Gurudeep Ramakrishna lives in Bangalore, India and manages a company called Unventured that offers guided bicycle tours in India. Here is his story about a challenging bike tour he just recently completed.
Gurudeep, where exactly did you go during your bicycle tour and how many days you were on the road.
The Manali – Leh cycling tour is an annual event I organize for a team of 10-12 folks in the Himalayan mountain range. This year the tour was organized from June 15th – June 30th, 2013. It is a sought after trail by Bikers and Cyclist who love to tour.
Unventured’s cycling trail starts in Manali in Himachal. On our journey we cycle the 470 km between the alpine Kullu Valley and Leh, the capital of Ladakh in the Indus valley. During the 9 day ride to Leh we average 40 to 50 kms a day along a combination of dirt and metaled roads at altitudes that average over 4000 metres. Cyclists will climb up to one of the highest motorable roads in the world called Khardung La Pass at 5306 Mts above sea level.
What was your biggest fear when organizing this bike tour?
The biggest fear is the health of the team and ensuring that you and the team do not face any accidents or are faced with any health-related issues.
This trail is challenging. This is primarily due to the altitude as we commence the cycle from 1900 meters. Some stages are quite demanding and the condition of the road can be poor in places. The pass crossings – the Khardung La (5602 meters) and the Baralacha La (4890 meters) will test your resolve – particularly when there are head winds. The route traverses four high passes with an accumulated altitude gain exceeding 29,000 feet – the equivalent of cycling to the summit of Mt. Everest from sea level. The road is one-lane tarmac and ideal for biking. When cycling at altitudes of above 4,000 Meters above sea level, the body has to contend with low oxygen levels and endure cold climates. Together with the bad roads the tour is quite demanding.
What was the thing you liked most about your bicycle touring experience?
Three things in particular:
- Challenge of the trail – 5 high altitude passes to climb and 550 km of cycling.
- Great views and the natural beauty of the Himalayas.
- A group of like-minded cyclists to pedal with.
Name three things you learned from your bicycle tour:
I learned to know your limits and to know how well beyond your limits you can do. I also learned something about the loves of the local people we passed along the way. We made many friends and I was happy when someone would see me and offer a hot cup of tea as I cycled past on my route.
Do you think you’ll conduct more bicycle tours in the future? If so, where do you want to go? And why do you want to go there?
Yes, for the next 2-3 years I want to explore the Himalayan ranges in Nepal and Burma.
After that I wan to explore South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Combodia, Malaysia to combine real world experiences of the country, its people, cultures and traditions. In the process of doing this, I plan to enjoy riding the back-roads of the country and explore its natural beauty.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is planning their first bicycle touring adventure?
You live and learn. Go for it, but plan, prepare and pack well. You will be surprised how much you can endure and how much it opens up your mind to the world.