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Traversing the Himalayan passes – on a bicycle!

The Himalayas are the ultimate destination for people seeking adventure. The mountain peaks, valleys filled with flowers aplenty, the mountain passes with their narrow winding roads and the many rivers and streams cutting across, snowcapped mountain and melting glaciers, all of these provide perfect fodder for an adventure seeker.

There are many ways in which one can explore the Himalayas and bicycling is one of them. 

Crossing the breath-taking passes of the Himalayas. 

The peaks are breath-taking and riding the bicycle across the passes between the peaks is an exalting experience. The mountains are filled with passes yet some of them are memorable:

Bara Lachha La: Located in the Zanskar range of the Himalayas at 16040 feet, this pass connects Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

Naki La: This is a steep road across the pass set at 15647 feet. It is very dangerous because it can have pockets of ice and water. Avalanches and landslides are common. The ascent to the pass is called Gata Loops with 21 hair pin bends.

Lachu lung La: Due to its dangerous nature, this pass is open only for four months beginning from May. Set at 16598 feet this pass offers some of the most scenic views of the surrounding valleys.

Rohtang Pass: Connecting the Kulu Valley with Lahaul and Spiti Valleys, this pass is set at a height of 13050 feet. This pass has the Beas river emerging on one side and the Chenab river on the other side.

Tanglang La: Said to be the 12th highest motorable pass in the world, this pass is set at a height of 17480 feet. The pass can be accessed from the Moore plain which form a beautiful landscape.

Khardung La: This is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra Valleys set at a height of 17582 feet. This pass has an ancient history as it was an ancient caravan route to central Asia.

Of all the passes you will cross during your bicycle tour on this route, the Tanglang La and Khardung La are named as among the 10 highest motorable passes in the world.

Possible itinerary for a tour across all the passes. 

You can stay the nights in the Army or ITBP or local law enforcement camps. You will find shelter and a hot meal here. You can also take a day’s break if the ride gets too gruelling. Or you can explore this route with professional groups like Bikat Adventures.

They provide complete guidance and take care of all your expedition needs.

Day 1: Ride from Marhi to Tandi (75 KM) You will cross the Rohtang pass
Day 2: Ride to Zingzing Bar/Patseo (63 KM going up to 6000 feet)
DAY 3: Ride to Sarchu (58 KM) Cross the Baralacha La. This road has many streams cutting across it.
Day 4: Ride to Pang (80 KM) You will cross a tough terrain on this route. Gata Loops, Nakee La and Lachulung La. The route from Lachulung La to Pang is rough with no road.
Day 5: Ride along the Morey Plains to Tso Kar (43-50 KM). There is no road here and you will follow a country track.
Day 6: Climb to Tanglang La. This is the toughest part of the trail.
Day 7:  Ride to Leh (100 kms) The road is all downhill from here. If you do not wish to do the distance in one day you can break at Lato.

Essentials for a Tour across the mountains

  • Hydration Pack: This is the most important part of your gear. Keep your body hydrated at all times, this is rule number one for any bicycle toure.
  • An ID Card and all the essential information of yourself like address, emergency contact numbers, blood group etc.
  • A Multi-Tool kit for minor repairs, a mini air pump, tire lever, CO2 cartiridge, spare tube and a shock pump to fill in your air shock ups if you want to.
  • First Aid Kit with basic medication, antiseptics and emergency injury aid.
  • Electrolyte Pills, High protein snacks and essential medication for cramps.
  • Weatherproof gloves. One that has a good grip and can keep your fingers protected against the temperature changes and weather elements.
  • A sturdy pair of shoes. And keep one in spare too.
  • Cycling shorts or tights which are padded. This will help with the long hours on the bicycle.
  • A wind jacket: The winds that sweep across the mountains are harsh and a sturdy wind jacket is the best protection you can use. If it is a water proof one it is even better.
  • Insulation layers: You will need a good insulation layer of clothes next to your skin. This will help keep your skin dry and protect you from harsh temperature differences.
  • Buff/bandana/skullcap: It will especially protect your head against the winds that blow across the passes. It will also help with the air pressure differences as you ride to higher altitudes.
  • Arm/leg warmers: These are especially essential for a winter tour or for higher regions where temperatures can be low.

Tips before you begin the bicycle tour of the Himalayas:

  • Train well. You need to be at your physical best before you begin this tour.
  • Pack you gear yourself. Check and recheck if you have everything you need. Remember to pack only essentials.
  • Remember the road quality is bad and at time it is non-existent. Do not bother too much about it. After all it is an adventure.
  • The rising altitudes in the passes can make you breathless and dizzy. Be mindful of this.
  • While travelling with a group spread out the spares you carry. Not everyone will need every spare. This will lighten the load you carry.
  • Hydrate, hydrate all the time. Keep power snacks with you to fight fatigue.
  • Check your bicycle before you leave. Check it every morning before you begin your ride, every bolt, every chain, every part. It pays to be cautious than have a break down away from habitation.

Riding a bicycle is a test of strength but taking a tour across the Himalayan passes on a bicycle is a test of your stamina, of body and mind. But to someone who completes this, it is the ultimate prize of having conquered the highest passes of the world, on something as simple as a bicycle!

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