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Old 09-12-2013, 10:03 PM   #1
nikhuzlan OP
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Himalayas on Enfields ; The Easy Way.

My Himalaya Ride Story.

Our Ride Logo

A Video I made of our 9th Day Ride to Pangong Tso

Himalaya calls me strongly.

But I fear Acute Mountain Sickness. I fear icy cold water crossings. I fear cold mountain nights. I fear crappy bikes breaking down. I fear getting stuck trying to get permits to enter some areas i wanna go. I fear getting Delhi Belly. I fear so many things associated with travel in a strange land.

But I wanna ride Himalayas.

The Quest was to find a way to do it in the Easiest Way possible, but without spending an arm and a leg.

I went through many Himalaya stories in AVF Forum. And the BCM Site. Clicked all the youtube stories. Everything looks hard, harsh and pretty daunting. Bike hunting for rental seems nightmarish, and hit or miss. All the elements I'd like to avoid. But the scenery awaits, the calling louder.

I must GO.

Economies of Scale is one way to get costs down. So I gathered a few of my closest riding buddies ( we did IndoChina together ) and started identifying good Tour Companies that can provide the services and schedules that I have in my head.

I also thought this is a great opportunity for the wives to come along so we arranged for another 4 wheeler to bring the wives along. My wife Gerry wants to occasionally ride pillion and she has plans of riding on her own at some stretches.

I found 10 riders eventually, but due to a dirt bike accident one week before departure, 3 couldn't come while two more dropped out due death in the family.

This is a ride to the roof of the world by biking friends who lives halfway across the world, Malaysia and USA. We will meet at Delhi for our most excellent adventure.

We left kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 17.

Our story follows in the following posts. I have read many well-written reports on the Route I rode on , so will not bother repeating the story again.
I'll just post more pictures instead.

In the meantime, here are some pics;

Our Enfields sitting at 15,000ft, with the big Dipper and millions of stars framing the background.

The Magnificent Pangong Tso

Marmot on the Plains near Chagar Tso

Deserts at 15,000ft

Fine Signs Galore.

My kind of camping

The Narrow Plains of Sarchu

More to come.

nikhuzlan screwed with this post 09-24-2013 at 03:57 AM
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Old 09-12-2013, 10:12 PM   #2
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This is awesome!
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Old 09-12-2013, 11:47 PM   #3
nikhuzlan OP
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We left Kuala Lumpur and flew in the Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 for a 5 hour flight to Delhi. Met a couple of colleagues and I joined them up front.

Gerry, my wife was happy where she was.

We stayed the night at a Hotel near the airport.

A bus picked us up the next morning and dropped us at the Delhi Train Station.

We took a 4 hour train ride to Chandigarh. Riding out of Delhi has never been part of our plan.

We switched to our two support cars at Chandigarh.

After an 8 hour ride on bumpy twisty lorry infested road we arrived at Manualaya Hotel, Manali.

Morning came, and we drew the bedroom curtains to be greeted by this sight.

Our bikes were already in the parking lot by the time we finished breakfast. I insisted on newish bikes, and we found the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra awaiting, fully serviceable and nicely clean. Oldest bike had only 2,900kms on the clock. All were fuel injected, had disc brakes and gear and brake lever on the proper sides. We were pleased.
We also met our Lead Rider, a cool guy from Manali named Khem, and Chotu our mechanic.

Khem, our Ride Guide.

Today we will do just local rides around Kullu Valley, getting familiar with our bikes and setting up our acclimatisation profile at 6,600ft.

Bruce, from Redondo Beach, California. This 70 year old one time Baja winner / many times podium, joined me on last year's Thailand/Laos/Cambodia Ride flew in with his wife Margaret to join this ride.

SP Lee, a fellow Malaysian, came along with Florence, his wife. Behind him is Chris eberz, a Baja nut, friend of Bruce, also came to join the ride. David, a Singaporean, is on the last bike. David has hiked all the way to the South Pole a few years back.

We rode around Kullu valley past one street settlements and lush greenery.

Ganja plants were growing wild by the roadside

The start of a great journey.

We visited Naggar Castle, now turned into a boutique restaurant.

Naggar Castle was built in such a way to withstand the occasional earthquake

Vehicles not registered in the State has to pay 'Green Tax'.

A short ride to the hotel.

We gas up for tomorrow.

We have to do an early start due to the traffic arrangements at Rohtang Pass.

Everything looks excellent so far. We now have 6 bikes, one Road Guide, two cars, one mechanic, two drivers, one Mr. Do-Everything and a Medical Officer. We feel better prepared than Charlie and Ewan when they set out for the Long Way Round.
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Old 09-13-2013, 02:14 AM   #4
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Looks great so far! I'm jealous.
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:53 AM   #5
nikhuzlan OP
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Here's my view about the bike we rode on this trip.

The Royal Enfield 350 Bullet Electra. 2013 Model

First produced in 1955, this bike has been improved through the years making it a more reliable and user friendly machine, but retaining the old school charm that is very British. At 195kg ready to ride, its not exactly a lightweight but the small size and its low seat height makes it a lot easier to handle compared to the equally heavy BMW FF650GS twin especially in challenging terrain. Everything about the bike is rudimentary, nothing is Hi-Tech, and with power from the tractable single cylinder air-cooled motor at just under 20hp, it ambles along rather than rip the tarmac even at full throttle.
The 5 speed gearbox is sweet, although gearchanges needs to be positively made, and the heel - toe shift can be a nuisance for riders not used to operating such set-up. False neutrals can be common, and standing on the pegs can accidentally trigger an unwanted upshift.
The seat is comfortable, almost plush. With under 3 inches of usable suspension travel, the ride can get bumpy but the effect is somewhat lessened by the two equal sized 19inch tyres.
Handling is nicely neutral, but going fast is not something a rider would want to do as the tyres are probably 1970 technology, made for robustness and durability rather than outright grip. The gearchange pedal and rear brakes are on the proper side respectively.

The brakes are 'there', just sufficient to stop the bike, and four finger effort needs to be complemented by foot stomping of the rear brake to really stop hard. Although its a carbie version, there were no evident of fuelling problems on all our 6 bikes, despite riding from 6,000ft to 18,380ft.
The durability of this bike truly amazed me. Riding through stones and potholes with mud all around and through the numerous water crossings, it never missed a beat, nothing dropped off, and it starts with a stab of the button every morning.

At just under USD2,700 in India OTR, it is indeed a bargain although I will not pay anything over RM15K anywhere else in the world.
Having spoken to many local Royal Enfield riders as we rode through the Himalayas, I found the local opinion to be one of endearment for this model, especially for hardcore overlanding. Roadside repairs can be easily done, top end tear-off can be done in 30 minutes, and a full stripdown including gearbox is just 4 hours after the first nut is released to the point the motor is running again.

Fuel economy is pretty good and I suspect the motor will burn anything short of Diesel and motor oil.
As for failures among our bikes, we had a puncture, a few spokes needs replacing, and at Leh, the rear sprocket on Chris' bike needs replacement due to a manufacturing defect. Other than that, nothing broke.
The rarefied air at higher altitudes sapped power from the bikes, but there were no coughing or sputtering felt, but for sure at least 10hp went into hiding leaving the other 9hp to propel the bike. Expect a struggle if riding two up with baggage when above 16,000ft.

Bruce top speed testing at 15,000ft on the More (y) Plains.

At Morey Plains ( 14,555ft ) I went full throttle and it barely broke 80km/h. The fastest I ever hit on the bike was just over 90km/h going downhill from KhardungLa. Speed may not be its ace card, but this bike is guaranteed to get you to the Himalayan destination. For this ride I'd take the Enfield over my GSA. I'd bet even the Sertao will find the going tough on the muddy rock strewn steep hairpins of Rohtang Pass, not to mention the numerous rocky water crossings descending from ChangLa Pass.

The Royal Enfield will have a little parking lot in my motorcycling heart. There's something inexplicably charming about this old motorcycle that could.

However, while i enjoyed riding the Himalayas on the Enfield, my next trip there will be on a proper Enduro bike, preferably a 250 - 400 class bike. I think the Enduros can do the legs in half the time with more comfort and twice the fun.
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Old 09-13-2013, 12:17 PM   #6
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Old 09-13-2013, 01:35 PM   #7
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Wink Im in

Your opening line about the fears echoes my own, look forward to the report. Who was the rental company? Some of the ones I looked at were like 4k for two weeks.
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Old 09-13-2013, 09:48 PM   #8
nikhuzlan OP
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Originally Posted by PDX Alamo View Post
Your opening line about the fears echoes my own, look forward to the report. Who was the rental company? Some of the ones I looked at were like 4k for two weeks.
We organised ours with a Singapore based Company ( Incredible Journeys ) that has a great partnership with an Indian Operator. Incredible Journeys specializes in doing hiking and climbing Tours of the Himalayas and other mountainous regions of the world. Run by David ( walked to the South Pole ) and Edwin ( climbed Everest twice - once without oxygen ) we were actually their first motorcycling tour client. They were great in fulfilling all our request. They provided support crew who were competent and cheerful, almost brand new bikes, great accommodation facilities and a route plan that was realistic and not too taxing.
They even provided us with an experienced Medical Officer.
As a result, no one had any Acute Mountain Sickness, the bikes never broke, we never had to wait for our rooms and food always ready on time.

I can never recommend them highly enough.

Transaction ; ie, payment 30 days before departure was also not worrisome as we were paying to a Singapore Company, hence we feel more secure about recovery of funds should the trip go 'tits up'.

The support team for our ride;

Khem, our excellent Ride Leader

The Support Team, L-R, Gopal and Rajeev ( drivers ) Chotu ( mechanic ) Anil ( Mr Do-Everything ) & Elliot ( our Medic from Singapore )

For about USD 2,900 ( Min 8 riders ) they will provide almost new Enfields, all accomodation, all permits, support car, all fuel, support staff, all food and drinks except alchohol, train tickets, airport transfers, and even flight tickets from Leh back to Delhi. Luggage is sent to and collected from the room. Bikes are checked and washed everyday.

The ride is one way, ie, from Manali to Leh so there is no need to repeat the route just to send the bike home.

It may be a little expensive, but in the Grand scheme of things, we like it better because there were no hidden costs, and absolutely no delay due to poor planning and/or breakdowns.

The only other expenditure were tips ( about USD100) and our flight tickets from and back home.

With this kind of arrangement, we rode light, with no baggage, and only concentrated on having a fun ride.

nikhuzlan screwed with this post 09-16-2013 at 05:26 AM
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:47 PM   #9
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Awesome, thanks for the info ,sounds reasonable. How many days of riding does that include?
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Old 09-14-2013, 11:29 PM   #10
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Himalaya 2013. Day 3. Manali - Marhi - Rohtang Pass ( 13,100ft ) - Kokhsar - Sissu - Tandi - Keylong. 120km distance.

Ladakh, part of the Jammu Kashmir Region in India, means Land of High Passes. For good reason. Lying at the foothills of the Himalayas, it is separated from the rest of India by the Kun Lun Mountains. Its the first mountain range to be crossed from Manali. Called Rohtang Pass ( piles of corpses ) , its not that high at 13,200ft ( Nakeela, Balarachala, Lachalungla, and KhardungLa are all abo
ve 16,000ft ). It is, however, the most treacherous as its the rainshadow barrier of the monsoon, and can have sudden change of weather from dry to blizzard in just a few hours. This has been known to kill many in caravan convoys of past years. At peak season the road can be very congested due to large number of vehicles, made worse by frequent landslides.
Between November and April Ladakh is snowbound, and the Rohtang Pass is closed, the snow too deep to plough through. Everytown from Keylong to Leh is cut-off. All necessities needs to be transported before road closure. The Indian Army needs to move supplies to the various Camps in this volatile region.
We saw a number of convoys making their way up and down the passes.

Marhi Dhaba at 10,500ft, a concentration of makeshift tea and snackshops 40km from Manali.

We left our Manali Hotel early, as we need to comply with the Route schedule set by the Police there. We want to avoid the noon traffic.
It rained just as we woke for breakfast, but thankfully the weather cleared as we rode off.

Something made by Chris' girlfriend before he left Santa Barbara.

Cars all loaded up.

Off we go

Roads were wet from the rain

Didn't take long for the road to live up to its reputation

Khem with Bruce behind


SP Lee

Traffic was light, just the occasional trucks passing by

We saw a convoy of Indian Army trucks, probably with supplies for the next 7 snowbound months.

Traffic Jam due to narrow roads

Marhi Dhaba at 10,500ft

Our two support vans below

The Army Convoy regrouping. They were very good drivers, always giving way to us when the road allows it. In fact, apart from the errant few,
most drivers on this route are pretty considerate, unlike the experience in the lowlands.

One of the easier muddy stretch

We regrouped just 3km from Rohtang Pass.

The small stupa that marks the Pass.

Just after passing Rohtang the road starts descending. There was an immediate change in the weather from the initial gloom
we saw the sun peek out of the clouds, bringing blue skies along with it.

The roads however deteriorated, with mud being churned up by passing vehicles made worse by the night rain.
I was smiling thinking how I would have fared if I brought my BMW R1200 GSA 'truck' here.

On our unloaded Enfields going through this was really easy and fun.

A short rest at 11,500ft, awaiting the landslide to be cleared.

For Enfield Lovers

After another 15 minutes we reach Kokhsar, a concentration of Dhaba surrounding the Military checkpoint. We stopped for tea there.

I crossed paths with Phil and Brett, who were riding the region together, but doing an even longer loop.

After Koksar the road got a lot better, with great tarmac that will make even a sportsbike rider dance with joy.
The occasional gravel was dry and dusty, instead of wet and muddy.

A glacier near Sissu

Road got dusty from Tandi to Keylong.

Entering Keylong.

They seem to be taking the Cleanliness mesage a little more seriously here.

Bike Parking

Tashi Daleg Hotel where we put up the night

Chotu immediately got to work checking and washing the bikes.

Evidently Phil got here before me with Som.....

The view from the room. Midway towards the right of the photo the Khardang Monestary can be seen with its yellow roof.

Meal's always ready for us.

NOTE: Arty Farty photos of Monks, Temples, Local People, Children, ( I'm not good there ) will follow after the ride story.

Video Diary of Day 1 - Day 3, Delhi - Chandigarh - Manali - Rohtang Pass - Keylong.

nikhuzlan screwed with this post 09-24-2013 at 03:58 AM
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Old 09-15-2013, 03:17 AM   #11
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Good job, that's amazing scenery!
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Old 09-15-2013, 03:26 AM   #12
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Old 09-15-2013, 09:45 AM   #13
nikhuzlan OP
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A Video of Days 1 to Day 3.
Delhi - Chandigarh - Manali - Keylong.

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Old 09-15-2013, 09:02 PM   #14
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What a superbly planned and executed expedition! A friend and I rode around South India on a pre unit Bullet in the early 90's but this adventure is at a whole other level. I enjoyed your SE Asia journey and this one is even better. Thanks for posting.
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Old 09-16-2013, 04:06 AM   #15
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Amazing write up mate. Your photography of the region is stunning

I just did Leh too but I went from definitely had the bigger challenge

But I was solo so no pics of me riding :(

Looking forward to the rest
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