Manali to Leh – Self-supported cycling trip

After years of thinking about it and weeks of planning we finally did it. Close to 600 kms of cycling from Manali to Leh (because Tanglang La was closed and we had to take a detour at Debring and go via Tso Kar and Mahe bridge).

We rode with all our gear including clothes, sleeping bags, tent, stove, utensils, food, water, cycle spares, on our cycles — an estimated weight of about 25 kgs (not counting the weight of the bikes, pannier racks, and bags.

It was hard work (some of the 5000 mtr passes never seem to end), we had our share of broken bridges, riding trough streams, sand storm (yes, sand storm!), dust, grime, and cold, but by and large we did not get into any real trouble…

Two riders: Sanjay Jaiman and Ajay Jaiman
September 4th to 14th, 2010

Explore the Manali to Leh cycling route map & download .gpx files

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38 comments

  • Will Drucker December 12, 2010   Reply →

    Ajay! It’s been a long time since I stopped to talk with you guys after crossing Rhotang Pass. If you remember, I was the American on the blue Royal Enfield with the camera mounted to my handlebars. Your photos are incredible and it looks like you and your friend had an amazing trip. I noticed that you met the two (french?) bikers on recumbent bikes, one of whom was pedaling with his arms! We saw this pair near Pang but never got the opportunity to speak with them.

    I presume you’re through with your adventure at this point. Did you return to the states or are you two still in Delhi? I had no idea you were such a cycling activist and sustainability advocate. Do these interests inform your business? I look forward to hearing form you. I’m sending a duplicate message to the email address you gave me.

    I hope you’re well!

  • Gurudeep Ramakrishna March 26, 2011   Reply →

    Dear Ajay,
    It was very inspiring to read your travelogue. I am a marketing professional, a passionate wildlifer who is also into photography.

    We (me and 2 other friends) have taken to cycling recently we have been cycling from our base Bangalore in the radius of about 300 kms. We have cycled in the western ghat regions also. I am writing to you to take your help and guidance to plan our cycling trip from Manali to Leh this summer in June or July and will appreciate your 2 cents.

    I am not sure where your are based out of or how else I could connect with you? I am keen to have a word with you and take some notes of the do’s and dont’s along with some geographic info on the route etc….

    If you are comfortable, pls drop me your contact number so I can call you. Look forward to hear from you.

    Cheers
    Gurudeep
    [email protected]
    +91 98863 97703

    • Ajay Jaiman March 28, 2011   Reply →

      Thanks, Gurudeep. Am emailing you my contact details.

  • Sreepad March 31, 2011   Reply →

    Ajay, i would be glad if you forward me the same details and your experiences because even i am looking forward for this expedition in this July.

    email id- [email protected]
    mobile no-9945638274

    • Ajay Jaiman April 1, 2011   Reply →

      Sreepad: Have mailed you my contact details.
      I guess I should post it online too. Perhaps another post…

  • Deepak Rao December 19, 2011   Reply →

    Thanks for so many great articles. This has always been on my list, and I will do it someday. The link to the pics don’t work?

    Deepak

    • Ajay Jaiman December 21, 2011   Reply →

      All the best! And thanks for pointing out the error. Will fix soon…

  • Rajesh January 3, 2012   Reply →

    One information that I just can’t find anywhere is that what comfort rating of sleeping bag to take if this cycling trip is done around July-August? I have a -20C down-fill Sleeping Bag from the Chadar Trek. Will this sleeping bag suffice or will it too warm for this cycling trip? I spent a fortune on that Sleeping bag and would very much like to utilize it instead of buying another one.

    • Ajay Jaiman January 10, 2012   Reply →

      -20 seems a bit overkill. But if you don’t want to buy another one, you could consider keeping the part of the zipper open when it gets too warm…

  • Partha Gopalan January 12, 2012   Reply →

    Ajay,

    Awesome work Dude! I’m planning on doing this trip later this year. Thanks a million for sharing all the info. Your packing list is pretty comprehensive. I have a trek 4300 which I’m planning to ride on this trip. If you’re OK with it, I’d like to speak to you or meet you in person (I stay in Mayur Vihar) to pick your brains further on gear and supplies etc. So, if I can have your contact details, please mail me at gpartha72 (at) gmail (dot) com or text me at Nine Eight Six Eight Eight Eight Six Six One Six. Once again, much impressed with your trip.

    Respect, Bro!!!

    Partha

  • Prashant March 26, 2012   Reply →

    Hi Ajay,

    I am curious to know what were the bikes(make/model) you and Sanjay were riding. I am planning to do this trip this year(july 2012) and am in a hurry to get a second hand bike that will be fit to do Manali to Leh. I ride a very basic bike currently(Rockrider 5.0).

    Thanks for your postings. They are highly informational. Thank you !!!

    • Ajay Jaiman April 13, 2012   Reply →

      I was riding a Trek 4300, and Sanjay was riding a Gary Fisher (sorry I don’t remember the exact model).
      All the best! & thanks.

  • Harish M. Anchan November 22, 2012   Reply →

    Loved what you guys have achieved. Would love to do it someday but dont know how and when. Was never an athlete in school / college. The only sport I did well in was swimming and then it was curtains. I am 46 now and started running marathons only a year back (actually did one in 2008) but that was it and then it is now. Also taken to cycling coz i hurt my muscles in the foot. This seems real tough but wonderful. All the best and hope to do it someday if I can

    Harish

    • Ajay Jaiman November 22, 2012   Reply →

      Thanks, Harish.
      If you have successfully run a marathon, then finding the stamina should not be an issue. You will probably just need to get acclimatized to the altitude and sitting long hours on saddle. I am sure you will be do it. All the best.

  • Sunil Saraswat January 19, 2013   Reply →

    Hi Ajay and all.

    I am also looking for a cycling trip to Leh . Need information on the tour operators or support services available there for the cyclist.

    Sunil

    • Ajay Jaiman January 21, 2013   Reply →

      @ Sunil:
      We were self-supported… Sorry, I don’t have any info on tour operators.

    • praphul July 14, 2013   Reply →

      hi sunil and everybody .
      I am planning for a manali to leh trip on my trek marlin 29er on my own in august 2013..i have recently ( june 2013) done my bike trip from dehradun-gulmarg-leh-manali-dehradun and well versed with the road and snow conditions..right now i will be moving self contained but if gets some company / co cyclist,will be happy to plan and move with together ..
      Dear ajay , thanks for nice clicks and best wishes for your next enduro.
      with regards . capt praphul

      • Ajay Jaiman July 21, 2013   Reply →

        Thanks, Praphul. And all the best!

  • Balraj September 24, 2013   Reply →

    Jaiman, great man! I tried the route in 2011, and, well, couldn’t complete it. I was alone, without any camping equipment, and the stretch between Sarchu and Pang, was too big for me to bite. Had to give up there. Still, plenty of memories from that trip.
    I wish I had come across some of the advice before I tried, though (New bike, 0 practice, just lots of enthusiasm.
    Balraj, Ludhiana

    • Ajay Jaiman January 11, 2014   Reply →

      I am sure it would have been awesome. And I hope you will get to go back and ride that route again – the whole thing this time.

  • SuDhir November 26, 2013   Reply →

    I would like to try this route in Aug – Sep 2014. Can you suggest some volunteers on cost sharing basis.
    SuDhir

  • abhinav kaushal June 20, 2015   Reply →

    how much it costs you cycling from manali to leh? are cycles available in manali on rent? how much do they cost?

    • Ajay Jaiman July 13, 2015   Reply →

      Hard to say how much it costs. It depends on your skill, experience and preference. If you ride self-supported, sleep in your own tent and cook for yourself, it could cost you next to nothing. But if you ride with jeep support and stay in paid accommodations (luxury tents/hotels) then it can get expensive. And then there are tour operators who offer packaged group rides, if that is your thing… So depending on your plan the trip can cost you anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 1,00,000.

      Let me know how it works out for you. All the best!

  • Varun March 13, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Ajay, did u find any accommodation at whisky nullah or one has to do both nakila and la chaungla in one day. U did great. I will go this year in June via kaza. I did kaza last year alone. Wonderful adventure it was. Looking for partner. If anyone interested pls contact me at 9781722749

    • Ajay Jaiman March 14, 2016   Reply →

      Varun
      There was a ‘dhaba’ run by a couple. I understand that it is there most years, through the season. But if you are going unsupported and you plan on staying with them, it might be a good idea to check with oncoming traffic, in advance.
      Good to hear about your Kaza trip. Share a link, please.
      Cheers!

  • Vikash kumar August 4, 2016   Reply →

    Hi,

    Any body doing Leh Manali trip in early september 2016… please contact at @ 8804802639

    vikash.

  • Vachan Dev August 27, 2016   Reply →

    Hello Ajay,

    I am very smitten by your travel diary. My cycling trip from Leh to Sringar on 2nd sep got cancelld. Could you please suggest any options for Manali-Leh or Manali-Shimla??

    I am travelling solo and have endured to get fit. Any suggestions will be highly appreciated. Thanx a ton!!

    Cheers,
    Vachan
    9844001302/7022035814

    • Ajay Jaiman August 30, 2016   Reply →

      Thanks.
      I can sympathies. My Srinagar – Leh – Manali plan got scuttled too.

      Assuming that you are looking only at J&K and Himachal, here are a couple of options from the top of my head:

      • Leh – Manali
      • Leh – Nubra – Turtuk – Leh
      • Leh – Mahe – Tso Moriri – Manali
      • Maali – Nako

      Enjoy!

  • Ravi Mehendale November 24, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Ajay,

    Really fascinated to read about your adventure to go self supported from Manali to Leh. We are also planning to do the same next year i.e. in july- aug 2017. I am currently having a firefox cyclone (18 gear of rotary type). Will the cycle suitable for that kind of journey? Also need some tips from you. Can you please send your contact number or personal email id?

    Thanks a lot!!

    Ravi Mehendale
    [email protected]
    9822997646

    • Ajay Jaiman January 18, 2017   Reply →

      Ravi, Firefox cyclone should be fine. Depending on how fit you are and how much weight you are carrying you might want to consider upgrading the drive train to get a wider ratio.

  • Neeraj Sharma March 20, 2017   Reply →

    Good stuff ! just wondering .. how did your charge your portable charger itself for electronic devices ? I am planning to do this route in July 2017. Thanks

    • Ajay Jaiman April 6, 2017   Reply →

      ‘Dhabas’ (make-shift road-side eateries) have electricity, mostly diesel generated.
      These days you also get small portable solar chargers, you could explore that option too.

      All the best! Have fun, Neeraj!

  • Abhishek Garg June 18, 2017   Reply →

    I am Abhishek Garg, final year MBBS student from delhi, going on a solo manali to leh cycling this month with the MOTTO of ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS, all i need is support of you all, if anyone is going in JUNE 2017, let me know, your suggestions are welcome.
    more info is at:

    http://www.ketto.org/thinkergarg

  • Bhavesh November 21, 2017   Reply →

    Hi Ajay… thanks for sharing. I am preparing for this and among a horde of other questions I’d like to ask about…but the tires…did temp variation affect it anyway? You mentioned that the spare you carried was not needed. Any info gratefully received.

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