Sharing some Himalaya touring experiences

Just wanna share a thing or two I learnt from this Himalaya tour. This is more toward adventure touring, especially for rough terrain and lots of high altitute climbs, so some of the points maybe contradict with normal long haul touring, you need to find your own balance.

– weight is an important factor. I carry too much weight, it makes the ride tougher than it should. Some of the things I will not carry next time;

water filter, water is free and readily available on every chai (tea) shop or restaurant. Just get yourself adjusted to the local water before heading into the mountains.

Boots, if you’re not planning to do trekking, leave your heavy boots at home, get a light sport shoe, preferably have some kinda waterproof function, cause you will cross many nalah or small river along the way, especially in Spiti valley. Don’t use those shoe with lots of ventilation holes, it will get cold on high area. A pair of waterproof shocks would be a good match.

Winter clothes, I over estimated the cold, carry too many warm clothes. As far as Aug~Sep during my ride, the coldest temperature was never drop below zero. Most of the colder day I just wear a t-shirt inside and a fleece outside and a short (convertable) pants. At night time, just add a down jacket will do. Since you will not have many chances to take bath, so just 2 set of clothes for changing should be fine, weather is very dry and windy on high area, so some quick dry fabrics shirts should allow you to do some same day washing. (I don’t bother, I had 7 days no bath during Leh-Manali, the dry humidity won’t make it uncomfortable, only your skin salty like ikan masin :D). I carry 2 thermal baselayer which I never use, throw away is too sakit hati, keep it, it weight a few hundred grams dead weight.

Sleeping bag, no, you gonna need that, but what I mean is I took the over rated sleeping bag for this tour, my down sleeping bag rated for -20℃, which is a bit overkill. I should hv bring the smaller synthetic 0℃ sleeping bag instead. In fact, sleeping bag was one of the most used equipment on this tour, get a good quality one.

Water bag, although it doesn’t weight amything, I never use it.

Jacket, I think that a windbreaker+fleece combi should work better than normal jacket alas the north face type. It won’t cut wind or shield rains better than a windbreaker but weight and bulky as twise. My weakest defense was the rainproof gears, only rely on a semi disintegrated old north face jacket to protect me from icy cold rain. Need to improves this layer next time.

Tent, (include sleeping mat) you don’t hv to worry about sleeping along srinagar-leh, there are guesthouse in every town. The leh-manali also have plenty of parachute tent, but on this section, you need to be extra careful on your daily travel distance planning, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. If you plan carefully and exucute it right, you won’t need to carry tent. (Unless you’re fanatic camper lah, those are another story). Room are usually Rs200~300 for double room, there’s very very few single room, for parachute tent, almost all standard price Rs100 per bed. I used my usual “pity cyclist from far far away” tricks sometimes can get Rs80 per bed 😉

Cooking kit, no camp, no cooking, simple as that. The tent and stove kit already cut some 3~5kg off, pretty significant weight saving. There are many food points on the road, you’ll never feel hungry. Taste is another issue, some good, some taste like dog food, but mostly are chapati, dhal rice, omelete, fry rice, chowmien (fry noddle), thukpa (noodles in veg soup), the serving portion usually is quite big for Malaysian standard. Cost about Rs50~70 per meal. 100g biscuit cost Rs10, the best energy suppliment for the day 😀

– what I like to add in my pannier is a solar power solution, electricity is very unreliable in himalaya. If u only carry a stone aged Nokia BrickPhone, you’ll be fine but anything else, especially GPS or smartphone, you better hv a solar solution. Don’t waste time of el-cheapo pasar road solar panel, it takes ages to charge (bear in mind sun light in mountains is shorter than normal places). Fork out the money get a good mono-crystalize panel with a battery bank. Oh~~ don’t be so happy if you just bought the greatest SON dyno hub, with your 5~10km/h cranking uphill, it won’t generate a bit of charge, what’s worst is that, your supposely fun downhill only last 10 minutes, still not enough to charge your iPhone5678 😛

– ok, on the bike perspective, this would get a bit controversial, this is my opinions, I’m not interested in getting into X Vs. Y or my balls is bigger than yours kinda nonsense, you take what’s good for yourself.

Drop bar, I think drop bar is good for most road but not for the himalaya, definately not for Spiti valley. There are 2 issues here; the shorter bar width makes the navigation and balance control on loose pebbles road very tough and sometimes, dangerous. The drop bar brake lever design also makes the braking less efficient, I’m not talking about V brake Vs. Canti brake here, I’m refering to the way you squeeze your brake. The vertical squeezing on drop bar often not suitable for steep downhill on bad road, it is also not suitable for long downhill where you constantly have to pump the brake, all my fingers were very painful after almost constant squeezing when flying down Taglang La’s nearly 30km sh*t road. When flying down the Gata loop (21 switchbacks and a altitute gap of 400m), I need to bend down (on my left shoulder) to reach the lower tip of my front brake for more braking power and yet maintain a normal position on my right shoulder for rear brake and navigation. Why not reach down on both hand?? Good question, cause when you bend down both hand to grab the lower brake tip, you lost the control-ability to negotiate the sh*tty bad road. At least I don’t know how to do it without getting myself kill, maybe some Guru can teach a bit here. Some more very often I need to “stand up” abit and move my butt to the rear (like horse racing posture) to allow the bike to flex and absorb the excessive vibration, in this posture, it is not possible for me to reach down to get more braking power, so I have to squeeze harder with normal hand position, which makes things going worst spiral.
I was cursing Jordi when I saw him only braking with his two finger with effortless ease 😀

A suspension, this will help alot to flattern the bad road. Jordi always goes downhill faster than me, cause his suspension allow him to maintain relatively high speed while I hv to slow down to snail speed, so that it won’t create too much impact force on the wheel. Preferably one with lockable switch, you won’t want to waste every drop of energy you deliver to your pedal when you go uphill 🙂

22x34T gear, although my 26×34 improves a lots compare to previous 26×34 (that 2 tooths really speak a lots :-), it still not enough for the steep La. Everytime when I was cranking hard on granny gear, I saw Jordi still can crank quite effortlessly on his 22T, often still can have a gear or two in reserved.

Chain lube, I bing the wrong lube, the finishline wet (green), the weather on high area are very dry and dusty, should hv bring the red one.

On tyre, like I said before, I never seen a tyre took sooo much beating and torturing and yet perform like NoSweat. It rode thru hot steamy newly paved asphalt, thru the UltimateBadRoad, thru icy cold glacier river, you name it. I think it can still in service for another 5000km. Amazing Marathon. I only use my air pump twise, one in railway station when I put together my bike and two, borrow it to a punctured tourist van to pump his tyre 😀

That’s all I have for now, opinions and feedbacks are welcome, troller looking to start a flame war go to hell (∩_∩)

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