We’ve carried out several expeditions to the Indian Himalyan region over the years and here’s some of the top tips for trip planning and preparation.
Time to go
The Himalayas are a high altitude destination affected by the monsoon seasons. A great time to visit is in the mid summer period around July – August as the snows in the mountain passes will have melted, there’s enough warmth in the day for comfortable riding and the rainfall is at a minimum. Outside of these time prepare for a somewhat colder experience! Local Indian riders are an incredibly hardy bunch and will ride in conditions that are daunting for many western travellers; consider what you’re capable of rather than what others round you are planning in terms of daily distance and average moving times.
Overall Kit and Equipment
Travelling light is alway right. Whilst you instinctively know that, doing without the creature comforts and travel luxuries you’re used to can be a wrench. It’s definitely possible to carry too much. As a rule of thumb if the gear doesn’t fulfil a really vital role; for safety and recovery, warmth and weather proofing or navigation then it needs to be put in the ‘luxury’ bracket and considered an extra weight. As a rule of thumb plan on using everything you’ve brought along and the only items you bring but don’t touch should be in your trauma med pack, your engine/tyre repair kit and survival/bivvy gear.
Because you’re likely to have to fly and travel into the Himalayas off your bike, bringing the full set of latest Gore tex riding gear will be a hassle. We’ve found that a lightweight and semi-casual set of riding kit suits most situations. There’s a lot of bike jeans on the market, teamed with a layering approach for the top half with cotton t-shirts, flannel shirts and a guernsey pullover you can keep the wind out and still not have to double up on your clothing. But resist the temptation to ditch the key safety clothing you need, as a minimum helmet gloves, boots and an armoured casual jacket and trousers will prevent the majority of injuries.
Daily Riding Planning
It’s all about the moving average you’re capable of sustaining over the long term. There’s always a chai stop or a sleeping platform (carry a good compressible sleeping bag!) along the road so you don’t have to stick to towns that are just too far away for comfort. If you know what your best speed over the ground is then you’re well set to plan ahead. Your moving average covers the stops you’ll take, how long they generally are, your average riding speed, and if you’re in a group then it’s based on the pace of the slowest. Leave a safety margin for road closures, accidents and unforeseen events and aim to be in your overnight location at least 45 mins before last light. Riding at night massively increases the objective danger on the roads and should be avoided as much as possible!
A large part of the excitement and fulfillment for challenging adventure travel plans comes from the initial preparation. Adventure motorcyclists are no different; in fact, because we’re packing to fit all our gear on a bike, we’ve got extra considerations about space and weight to consider. It’s part of the sport and with increasing experience you know what to leave behind and what vital kit you need – tool kit step forward!
Phase 1 – Trip Planning
Here’s where you pore over the maps, google searches and other ride reports for the area. If your chosen destination is really remote or hard to reach then it’s worth getting opinions from other travellers’ blogs and staple Adventure Motorcycling sites (links).
Phase 2 – Riding Gear Preparation
Based on your interpretation of the likely Met conditions, the length of your days-in-the-saddle and how much comfort you need to dial in for your personal preference. Select the kit you’ll be wearing and then make sure it’s in good condition; the seams and weatherproofing is intact and the stiching won’t fail during prolonged hard riding or if you take a spill. I find it helps to lay out the kit and then look over it in order. It’s at this point that you can wash in a coat of NIKWAX or hydrophobic water repellent for textiles or for leather, rub in some treatment. Particularly important is to check your riding helmet for signs of deterioration or damage.
Phase 3 – Bike Tools and Spares This is where experience and forethought really count. It’s about finding the balance of a lot of factors; light enough to carry, useful enough to actually use and all with a strong likelihood of really being needed. It’s unrealistic to carry spares for every eventuality and a heavy process to boot! It’s really useful to think about how you’re going to be packing and carrying the spares. Look for somewhere low and central on the bike for heavy items. Good examples of this are Austin Vince’s solution on the DR350 during the Mondo Rally; he used and old metal ammunition box bolted below the engine, and any possible use of the easily available ‘tractor’ tool tubes like these;
Phase 4 – Gear Check.
This is for everything you need to carry on the bike to survive. Again it helps to be organised; lay it out, check tents and shelters for weatherproofing, that the stove is working, sleeping bags are intact and the thermarest is still holding air.
Now you’re ready to enter the debate about how much gear is just enough, what you cannot do without and what your essentials are; enjoy!
Tricky things bike helmets. There’s a lot involved when buying one. Safety, one would hope, is your first consideration. Boring and smug as this sounds, it really should be. Rossi’s AGV helmets are cool – but also safe. Although I’m not as dull as I sound, I do have an old Davida Jet which I wear, for comfort and the heritage – but it’s my risk right?
The Shark Evoline is a massive all rounder – massive because it is also quite big in the front, kind of around the chin area. All the separate ideas work – the dark internal visor is ok – although a mm too high. The chin bar moves to the back fine and can be worn and ridden in the open position. It feels pretty heavy like this but ok at low speed or for short distances. The fit is good for the average european head phrenology and the build quality is high enough. The strap is fastened with a plastic closure. I would have preferred a double D set up. What man wouldn’t? It can be slightly above averagely noisy and in rain doesn’t shed water from the visor well. I suspect this is because of the shallower visor angle due to the rotating action.
Here it comes; ‘but’…. overall it’s a bit clunky. I think it’s a triumph of function over form but not necessarily my first choice of helmet. I now use it for commuting in town. So now why not let me know what you think?