This is the ultimate cycling challenge with progressively higher passes, stunning Indian Himalyan panoramas fast-paced, white knuckle downhills and diverse culture. Mountain bikes have the edge over any other form of transport for this route and, although the weather is famously unpredictable, we were blessed with blue skies and warming rays above 5000m entire ride. Expertly led and the group more resembled a team by the end with great moments of comraderie ontop of the passes.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Deep into the wilderness on our 7th day of riding, the sense of isolation had really sunk in. The terrain had turned almost lunar and we hadn't come across a soul all day. We carved our way through gorges and snaked down exhilerating trails, whilst mutli-coloured rock towered over. Verging on technical riding, plumes of dust chased each rider as they discovered new untouched lines and the bikes stood strong. After a short 5km ascent, we break out into the Mori Plains at 4700m onto the waterless high altitude desert of the Tibetan Plateau. At this height to be faced with hundreds of miles of desert, cast against the azureous blue sky, the spectacle was absolutely disarming.
Reaching Khardung La, acclaimed to be the highest motorable pass in the world at 5602m, was the cherry on the cake. Thoroughout the climb, the panoramic views of the Stok Range whisked away the breathe more than the altitude itself. Purely an optional day, those who chose to ride tackled it with gusto and the team spirit made this day all the more enjoyable. We were greeted almost as celebrities at the top by the public who driven up and the sense of satisfaction was riper than ever. Only one thing left to do... plummet 34km back down on the rollercoster roadback to Leh for a well-earned beer.
- What did you think of your group leader?
- Essentially we had two leaders on this trip, Jambu and Shelish and they both brought a huge amount of experience and good-nature to the table. Jambu, a professional mountain biker and victor of Everest, led the group with passion and good-humour. Shelish, also an experienced trekker and rider took up the rear and never stopped laughing and telling tales. They worked very closely toegther and kept us well-informed each evening of the next days ride and what to expect. Their experience was felt throughout the group and any concerns regarding altitude were quelled from the outset. I'd love to trek with them both one day.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Consider the three main factors of this trip; altitude, fitness and the elements.
Throughout this tour, you spend prolonged periods at altitudes between 4000-5000m. The itinerary however is designed around a ride high, sleep low concept which plays a big part in combatting the effects of altitude. Rehydration is the key along with finding the pace that suits you. The leaders are fully trained and experienced in noticing early signs of altitude sickness and take it very seriously. We all suffered from erratic sleeping patterns, dizziness and headaches at some stage but that comes with the territory.
You should be confident in your fitness. Training on prolonged uphill stretches is very worthwhile and having confidence on the bike over rough terrain will help considerably. The riding days feel longer and the ascents can be tough in the heat, but stops are made regularly to refuel the body and rest. The support vehicle that follows behind the group can be flagged down and used at any point.
We were very lucky but unpredictable weather conditions should be expected. Pack wisely with waterproofs, cycling gloves, buffwear and suncream. The early starts in the mornings can be very cold for the first hour and my cycling tights (as non-flattering as they may be) were a godsend.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
This is a tour abundant in superlatives and high on adrenaline. It came as close to cycling on Mars, opened my eyes to so many fascinating cultures and challenged me to the max. I can't recommend it enough!