There are many question that come to the mind of anyone out there planning for this coveted cycling Expedition. No one can answer these questions better than someone who has been there and done that. We asked one of the participant from our Manali Leh Expedition 2014 to answer these questions for you. Here are the excerpts from yasho's experience of Manali Leh Cycling Expedition.
Question 1. How did the idea of doing Manali -Leh cycling shape in your mind ?
I have been doing trekking since 3 years before this trip. This cycling trip was going to be a one level up from whatever trekking I had done – both from difficulty and natural beauty point of view – so it was there in mind for quite a while. Thus I was kind of waiting when Bikats would announce this trip and I would join!
Question 2. How did you realize that you can do it ?
I knew that this trip was physically demanding and also that it subjects your body to steep altitude level changes something which I had no experience with even from past treks. But I had thought 2 months preparation should be good enough for physical conditioning. Also, I was mentally prepared to push through, even when it gets tough. So, at no point really I thought that I won’t be able to do it.
Question 3. Any specific source of information you referred for your initial plan.
I read Bikats journey plan and also blog by Girish/Pankaj. Did some random Google searches on route, cycles etc. Also, had some reading related to effects of altitude changes on body – as I had realized this expedition had steep altitude changes compared to my past experiences. But conclusion I had was – worst case one develop some symptom such as headache/vomiting etc which should fade away on it’s own as body acclimatizes to environment .
Question 4. What do you recommend & why ?
i) Buy your cycle
ii) Rent it for the trip.
I would recommend to have your own cycle. Level of comfort is different for each cycle and becomes crucial on long days of journey. This comfort is likely to be best for your own cycle. Or in case you cannot avoid renting the cycle, at least ensure that you practice on same rented cycle for a sufficient time and also have a few long rides on it before taking it to actual journey.
Question 5. Were you a cycling enthusiast before planning this trip ?
I used to cycle for daily commutation even before this trip. Typical usage before trip - ~ 5 km daily and 12-14 km on weekend. But did not have any experience of any long trip before this trip. Maximum I had were some short cycle trips in my college days but nothing in last 3 years before this cycle trip.
Question 6. How much did you ride on your first practice ride ?
Around 15 km. I continued for same distance for 10-12 days. But then I sprained my knee - though not sure if due to cycling or anything else. Overall, to avoid any possibility of injury, it would be recommended to start slowly and increase gradually. I would recommend - depending upon past cycling experience, start from 5-15 km and keep increasing distance gradually – in steps of 3-5 km.
Question 7. How much time did it take you to prepare for this trip ?
I had started practicing two months before the trip. I was forced to rest for ~ 12-15 days of complete rest due to knee sprain and only could gradually (a week more) pick-up after that to full practice. >br> So even a 30-40 days of rigorous practice (15-20 km daily) should be good enough but to avoid any eventualities such as injuries start as early as possible. And more you practice, better always.
I also had 4 long trips (each one - ~60 km out of which 8 km used to be straight uphill). Long rides are must – at least have 3-4 rides before trip. These long rides must have a good long patch of steep uphill cycling.
Apart from cycling, exercises to strengthen knee, calf and thigh muscles etc would help too. You can follow the Bikat practice schedule and try to participate in the weekend cycling trips that they organize in the run up to big daddy – Manali Leh Expedition!
Question 8. Tell us about your experience on the first & last day of the trip.
First day was Manali to Marhi. It was probably the only day when it’s continues uphill for ~ 30-35 km. Most other days have patches of uphill-followed by downhill.
Last but one day offered a very deserving culmination to trip with a very scenic and refreshing road – going along the river with mountains on each side- ending at Upshi.
Last day- from Upashi to Leh, brought us back to human life with a number of villages, farms, monasteries etc on way to Leh.
Question 9. What was your highest & lowest point during the entire trip ?
We had high points through-out the trips simply thanks to natural beauty of landscape. Also conquering any of passes will make you feel great. Conquering Tang Lang La – which tests your patience due to poor uphill road and also due to it’s deceptive route - you feel you are almost there at each turn only to discover a new mountain to cross before you reach the pass- is one of the most memorable moment among all these passes.
I had developed headache at Zing Zing Baar –which was something I can call as the lowest point of trip. This was probably due to steep altitude change on that day. Bikats took us all for a height gain till the top nearby and back to the camp. This was a good acclimatization process and was followed on most days where high altitude camping was to be done. Also, our Lead Cyclist prescribed that we remain active and drink as much water as possible. With these natural prescriptions, pain was relived after an hour or two. One may develop such headache at some point of trip due to altitude level changes but following expert advice will take care. As body gets used to altitude conditions around you – such pain fades away on it’s own.
Question 10. Was it all worth doing ?
I guess very few experiences have such variety of natural beauty - ranging from lush green valleys/mountains on first couple of days, beautiful structures of sand along mountains/river bed, lakes - which reflect a beautiful cloud-patterns in sky, long desert planes and what not! Also, we develop a feeling of achievement at the end of expedtion which was unmatched by anything in the past.
I still savor memories on the trip and I am sure would keep doing it till rest of my life.
Question 11. Do you have any advice for people who are preparing for this trip ?
Keep paddling till you reach your destination!
All the best!