Riding Tips & Protocols
Riding Protocals Group
While a solo ride to Ladakh would be the ultimate statement in adventure and become a winning story for the rider that'll last a life-time, it does entail far greater risks and possibilities of ordinary hazards turning into life-threatening ones. Solo rides are strictly meant for the experienced campaigners. For the one's who've been around a while on the saddle, are multi-skilled motorcyclist in that they can fix their bike as well as ride them, can read the weather, have built up a temperament of patience and calculated risk-taking and can restrain themselves from a head-long dash into unknown situations. Going solo means needing to plan better, carry more in terms of back-up stuff like spares, food and medicines and paying greater attention to their situation and the conditions as both change dynamically.
A Sold Ride to Ladakh is definitely a 'NO-GO' for a first timer
Group rides in contrast are relatively less risky as there's help at hand in case of a fall or getting stuck at a particularly nasty road condition vis a vis a water crossing, deep slush or a land-slide. Groups also make better economic sense, both in terms of food/accommodation as also for spares if the bikes share common lineage. And there's the added benefit of having people to talk to, discuss tricky decisions before making them and sharing the awesomeness all around you.
Here are a few pointers at what can make fora good group ride to a place like Ladakh.
- Cohesion and mutual respect/trust amongst the group members. Democracy works the best here too though the more experienced member's opinions need to be given more weightage.
- Similar riding styles and expectations do help as reasons for disagreement get reduced.
- Matching attitudes when it comes to motorcycling and adventure.
- Closely matched motorcycle performance will make it easier for the group to stay together.
- A similar match in financial abilities also makes for lesser chances of conflict.
- Good group management practices like allocating responsibilities, initiative in sharing workloads and unanimously going by the majority.
- If every person in the groups thinks about the group and then about himself and similarly if the group thinks about every other rider, that it composes of, that is when the ride shall be successful!.
- There is no 'ideal' group size though 3-5 people riding together are almost akin to a small family and have been known to have more fun together than larger groups. But then human nature automatically sub-divides larger groups into smaller sub-groups of this same number. So as long as everyone is out to ride and have fun together, the numbers don't really matter except for logistics in an emergency.
Riding Tips for Himalaya
- The importance of keeping a SPOC (single point of contact) back home in a group ride in case the group splits and not everyone is in the network coverage area. Group members can share information with this SPOC and he can convey the same to the other members when they get in touch with him.
- Always leave information about your plans with someone back home in case you are venturing into remote areas. This way your last recorded position and direction of movement are known and help/search can be initiated accordingly if needed.
- Newspaper sheets make for an excellent insulator in an emergency. Some 3-4 layers beneath the jacket will make for a crinkly but effective wind-break. Shoe insoles cut to shape and in multiple layers not only help keep the feet warm but also work as sweat absorption material.
- Two cotton/silk balaclavas inside the helmet, worn one on top of the other, can see you through the worst of chills.
- Plan your rides so that you can get across water-crossings as early in the day as possible. Post noon the water level rises dramatically as the prolonged sunshine melts snow quicker upstairs.
- Whenever you eat Maggi, have it made soupy i.e. with lots of surplus water. This way its easier to digest, stays hot longer while you eat it and adds to your fluid intake.
- Dal rice, preferably with boiled veggies/meet added make for great food at altitude. The carbohydrates, protein and fibre keep that tummy alive and kicking.
- Chocolates are great for that 'park up sugar kick'. Take a bite or two after battling a particularly tough water crossing or climb and feel your spirits rise.
- Keep an extra key of the bike on your person. Getting stranded because you have only one key and you've lost that is not funny at all.
- Don't try and be a showman with the locals, especially trying to compete with them on the mountain roads. Remember its their daily commute and they know the area like the back of their hand.
- Respect their religious places and customs and they'll respect and help you in turn.
- Make it a point to wave or 'toot' your thanks to drivers who let you by, especially on those twisty and steep mountain roads. It's a lot of work for that lorry driver to slow down and steer inside to allow you to pass.
- Keep an extra layer of warm clothing handy as the weather high up can change for the worse within meters or minutes.
- Do keep checking your bike from time to time however tired or lazy or chilled you might feel. The roads high up can beat the hell out of the best hardware.
- Use sunscreen at least with 30+ sph factor. Especially for those with a fair complexion. Those rosy cheeks around you are actually mild sunburn from a high dose of Ultraviolet at altitude!
- Put on your warm jackets before the sun goes down. The chill will creep in quicker than you can think.
- Eat whenever the opportunity presents itself. You will not feel hungry but you may be very short of calories.
- There's no way you can fight a winning battle with cold, altitude and heights. Nature is ruthless in response to disregard of danger.
- Keep a positive outlook. This becomes vital when the weather goes bad, you're stuck with a puncture and the nearest habitation is two-hours away on the bike. A calm mind and good prior preparation will get you through.
- Use zip lock bags for storing things that either need water-proofing or can leak. Includes items like toothpaste, creams etc. Your bike documents, spare memory cards, batteries and paper money can also go in there.