It’s become somewhat “cool” to just pick up your bike–or rent one–and leave for the hills. While the thought itself is brilliant, what most people aspiring to do a biking trip to the Himalayas don’t understand is that one needs to be mentally and physically prepared to undertake such a physically taxing journey.
“It’s not uncommon now to come across cases where people have fainted or been extremely breathless in higher altitudes. I’ve even seen people who have no proper equipment whatsoever, and they come wanting to bike all the way to Leh,” says Moksha Jaitley, 54, Manali-based professional biker. Here are a few things, as suggested by Moksha, that everyone looking to do a bike trip to the Himalayas should keep in mind:
Get a thorough health check-up done:
Before you embark on such a road trip, don’t play guessing games with your health. Get all basic checks done–especially BP and sugar–right before you embark on the journey.
Check if the routes are open:
A lot of people reach Rohtang on bikes and realise the pass hasn’t opened yet. Don’t be one of those people. Make sure you check with authorities much before you embark on the journey.
Let your body get acclimatised:
If you’re embarking on a journey to Leh, for instance, and are coming from the plains, stay a couple of days in Manali or around so your body gets acclimatised to the altitude and weather. The altitudes are going to rise further as you proceed. Don’t let your body go through such major changes in short spans of time.
Talk to the locals:
Be it about what and what not eat wherever you take a break, or about the weather that awaits you as you go further–locals know more than you think.
Let the snow melt before you take the trip:
Even though the passes open up in June, the snow doesn’t melt before July. So, the best time to visit is July-August. In June, most of the ways will be too slushy, and hence, more dangerous.
Do not carry camping equipment:
You cannot camp in the Himalayas, at that high an altitude. The temperatures are freezing and oxygen levels are very low. So, check into any small hotel you find for the night, and leave early next morning.
Keep the baggage light:
Don’t carry your whole world with you. A heavy bike is difficult to manoeuvre, especially in hilly terrains (it’s not as pretty as the plains). Very often, you’ll find no road whatsoever. So, the lighter you travel, the better.
Sport shoes just don’t cut it:
Sport shoes are not for biking, especially not in hilly terrains. Buy heavy-duty hiking shoes from a reliable brand; they’re an investment in your safety, don’t think about the money.
Carry some handy food:
Dry fruits, protein/energy bars and chocolates, the kind of food that will give you energy to keep going, even at places where you won’t find food for hours.
Warm inners are a must:
Goes without saying, you need to keep your body warm, especially on a two-wheeler. Dress up accordingly.
A proper first-aid kit is a must:
This kit should include Dettol/Savalon, band aid, a couple of bandages and basic medicines for headache, stomach ache, allergies, and some generic painkillers.
Be prepared for anything:
Weather conditions and the conditions of the roads are absolutely unpredictable in the Himalayas. Moksha says she’s been doing bike tours for a decade now, and she still is sometimes shocked by the weather up there.
Slow and steady: Last but not the least, remember to maintain a slow, sturdy speed. Don’t be in a hurry. High speeds will only make it easier for your bike to go out of control in a tricky situation.