In part 1 of this series we told you about the different routes you can take to reach Ladakh on your bike. In this part we’ll be sharing some important tips for making your bike (and yourself) ready for the gruelling road trip to the promised land.
If you ever take a road trip to Ladakh on a bike, the amount of fun you have is completely dependent on the condition of your bike. The breathtaking views and curving roads lose their charm if you have to push your Enfield around in the hopes of finding a mechanic or a sympathetic rider who will help you. For that reason, it’s an absolute must that your bike is in perfect running condition and also that you have some spares and basic know-how about fixing your bike before you set off. These are the things you need to do before attempting a road trip to Ladakh on your bike.
Get your bike serviced. Properly.
This is a no-brainer but there are a few things you need to look out for. The usual service comprises of the mechanic changing the oil and cleaning the bike and then billing you for a lot of things he didn’t do. But for this trip you better be there when your bike is being serviced and make sure that the following things are especially taken care of:
Clutch Plates: It is essential to have clutch plates in good condition before starting a ride to Ladakh. Otherwise you can end up with a motorcycle which refuses to climb steep hilly roads Ladakh has to offer. So make sure to get your clutch plates checked and if they have little life left in them, replace them immediately.
Piston Rings: If your bike has been consuming a lot of engine oil lately it’s best to get the piston-cylinder kit checked for wear and tear and replace them if necessary. Also get the valves checked as well.
Timing Chain: Another thing you need to pay close attention to is a loose/worn out timing chain which can end up causing mechanical failure during the ride or make your motorcycle perform sub optimally.
Drive Chain & Sprockets: Check drive chain and sprockets for wear. If the chain and/or sprockets are on the last lease of life, change the entire chain-sprocket set. Else get them cleaned and lubricated.
Suspensions: Riding on the harsh terrain of Ladakh with a bike loaded with rider and luggage can take a toll on the suspension of your motorcycle. Get the front and rear suspension checked, and if need be get them repaired/changed.
Swing arm bush: Get the swing arm bush checked for slackness, change if needed.
Air filter/spark plug: If your air filter and/or spark plug is over 10000kms old or approaching that figure, get them changed. Don’t throw the old ones out, keep them as spares.
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Clutch & Accelerator wires: If your Clutch and Accelerator wires are over 10000kms old, get them changed and keep the old ones as spare. If they are not in need of a change then get them lubricated.
Brake shoes/pads: Get the brake pads and shoes checked for wear, if they can’t last for 5000kms, get them changed. Also get the brake fluid changed or top it up, if you had changed it recently.
Con Set: Con set is an essential part of the bike and if it’s loose or worn out it can affect the handling of the motorcycle. At the time of service get it checked and change it if the need be.
Engine oil/filter: If the engine oil is over 500kms old get it changed. Also change the oil filter. In case your bike uses an oil strainer, get it cleaned.
Electrical and battery: Get all the electrical wiring checked, check all bulbs to see if they are functioning properly. Also clean the headlight seal beam and brake light to ensure better visibility. Also make sure your bike’s battery is performing well, this is especially important if your motorcycle does not have kick start.
Fasten all nuts and bolts: Get all the nuts and bolts fastened properly, in case any is missing, get it installed.
Carburetor Tuning: Keep the Carburetor tuning as close to stock as possible. Running it rich will cause problem in high altitude areas and running it lean would lead to overheating in plains.
General check: Give everything a once over, ensure that everything is working properly and all the fluids are topped up, i.e. battery water, engine oil etc. Ensure all fuel lines are intact and there is no leakage anywhere.
Tyres: Check both tyres for wear and signs of cuts and cracks. If either of them is nearing the end of their life, get them changed. If you need to change tyres, get dual purpose tyres, since they perform well on and off road.
Wheel alignment: In case your motorcycle has spoke wheels, get them checked, and if the need be, get them aligned before your ride.
Learn minor repairs and servicing
You already would have learnt a lot if you sat with your mechanic while he was servicing your bike as explained above. But make sure that you know how to perfectly do some tasks such as fixing tyre punctures, changing accelerator/clutch cable/levers, adjusting the chain and tightening brakes.
Essential tools and spares to carry
1. Tool kit: OEM tool kit that comes with motorcycle is an essential part of the tool kit that every tourer should carry.
2. Ring spanners size 8 to 17: Should come in handy for tightening nuts and bolts of various sizes.
3. Screw Driver set: Try to carry a screwdriver set which has multiple attachments; a set which also includes a set of Allen keys is a good choice. While purchasing screwdriver set, ensure you get one which is sturdiest of the lot and won’t break while you are tightening or opening something.
4. Steel wire: Can be used to tie together bike parts in case of any breakage.
5. Electrical & Scotch tape: Can be used for tying together various parts and insulating damaged wires.
6. Torch light: In case of break down in the evening or early in the morning you will need it to see your bike, even once you are off your bike it can prove quite useful.
7. Foot or Electric air pump: Since motorcyclists don’t have the luxury of carrying a spare tyre, an electric or foot pump combined with a puncture repair kit and spare tube can turn out to be a life saver.
8. Puncture repair kit: Puncture repair kit for tyres with tubes should consist of; rubber patches, solution for pasting the patches on tube and tyre iron for taking off the tyre from the rim. In case of tubeless tyres, purchase a tubeless puncture repair kit.
1. Engine oil: Carry at least half a litre of engine oil recommended by your motorcycle manufacturer. Check engine oil levels daily and top up if necessary.
2. 90w Gear oil: Can be used to lubricate drive chain, in case you prefer to use WD 40 or chain spray, please carry that.
3. Headlight and brake light bulb: Always carry spare headlight and brake light bulb.
4. Chain links: Carry couple of chain links, in case your drive chain breaks due to something, you can fix it and ride on.
5. Clutch and front brake lever: In case of a fall clutch/front brake lever can break, which can make riding motorcycle difficult. Hence it is best to carry each of these as spare, to ensure you can ride with ease.
6. Clutch and accelerator wires: Clutch and Accelerator wires have a habit of snapping in the middle of nowhere, so please carry a spare clutch and accelerator wire.
7. Spare tube for front and rear tyre: Carrying a spare tube for both the tyres will ensure that in case of a puncture you wouldn’t have to waste your time trying to repair the punctured tube and can simply change the tube and continue riding. In case your motorcycle has tubeless tyre, carrying a spare tube is still a good idea, since it can help you ride your motorcycle, even if the rim bends a little, causing air to escape from tubeless tyre.
8. Spark plug: Although spark plugs of modern motorcycles rarely give problems, it’s a good idea to carry a spare one.
9. Spare key of your motorcycle: Always carry a spare key of your motorcycle and never put both the keys in the same place!
10. Spare Fuse: A blown fuse can leave your motorcycle without headlight and/or horn, so don’t forget to carry one with you.
11. WD40: Can be used to lubricate and clean various mechanical and electrical parts of the motorcycle.
12. Nylon Rope: Can be used for tying together various parts of your motorcycle or to help you tow your friend’s motorcycle or help someone else tow yours.
13. Bungee cords: Helps in tying the luggage, always carry couple of spare ones since they can snap under pressure.
14. Electrical wire: Can be used to replace faulty electrical wire in the wiring.
15. Few nuts and bolts of various sizes: Based on your motorcycles make, carry nuts and bolts which hold parts like exhaust, leg guard, foot pegs etc.
16. Petrol pipe: If you run out of petrol and come across someone who is willing to lend some petrol to you, you will need it to take petrol out of their petrol tank.
17. Coolant: If your motorcycle is liquid cooled, make sure to carry little bit of coolant with you.
If you own a CI Engine Royal Enfield Bullet, carry 250ml clutch oil and a decompressor cable as well.
In case any of your other motorcycle parts have a history of ditching you in the middle of nowhere, it would be a good idea to carry it as spare.
Essentials for the rider
While your bike is sorted out, you have to bear in mind that this journey is going to have a major impact on your body as well. The high-altitude and cold weather in the Ladakh region causes a host of problems on the human body and a long bike ride just compounds them. So here are a few things you must take to make sure that your body doesn’t give up.
Medical kit: Which came with your motorcycle should be good enough for most small injuries, if it has expired or has been lost/used, then you can visit your local chemist and ask them to prepare a civil defence medical kit for you.
Other medicines: Carry Diamox if you aren’t allergic to sulfur drugs (helps reduce some of the symptoms of AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness) and medicines for headache, fever, stomach ache, cold and cough.
Sunscreen lotion: UV rays at high altitude can be quite damaging to the skin, even during the harshest of winter, so don’t forget to carry a good quality sunscreen lotion eg. Lotus Herbal with rating of SPF30 or higher.
Lip balm: Dry and cold weather of Ladakh will make your lips dry, which can get quite painful due to cracking and skin coming off, so make sure to carry a lip balm or Vaseline.
Mustard oil: Mustard oil can be used for moisturizing skin, putting it in your hair and for lubricating insides of nostrils, which can become quite dry and painful due to dry and cold winds of Ladakh.
Glucose: Carrying water mixed with Glucon D is a good idea while riding at high altitude, as it provides instant energy on the move, when your appetite is likely to be reduced due to AMS and at the same time, doesn’t act as a diuretic, like most caffeinated energy drinks. Carry couple of small packs with you, which you can mix in water, at the beginning of the day.
Couple of water bottles: One for plain water and another for Glucose. Make sure you are drinking at least 4-5 liters of water each day to stay hydrated.
Chocolates, biscuits and nuts: Carrying couple of chocolates, a pack of biscuits and few hundred grams of almonds, raisins and cashews is a good idea, as these provide instant energy and easy snack and don’t take up too much space.
Other essentials: Paper soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and toilet paper. You can also carry your shaving kit and face wash if you have the space and need for these.
Hope you found this article useful. We’ll be getting you more articles with details of where you can stay and places to visit soon. Follow Wheelstreet on our social media pages to keep up-to-date with the latest information for road trips to Ladakh. Happy Riding!
This article is brought to you by Wheelstreet – India’s first bike rental platform.