Poll - Best bike for Leh / Ladakh??

Discussion in 'Asia Pacific' started by Yamahuh, Jan 10, 2012.

?

What is the best bike for Leh - Ladakh??

  1. Royal Enfield 350 Electra UCE 5 speed

  2. Royal Enfield 500 Machismo

  3. Some other RE (state in your post)

  4. Bajaj Pulsar 220

Multiple votes are allowed.
Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    OK guys - I'm getting so much divergent information about which bike is best for Leh/Ladakh that I'm going to try and post a poll - also hoping that any information gathered here might help out future members (or current ones) trying to sift through all the different opinions...

    I've heard - in no particular order - that REs are the worst bikes to take because they break down so much / they are the best bikes to take because although they break down a lot there is always someone who can fix them / the Bajaj Pulsar is the best bike because they are very reliable / it might be difficult to find someone to fix the Pulsar if it DOES break down - especially in the high mountains / Avoid the Hero Honda Karizma because of the weak clutch / the HHK is a decent option / the UCE engine is more reliable than the old cast iron lump and the new right brake and left shift bikes are a LOT more reliable/ the 350 is better than the 500 / the 500 is better than the 350

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    As stated in previous posts - we will only have 3 weeks and this is our 'trip of a lifetime' so we really want to minimize the chance of unexpected delays and mechanical hassles. That being said we would love to do the trip on REs if we can be reasonably assured that the bikes will be able.

    Rental rates for RE or Pulsar are not that much different so cost isn't really a factor.

    So what do you suggest?

    If you have rented from anywhere in Delhi PLEASE tell me where and what your experiences were with the bike and rental service. Right now the places we are considering are Stonehead bikes (Pulsar and RE) BullettWallas (RE) Tony Bullett Centre (RE) and further choices include what size of bike to rent. With the Pulsar we will be going with the 220 non F.I but the RE we are thinking UCE 350 Electra 5s or would we be better on the 500 Machismo? Also bare in mind that we will be carrying gear and so will require luggage racks or some way of strapping our gear to the bike.

    Thanks all.

    Yam
    #1
  2. glasswave

    glasswave Been here awhile

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    It depends. If you will be 2 up get the enfield 500. If you plan to carry a lot of gear get the re 5. I've ridden a Pulsar 180 and they are fun little bikes much more fun than and enfield. They are way way lighter. Re's are neat kinda like an old indian or harley is neat. Racks & such are readily available for Enfield. I'm not sure about the pulsars. I am not sure how you'll carry extra gas on the Pulsars. I don't know the current situation for gas.

    If I had 3 weeks and was prepared to go super light a pulsar would be more fun. Everybody that's doing it is on enfields. You'll get more feedback in the asia forum.

    3 weeks is very little time for this mysterious land.\

    good luck
    #2
  3. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Isn't THIS the Asia forum??
    #3
  4. glasswave

    glasswave Been here awhile

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    #4
  5. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    I spent 4 months in Kashmir and Ladakh this past summer. I did my trip on Honda Karizma 220cc bike.

    Here is the low down:

    -RE are bad because most RE considered are the old, poorly maintained clunkers. But if you get the new design, with Fuel Injection/etc, it will be a great bike - perhaps the best bike - to do the trip on. Considering they cost about $5K, they will be expensive to rent and hard to find. But I think it is important to make this distinction between the junky old REs and the new and improved REs. They are not all the same.

    -HH Karizma is not a good bike because of crappy clutch plates. I burned them out twice and it is super easy to do so. It made me hesitant in some remote places, taking away from the fun.

    -It is not true that Pulsars will be harder to fix on the road than RE. In fact, you will see more of them on the roads than REs. REs - even in India - are considered more city/poser bikes with poor fuel efficiency and not that many people have them because they are not considered practical bikes. In all the bigger Northern cities, you will see a lot more Pulsars, Bajajs, etc than you will see Enfields.

    -All the shops that can fix RE can also work on Pulsars/Karizmas, etc. Part availability could be an issue... but even for my rare HH Karizma, I found brake pads in Keylong, etc. Part availability is a problem everywhere - for ALL bikes - because the 'shops' that are in this region are all tiny operators that have few parts for anything.

    -At the same time, when you are out of Srinigar, Leh, Manali, Kargil, do not expect to find even little shops of mediocre quality. They will not be able to fix your bike, or any bike, if something noteworthy brakes.

    ****

    In summary, if you are riding two up, rent the new RE. (The one with FI that costs $5K)

    If you are not riding two up, rent Pulsar 220 or even Pulsar 180. (The difference between the two is not that noticeable) It's easily the best bang for your buck.

    I have ridden the Pulsar 220 quite a bit. It actually accelerates faster than HH Karizma and has higher top speed. It is also substantially cheaper. The only bad thing about the bike is that going off road, you can hit the under carriage/center stand, but it could be that the suspension was set a bit soft on this particular bike...

    ***

    If you want to read about my trip and issues I ran into, check out my ride report.
    #5
  6. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Hey Witold - When you talk about the RE F.I model are you talking about the 350 cc Electra UCE engine?
    They seem to have pretty good reviews compared to other RE models.

    Woud a rental Pulsar be much of a better bet than a renta RE consideing that they are both rentals - both may not be very well maintained and both may have been punished?

    I rented a scooter in Taiwan yesterday afternoon - probably about 10 years newer than my regular one (I had taken the train south and was trying to get around in a different city) it should have been a joy. What a bag o' shite - poor throttle response, warped discs, idle set too low, so that it stalled at the first set of lights when I braked... good job it was cheap.
    #6
  7. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Just to clarify - we are two guys - we will most definitely NOT be riding two up...
    #7
  8. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    I am specifically referencing the 500 EFI. I've met some people on the road with this bike and it seemed like it did it's job better than my Karizma at higher altitude passes. My Karizma struggled in some places (high altitude/steep). At the same time, if I was going off road - which I did - I would rather have the Karizma.

    Presumably, rental places will be much more inclined to take care of their 5,000 USD investment than some $300 junkers. But then again, this is India, and most of these operators operate by Indian - not Western - standards and values. Most require unreasonably high deposits for their rentals. You always have to be vigilant in testing what you are buying/renting. Best thing to do is to have a lot of leads, but only pay the rent money when you see and inspect the goods.

    Anyway, in Delhi, all the moto stuff is in one neighborhood. So you can go shop to shop and pick the one you feel the most comfortable with. (or the least uncomfortable with... hehehe...)
    #8
  9. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Right now StoneHead is offering the least deposit (10,000 per 350 RE Electra) but BulletWallas is Western owned and I'm wondering if that may be a selling feature for increased maintenance and reliability or not...They are asking 20,000 per bike and all the rental places are essentially the same price for 3 week rental for RE 350 (Stonehead / Tony Bullet / BulletWallas) or Pulsar 220 (Stonehead])
    #9
  10. doniv

    doniv n00b

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    Let me try and make it simple for you. But I know I might just make it more confusing for you since I differ with other opinions already expressed :)

    Any Royal Enfield 350 - Avoid. Too little power to enjoy the mountains.

    Here are the rest of the bikes that you shortlisted, with their pluses and minuses

    RE Machismo 500 LB
    +
    Comfort (depends on quality of shock absorbers, though)
    Good power
    Decent reliability
    Has the RE charm
    Luggage carrying capacity

    -
    Reliability not as good as Karizma / P220

    RE UCE 500
    +
    Comfort (depends on quality of shock absorbers, though)
    Good power
    Has the RE charm
    Luggage carrying capacity

    -
    Low ground clearance (depending on the model)
    Parts not available easily
    Mechanics don't understand the bike well enough
    Reliability still not as good as Karizma / P220

    Karizma
    +
    Good power
    Excellent reliability

    -
    Not-so-good torque for the mountains
    Not as comfortable as the REs
    Commuter bikish - not as charming as the REs

    P220 (non-FI)
    +
    Good power
    Great headlights
    Great reliability

    -
    Riding position
    Commuter bikish - not as charming as the REs

    If you're worried about breakdowns, go with a Karizma. You won't have any issues at all. Regarding the parts, like Witold mentioned, getting parts for any bike in these regions will be a bit of a problem. That said, RE parts for the old style bikes are more readily available.

    If you want to enjoy riding in the mountains and experience the charms of an old-world motorcycle, go with the RE Machismo 500 LB. Do make sure that you give the motorcycle a thorough check before hiring it. The rentals are not always in great shape.

    Shout out if you need anything else.
    #10
  11. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    I really appreciate your very thorough reply doniv :freaky
    #11
  12. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Hey ColdC - sure is nice to hear from someone in support of the RE.
    A couple of questions come to mind:

    1: Was it a rental?
    2: If so where did you rent from?
    3: Of tthe bikes that you saw 'on their last legs' were they all RE or others as well?

    I appreciate that everyone has different opinions regarding which bike is best but I'm also trying to gauge which rental place would have the best prepped bikes which would hopefully provide the least amount of issues.

    Not being too familiar with the RE are there any obvious / easy to detect problems with them. We both know how to spot worn out tyres, chains, sprockets, oil leaks, fork seals, head bearings, swing arm bearings etc... but as far as engine problems go are there any easy to detect issues that we should look out for??

    Cheers Guys
    :freaky
    #12
  13. doniv

    doniv n00b

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    In that case, just go to Lalli Singh. His rentals might be more expensive but the bikes are very well maintained.

    With respect to the engine, for an untrained ear, it would be difficult to spot sounds that are okay vs sounds that are not.

    The RE engines make many different sounds, many of which may sound alarming but are in fact quite normal.

    Basic things to check in the engine would be compression and if there are piston slapping noises. To check the compression, just try standing on the kick lever. An engine with good compression should offer good resistance here. If the kick goes down easily, the compression is not up to the mark. You should need to use the decompression lever most of the time to decompress the engine before kicking it. The electric start on the Machismo 500 is something that can fail at any time, taking the crankcase with it. Most Machismo 500s I've come across have broken electric starters.

    The piston slapping noise will make itself heard when you accelerate a little on a stationary bike. It will be a distinctly different sound from the sound of the tappets.

    This link might help - http://www.60kph.com/interact/guide.htm
    #13
  14. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Great advice ColdC - I've actually contacted Lalli Singh a couple of times but he has yet to reply. Hard to build up correspondence when one party refuses to correspond...:wink:
    #14
  15. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Yeah - quite honestly I can't be arsed extending myself that much to try and contact a guy who may or may not be bothered about doing business with me. So far I have had very speedy and informative reples from Tony Bullet - Stonehead and BulletWallas. Pretty sure we'll be going with one of them - now it's just a question of deciding on a bike ....
    #15
  16. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    Yeah - our wives might not be too happy about that :cry

    Have you heard any comments about BulletWallas now that they have been taken over by a Kiwi couple? I'm kinda hoping that the Western perspective might mean better prepped and more reliable bikes - but I don't know if that's necessarily true. Hard to find reviews of these places online it seems.
    #16
  17. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    When you get there, you will see why. They are all hole-in-the-wall dumps with a couple of bikes surrounding the dump. Websites and reviews are not on top of their priority list.

    Personally, I would rather deal with non-Indian shops. You are much less likely to be tricked, ripped off, and generally be 'on the same page' with Kiwis than with Indians. So yeah, I do think it's a big plus.
    #17
  18. arn

    arn Been here awhile

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    You have another option if you've decided on bullets. It will also save you time. Take the bus to and fro Manali (overnight) and hire from Anu motors at Manali (or, more accurately, Vashist, 3km from Manali). Lots of bullets, various types, at least 5 staff, place to keep luggage, and very importantly, a LOCAL, in a much better position to offer support. As such he knows the place far better than foreigners who live here a small fraction of their lives and think they know it all.

    However, AFAIK, he keeps only bullets, a bike which I would not touch with a barge pole, especially in a place where being stranded due to a malfunction can kill you. Please do note - you will not find a single local using a bullet there, a bike that is looked down because of it's thirst and unreliability.
    #18
  19. glasswave

    glasswave Been here awhile

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    Well, I think that dying from a breakdown is a bit of a stretch. He's not off to Pang Tso, or anywhere super remote. On the Manali Leh Highway there are trucks and jeeps coming by all the time. The Indian people simply will not leave a tourist stranded on a high pass overnight to freeze to death. OTH, I'd bring a nice down jacket (very useful) & a sleeping bag (just in case).


    Again, a bit of an exaggeration. Many local riders in India, and Manali, ride Bullets. They tend to be middle class folks that enjoy over-landing. They like the RE's because they have soul, not because they are practical. In my veiw, they are beautiful bikes that are tough as nails (running gear wise), albiet a fair bit unreliable mechanically. Most of these problems can easily be mitagated by carrying a small parts cache and a few wrenches.

    Kind of like an old Harley, perhaps not very practical, but for some reason very attractive. Furthermore, if you plan to carry a lot of gear, they are they best choice.

    Finally, they can/are very practical for the tourist. Imagine, you can show up in Manali, buy an Enfield off a traveler for $500 cash with no paper work required, find a cute Israeli chick who is sick of the bus, throw her full size pack on one side, yours on the other and take off through the Himal. If only other places were like this!

    My fist RE was $450 for a gorgeous red one that I sold in Leh five weeks later (in a day) for all my expenses, including gas. I still keep in touch with Lior. :wink:
    #19
  20. Yamahuh

    Yamahuh Adventurer

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    sure do appreicate all the different viewpoints guys - not making our decisons any easier but it's good to have more than just the "Avoid RE's like the plague" perspective...

    Keep 'em coming...:freaky
    #20