Cycling in India is gaining popularity in the recent times. Maybe a decade back, cycling in India was only synonymous with kids & teenagers and professional cyclists. Although with the advent of a fitness wave, cycling is becoming a popular sport. People from different age sets are actively involved. Many big and small cities have large cycling groups who gather at least once a week and go on for long rides.
Cycling In India – Himalayas
Mountain Biking is the one of the more famous forms of cycling in India. The advancement in the processes of cycle making and the rise of international mountain biking has given impetus to the sport. Ambassadors like Danny Macaskill, Troy Brosnan, Gee Atherton alongside giant sponsors like Redbull have brought about an alluring aspect to the world of MTB’s. Riding a mountain bike on the steepest bits and blazing down a mountain thereafter is the ultimate test of a person’s endurance and valor.
When it comes to mountain cycling in India, no mountains are better to cycle upon than the Himalayas themselves.
I alongside my friend Chris, cycled all the way from Shimla to Kaza on our Raleigh MTB’s across a period of 12 days. To be precise we cycled most of the way, there were days when we hitchhiked!
In the month of May, we were climbing together a peak called Junar Gali in Uttarakhand. On that very trip we casually decided to do a cycling tour. Usually people prefer to go on the Manali – Leh route but I personally find the one from Shimla to Kaza much much better. For two reasons:
That route is less traveled and you won’t see a multitude of tourists. Not that it is any less beautiful. It is actually even more beautiful and enigmatic.
For cycling the altitude gain is more evenly spread out. Whereas in Manali – Leh you gain more than 1500 mtrs on the very first day.
Although we were physically in good condition we had no good experience of cycle touring. We planned the entire trip at a very short notice and because of that we couldn’t arrange everything required. In fact the most essential equipment for touring – ‘panniers!’ We didn’t have panniers! So we were amateurs in the true sense. Just riding on our adventurous whims to take us through. We carried 8 – 10 kgs in all on our backs and bikes. Although I would strongly suggest to carry as less weight on your backs.
Fitness has a vital role in your being able to complete this trip but it eventually comes down to your willpower and grit. We realized that only on the trip but soon enough.
Cycling in India | 430 Kilometres, NH – 5, the world’s most treacherous road, mystical lands, bordered regions, military exhibits to the most tranquil monasteries. We saw it all, the screaming legs and the bursting lungs made it all the more special.
Day 1 : Shimla to Narkanda(68 Kms) – The first day is defintely the hardest. Long climbs throughout the way, occasional downhills.
Day 2 : Narkanda to Rampur Bushahr (66 Kms) – First 40 Kms are a bliss. 40 Kms of downhill. This will rejuvenate your spirits and you’ll actually feel ecstatic.
Day 3 : Rampur Bushahr to Reckong Peo (115 Kms) – The entire distance is not at all doable in one day. This was our cheat day, we decided to take a bus to Reckong Peo. We had less days and the places in between Rampur and Reckong Peo had not much to offer.
Day 4 : Reckong Peo to Kalpa to Reckong Peo (18 Kms) – 9 Kms up and 9 Kms back down. A good day, you cycle through woods and Kalpa is worth the ascend.
Day 5 : Reckong Peo – Chris, being a foreigner needed to get a permit to go further North as those are militarily strategic places. So we chose to stay another day at Reckong Peo.
Day 6 : Reckong Peo to Pooh to Nako (103 Kms) – We covered 80 Kms on bike. It is a very long and tiring day. At Pooh we found a bus heading to Nako, so we just hitchhiked. Had we not found a bus, we would have stayed back at Pooh. The stretch from Pooh to Nako is pretty long and couldn’t have been covered on that day. The initial bit of this day’s journey is very bumpy, you can see the gradual change in landscape.
Day 7 : Nako to Tabo (64 Kms) – Nako is a surreal village. You would definitely feel to stay there for long. We decided to move to Tabo. That day’s ride is moderately difficult less because of the gradient and more because of the miserable condition of the road. Just 7 kms after Nako is the most treacherous and thrilling downhill bit.
Day 8 : Tabo to Kaza (48 Kms) – You ride on plain roads but it is tricky. Windy, you are very less efficient and it takes a toll on you. Breathtaking views and frequent landslides. Be careful, it’s the last stretch but requires extra care and effort.
Challenging Enough? Can you do it?
I would not simply say you can do it. It will actually be one of the most challenging thing of your lives. It will actually set your legs screaming and your lungs bursting. If you are fit enough and have cycled long distances before you have a chance. If you are strong in your head and won’t accept failure you will do it! There were moments where we actually felt extremely exhausted and questioned our choices. Although the cliched line “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger” helped us get rid of negative thoughts.
What to carry?
I’ll probably not be the best to advise you on that but to say the least, we did gain experience and the mistakes and hardships help us learn better. Make sure you are carrying the following:
- Panniers, saddle bags
- A backpack
- A carrier
- Tent and Sleeping bag – We carried our own but never used it. The exhaustion at the end of the day and our lethargy just made us go for homestays or guest houses. You’ll easily find it in the places I’ve talked about.
- A Hydration sack – Essential to carry it in your backpack in addition to water bottles.
- Patch Kit
- Extra tubes
- A Windcheater
- Padded Shorts – Don’t forget them! Your ass shall curse you if you did.
- Fleece Inners and a Warm upper
- Carb rich snacks – Ensure to munch on something, especially carbohydrates. It will keep you going.
Sense of Achievement
The completion of this journey was a milestone for us. You have to do it to feel it. It will definitely make you stronger mentally and physically.
You’ll rediscover your limits. The battle between body and brain will be a tough one but ensure that you emerge victorious. Once you do, you’ll realize the immensity our minds can achieve and what hinders it is our negativity and lack of belief on our own potential.