Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Manali to Leh - Rohtang Pass bike trip


Heading for your first bike trip but don't know what you need? Well, we have the answers. Read on to find out about the most essential biking gears that you should have.

A bike trip is the most exciting thing you can do on a road with your clothes on. As exciting it is, it can also be a bit intimidating if you’re doing it for the first time. But it’s better to be a bit frightened than being over confident. I always say this to all adventure enthusiasts: Be 98% brave and 2% scared; a bit of fear keeps you alive.

Hence, it’s of utmost importance that you keep all the essentials with you. In this first of two-part series, here's a list of the biking accessories that you need to buy before undertaking your bike trip.

1. Helmet


Manali to Solang Valley to Rohtang Pass


Since you already ride a bike, I’m going to assume that you already own a helmet. But, is it the right one? In India, most people wear helmet just to be on the right side of the law and escape the fines; and not as a protective gear. Take a good look at your helmet and make sure it’s good enough to be taken on a multi-day trip.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

- DO NOT use a half face helmet. Yes, it looks cool in all those biking commercials but god forbid if you crash face down, that beautiful jawline will be history. 
- DO NOT use tinted visor. It may block the sunlight during summer but when the sun goes down and when the truck’s high beam will hit your visor on those dual-lane highways, you won’t be able to see jack… Either spend more and get one of those dual visor helmets or use a clear visor and wear sunglasses underneath. Note: aviators and wayfarers won’t fit under the helmet; only the sports glasses, which stays stuck to your face, will do.
- DO NOT use a brand new helmet. This is not a very obvious one and people often buy a new helmet on the day before the trip thinking, “What can possibly go wrong?” Well, lots. I learnt it the hard way. I lost my favourite helmet a day before my ride and had to urgently buy a new one. On the third day of the trip, due to the vibrations, the visor’s screw came off on the highway while I was riding in fifth gear.

Don't forget to read about my article on why every biker should visit Pali (Rajasthan) at least one.

2. Jacket


That's me wearing a Cramster jacket
Biking jackets come in all shapes and price points. Not all biking jackets will make you sell your kidney ***cough-Alpinestar-cough***. In India, you can get a long-lasting, padded jacket for as low as 4000. RJays are one of the cheapest ones and start at 4-4.5k but my personal choice is Cramster (6k). I’ve been using it since past 5 years and it’s tough as a tank. 

Keep a few things in mind before buying your jacket:

- Is it water proof? You’ll find yourself riding in torrential rain and snow and the nearest town will be 50km away. At that time, if you don’t have a waterproof jacket, lord help you. 

- Is it layered? You will get really cheap jackets with a single layer but it’s useless if you’re planning to use it for more than one trip. A summer jacket will have lots of ventilation holes but you’ll freeze to death if you wear it to Khardungla. Similarly, a winter jacket will provide great insulation but can you imagine yourself wearing it while riding to Goa or Rajasthan
A layered jacket will have ventilated external with a detachable second layer that you can use in case it gets cold. Also, as you ascend or descend the altitude during your ride, you can easily add/delete the extra layer.

- Is it padded? The purpose of biking jackets should not be to make you look like a “biker” but to protect your body (ego not included) in case of a crash. Hence, always go for padded jackets. They’re heavy but they take the fall for your mistakes. You can either have sealed in pads/panels or detachable ones. In case of the latter, you can remove the shoulder/elbow/back/forearm/chest pads from their respective pockets, wash them and easily put them back.  

3. Shoes


That's me wearing gum boots at the Pangong Tso Lake

Just like the jacket, in case of biking shoes as well, it’s more about safety than style. Here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind before buying your biking shoes:

- Metal toe: In case of a high-speed crash, the toe tunnel will protect your…well, toes.

- High ankle boots: If you crash, chances are the impact will twist your ankle and may do some serious damage. High-ankle boots will ensure that the structure and positioning of your feet and ankle stays intact. In fact, if you get metal inserts in the ‘U’ of the backside of the shoe, that’ll be a bonus.

Till a few years back it was fairly difficult to get good biking shoes in India but now you have quite a few options. I’ve used Orazo in the past and though they look gorgeous, their durability is questionable. I’d like to give them one more chance only because of the way these shoes look but a quick search on Amazon/Flipkart will give you a dozen other options. 

DON'T MISS: The holy grail of biking enthusiasts in India - Khardungla

Orazo is in mid-range (3-5k), but if you want to go high-end, you can always splurge on Alpinestars (20k+). But if you want a cheap option – forget about brands and buy unbranded black army shoes from your nearest army store. It doesn’t have metal toe, but it'll last your through World War. You can pick up a pair for about 1000 bucks. And no, it’s not illegal.

If you'll be riding during monsoon or to places where there will be a number of water crossings (say, Ladakh or Himachal), also pick up a pair of gum boots. I haven't seen them in metros but you'll easily get them in places like Manali, Shimla and Leh; for as low as ₹200-300. For this amount, even if you have to throw them at the end of the ride, still worth it.

Tip: If you’re wearing metal-toe boots on flights, there’s a 200% chance that you’ll be asked to remove the shoes in security check. To save time, put your boots through the scanner beforehand. 
#PersonalExperience

This is the first of two-part series. In the next part, we'll tell you about Gloves, Bags and a very important but underrated accessory. Stay tuned!

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