Northern Tier of America cycling route

An Indian Going West. To Discover America.

At age 40, in the middle of raising venture funding for my second tech start-up, I had a massive heart attack. It’s a long story, but in essence, while I was lying on the cold OT table and wondering why they were trying to freeze me to death, my loved ones were waiting outside desperately hoping and praying that I make it through. Surprise: I did make it through.

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Manali to Leh — Route Map

Planning on riding/driving from Manali to Leh? You can explore the route in an interactive map right here and also download a .gpx file of the route for your GPS.

On this 470 km trip you will climb 14,000 meters and cross five major high-altitude passes (called La). If you are cycling, the climb to the pass will seem endless. I have marked all of the passes in the file just so that you know how much more you need to suffer!

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The small village of Losar at dusk.

Cycling the Spiti valley – Nako to Manali

The hardest part about Spiti is reaching there. It took us a 22-hour bus ride to get to Rekong Peo. For the sake of acclimatization we had planned the night stay at Kalpa, which is not so far from there, but much higher. And also much nicer. Having had our fill with the HPTDC’s ‘ordinary’ buses, especially given the quantum of our luggage, we choose to just hire a jeep the next day to take us up to Nako (technically still in Kinnaur) – another five odd hour drive.

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Ready to ride through a stream flowing on the road. Dry bags (waterproof Ortliebs) but wet shoes.

Which is the best cycle for touring the Indian himalayas?

People often ask me what is the best cycle for touring the Himalayas. It is a hard question to answer, mainly because different people define ‘touring’ differently.

For instance, cycle touring may mean cycling hundreds of kilometers self-supported where the rider carries a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear on the bike, and has the option to stop and camp wherever she fancies. However, many of the well established Himalayan routes can also be toured ultralight, by eating and sleeping in teahouses (dhabas). And then there is the option of riding without any baggage because the support team/vehicle follows the rider(s) closely.

The choice of cycle can vary significantly depending on how you define ‘touring’, which route you pick, and how much road support you have. Consider the iconic Manali-Leh route. I am aware of people who have done this trip on an MTB, on a Hybrid, a touring bike, on a single-speed bike and even on a road bike.

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