How to Prepare for Manali-Leh Biking Trip

Manali-Leh is this beautiful highway trip that bikers use as a rite of passage. It’s a 470-kilometer journey from one end to the next through different altitudes and beautiful scenery. I had to go the first time I saw this on a blog and trained myself to ride the entire journey.

Mountain Bike cyclist riding outdoor

Here’s what I know now about how to prepare for your trip to Manali-Leh!

Physically Fit

A year before I decided to take this journey I decided to get in better shape. This trip was a long one, and I needed to make sure I built up my stamina, endurance, heat resistance, hydration levels, and physical condition.

I was going to have to bike 470 kilometers or 292 miles, and I needed to make sure I would be able to do it. I wasn’t going to give up in the middle of this trek; I was going to finish it. I worked out, rode my bike further every time and pushed myself to limits I wasn’t even aware of.

I did this for a year to train myself for this journey; for this rite of passage for bikers. By the time the year was up, I was more than ready physically.

Rohtang pass - Leh to Manali Journey, India

Mental Preparation

I assumed that by preparing myself physically that I would be able to make this journey, but that’s not necessarily true. If I hadn’t pushed myself so hard to know what I was capable of, then I might have never of known just how strong I really am.

Your emotions, mental state, and tiredness will haunt you every moment. Once you get past a certain distance and you keep pushing, your mind tries to shut you down. I had to remember my physical training, once it started happening to me so that I could pull my strength out and continue forward.

The Gata Loops a series of hairpin bends.

Plan Your Route

I recommend looking at the length of the trip and then dividing it be how many days you would like to do it in, this will give you the number of kilometers you need to bike a day. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to sightsee along the way, so I took it slow.

I planned to ride 33.5 kilometers (or about 20 miles) a day for 14 days. This gave me plenty of time to sleep, relax, and enjoy the scenic views the highway has to offer.

I also chose to do 14 days in case of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) from the elevation changing and your body not adjusting to the altitude properly. This requires time to recover, and I could make up the miles on another day if I needed to.

 

manali to leh road journey

If all the complicated names and the diverse amount of things to see on this highway are hard to remember, this visual guide by untravel.com might come in handy for you. It highlights all the important pit stops, highlights (like passes and lakes), restaurants, med aid camps and the like.

 

Prepare Your Bike

I needed to be 100% sure that my hand-built mountain bike would be able to make the distance, so I gave it an excellent tuning, upgrade, and had her check and tuned in a bike shop a few days before I left. I tested the bike out, and she was ready to go for the trip. However, I wanted to be on the safe side, and once I reached Delhi India, I had my bike looked over once more.

You should look in detail at every part of your bike, from the saddle to the chain and gears, to the tires and handlebars. Every part, no matter how small, needs to be checked over.

mechanic preparing bicycles in workshop

This isn’t something I would skip on. Making sure my bike is in the proper shape for taking on a long trip is important for me as a rider. If something were to go wrong, I could find myself in trouble.

Pack Wisely

I needed to make sure I had everything I needed before starting the trip. I made sure to bring all my medications I would need and might need, such as painkillers or heartburn medicines. I packed extra bottles of water for extra hydration and if a fellow rider needed one along with snacks.

I also brought two tires with me, a portable tire pump, Allen wrench set, and all the tools I thought I might need for my bike or changing a tire. I also brought a rag and chain lube to maintain my bike while on this trip properly.

Cyclists on the Leh Manali highway in Ladakh, India

Ladies, you might need to pack feminine hygiene products with you if you’ll be riding around that time of the month. It’s better to bring the product you’re familiar with than using something you aren’t. Trust me.

Learn to Change a Tire

This is one of the first things I learned when I began mountain biking. I knew that tires could get flats, have blowouts, and get ruined, so I made sure to prepare myself for that happening.

Changing a tire is very easy to learn and will aid you in the event a flat happens to you or someone you’re with. For this reason, I always have at least one spare tire with me when I go on rides.

Keep Documents on Hand

Having my passport, ID, documents and visa on me always were for my safety. If I was arrested or I had an accident, I always had what they needed to see to know how to help me or talk to me.

Having your passport and visa on you, as an American gives you benefits as an American Citizen and you are to be treated with respect and the laws of America. Some places will even give you tax-free goods if you show your passport to them.

This trip through the Leh Manali highway was fantastic and an experience of a lifetime. I would love to go back for a second trip, and I would make sure to follow my steps for sure since I did go and learned some of these the hard way.

What makes you want to visit Manali-Leh?

These blogs will help you plan your travels to Ladakh

And Zanskar too…

how to travel to Zanskar

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Denise Nelson is a profound lover of the cross country mountain bike, she worked as a trainer for 6 years and a Co-founder of a private biking lessons school. She also own a small fitness store in New York.

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8 thoughts on “How to Prepare for Manali-Leh Biking Trip

  1. The Krazy Butterfly

    A wonderful post loaded with refreshing pictures 🙂 I would love to go cycling this path someday..Never travelled to Leh Ladakh but have heard a zillion good stories about that side of India..