence of a friend, from Chandigarh. I carried a puncture kit and a tool kit, besides medicines for an emergency.

My luggage was no more than 10 kg and even this was carried from Jammu onward on an Enfield Classic. It was ridden by my nephew who accompanied me at the last minute. Mr. Khan wrote in his post to have a test run done in a hill station before leaving. I did that in the Jammu – Srinagar section! It was a dream run, despite bad roads between Udhampur and Banihal.

Srinagar to Leh on Scooter

The ride between Srinagar and Leh was also smooth. It was completed in two days’ time, with a break at Kargil. The difficult part was a 40 km stretch between Sonamarg and Zoji La where there was practically no road. Other than that, most of the journey was a smooth run and I had no difficulty anywhere. My scooter performed very well and handled the roads perfectly.

These are roads that are considered unfit for scooters or small cars. But to my surprise, I wasn’t the only one riding a scooter around. Between Jammu – Srinagar – Sonamarg, and Kargil, you will find a lot of locals using similar vehicles for their daily commute. The only challenge on this entire stretch is just the high altitude pass of Zojila Pass. Other than that, as long as you have a decent experience on a bike or on a scooter, you will be able to manage the ride easily.

I was also doubtful before I proceeded but as I progressed, I realized it was not that difficult. It was in fact even better than riding in some city roads!.

Leh to Khardung La by Scooter

After reaching Leh, I had an overnight rest before attempting Khardung La. The ride was smooth until South Pullu, then the road was in a bad shape for close to 18 km. Still, the scooter continued its climb, though the pulling was greatly reduced. It was a tough negotiation for the last 2 km but, at last, I and my scooter were at the highest motorable road in the world!

I reasoned that, if the scooter can climb Khardung La, then it can also climb TanglangLa, Lachulung La, and Baralacha La, all above 5000 meters on the Manali route. And I was not hit by mountain sickness at any time since leaving Srinagar. So, I decided to try the Leh Manali route for the return journey.

Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso

I know what you are thinking here? What about sightseeing in Ladakh? Did you not visit places like Nubra Valley or Pangong Tso? I actually missed those places and have now them on my list for the next visit. But with my experience, I can tell you that both the places are doable on an electronic scooter or a Scooty.

In the city of Leh, there are a lot of rental agencies that offer a scooter on rent. You can get these for Rs. 800 – Rs. 1000 per day. These are a preferred mode of commute for people who do arrive in Leh by flight and do not have my riding experience. Girls prefer to opt for an electric scooter anyway (just stating the fact, not giving any opinion).

These people rent a scooter in Leh and use it for making day trips to Khardugn La, Nubra Valley, and Pangong Tso. If I wasn’t short on time, I may very well have crossed Khardung La Pass and rode into Nubra Valley on the other side. Khardung La was the difficult part and that was already covered.

So if your question is whether you can reach Pangong Tso or Nuba Valley on a Scooty then the answer is that yes you definitely can.

Manali to Leh on Scooter

I did this in two days’ time. On the first day, I rode from Leh till Sarchu where I slept the night. By next evening I was at Rohtang Pass. The ride was, understandably tougher, with cold, persistent winds, roads flooded and washed out with glacial-melt waters, fear of skidding. In fact, I skidded and fell twice, once near Kargil and once near Pang, and in both instances, escaped with minor scratches.

Well, this is my adventure story. This should be read in the context of my age (69 years at the time of the ride) and health (diabetic and BP patient) and physical standards (65 kg). Perhaps, the lightweight was a plus point! If I had been heavier, my physique may also have presented a challenge.

I am a diabetic and BP patient but by god’s grace, I did not face any problems because of it anywhere. I was of course carrying my prescribed and all the precautionary medicines but never faced a medical emergency anywhere on the entire circuit.

My message for all those who still waver between dream and reality. You can do it. You only need to be optimistic, take some precautions, and have lots of patience.

I plan to return to Ladakh again next year. However, I don’t know yet where to – maybe Lahaul and Spiti or Nubra valley and onto Siachen base camp. I hope I will meet some of you, new adventurers, on the way! And I hope to get encouragement and help from Mr. Khan and Mr. Gautam!

Ladakh on Scooty – A Few Pictures

I am sharing a few pictures of my journey below. I clicked these with m cellphone so please excuse the blurriness.

mohideen wafar srinagar to leh on scooter srinagar to leh highway leh ladakh on scooter mohideen wafar leh ladakh on scooter leh ladakh on scooter leh ladakh on scooter ladakh altitude chart

How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh on Scooter?

Mentioned below are a few other tips that can be of help in planning your visit to Leh Ladakh on scooter.

Preparation

You can easily do Leh Ladakh by scooter. A scooter properly serviced will not give any engine problem for 490 km (the distance between Manali and Leh).

If you are attempting for the first time, then choose summer. I rode in August and the weather was pleasant. There was no need for winter gear and the only one I needed was a light jacket which kept the wind and cold out; besides sports shoes.

Since mechanics are not there everywhere, it would be sensible to have a scooter which is new but has run for some time. Like a one-year-old with about 3000-5000 km on the dial. This means that you have experience with your scooter and feel safe that it won’t breakdown easily. For more details, please take a look at Necessary Preparations for visiting Ladakh on Scooter.

Get your Scooter Serviced

Service the scooter thoroughly before leaving. A scooter that has run 5000 km already but less than 15000 km is ideal. I serviced my scooter at Goa and then again at Srinagar before venturing to high altitude. Put new air filter, oil filter, and petrol filter. Also, check on the shock absorbers.

You should be prepared for small trouble-shooting, like the repair of punctures. It is easy with tubeless tires. A patch-up will help you to ride to the nearest village where you can get further help.

Mechanics are not there everywhere. So, first get tube tubeless tires fitted to your scooter, if not done already.

Physical fitness

You will be covering at least 150-200 km a day because there are no places to stay in between. You will be riding at least 10-12 hours at a stretch. So, you need to attain a comfort level of riding a small scooter for extended periods of time. Or else you should be prepared to break the journey.

For example, I left Srinagar and rode to Kargil at one go. You may break at Drass and ride to Kargil the next day. But on the Leh-Manali road, there are not many comfortable places to stay. So, practice long-distance riding.

Also Read: Ladakh Checklist – Things to Carry for Leh Ladakh

Food

In the Srinagar-Leh sector, you would find restaurants on the way (Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil, and Leh), so food is not a problem. But not in the Leh-Manali sector.

Be prepared to eat what you get in the roadside dhabas until you reach Manali. Carry biscuits and chocolates. They reduce hunger and also nourishing.

Petrol

You can fill your tank at Srinagar, then at Kargil. These will sustain you till Leh.

But from Leh to Manali, you need to carry petrol. You will be limited by the weight you can carry. So don’t carry fuel from Manali. Get all the fuel at Tandi after Rohtang pass. Here you should fill up the tank and buy 20-25 liters in jerry cans. This should see you safely all the way to Leh.

I filled the tank full on leaving Leh and carried 20 more liters on the scooter. The distance was 400 km and I calculated 20-25 km a liter because of the altitude and the mountain roads.

If you cannot manage to carry all that fuel, then look for the roadside Dhabas. They sell petrol in black for Rs. 100 – 125 per liter, approximately. The quality of petrol at these places will of course be questionable though.

Pillion Rider

Having a pillion rider is not advisable because of the low pulling power of a non-geared scooter. Someone had done it but with a geared scooter. You might find it difficult to negotiate steep climbs.

Also Read: How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh

During the Ride

Extreme care is needed in negotiating gravelly stretches. Skidding on gravel is very dangerous (I fell twice). Ride very slow in these stretches. I don’t t have photos of gravels. But they are common on the road edges. So, stay away from edges or ride very slow if you are forced to the edge.

Break the ride every 90-120 min for at least 10 min. At that altitude, the air-cooled engine does not get heated much but you tend to lose concentration because of the monotony of riding. Drink water, eat chocolate, and stretch your body before beginning riding again.

Learn Minor Troubleshooting

Knowledge of some troubleshooting is necessary. Like fixing a puncture, changing bulbs, or tightening a loose or broken cable. You must carry a puncture kit or a portable tire inflator. This will come handy in case of a puncture.

Fortunately, I did not suffer this but one can’t be always lucky. So, learn fixing a tubeless tire with any puncture shop in your town.  Learn these small fixes so you can do them yourself.

Other Tips

  • Contrary to perception, this route is frequented by many riders on bikes. Even when you ride alone, you are not alone in the wild! Help will be there from passerby riders.
  • There are places en route where you can sleep, by paying modest amounts for a bed and blanker. So carry only personal warm clothing.
  • Ride only between sunrise and sunset.
  • Unlike earlier days, now the roads are fairly good, at times better than riding in some cities in the rest of India!
  • Be prepared for the monotony. You may not find living beings for several km at a stretch, especially in the Leh-Manali road.
  • No speeding and always be alert for gravel. For me, this is the most dangerous thing when riding a scooter. I skidded twice and fell on the roadside, but luckily, I was at slow speed both the times.  The first time, I was lone and it was at dusk. It was a bit scary with a steep slope on the side. The second time, it was near a hamlet and the locals helped me.
  • Stop riding well before sunset and take shelter. On the other hand, you can begin riding even before daybreak if the road is good.
  • I rode to Ladakh on a TVS Jupiter but any other non-geared scooter, like Activa, Aprilia or Vesa is equally good for the trip.
  • You can do it; so look forward to doing it. No other worries.

Conclusion

I hope the travelogue and information above on riding to Leh Ladakh on scooter 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.

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15 comments

Wafar
Wafar June 12, 2020 - 12:07 pm

Dear Nilesh,
My apologies for the delayed response. Sure, you can do this trip comfortably with a scooter. Please see all exchanges in this post as well as the tips given by Mr. Varghis Khan for a safe journey. If you have specific questions, pl write.
Yes, I am interested in doing this sector again. Let us wait and see how things evolve after the Covid issue.
If I do this, I shall remember to contact you.
sincerely

wafar

Reply
Avatar
Nilesh Kale June 1, 2020 - 11:15 am

Hi sir I’m Nilesh kale from Jalgaon (Maharashtra )
I’m also a scooter lover. & I’m proud of u for such a incredible adventure. I had also done many trips on my scooter in Maharashtra in Sahyadri mountain, many curved roads.but not in leh….leh is also my dream.. i want to ask u that what essential preparation one have to make while leh trip on bike??
I m looking for group for ladak ride by scooter if u have to plan to go next year plz i will also come with u..if u have not any problem.. u can contract me
[email protected]
Mobile no 9850591036
Ur trip also encouraged me a lot..
Hat’s off u sir..

Reply
Avatar
Manoj sharma May 6, 2020 - 6:15 am

Thank you sir. for important information..

Reply
Mohideen
Mohideen May 2, 2020 - 12:39 am

Dear Manoj,
Yes, you can do it. First, get your scooter serviced thoroughly before leaving. A scooter properly serviced will not give any engine problem for 490 km (the distance between Manali and Leh). Also check on the shock absorbers.
You will be limited by the weight you can carry. So don’t carry fuel from Manali. Get all the fuel at Tandi after Rohtang pass. Here you should fill up the tank and buy 20-25 liters in jerry cans. This should see you safely all the way to Leh.
So, don’t worry – you will be glad you did it solo!

There are places en route where you can sleep, by paying modest amounts for a bed and blanker . So carry only personal warm clothing.
Ride only between sunrise and sunset.
Carry a puncture kit or a portable tyre inflator. This will come handy in case of a puncture.
Contrary to perception, this route is frequented by many riders on bikes. Even when you ride alone, you are not alone in the wild! Help will be there from passerby riders.

Reply
Avatar
Subramanya December 4, 2019 - 5:44 pm

Hello sir… will it be a difficult ride in TVS Jupiter along with a pillion rider? And in regards to gravel, bit scary to understand it will be skidding since my plan is to travel with my wife. Should we be too cautious? Is it too dangerous? Appreciate if you could share a picture of such gravels.

Reply
Mohideen Wafar
Mohideen Wafar December 13, 2019 - 2:13 pm

Dear Mr. Subramanya,
Having a pillion rider is not advisable because of low pulling power of a non-geared scooter. Someone had done it but with a geared scooter. You might find it difficult to negotiate steep climbs.
I don’t t have photos of gravels. But they are common on the road edges. So, stay away from edges or ride very slow if you are forced to the edge.
I am sorry for the delayed response. I was away in Saudi.

Reply
Dr. M. Wafar
Dr. M. Wafar November 15, 2019 - 1:33 pm

Dear Vidya,

Thanks for your message. You can easily do Leh by scooter. I was also doubtful before I proceeded but as I progressed, I realized it was not that difficult; even better than riding in some city roads!.

What you need to give allowance for:

1. Physical fitness: As you will be covering at least 150-200 km a day (because there are no places to stay in between), you will be riding at least 10-12 h at a stretch. So, you need to attain a comfort level of riding a small scooter for extended periods of time. Or else you should be prepared to break the journey. For example, I left Srinagar and rode to Kargil at one go. You may break at Drass and ride to Kargil next day. But on the Leh-Manali road, not many comfortable places to stay. So, practice long distance riding.

2. Knowledge of some trouble shooting is necessary. Like fixing a puncture. Fortunately, I did not suffer this but one can’t be always lucky. So, learn fixing a tubeless tyre with any puncture shop in your town. Or tightening the break cable. Learn by doing yourself.

3. Service the scooter thoroughly before leaving. A scooter that has run 5000 km already but less than 15000 km is ideal. I serviced my scooter at Goa and then again at Srinagar before venturing to high altitude. Put new air filter, oil filter and petrol filter.

4. Extreme care is needed in negotiating gravelly stretches. Skidding on gravel is very dangerous (I fell twice). Ride very slow in these stretches.

5. Break the ride every 90-120 min for at least 10 min. At that altitude the air-cooled engine does not get heated much but you tend to lose concentration because of the monotony of riding. Drink water, eat a chocolate and stretch your body before beginning riding again.

6. You can do it; so look forward to doing it. No other worries.

7. next summer is still far but if I plan to go, I shall certainly look forward to travelling together. I was thinking of Umling La this year but the situation in J&K was not conducive. I am thinking of doing Manali-Leh immediately after the road opens in May next year. The passage will still be snow-bound and that will be a challenge. I will be seeking advice from friends in Leh before that.

If any more queries from in your mind, please feel free to write.

wafar

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Avatar
Amruta Kulkarni September 21, 2019 - 4:58 pm

Hello sir this is Amruta Kulkarni
I am student plus working in travel company naming Damle Safaris.
I wanted to ask if i can go to Ladakh on vespa. Please guide me.

Reply
Mohideen Wafar
Mohideen Wafar October 9, 2019 - 7:34 am

Dear Ms. Kulkarni,

I apologize for the late reply – I was away from Goa and returned only a few days back.

The answer is – yes, you can.

Unlike earlier days, now the roads are fairly good, at times better than riding in some cities in the rest of India!

You should be prepared for :

1. small trouble-shooting, like repair of punctures. It is easy with tubeless tyres. A patch-up will help you to ride to the nearest village where you can get further help. Mechanics are not there everywhere. So, first get tube tubeless tryres fitted to your scooter, if not done already.

2. Since mechanics are not there everywhere, it would be sensible to have a scooter which is new but has run for sometime. Like a one-year old one with about 3000-5000 km on the dial. This means that you have experience with your scooter and feel safe that it won’t breakdown easily.

3. If you are attempting for the first time, then choose summer. I rode in August and the weather was pleasant. There was no need for winter gear and the only one I needed was a light jacket which kept the wind and cold out. Besides sports shoes.

4. be prepared for the monotony. You may not find living beings for several km at a stretch, especially in the Leh-Manali road.

5. Food. In the Srinagar-leh sector, you would find restaurants on the way (Sonamarg, Drass, kargil, Leh), so food is not a problem. But not in the Leh-Manali sector. Be prepared to eat what you get in the roadside dhabas until you reach Manali. Carry biscuits and chocolates. They reduce hunger and also nourishing.

6. Petrol. You can fill your tank at Srinagar, then at Kargil. These will sustain you till Leh. But from Leh to Manali, you need to carry petrol. I filled the tank full on leaving Leh and carried 20 more litres on the scooter. The distance was 400 km and I calculated 20-25 km a liter. Because of the altitude.

7. You might get mountain sickness en route. No big challenge. It will pass off. be patient. I had that one evening and then I was encouraging others whom I met on the way!

8. Never overspeed. Also be alert for gravel. For me, this is the most dangerous thing when riding a scooter. I skidded twice and fell on the roadside, but luckily, I was at slow speed both the times. The first time, I was lone and it was at dusk. It was a bit scary with a steep slope on the side. the second time, it was near a hamlet and the locals helped me.

9. Stop riding well before sunset and take shelter. On the other hand, you can begin riding even before daybreak if the road is good.

I was planning to go again this year but the situation in J&K was not conducive. I plan to do Manali-Leh sector in spring, as soon as the pass opens. That will be a different experience than summer which is easier (for me, now!).

sincerely

wafar

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Avatar
Vidya November 15, 2019 - 11:05 am

Hello sir
This is vidya Meshram.
It’s very encouraging reading ur blog.
I m planning active ride wid my sister to ladak from jammu in Aug or September 2020.
I have been twice to ladak before bt for trekking. Bt ur journey motivated me ..thanks.

If amruta n suman wants to join me plz feel free to contact me as I m also looking for group.
U can reach me on [email protected].

Reply
Avatar
Vidya Meshram November 15, 2019 - 11:49 am

Hello sir
this is vidya Meshram .
Reading ur ladak journey is incredible n very encouraging.
I m planning ladak ride by activa wid my sister in August-Sept 2020.frm jammu side.
Ur blog really motivated me more..will definitely need ur guidance.

Reply
Wafar
Wafar February 14, 2019 - 5:17 am

Dear Suman,

Thanks for your message. I am sorry to have taken time to respond. It will be a pleasure to ride together. In fact, I was thinking of riding to Umling La this year. It is higher than Khardung La and farther. But going there requires a bit of logistic preparation. The first is permit. The second is preparation, including hiring of escort vehicle. I shall begin working on these by April. If there is progress, I shall keep you informed.

Reply
Avatar
Suman February 3, 2019 - 5:53 pm

Sir, I am really greatfut that u r just reach your dream… When I will decide to go Ladakh I will definitely want to contact u.. my mail id [email protected] & mob no ±919804652801 from West Bengal… Kindly call me when you fix your tour for Ladakh with scooty as I am also can’t drive any gear byke… So keep it in your mind

Reply
Avatar
Vidya Meshram November 15, 2019 - 12:27 pm

@Amruta kulkarni n suman
I m looking for group for ladak ride by activa in Aug-sep 2020.if u both can join me wid b wonderful .u can contact me on [email protected].

Reply
Avatar
Manoj sharma April 29, 2020 - 10:54 am

I have a geared scooter. I want to try manali – leh route. but problem is tha i am alone.. no group is there.. Should i try it solo..?

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