[Updated on 14 Sep 2012 in Manali]
– Make sure you drink as much Indian pipe water in the early days (before headed into the big mountain) to get your stomach adjusted to the local water. Don’t be afraid to get diarrhoea, if you can drink the local water (most water, a.k.a panni in hindi, in the mountain area are taken straight from the glacier or river source),you will save lots of bottle water money as well as keep your water filter at home, saves you another 500g of weight. After leaving Srinagar, I seldom use the filter.
– If you intend to cycle Spiti & Kinnaur valley, a straight bar and suspension fork setup will help significantly. Drop bar are great on most road but not the ultimate bad road in Spiti, it was very difficult to navigate and control your balance with drop bar in sh*t road.
– When cycling in Spiti valley, put your slipper in a easy access location, there are countless of nalah (small river run across the road) on the way. Some easy crossing, some with knee deep strong current. Make sure your panniers are waterproof too.
– Organize your stuffs in logical functional way, e.g. sleeping bag and air pillow in one pannier. Many times when I stay in parachute tent, I just need to unmount my “sleeping pannier”, the rest of the panniers remain on the bike, make life easier. Don’t be so fussy about weight distribution balance, if your bike didn’t shimmey, you’re ok.
– Indian food in the mountains are pretty boring and simple, bring a bottle of multi-vitamis should keep your body in good state.
– It was well known that unless you’re confident, do not eat meat in the low altitute area, eat vegetarian instead. You don’t know how they store the meat. High altitute usually colder, hence the meat may preserved better. If in doubt, go vegetarian.
– Electricity shortage is a real problem in India, especially in Himalayas area. If you have lots of gadgets, it is recommend to bring a high efficiency solar charging solution (avoid el-cheapo pasar road solar panel or those palm size panel, it took ages to charge). A better solution would be the solar panel charge into a battery bank, then later charge to your devices.
– If you are not a big fan of camping, consider keep your camping kit and cooking kit at home, that would save you a few kg. This will make your climbing on those “La” easier. There are many guesthouse (srinagar-leh section) and parachute tent (leh-manali section) along the main road, just plan your daily stop carefully. Spiti and Kinnaur valley, a tent is almost a must, not that there were lack guesthouses but the road is so bad, you need an insurance if you can’t make it to any town, you need to camp.
– For prepaid 3G telco, Vodapone suck, get BSNL instead. Tho within Jammu and Kashmir, none working 😦
– go get a 22T x 34T or lower gear, my 24×34 improves a lots but still not enough for some La.
– Bring chain lubricant for dry setup, most of the condition are very dry, maybe except the road after Darcha to Manali section, which is lower altitute and more rains.
– During my ride, morning usually no wind, but by noon time the wind will pick up strength, for srinagar toward leh, mostly tailwind, for leh toward manali, mostly headwind. The headwind after exit Sarchu town was so strong that I need to crank in granny gear for 5~6km/h on flat asphalt, so plan your daily route with headwind in mind. That day, from Sarchu to Bharatpur was one of the toughest day in my tour, 6 hours (cycling time) headwind just covered 50km distance. IMHO, headwind is more damaging to my mental strength than hot sun or rain, it is very demoralized when you trying hard to “push thru” the invisible wall in front of you.
As I completed the first segment of my Indian Himalaya tour, I thought it might be a good idea to put down some of the things I learnt from this tour. It does not organize in any particular order or priority (at least not until I come back home to have time to clean it up).
This is also a live document, so, do come back once a while to get more tips 😀
– AirAsia may refuse bike & panniers check-in without wrap. I think the RM8 for the strapping and RM10 for panniers wrapping is worth every cent. Just make sure the pannier’s hook does not face out, the wrapping guy doesn’t care, you gotta tell him, else you risks damaging the hooks in transit.
– I find that the LX RD (SGS I suppose) is behave very similar to my previous XT-771, it shift smooth & crispy, doesn’t makes horrible metal hiting noise like the XT Shadow.
– the yellow taxi in Kolkata can barely fit in a 55.5″x8″x31″ box in the rear seat. Make sure your fork position correctly, else when “compressed” in the taxi, it may bend the fork. The lowest illegal taxi I negotiated was Rs700, you should budget in that as well.
– you need to buy a luggage car booking before boarding the train, otherwise they won’t allow you to load your bike in luggage car. If some reason you need to load it to pessenger car, find the end (of your train car) that have the instrument panel (with lights & switches), lean yr box on the unused door. It is not possible to store it under your berth seat, there’s simply no space for it. Mines was AC2-Tier class train.
– If take train from Kolkata to New Delhi, buy the seat on the right (facing train moving direction), it’s more spacious and hv a power outlet for phone charging. It also less direct sun light.
– bring a disposable bike stand, this is very helpful when you setup your bike on the train platform. Use it to exchange for an Indian bike bell or a spare tyre/tube 😀
– If you never intent to cycle the northern himalaya, download yr map in google map instead of google terrain (with topo), the map gives you more details. E.g. in Punjab, can use it to locate the nearest Dharamsala or Gurdwara.
– If u use topeak modula cage XL, packed 1 or 2 empty 1.25L coke bottle in the box, coz the common size for indian is 1L & 2L. 1.25L or 1.5L is not as common.
– the Ikea shopping bag is very versatile yet packed down to almost nothing, recommended.
– every petrol station have a cold water station, you can cool off & refill for free. If u worry on hygiene, peek at the back, some got UV or some form of filtration. So far i hv no problem with indian water.
– many 24hrs petrol station hv a room or bed for the staff, since most of them want to sleep outside (cooler), u can ask nicely if they can let u sleep there. Only for summer.
– bicycle repair shop is pretty common in big or small town, u may consider leave some of the spare at home. The air pumping also free.
– the hot temperature will melt yr chain lubricant, causing the chain very dust magnet. Try apply some lube less prone to melting.
– indian road full of cow dung, when raining, it mixed with rain water & get stir up, good luck if u don’t hv fender 😀