Manali 2 Leh – Day 0 & Before

Cycles were packed by RR Cycles, Madiwala and sent by Air India Cargo at a price of around 1000INR from Bangalore to Delhi. It is definitely a lesser price compared to charges by Blue Dart or other agencies. Landing at Delhi on 2nd August we pick-up the cycles from cargo section and later in the evening leave for Manali.
Before on the day we go around Nizamuddin in Delhi with a friend of one our co-cyclist. It was a informative walk around.



















After a sumptuous lunch we take our bags to board the bus to Manali. The cycles are still boxed up and put inside the bus and off we go. There can be questions at checkpost’s or state borders regarding the cycles. Maybe a slip from the cycle shop would ease matters. Especially packed cycles leave a doubt of new cycles being transported which could attract customs duty.











Once we reach Manali in the morning we have our driver Ravi with the tempo traveler waiting for us. From there we head to Ride Inn. Wow what a stay. Very hospitable couple and who are very accommodating and always smiling.


We get our regular meals also here and very tasty too. The places makes you feel so cosy and comfortable that it is not probably a good choice for cyclists. So much of relaxed attitude puts a slight break into the mind and delays the start out. Nothing wrong with the place. It is just very good and one of the best places to stay when in Manali.
Sunday in Manali is not a good day since most shops are shut and buying groceries is difficult. It also amounts to a loss of day.




To keep the body in rhythm we go for a short run in the morning.












We use the time to assemble the cycles. Its not a very difficult task.
Yes initially it takes time but as time goes by it becomes easy to assemble all the cycles and keep them ready. And we do a short ride to check if the cycles have been assembled properly for the final touches.

Finally it did look like we would start the trip following day, 5th of August and it does look like our bodies have got acclimatized and we start our dosage of Diamox!

Manali 2 Leh – Physical & Medical Preparation

Knowing the altitudes and terrain of cycling it is not easy to practice to 100% possible extent down South of India. To an extent training is possible. What is to be remembered is that in those altitude the ability to suck in oxygen out of the thin air is important and crucial.
It is desirable to do 100+kms rides on weekends to get body tuned. Varying terrains are possible by riding to Nandi Hills and ride to nearby hills around Bangalore. One or two rides in these terrains does not help in getting the body tuned up. Atleast 3-4months of preparation is required.
Training in gym on the cycle with resistance level at 11 – 12 and maintaining consistent RPM above 50 helps.
Cross training by running helps improve the lungs power. Supplemented with strength training and some skipping exercises.
The training schedules help in improving the muscle power over all and get the body into shape. After all this just keep fingers crossed that there would not be any problems cycling between Manali to Leh.
Without proper training it is not recommended to take up this arduous cycling event.

Diamox tablet is very useful for high altitudes. It may not be required if the body is tuned when one starts cycling from Kashmir/Srinagar to leh and then down to Manali or getting to Leh via Spiti Valley. The one side-effect of taking this tablet is frequent urination.
The other important medicines would be like
Dolo 650 or any prescribed paracetamol tablet
Vikoryl or any other prescribed tablet for cold reliever
Vicks cough drops incase of throat irritation
Vicks vaporub
Any prescribed pain killer tablet (if required)

A doctor check-up before starting the trip is highly recommended too.

Manali 2 Leh – Understanding the body

To read the previous post, click here.

Preparation, planning and choosing the cycle form the pre-stage of cycling in one of the most toughest terrains. During the trip what matters is talking to oneself and keeping the body moving. The body gives lot of signals while riding.
One could fall sick due to altitude or catch a cold due to chillness or feel short of breath due to less oxygen content in the air or sleep disturbance due to altitude. There could also be fatigue due to physical exertion when cycling and also leading to fall in mental strength.
It is very difficult to realize the dip in the mental strength. And it is not easy to catch this signal unless one is conditioned to this regularly.
The biggest issue due to physical and mental fatigue is frustration and irritation and the tendency to lose control and lose temper. This could also be attributed to the altitude.

Another thing is regulating the intake of drinking water. While not properly being hydrated is an issue (which occurs with me most often) excess drinking of water is also an issue. Since I have not yet been able to regulate the intake of water am unable to comment much on what is excess and what is not. Once body gets dehydrated the symptoms are many in terms of salt deposit on face, color of urine.

Where the mental strength plays a part is when you feel really down physically. To give an instance we were climbing up towards Tanglang La from Tso Kar. Every day during the trip our routine was with a ginger tea and some food and in the night pulses (daal) and rice along with chappatis. This had been producing lot of gas inside my stomach. During the ride up towards Tanglang La everything started showing its effect and impact.
Certain kms before the peak my stomach started growling so much that I pooped out after dropping the cycle to one side and finding some rocks on the other. It was not just that, I started to vomit and lot of gas went out. Physically I was getting drained due to loss of body fluids. My mind started playing games and I was contemplating of putting the cycle in support vehicle and just get over with it. Mentally though I was not ready for it. There was huge conflict within my mind whether to stop and hop on or to continue pedaling.
When my one side of brain I had completely taken control I was all set to put the cycle in the vehicle and relax, just then I saw the board Tanglang La 10kms. My eyes popped out, optimistic side of my brain took control. My mind said cycle for 2kms and instead of stopping for 20secs which I was doing while climbing up Gata Loops, I walked for 20-30secs. That way I got breather and also did not lose the momentum and muscles also would not relax. Mentally I kept counting the kms and finally there I was at the peak with my cycle and not sitting inside the vehicle!

Proper diet is also important for the body to function well. Luxury is not possible but what is possible need to be good.

When there are symptoms of body not responding fuck the ego and take a break. While the earlier and current line could be contradicting, this is possible only with sufficient mental strength. Like in my first post more than physical strength, mental toughness is required.

Lastly and most important, don’t abuse the body. Stay away from alcohol and smokes during the ride and well before the beginning of the ride.
Ride from Manali to Leh or anywhere in the Himalayas is not a race. Enjoy the journey and complete it.

Manali 2 Leh: Preparation & planning for cycling

For first part of the series on Manali 2 Leh, click here.

The easiest way for such long trip is to join a group and cycle along with them. There are organisations like “Cycling and More“, “Himalayan Caravan“… Its a safe bet, one need not even take personal cycles. Reach Manali by your own transport and rest everything is taken care. Taken care includes: cycle, back-up vehicles, support vehicles, pitching tent, finding places for camping, food and at times even provide beer! 🙂 Everything comes with a cost.
The cost maybe higher or less if you organize everything by yourself. This is if you do not want to do a self supported trip but a self organized trip where you have a back-up vehicle tugging along. This is exactly what we did.

Even before I go into the details, first and foremost is always the uncertainty whether all those who said they would be in the trip would actually make it. Leaving this decision pending till the last minute adds more tension than anything else. When you travel with organized groups it does not matter if one drops out, it would not affect your planning or the cost of the trip.

Second is to find a person who is going to drive along for the next 9 – 12 days that one would take to reach Leh. Check with your contacts, ring up every leads and find that one person and appropriate vehicle and work out the cost. The cost is always less for a pick-up truck as compared to a Tempo Traveler. If more than 4 in the group it is better to go for a tempo traveler. Why so? Cycles are packed in boxes and sent to nearest airport. Its better to retain the boxes till end of the trip. Otherwise travel by airlines who would wrap it up and put it as check-in luggage.
We had sent our cycles by Air India cargo for a very decent fare from Bangalore to New Delhi. And from New Delhi took the cycle by bus to Manali.
The boxes were with us till end of the trip put inside the tempo traveler. Our driver was Ravi who came from Kulu.


The next part is to find a cook and our cook was Raju who came through India Hikes. Its better to have a helper along with the cook.





During the ride by evening when you plan to camp always look for a place which has abundance water and calm surroundings.








It is very important that the cyclists meet regularly and have status updates and split tasks between each. Rather than one person doing everything and not to wait till the last minute to get confirmations. WhatsApp did come handy in creating a group and having quick conversations when we could not meet in person.

Important also is, DO NOT land in Manali on a sunday for a trip which is self organized. The shops would not be open to buy all the groceries and kitchen items. We lost a day because of that.

Find a cycle dealer who can pack the cycles and also provide with spares. Decathlon is a good place to pick up spares and cycling shorts, jersey, gloves. Rakesh from RR Cycles was very helpful in providing me with spares for cycle and also packing all our cycles.

Learn the mechanics of the cycle! With no mechanic tugging along in the trip you should be able to service your cycle with some support from others.

August is a good month for cycling where the fluctuations in weather conditions may be minimal.

It is good to stay away from alcohol and smokes from well before the trip and also during the trip.

Do regular practice rides of longer distances and riding up the hills. Some amount of off-roading is also good to get your back conditioned.
Stretching exercises and regular exercises help a lot. This is where stretches and exercises given by Dr. Gladson of Attitude Prime helped.

The list of items we took along with us:
1. Oxygen cylinder for emergency
2. Tents and sleeping bags and mata. Kitchen tent.
3. Groceries for cooking. Includes: wheat flour, pulses, soup packets, tea powder, ginger, garlic, vegetables, kerosene, cooking oil…
4. Utensils for cooking and stove…
5. Medicines for emergency situation like HAPE or HACE, for high altitude illness emergencies/ First aid kit and regular medicines for individuals.
6. Chocolates, biscuits, glucose.
7. Spares for cycles which included tyre, tubes, brake pads, cables, spokes.
8. Sipper bottles for drinking water/glucose/electral/gatorade is better than carrying water bottle.
9. Cycle helmets are mandatory.
10. Since we cross high altitude peaks it is better to keep wind-sheeter or jackets handy at all times. I had my jacket tied to cycle using a velcro.








With all the preparation and planning anything can happen during the trip. There would be some who would be lucky not to use any cycle spares and there would be situation like this also.


Manali 2 Leh: Is it about the cycle

Now that I have successfully completed the trip I can talk a lot about the cycle. Cycling from Manali to Leh crossing different peaks at different altitudes with varying terrains is definitely not easy by any stretch of imagination. A high end cycle with better gear ratio would definitely be good bet to cycle on this route and especially one with suspension, disc brakes are definitely a bonus in the terrain.

There are two stretches in the entire route which was really a “pain in the ass”. I cannot though assure that the roads in other stretches would be better next year from what it was this year. In those regions nothing can be predicted and it is always better to be prepared for the worst.

First was downhill stretch from Rohtang La to Koksar. The roads were so bad that I went claiming it to be “cock-sucker”. The second was uphill from Tso Kar towards Tanglang La. Tanglang La is the highest peak in the route from Manali to Leh.

I rode a simple cycle “Hero Thunder Racer” and I can now bet on this cycle any time. The only change I made prior to this trip was to change the tyre to the one used in Hercules ACT 110. The brakes I changed from road bike one’s to a hybrid one. The gear ratio which comes with the cycle is 3 in the front and 5 in the rear, I did not change this gear set. The handle bar positioned as a racer model, again no change to a flat handle bar. Lastly, what is so special about Hero Thunder Racer? It is pure Aluminium cycle and manufactured by Hero Cycles.



During the ride and till we reached Leh there were absolutely no issues with the cycle. No derailleur breakdown, no puncture, no cut cables, no damage to the break and no damage to the rim. It was very much possible riding on those kind of rocks and gravel that there could have been any damage to the rim, thankfully nothing. Yes couple of times in loose sand the cycle did skid but then it was easy to get down and push through.

The icing on the cake was when group of riders from other countries actually could not suppress their surprise seeing me ride Hero Thunder Racer. I believe that it is very important that people realize the potential of cycles manufactured by Hero Cycles or BSA. Their cycles also do deliver.

In this trip the cycle was just about say 30% rest was being fit mentally and physically. I definitely was not 100% physically fit going into the trip. My mental strength pulled me through. Not being 100% physically fit did have an impact since at every steep climb like Gata Loops I followed a strategy of 20secs break for every 2kms of climb.

Not one day did I had complaint of pain in the butt or thighs due to extra strain. Stretching exercises did help ease out that pain, though somewhere in-between I stopped doing stretches but other work of setting up tent and stuff helped in easing the muscles out.

One thing that I could say for anyone planning to cycle from Manali to Leh is, do not worry about the cycle, be confident and be fit.

If I do this route again in future it would be on same cycle only! 🙂