Manali - Leh - Manali (Thought process & Preparations)

Riding Destination Ladakh, “a land of passes”
Riding to Leh is a game of “Mental health” and “Spirit”.  I believe that only a person with a good mental strength can complete this ride and physical strength doesn’t matter unless you have to pick up a fallen Royal Enfield J (I know as I am a lean fellow). Imagine one fine day when you leave your house for work and you greet almost all the riders passing your way. I am sure this is not possible, but due to the spirit of the ride this is possible on your way to Leh. Almost each guy will wish you luck and show you a thumps up indicating that you are doing a fine job and have a safe drive.
I read at few places that this trip changes the way a man treats and lives his/her life. Frankly I didn’t think at the beginning that this might be true at all. But once I completed this trip I felt that they were right. I know many who are reading this right now will also feel the same, and that is one of the reason you should take this trip.
Though I have reached home, still I meet people who say “Why did you take this trip? There was no need to take the risk”. And yes as you thought so, they are our well-wishers. But according to me, if you know you can take the mental challenge and you are prepared for it, it is worth taking the risk. But not at the cost of safety.
The first thing that I thought once I came back from this expedition was “Why did I have to go to this trip at the first place?” OR “Why did I opt for this trip?” “Did I lose my mind to say yes?” etc., etc. When I came out of the cab in Ahmedabad in my apartment, an aged uncle (whom I respect a lot) came to me and said “Son, I am proud of you”. So, “Did I take this tour to impress people?” I am sure if my father was here in this world, he might not have allowed me to take this trip convincingly (not sure though).
But after doing some retrospective thoughts I was able to find the actual reason – at least for me. Basically I am a MAD guy.
M - Mad
A - About
D - Driving
Having read so much about this road, the adventurous nature of the trek, back of my mind I knew I will have to conquer this trek. I am not a racer/related to any kind of driving sports, but I do enjoy driving a lot.
I own a KTM RC 390 (2015 model) and I ride it pretty well. A thought came to my mind to take that for the trip but then didn’t do that. The only thought that stopped me was I don’t to do a permanent damage to my proud possession. Rather as it is known that Bullets are best in this terrain I will opt for that
At the time I bought my RC 390, I assured my family and friends that I will always ride that with ample safety measures. I applied the same rule for this trip as well. I was firm that I will never compromise with any safety equipment in this trip. If I do it, I will do it the right way. And to any readers of this blog I would like to urge you not to compromise in the quality of the safety equipment. Also, do not ignore any equipment specially the Helmet & Armors.
So, with blessings of my friends and family members I decided to take this trip on 7th April. After talking to my most dear friends, as they were also accompanying me to this trip. For me the journey of my excitement begins the day I booked my flight ticket from Ahmedabad to Delhi and back.
I just started reading stuff. I wanted to be sure that I am well prepared for whatever comes in the trip and I will now allow anything to ruin this trip. I started putting things into my wish lists in various sites so that I can start buying them, before a suitable time and get it delivered well in advance. This also helped me to find cheap deals.
Below is the list of items that I bought online
  1. Rain Shoes Cover
  2. Balaclava (2 pcs) and Sleeves
  3. Action Camera (SJCAM 5000x Elite) with Extra battery and a car charger (I will be writing a detailed blog on why I selected SJCAM over any GoPro)

Below is the list of items that I bought from stores or had with me
  1. Waterproof shoes
  2.  Waterproof gloves
  3. Sleeping Bag (10°C 6.2ft)
  4. T-shirts (half and full sleeves)
  5.  Socks (Woolen & normal)
  6. Thermals(2 tops full sleeves, 1 bottom)
  7. Jeans
  8. Torch
  9. First Aid Kit
  10. Shin Guard (SCOYCO K11)
  11. Armored Jacket (LS2)
  12. Raincoat
  13. Helmet (LS2 FF3300)
  14. Gum shoes

Our trip was planned from 25th June to 6th July. We opted for an Ex-Delhi package. So, it was Delhi – Manali – Leh – Manali – Delhi all expenses paid. We had a backup vehicle carrying our luggage and spares. Three wonderful local guys accompanied us to the trip.
Selection of bikes: Of Corse we city riders always feel that Thunderbird is COOL. So we opted for 2 500 Standards and 2 500 Thunderbirds Once we interacted with the local guys who actually gave us the RE, that Thunderbird doesn’t work in the Himalayas. Also, repairing and various special requirements for Thunderbird makes it less likely for taking for this ride. And in my following day wise blog I will give you couple of examples that would prove the above. But, we ultimately ended up taking 3 Standard 500 & 1 Thunderbird 500 for our trip.
Tip for all people who are planning to take this trip opt for Standard 350cc or 500cc. We asked few people about Himalayan (new RE model), but they were also not sure about the performance of that bike. Before you insist for your choice, do listen to your vendor for selecting the vehicle.
After we selected our bikes the day before we had to travel to Leh, we had a test ride to a local waterfall in Manali. So we all geared up and were excited for the trip. As per our original selection we took 2 500cc Standard and 2 TB’s. Here is the time when 1 of the TB got punctured. Temporarily we took a local guy’s Pulsar and completed that ride. All were pumped up and more confident now.

When we returned from the ride, we received the punctured TB theoretically “repaired”. We had dinner and went to buy some stuff from market on the TB and to our surprise it got punctured again. Local people of Manali helped us, and we kept the TB in one of the stores overnight thinking we will get it repaired first thing in the morning on our first day of ride and then continue with our plan. 

Below is the map of the trip
Map from Manali to Leh Road Trip. (Courtesy HPC Publications)

Day 1: Manali (2050 m) - Keylong (3349 m), Distance: 115 KM

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