Posted on April 26 2020
The plan of 'Overlanding in the Himalayas' was to, well, overland in the Himalayas of India, Nepal and Bhutan! And I would begin the trip with a long awaited destination - Ladakh! The ride was initially to start in August but the planning and execution pushed it all the way to October. I had wished to ride to Leh on my El Poderosa (Èsp: The Mighty One), my 2012 Duke 200, but at the time the roads to Leh were just about to close. I could ride in but if it snowed hard I would get stuck there. I could always fly out but my bike would have been stuck there till the roads opened next May. That would make me rush through Ladakh and after waiting for so many years to ride there, that wasn't something I wanted!
The plan then became to fly into Leh for the first ten days of the ride and then fly down to Delhi where my bike will be shipped along with all my luggage and then head to Spiti, Himachal Pradesh for the second leg of the ride. Bhutan would be the third leg.
My group - Battalion Bikers, the one with which I learnt how to ride a motorcycle, the one because of which I got a purpose to live is one of the most important aspects of my life. We have a tradition of riding to India Bike Week that happens in Goa every year in December. So to be with them and keep the tradition going, I will be riding down to Goa for the beginning of the fourth leg to spend a few days with them and slowly make my way back up north to Rajasthan and finish the fourth leg of the ride, the only non - Himalayan leg.
I'll be making my way to Delhi for the new years and heading to Nepal for the fifth leg then exit at Siliguri and begin the sixth leg, the longest leg (about 45 days) in the north east! With the end of the sixth leg I will have covered all 28 states of India and 2 other countries - Nepal and Bhutan.
Apart from the Goa - Rajasthan leg, all the other legs will be my first time visiting. And since they're all in the Himalayas I am super excited for them! Ladakh! A dream for such a long time would be realized in just a few weeks! I am so ecstatic that I can hardly shut my eyes at night!
With all planning sorted the date was set - Oct 20th and the flights booked! Now it's time to get the preparations in order!
The first and the most important preparation in any long ride is the mental preparation. To be ready for breakdowns, set backs, delays, crashes, injuries, home sickness (I don't get home sick though, I love the road too much!) and anything that can make me want to close up and head back home.
Then it's the physical preparations. Riding long distances and everyday is not easy. There's a big toll on the body - the neck, shoulders and especially the back. To add to that I have a bad knee. The physical state, mainly flexibility of the muscles determines how comfortable the ride can be and also to an extent determines the success of the ride. I had a good routine of running and practiced yoga to keep the body fit and flexible.
The next is preparing the bike for such a ride. The most pivotal is engine health, especially since my bike is 126,000 kilometers old. The piston - cylinder kit is quite new, but the head set had done it's time and needed replacing. Then it's the usual chain health, cooling system, clutch plates, fueling system, electronics and safety and luggage accessories and tyres.
For safety I have the Bark buster hand guards which last as long as the bike will and crash guards by Zana motorcycles that I've been using since my previous ride. I also have their saddle stays and tail rack for luggage, a radiator grill to keep the radiator safe from stones flinged by the front tyre, a handle bar riser for a more upright riding position which means more comfort and a GPS mount bar for mounting a gopro and a phone holder. I got an Easy Clutch by Prosepc performance parts which on first impression is superb. It makes the clutch at least 3 times lighter and is a great comfort mod.
In the electronics department, I got a new wiring harness last year as the previous one had cuts and tapes all over. I got a new set of LED lights by Mad Dog Scout LED's and paired them with my existing Nilight spot lights. I used the wiring harness and waterproof switches by Mad Dog as it makes it so much safer and reliable against dust, water and temperatures. I have a set of Hella sharp tone horns for the last 3 years, they're quite reliable and have a strong sound. This is important on Indian roads. I ALWAYS use navigation when on the road, so having a charger is really important. The Indian brands are quite expensive, so I got a generic dual port fast charger from AliExpress for 500 bucks!
It's important to have a mechanic who you trust, to do all the work for you and for me it was Thomson Richards who runs APT bike point in Bangalore. He's a long time friend and since the time I met him, he's the only one who's allowed to work on my bike.
The last prep for the bike is for the tyres. When you're riding only on road almost any road tyre will do the job. I've always preferred the Michelin Pilot Street radial. Since I'm heading to the higher Himalayas, I need a dual purpose tyre to handle the dirt, gravel, sand, slush and snow there and also give me speed and stability when on the highways. My choice was the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres which I picked up from tyremarket.com. It helps that they have the widest range of tyres to choose from. All the way from Michelins to Pirelli's to Metz to Ceat... ahh! the list is never ending. And the Pirelli's are really the best choice as their road grip is far better than most road tyres.
Carrying spare parts is pivotal on any long ride. It adds weight, yes, but I'd rather have 'em and not need 'em than need 'em and not have 'em and waste time and money later to source them. In general I carry at least 2 litres of engine oil, I prefer Motul 300V, oil filters, fuel filters, air filters, 1 litre of Coolant, 1 extra clutch and accelerator cable, extra spark plugs, front and rear brake pads, engine gaskets, Gasket glues, a surplus of nuts and bolts, 2 front sprockets, engine drain bolt, gear Shifter arm, fork seals, a whole set of oil seals and o rings, front and rear wheel bearings, 2 sets of Fuses, a cone set, a clutch cam, gear and brake pedals and a stator coil. All things that I would need and wouldn't be able to find easily when needed.
Well, these spare parts don't fit by hand so I carry a host of tools with me. Always. Like a Stanley multi - tool, a wire cutter, a nose plier, a complete set of open and ring spanners, Loctite, Allen keys, an air pressure gauge, a screwdriver and a Stanley 1/4 drive socket set. I have also stocked emergency tools like a 4T tow rope, a generic puncture kit, a Resqtech air compressor, a standard medical kit, cable ties, electrical tape, electrical wire, M seal, JB weld, Feviquick and double sided tape. Chain maintenance is taken care of by a Blue bird Moto Jack that I picked up from Amazon and Tribocor chain cleaner and lube with a generic three sided chain cleaner brush. For safety of the bike when off it, I've bought a cheap bike cover from Amazon and a good quality disc lock.
As a mechanical engineer I've always liked working on bikes, and I've been doing that for quite some time. But I needed more knowledge, so before I started I got training on advanced bike repair and maintenance by my dear buddy Thomson.
This ride is an Overlanding ride. Overlanding is a self reliant form of travel where the journey is the primary goal. It involves camping for the most part. Being a biker for most of my adult life, I hadn't ventured into camping, hence didn't have any camping equipment of my own. To keep my budget down, I decided to rent from a company called X - Dog trekking in Bangalore a 3 person Quechua tent, a -8 degree Himalayan Tribe sleeping bag, an air mattress which would double as my yoga mat and an air pillow. For cooking, I am carrying a generic stove which costs about Rs. 1,700 and a couple of 500 ml cans of butane which cost about Rs. 250. I am carrying 30 meals ready to eat/cook meals from a Bangalore based company called Express Feast. I've used them before on my Long Way Round and back with them for the cost, the taste and the ease of preparation. I have sent an additional 30 packets to Delhi and will replenish my stock when I run out. I use an aluminum vessel to cook and eat my meals, along with a steel cup, an LED light, a head torch and a solid knife (this doubles as protection!).
Creating content is a thing I love. The main camera for the ride is the highly capable One Plus 7t and the secondary camera is my old LG V30. The phones each carry 256 GB and 128 GB storage respectively. I got a Gopro Hero 7 Black just for this ride. Storage is handled by 2 x 128GB, 1 x 64GB and 1 x 32GB SD cards. In my previous ride I'd found that this wouldn't be enough, so I'm carrying a safer and more reliable 1 TB SanDisk SSD and a backup for that, a 2 TB Seagate HDD. To transfer the date from the cards and the phones I'm carrying my 5 year old HP laptop. A 20000 MAH MI power bank for power on the go and a Telesin 3 Gopro battery charger which doubles as an SD card holder. For the gopro I'm carrying a whole host of mounts and a set of ND filters.
This may make me seem like a heavy packer. I am and I'm not. I pack only 4 t shirts, 1 shirt, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of tracks, 2 sets of Klim riding inners, a - 5 deg warm sweater, a - 5 deg warm pant, a pair of warm gloves, 5 pairs of inners and that's it. It's going to be super cold in all the places I'm visiting, and the warm gears are crucial for completing the ride. For added warmth I'm stocking 15 packets of Warmee, which are self heating warmers made by "Warmee" in Mumbai and last for about 10 hours per packet. I've used them before on long Way Round and knowing that they work, they're back in my pack.
There's only one luggage manufacturer that I trust with my luggage and that's Dirtsack. I've put their products to hell during Long Way Round and I'm using the 50L LongRanger Pro WP saddle bags, a 50L Frogman dry bag and the WP Boomerang tank bag for this ride. The ton of stuff mentioned above all go into the bags logged and in an order, except the tent and mattress which are mounted on to the bags.
SAFETY ON THE ROAD
Riding gears are the next important thing on the list and I'm going with Solace Furious V2 jacket which has L2 armours on the elbows, shoulders and back and L1 armours on the chest and Solace Tourjet Pro pants with L2 armours on the knees and hips. Both the jacket and pants have Cordura 1000D abrasion resistant fabric on high impact areas. I've been using the Cortech Latigo air boots for almost 4 years now and they're pretty worn out, so I've ordered for one of the best ADV boots by Sidi, their Adventure 2 Goretex. Which I hope, reaches me in time. I'm getting two sets of armoured gloves, one for dry and the other for wet riding conditions by Let's Gear up in Bangalore who I've known for ages. The dry one is the full gauntlet gloves by Viaterra and the Bikeratti waterproof gloves. I'm carrying my 4 year old HJC CL - 17 helmet for one last long haul. I also never leave behind a tinted visor for day time riding.
I don't prefer planning every day in advance and like to go with the flow. So the route planning is always a skeleton and I add the details in as I ride.
This brings me to the last part of preparation - training. Off - road training. I'm entering Ladakh and Spiti at a time when it almost always snows and since I haven't ridden in snow till now, I can't afford to go in unprepared and get stuck. I approached Tribal Adventure Cafe in Bangalore run by Sanjay, an INRC champion for my training which was focused on slush, as riding in slush is very similar to riding in snow. With 6 hours of grueling and sweaty training by Sanjay and his protégé Deepak, my preparation was complete.
With bags packed and the bike shipped to Delhi, it's now time to fly to Leh!
A written record of Manjusagar’s Journey