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2 Months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Red liner, May 14, 2021.

  1. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    984
    We started with BIG plans...​

    PXL_20210324_084040610.MP.jpg

    And we ended with none

    PXL_20210413_033907523.PORTRAIT.jpg
    This report is a journey of two blokes on their motorcycles, traipsing across the far eastern Himalayas bordering India, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. The holy jewels of the High Himalayas. Mr Xi likes holy jewels.

    Screenshot 2021-05-15 at 9.26.00 AM.png
    The ride began in early March 2021, right when the Covid 19 cases were ebbing in the Asian sub continent of India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Nepal had just opened its borders to tourists, and of course every bazaar in India had a billion people jostling for space.​

    This ride was about 2 weeks in the making. You read that right. Everyone has different ways about going on a trip of this sorts. Some quietly start planning for years to come. Some start reading every little blog on the planet, watching every single video out there. Many will probably start a WhatsApp group with their pals titled "Himalayan Expedition Trip - who's in!" which will probably degenerate into forwards and porn though begun with the right intentions.

    Riding (NOT flying) into the Himalayas is not a very simple thing to do. For starters, there are only 2 viable seasons to head there. You're either in at the start of the season, just after the snow starts melting and the high passes are cleared. That's between March and May. Or you're up there between Oct and Nov. At all other times, it's either pouring rain and landslides or 10 foot of snow at 14000 feet. Both not fun for a travel motorcyclist.

    The whole of 2020 was a dead a year for every human on the planet. We had missed the Oct 2020 window. Cases were ebbing. 2nd week of February, I ring my friend and ask him

    Hey bud, I feel like riding out.
    Where to?
    How about the Eastern Himalayas? Arunachal Pradesh? Indo-Tibetan borders.
    Am in. I've been wanting to go there myself
    Alright, I'll start planning. 30 days?
    Sure, I can extend longer. I just quit my job.
    Ooookay. Looks like Sikkim is just around the corner. 45 days and we spend time in Sikkim too?
    Sure thing.
    Okay, talk soon.

    And so, we begin. With less than 2 weeks to go before we get on our motorcycles and start our engines.

    Who's in?
    #1
  2. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Oddometer:
    750
    Location:
    Las Vegas Nevada
    In
    #2
    Red liner likes this.
  3. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    984
    An Epilogue or a Prologue?

    It's funny how I'm sitting here ensconced inside 4 walls "suffering" a nationwide lockdown. Again. It's the only thing that got me to start this report. These past 70 days were a whirlwind of sorts. Every day was spent methodically waking up at a certain time, getting through the bathroom chores, coffee - if we're really lucky, getting into our riding gear and off we go down a road or trail we've never been before - and likely never will be on again.

    The day I got back "home" was at 3 am in the morning. I say "home" in quotes, because what is home anyway? Is it the 4 walls that surround us? Reminding us of the safe cozy comfort zone we've built around ourselves. It feels permanent. The bed smells like me. Home.

    But how many "homes" have you had since you were born? If they were all homes, were they permanent in any way? Every couple of years, maybe you had a new "home". A new comfort zone that replaced the earlier one.

    Maybe Home is just an abstract concept. But that scares a lot of people. You see, most people want to feel and touch. They don't like abstract concepts. Its too difficult to comprehend. But maybe home is what you carry with you. Your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions, your belief systems, your hates, your likes, your girl friends or boy friends - past and present, your safe little zone inside you can run away to when things get too difficult.

    So what do we really mean when we say we've "left home" to explore? Leaving 4 walls is okay, but have we really "left our home"? Have we really cast aside our baggage to truly explore, experience, and enjoy everything the world has to offer without prejudices, likes, and dislikes? Are we truly open to letting go of what we have, so we have space for what could come?

    Longer travel brings about a sense of impermanence. The bed you sleep on tonight, you will never sleep on it again. The pretty girl you saw by the cafe as you rode past was just that very moment in time. The old woman who called you into her home when it was hailing outside and offered you a hot cup of tea for nothing in return except conversation. Or the boy monk in training who offered to take you around to all the buddhist monasteries in his village. Chance encounters. Or something more?

    As Kafka said, its Chance Encounters that keep us going. Kafka Tamura. Not the Franz guy.

    The day I got back home was at 3 am in the morning. I hardly slept. By the afternoon, I was getting restless, worked up even. I was supposed to be on my bike. Tackling gnarly trails with no food in my gut other than black coffee from the morning. What the hell am I doing here in bed? Psycho spiritually, I was still riding somewhere far in the distant Himalayas. Cold, starving, tired, dirty. But happy.

    Happy not knowing when the next meal would come.
    Happy not knowing if there was a bed somewhere tonight.
    Happy not knowing what way the weather would turn in half hour.
    Happy not knowing what my next chance encounter would be.

    Happy not knowing.
    #3
    RacingBlue, jonz, bjor1978 and 11 others like this.
  4. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    Mar 28, 2020
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    179
    Location:
    Christmas Island
    Very wise reflections, will be following :clap
    #4
    Red liner likes this.
  5. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    984
    Bike Prep

    Screenshot_20210208-105615~2.jpg
    Now that I've got your attention, and with just 2 weeks to go - we had things going on multiple tracks. Actually just two things. Bike Prep and the Mastah plan. Which was gonna go to the dogs 5 days into the trip.

    In regards to bike prep, there wasn't too much for me to do. My KTM 390 Adventure was a new model launch, and it was just a year and 10,000 kms old. That had given me just enough time to understand the bike well without putting her through much abuse. All those 2020 level 1 Covid lockdowns helped warm the couch at home as opposed to the motorcycle seat. Here's everything I did on the bike leading up to the trip. Sometimes pictures are more oblivious than words so I'll shut it where am not needed.

    1. Tall windscreen - Carbon Racing
    I had about 5000 odd kms of highway/freeway riding to get to the Himalayas. No way the stock short windscreen is gonna be of any help.
    PXL_20210207_103550541.PORTRAIT.jpg

    2. Headlight Yellow Mask from Adventure Conquest
    I also added a yellow mask for the headlight assembly. Three reasons:
    - It changed the light from the white which is absolutely useless in the rain or fog to yellow.
    - Spread the sharp headlight beam out to cover the sides of the road
    - Also acted to protect the headlight from stones kicked up like missiles by 18 wheelers on the freeway.
    PXL_20210108_075652036.PORTRAIT.jpg

    3. Rear rack from Fantasia
    This was a tough one, but after months of agonising search I finally found something that worked for me. This was given to me by a friend in the local 390 Adventure riding club and I will always be thankful to him for it. I needed something that would carry a reasonable load and had multiple points of fixture so it wouldn't give way carrying weight off-road.
    PXL_20210331_093228730.jpg

    4. Auxiliary lights - Hella Value Fit Cubes - Spot
    Reasonably priced and they do the job - for me. Most importantly they eke out just 12w each.
    PXL_20210325_110358506.PORTRAIT.jpg

    5. Auxiliary mounts
    My mechanic who helps me out with everything on the motorcycle managed to jiggy up a set of mounts that worked pretty damn well. I wanted them in a particular location on the bike - the frame that sits between the headlight assembly and the chassis. BDCW has something similar but I couldn't pony up the $$$ + shipping + duty. The lights and mounts went on just 2 days before the trip.
    PXL_20210417_024319547.MP.jpg
    PXL_20210417_024319547.MP copy.jpg

    6. Chain and Sprocket kit
    The KTM 390 Adventure runs 15 front and 45 rear as stock. I found this to be a trifle lethargic in Asian conditions. The first year I got the bike, longer trips were out of the question, so we spent most of our time dual sporting or at least trying to. So I dropped a 14 front and kept the 45 rear. Bike felt sprightly but lost all the top end. Just before the trip, I consulted with my mechanic friend and we decided to drop the 14, go back to 15 in the front. And then drop the 45 and instead go up by one tooth to a 46 in the rear. This worked absolutely perfectly for a mixed adventure trip like this and I will be sticking to this goldilocks set up.

    7. Front brake pads.
    My front brake pads after 10,000 kms were close to bust, so I just added a new pair from KTM. These are all sintered. Kept the older ones as a back up in my kit bag.

    Everything else was stock. Tyres included. Metzeler tourance. I wanted to add a high fender, but just had no time to get around to it. Its on the wishlist.

    At the garage. What we want vs what we get.
    IMG-20200302-WA0003.jpeg

    My mate getting new wheels. Nah, he was getting his actual wheels straightened out.
    PXL_20210208_101904942.jpg

    Still a cow.
    PXL_20210208_101501329.jpg
    #5
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  6. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    984
    Not a patch on your trip mate. You are an inspiration. Someday. Thanks for coming along.
    #6
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  7. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    Here's a video I made talking a bit about the bike prep, whilst riding country trails in the lower Himalayas.

    #7
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  8. snowhawk jockey

    snowhawk jockey Slack Jaw Gaper

    Joined:
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    Location:
    The other Center of the Universe: Bend, Oregon
    THank you for posting up the chapters of your ride! The posts you left for us on the 390 owners thread, during the ride, were a good teaser and I hoped to read more after your return.

    Hoping the best for you and your fellow countrymen and for some relief from the pandemic affects.
    #8
    Red liner likes this.
  9. LC.Kevo

    LC.Kevo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2020
    Oddometer:
    50
    Location:
    Lake Country, BC
    Great report Red Liner, thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Stay well, best wishes.

    Kevo
    #9
    Red liner likes this.
  10. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Oddometer:
    750
    Location:
    Las Vegas Nevada
    Just to be clear, you are running out of Thailand?
    #10
  11. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    984
    India. Thailand is quite far from the Himalayas and crossing overland is only via Burma/Myanmar. And you don't want to be there right now.
    #11
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  12. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    984
    Luggage Pack
    I'll quickly talk about my luggage pack for this trip. I will not go into any great detail at this time, I think it makes more sense to show everything I packed, and what I actually used out of that at the end of this trip report. Then you can be the judge of whether this was minimalist travel or extravagance to the T.

    I did not weight my bags. I figured if I could carry the main bag in one hand up a flight of stairs, am good. Ofcourse, I didn't factor in riding whole days in the rain without grub, and reaching the place only to find I had to climb a little mountain to get to the bed. Oh well. Less is more always.

    The SW Motech Drybag 350 is 35 litres in total. Waterproof. The little tail bag on the right is from Viaterra, and its called a pod. 15 litres.

    PXL_20210511_070128326.MP.jpg

    What's in the SW Motech bag
    PXL_20210511_070220835.MP.jpg
    Left to right
    1. Vitamins + Electronics bag (Chargers, go pro etc)
    2. Walking shoes + Flip-flops
    3. Winter clothes pack + space for trinkets I want to carry back home
    4. Everyday clothes pack
    5. 2.5 litres of Oil
    6. Sleeping bag
    7. Handlebar dry bag which I never used on the bar, but kept a fuel filter safe

    What was in the 15 litre pack
    PXL_20210511_070427161.MP.jpg
    1. Sanitiser
    2. Tools
    3. Wet wipes
    4. Jack to get the rear wheel up
    5. Rain jacket - used almost 50% of the trip.
    6. Rok straps if I needed them.
    6. Missing: Hot coffee flask/water bottle.

    How it all looked on the bike
    IMG_20210313_050518_613.jpg

    45 days turned into about 70-75 days. But as I found out, if what you carry works for 10 days, you can stretch that infinitely longer. I love it.
    #12
  13. HLR4

    HLR4 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2020
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    PH
    what bar ends are those? are they heavy?
    #13
  14. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
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    984
    Those are the Stock bar ends that came with the bike. Seem to do the job.
    #14
  15. HLR4

    HLR4 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2020
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    PH
    thanks! a subtle difference from the PH market version.
    #15
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  16. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
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    2,833
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Outstanding @Red liner, truly. You're writing style is excellent, look forward to following along as the 70 days unfold.
    #16
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  17. Pete Pilot

    Pete Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
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    357
    Location:
    Prince Edward Island. Canada
    I shall also follow along. Enjoying!!! Waiting?
    #17
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  18. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    May 16, 2013
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    I am sorry, i am waiting on my mate to send me pictures of days 1-5 because I didn't take any!
    #18
  19. Pete Pilot

    Pete Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    357
    Location:
    Prince Edward Island. Canada
    Kidding bout the waiting,all in good time. Your video at the start took away my concerns about adding a ktm390 to my garage. Obviously it can go of pavement and behave quite well. Very good riding by the way!!
    #19
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  20. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
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    984
    Getting to the Off-road Destination - Arunachal Pradesh.

    Was a royal pain in the ass. We had to ride right across India, from the South West to the North East. We decided to take the Eastern Corridor which hugs the East Coast of India skirting the Bay of Bengal. Probably the worst decision of our lives, but if it wasn't the worst decision we wouldn't remember much of it now would we?

    So I'll do the next few days detailing all the cardinal mistakes one should never make - which we did in abundance. The saving grace was we made all these mistakes very early in the trip, and hence fixed that shit. So we never made those mistakes again.

    This is the map of the route we took to reach the gateway into Arunachal Pradesh - Bhalukpong.

    Screenshot 2021-05-26 at 10.51.55 AM.png

    3100 kms. Just a little under 2000 miles. Wtf? That's like 2 days if you ride hard and 3 days if you take it easy right?

    Wrong homie. Not in India. In India, you're dodging dogs, cows, crows, storks, ball crushing road humps, suspension swallowing craters, martian dust storms, locals getting driving lessons on the freeway, weather that flips from 40+celsius to pouring rain within an hour, 18 wheeler trucks manned by 16 year old kids because the actual driver's too busy smoking pot...I could go on.

    So we took , let me see, 6 bloody days to get there and cover 3100 kms. And kid you not, we were riding like maniacs every morning from about 5 am until about 5pm or so in the evening. Any earlier or later is asking for trouble. This was our schedule for the riding days between 1 and 6.

    Schedule
    04.00: Wake up Call
    05.00: Depart
    10.00: Drink the coffee we made at the hotel out of our hot flasks. This kept us going.
    14.00: Lunch ONLY because its too fucking hot to ride anymore.
    17.00: Reach destination hotel for the day.
    20.00: Dinner and beer
    22.00: Hit the bed.

    Departures were beautiful for the most part.

    IMG_5053.jpg

    Ofcourse we had many water breaks throughout the day. There is no way you can ride in sweltering early March 40c temperatures in India without water. I think we were going through 7-8 litres of water a day. Every water break was strictly timed, about 5 minutes and not longer. Helmets off, water in, helmets on, go. Pee breaks went with the water breaks. The gas breaks were not breaks, we tanked up and vamoose. Luckily both our motorcycles had great tank range. The Versys 650 has a 21 litre tank and at about 20 kms per litre, was averaging about 350 kms when the reserve light came on. The 390 adventure from KTM on the other hand had only 14.5 litres, but blessed with a good gas economy. About 35 kms to the litre. That meant I was also averaging about 350 kms before needing to visit the gas station.

    Gas Station break
    IMG_5065.jpg

    The other thing that really helped, the both of us didn't really need a breakfast or other such civilised things to keep going throughout the day. We just needed coffee, and we grabbed lunch if the weather was ridiculously hot. This helped us save mega time on roads where we could only average 60 kms per hour and thus about 500-600 kms for the day. I think there were days when we skipped even lunch altogether and just did dinner at the hotel.

    Typical water break somewhere around India.
    IMG_5061.jpg

    We lost a dress size in 6 days.
    #20
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