How to Plan a Ladakh Bike Trip With Pillion?

by Vargis.Khan

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.

ladakh bike trip with pillion

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.

Motorcycle

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.

Also read: Which is the Best Motorcycle for Ladakh Trip?

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 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.

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, 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.

Also read: How to ride to Ladakh on smaller engine motorcycle or Scooter?

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.

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. 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.

Also read: How and Where to Rent a Bike for Ladakh Trip?

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.

Also read: How to Prepare your motorcycle for Ladakh Trip?

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.

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24 comments

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Sumit April 9, 2020 - 6:59 pm

Hi vargis sir,
Thats very good information you have gathered over here. It is very helpful. Still i would i like to ask you something, particularly about my case.
We have group of 6 peoples, with 2 350CC classic & 1 350CC bullet standard version. We are planning to take our bikes all the way from mumbai to Leh-Ladakh and in the return journey we will get it transferred by train from Chandigarh or Delhi. All of our bikes are almost new (Maximum age 3 years) and are well maintained with timely servicing and all. So travelling with pillion rider would be good idea according to you? because we are assuming that would be helpful as we can alter the riders to give everybody some rest as we have to cover almost 2500 kms one side. Also if we go by this plan what extra precautions we have to take according to you as we are going to cover close to 3000 kms in such short span of time.
Waiting for your positive response. Thanks in advance.

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Nitesh Singh Chouhan March 22, 2020 - 3:04 pm

Kya mai aur meri girlfriend dono ek bike par laddakh ja sakte hai

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Vargis.Khan March 23, 2020 - 8:39 pm

Bike pe depend karta hai ke kaun si hai

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Nihal Amberkar January 3, 2020 - 10:41 am

can we travel double seat on royal enfield with our luggage in ladakh?

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Vargis.Khan January 3, 2020 - 1:16 pm

If your bike is well maintained then yes, you can easily do it.

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Harsh Sukhwani June 8, 2019 - 10:45 am

Hi can I get the contact no…. If it’s possible
Thanks

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Vargis.Khan June 8, 2019 - 8:17 pm

Whose contact # ?

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Abhishek June 4, 2019 - 1:17 pm

Hi Vargis
Is Himalayan good for riding with pillion
As long have heard of pillion seats not comfortable for long distance travel

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Vargis.Khan June 4, 2019 - 7:40 pm

Hi Abhishek – I agree. It is not a great bike if travelling with pillion for long distance.

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Mayur November 17, 2018 - 7:58 am

Your trustworthy and informative articles help me a lot during my trip, I did Delhi-srinagar-leh-manali-Delhi in June,2018 with my spouse on my 200ns within 10 days without any hassle. Adventurous biking includes Delhi-Srinagar & Sarchu-Delhi Direct drives without halts and involves 2 days of rainfall, 1 day of snowfall and rivercrossings, and many more …..such a amazing unforgettable trip. Thanks a lot.

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Vargis.Khan November 17, 2018 - 4:23 pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to drop a note Mayur Bhai

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swapnil kirkise August 19, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Hello vargis sir,
Thats very good information you have gathered over here. It is very helpful. Still i would i like to ask you something, particularly about my case.
We have group of 6 peoples, with 2 350CC classic & 1 350CC bullet standard version. We are planning to take our bikes all the way from mumbai to Leh-Ladakh and in the return journey we will get it transferred by train from Chandigarh or Delhi. All of our bikes are almost new (Maximum age 3 years) and are well maintained with timely servicing and all. So travelling with pillion rider would be good idea according to you? because we are assuming that would be helpful as we can alter the riders to give everybody some rest as we have to cover almost 2500 kms one side. Also if we go by this plan what extra precautions we have to take according to you as we are going to cover close to 3000 kms in such short span of time.

Waiting for your positive response. Thanks in advance.

Reply
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Gokul chakrapani March 31, 2018 - 6:41 am

Hello Vargis,

I have read almost 25+ of your blogs on Ladakh region which helped me to plan my first Leh trip. Thank you very much for your time and information.

Here are few details I am still in dilemma.
I am traveling in Srinagar, Leh in last week of Aug 2018
1. Travel Agency is asking 15000+ for private car from Srinagar to Leh. I have some budget planned for this trip. Of couse 15000+ for one drive is over my budget and that does not mean that It is impossible to pay for me, However I would like to check how worth taking the private car, Otherwise I am planning to take a bus and take photography from Bus itself as it goes slow and it stops in Kargil.

2. If I take a bus from Srinagar to Kargil, I have read bus reaches around 5 pm to Kargil. Can I go to the Kargil war memorial by that time ? What time this memorial shuts ?

3. Is it too tough to get rooms in Leh, Nubra, Pangong on the spot ? Do I really need to book in advance ?
I will however book first night in Leh for safer side.

4. Do I need to carry extra Fuel when I ride to Pangong as there is no petrol bunk. One of the post you have mentioned that I will get fuel in dhabas, chadars but can I 100% rely on these availability and take no extra fuel with me?

5. If my bike breaks down, Tyre Puncture, do I get any assistance by other unknown passersby riders ? I know this is difficult to tell but do you have any experience as such ?

Sorry for many question but I hope this would also help other travelers.

Regards
Gokul

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Vargis.Khan April 2, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Hi Gokul,

1. I will definitley not recommend spending 15k for a taxi all by yourself. It is a good choice only if you are traveling a a group. If you are solo then board a bus. You are right, it goes slow enough anyways for you to enjoy the scenery around.

2. Kargil war memorial is actually near Dras, not Kargil. Its about 60 kilometers before Kargil so your only way to visit here is if the bus stops for a while; which may or may not happen depending on the sole discretion of the driver. You may request though.

3. No need to book in advance. You will easily be able to book an on the spot deal.

4. Yes you will get fuels at dhabas etc for sure.

5. No way to predict this but people usually and mostly stop to help each other.

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Atul rana March 16, 2018 - 7:39 pm

I m planing to go leh in June 18 with my wife as pillion..I basically belong to himachal area so I know the basics of riding bike in hilly area..I have apache 160 …is it suitable to have this bike for my ride and what is very necesaay item to carry and where where we require tent etc because I m planing to stay in hotel where ever it will available

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Vargis.Khan March 19, 2018 - 6:25 pm

Yes you can travel on your Apache but since you are with a Pillion, you must travel light. Do you mean that you plan to carry your own tent?

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Akshay August 27, 2017 - 9:31 pm

My friend doesn’t have a license, but I do. we’re eligible for the permit??

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Vargis.Khan August 28, 2017 - 2:56 pm

If you are on the same bike then yes you will get the permit.

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Anandmai Duhan June 6, 2017 - 9:44 pm

Very informative article. I am planning a ride to Leh ladakh via Delhi to Srinagar and Leh and come back via Rohtang Manali Route. I am apprehensive about riding with a pillion though I own a Classic 500. It would be really helpful if you are able to spare a few minutes so, that we can talk over the phone.

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Vargis.Khan June 7, 2017 - 5:32 am

Hi Anandmai, Please drop me an email with your phone # using the contact me button above and I will call you

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JASPRIT BHATIA May 14, 2017 - 6:55 pm

Vargis, can you share your Phone no?

Not sure if it is included somewhere in the page.

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Vargis.Khan May 14, 2017 - 7:18 pm

Jasprit – Drop me an email using the contact me button in the menu bar with your number and I will call you

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joshi arvind January 30, 2016 - 1:34 am

nice informative blog…..planning to go solo this july…..age is the only concern…i m 51….bike… classic 350….but will be travelling whole of india on bike for sure ……lets see how things turn out….

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Vargis.Khan August 8, 2016 - 12:03 am

Mr. Joshi – How did the trip turn out?

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