My core idea behind the Manali-Leh ride was efficiency. I was looking to choose my luggage, nutrition, cycle and riding gear in a way that I was carrying only what was best and absolutely necessary for the ride. That way, even with my average level of strength and stamina I would be able to complete the ride in a comfortable manner and in good time.

I have already talked about my basic experiences in my previous writeup of the Shimla – Kaza ride. So, in this post I will be talking about the improvements, new experiences and probable changes which I am looking to make from the next ride onwards.

  1. Transporting the cycle : First of all, was getting the cycle to Manali. I had the option to rent a cycle at Manali, but I thought taking my cycle will be better as a road bike was best suited for this route. I will talk more about the bike choice later.

    So, I bought a bike bag from decathlon for Rs.4000 and packed the bike with its tube, saddle and frame bag in it. Now, if you see videos of packing cycles in that bag online you will see that the bike is kept forks down with a lot of packing. But I ended up keeping it saddle down with no extra packing. This was much easier. I just had to remove the wheels and paddles and keep them in. Took 10 minutes to pack or unpack.

    Taking the bag in the train was easy. And taking it in the volvo bus was easier, just kept it with the luggage in upright position. While returning from Leh to Manali, I got it tied up on the roof of a tempo traveller.

    Overall, worked well. I do hope to buy a proper bike case in future, but it’s not available anywhere. That will obviously be a lot more reassuring. But even the bag is great. I just have to be extra careful with placing it in the luggage. Upright, no weight on top and fixed. That’s all to keep it safe. 

  2. Backpack : For the luggage, after a lot of search I bought a @lowe.alpine aeon 27 backpack. It is being sold by in India. The bag is a bit pricey as compared to products from decathlon or woodland, but after using it through this ride, I think it’s completely worth its price. The back support and ventilation work great, shoulder straps are comfortable, space is good and material is tough.

    The nets on the outer side can be used to store rainwear and other items which can get wet or dirty. And inside compartment is large enough for all clothes, electronics etc. Overall, a great bag and I think I will stick to it for future rides.

    Apart from the backpack. I had a saddlebag which used to keep protein bars, a tube top bag and frame bag for all tools and spares.

  3. Itinerary: The route and plan. So, I started from Manali on the morning of 16th June. I was given a tentative plan by @vikas_aanand which had 4 stoppages. First was Tandi, where I stayed at Drilbu Retreat which is a just a bit up the road which cuts right infront of the Tandi petrol pump. The camp had a great location with comfy cabins. The food was good and it had WiFi.

    The second day’s stop was at Sarchu. Here I stayed at Adventure Camp. Now this camp has been here for 18 years. The hospitality by Ajit Bhai at the camp was great.

    The third stay was at Pang. Here I stayed at Sonam Aunty’s camp. The food was great and as I sleeping in a dhaba I ate and drank quite a few items through the night.

    On the 4th day I was supposed to stay at Lato. But I reached there at 2pm so continued on to Leh. It was a comfortable 180km ride on the last day which ended with me reaching by 6:20pm.

    From there @vikas_aanand connected me to a driver named Pema. He had a tempo Traveller started from Leh for Manali at 10pm. I opted for that rather than staying in Leh.

    Pema bhai drove calmly through the night and after being stuck in traffic for hours at Rohtang, we finally reached Manali on the evening on 20th June. I also met two other solo cyclists Arun who is on YouTube as AK Rider UP80 and Yuvraj Singh from Morena.

    After reaching Manali I booked a Volvo for Delhi starting at 10pm. Thus comfortably reaching Delhi by evening of 21st June. From there I took a train to Gwalior and thus could reach Gwalior on 21st Itself.  So a total of 7 and a half days were spent Gwalior to Gwalior. I had started from Gwalior on 14th at 2pm by train.

  4. Nutrition : After my first long cycle ride in December 2017, I realised that nutrition was going to be a big aspect of getting through multiple day mountain climbs. So, on this being my 5th ride, I knew pretty much what and how much to eat to keep going.

    So, I packed 10 protein bars, 2 for each day and 10 scoops of bcaa, 2 for each day. Although at the end of the ride I still have 4 bars left and 4 scoops left.
    The bars and bcaa were stuff which I ate and drank bits of through out the day every time I stopped. Plus of course I kept eating dal chawal for lunch and dinner. There were also some aloo paratha and bread butter. I also had few red bulls and fruit juices through the ride.

    And of course I think that the usual diet plan which I follow at home also helped a lot, especially with coping with high altitudes.
    Now, I am no expert on nutrition. But this is what I felt was right to eat and suited me. Plus all this extra stuff was light and easy to pack and provided a confidence that I was getting enough nutrition in to survive multiple days. Getting up every morning alone in those type of conditions and pushing 100% can only be done when your mind is convinced that you are getting enough nutrition.

  5. Gear : Now for the stuff I packed. While packing I had it clear that I had to keep the weight of the backpack light. That would mean compromising on fashion and having 1 trusted piece of every gear. Here is what I packed.

    Cycling bibs, running tight, 2 running uppers, compression socks, cycling shoes, half and full fleece gloves, helmet, balaclava, goggles, spares, tools, pump, rain upper, rain lower, power bank, camera, phone, wires, down jacket, basic fleece upper, shorts and two t-shirts.

    And there was a bottle and nutrition, money, documents. 

  6. The Cycle Choice : The last point from the trip would be about the cycle choice. Now I had the option to use either a road bike or a MTB or a hybrid for this ride. It was a confusing choice to make as much riders use MTBs for this route.
    But after I had did Shimla to Kaza on my triban, I knew it was comfortable enough and strong enough to take the off road patches.

    In short the basic choice you have to make is do you want the climbs to be easy or the slopes? If climbs, then road bike wins and if slopes, then MTB wins. If you have a backup vehicle, then both win.

    I had made two changes to my cycle. I had a thicker rear tyre and a softer saddle. These were very important changes to make the ride comfortable and safe. 

  7. Improvements : Of there are things on which I would like to improve from the next ride onwards. The air pump which I took is a a standard mini pump with a pressure gauge. It works great but it takes ages to fill up to required pressure. I will search for a pump which is bigger and yet easy to carry, as filling up air during rides gets tiring . I took very few photos this time, will improve on that next time. Maybe will make a video too, as I realised that I did things quite differently as compared to other cyclists, so it makes sense to document  it.

I suppose this is most of the info that I want to give about the ride. I have written most of this on my instagram earlier. But here everything is at one place. Looking forward to my next.