July 22, 2017

Bikers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are greenhorns, keen to experience the thrill of riding on few of the highest motorable roads in the world, while others are veterans in motorcycle therapy. We signed up for the 12-day Ladakh tour in search of solace and to escape the chaos of work-life tussles. Undoubtedly, there’s something uplifting, calming and enchanting about travelling on a motorcycle. And as clichéd as it may sound, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. 

Ladakh Bike Tour
The Ladakh biking tour had 16 riders and five pillions.

“Unlike in the West, very few people in India are aware of the concept. Whether you own a bike or not, you can easily do a motorcycle tour. It’s an experience like no other,” says Harsha Bennur, founder and CEO, TWIC, a Bengaluru-based bike rental service.

From the 100-500 CC Hondas and Bullets to the 800-1200 CC Harley Davidsons and Ducatis, the fleet of bikes on Bengaluru roads – especially heading out of the city on weekends – is an indication of exciting motorcycle diaries in the making.

“When I’m riding, I tune out everything. It’s my meditation,” avers Ajith K, a Bengaluru-based software engineer, who’s all geared up for a Bhutan motorcycle trip later this year. For female bikers in India – there’s an active group in Bengaluru too - it’s as much a liberating experience as it is fun. 

Over 12 days, they rode through countless exquisite Buddhist monasteries, spectacular valleys, lovely lakes, and over a dozen passes – Fatu La, Namika La, Chang La, Taglang La, Lachung La, Naki La, Baralacha La (La, in Tibetan, means pass). At 18,380 feet above sea-level, Khardung La Pass is the highest motorable road in the world.

While the lure of the Himalayas and Rajasthan is unwavering, there’s beauty in the weekend rides to Chikkamagaluru, Yercaud, Wayanad and Masinagudi as well. And when time permits, do venture into the unexplored exquisiteness of Uttarakhand, the North-East, or the Western Ghats, recommends Anand Dharmaraj, an avid biker and founder of IndiMotard, considered among the pioneers of the motorcycle movement in India. Internationally, he says, it’s more adventurous to ride in developing countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos, rather than in the US or UK.

“Right now, there’s positive chaos…lots of wannabe motorcycle tour operators, armed with nothing more than some bikes, maps and routes,” warns Anand. So, it’s prudent to look beyond the itineraries and price tags at the backend facilities and credibility as well.

jisha and Ajit
Jisha & Ajit 

Whether you decide to go solo on a shoestring budget or opt for a group/customised package tour, safety needs to be top priority. And it’s not just about investing in a good bike, helmet, riding jacket, gloves and boots. “It helps to understand the right riding techniques and skills which you learn while riding on the track. There are track schools in Coimbatore and Chennai,” informs Harsha.

Alas, there’s little training for the pillions! You just got to pick up it as you ride along. Bon voyage! 

Text & Images by Jisha Krishnan