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Thread: Spiti and the biking brotherhood

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Old Fox's Avatar
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    Default Spiti and the biking brotherhood

    2 years ago I had taken a vow that I will not ride across Rohtang Pass till they fix the road up there. Especially the part beyond Marhi. And much to my chagrin, this very year and within the span of a couple of months, I have been across it twice! The mess up there, especially around Rani Nullah, seems so unnecessary – the authorities can very well widen the road piece-meal, say half a kilometer at a time and build retaining walls to contain the debris and prevent it from coming down during wet weather as they go along blasting the mountainside for more road width. In fact after watching the fiasco unfold year after year, finally the courts have ruled that the road has to be built in short stretches with retaining walls to ensure the road remains functional while the work progresses. In this present day battle between the executive and the judiciary, apparently the latter seems to be doing most of the administrative work.




    Somewhere between Chattru and Chota Dara

    That I believe is no way to start a trip log eh! Definitely not. But then I just had to rant this bit to mourn over the remains of my broken vow. Spiti has been an old favorite for me and I am rather incapable of resisting any palpable chance of visiting it if offered thus. A dear friend who had taken up motorcycling after a two decade hiatus wanted your’s truly to accompany him to Little Tibet. On two wheels. Two other friends, when sounded, nodded their assent and the group of four went rolling to the high Himalayas on the 29th of September 2012. Incidentally, quite a number of xBhpians would be in the area during the time we embarked on our ride and some had been there a week or so ago. We met Ravi Dalal and his group (on way to Kasol) along with some xBhpians from Panipat at the toll there. Imran, Amber and Rohit (all three as twosomes with their better halves as pillion) and our very own Sunny and Sunil were headed that way too, coincident with our time slot. The only difference being that we were to enter Spiti via Manali (and over my old friend turned foe – Rohtang Jot) while the others would enter via Shimla and exit via Manali. That we would meet somewhere along the way was inevitable. Meet we did and at leisure as all reached Kaza on the same afternoon and also stayed up at the same hotel there. The bike line-up outside was impressive – 6 Karizma’s of different vintage, 2 KTM Dukes and 1 Ducati Multi-Strada.


    The group and bike line-up at our hotel in Kaza

    I again digress a bit in pointing out that this is not a traditional trip log as by now almost everyone worth his/her salt as a tourer is either familiar with or has been to Spiti. And I have no intention of boring you all with repetitive description of places and an equally boringly familiar narrative. I shall just touch upon any uniqueness of this trip and let the pictures that follow do most of the talking.


    Atop a tolerable Rohtang.





    This once the one unique point was my steed – a KTM Duke that I had so wanted to ride to these mountains. And it made me realize just how comfortable and anemic in power my trusty old Karizma is in comparison. The Duke has an excellent engine coupled with equally spot-on gearing and handling that makes short work of climbs and twisties. As a street naked, with that definite and unchangeable upright stance, it does appear a trifle unsuited for long distance travel but then considering the speeds possible on our over-used and under-maintained highways, it is not that bad in practice. So doing Delhi – Manali wasn’t superlative fun but we did manage comfortably in one day. The following day dawned to the climb up Rohtang and that’s when I really began enjoying the Duke. That this bike is a ‘bum-beater’ had become painfully obvious to me the previous day while riding through the abominably bad stretch between Kiratpur and Bilaspur. But the sheer involvement that it elicits from the rider on mountain roads, what with its instantaneous throttle and feline fast response to handling/braking inputs, makes one forget the repeated and relentless kick-backs of the hard set-up. The rear, even with my considerable weight and at full soft setting, would recoil like a Lee-Enfield rifle on broken roads.



    Incidentally and much to my relief, the worst of Rohtang wasn’t actually as bad in end-September as it was during the monsoons and we made good time across it, reaching Gramphoo within a couple of hours of leaving Solang. Thereon and till Losar, some 90 odd kms distant, is the best of the worst that Lahaul-Spiti has on offer in the name of a road to ride on. Gravel, mud, sand, stones, rocks, even boulders at times and all this interspersed with water flowing across, along or beside this supposed highway. My 14th foray into the region and this part of the route remains the same. And each time I ride across it, I cannot but wonder at the bikers’ competing in the annual Raid de Himalaya who are expected to do this stretch within a little more than 2 hrs. It takes us ordinary mortals almost 3 times that time! Our very own Vivek Sharma has done it in less than an hour and a half on a stock Karizma. Hats off to these modern day gladiators.

    Chota Dara and Batal are about riding in close vicinity of that hard and rugged Himalayan range that one only usually sees in pictures taken by trekkers. Eternally spectacular and I never cease to feel jealous of the first timer into this ride. I no longer can feel the same excitement and sense of wonder at the landscape we ride through after having done it so many times. Familiarity, if it cannot breed contempt here sure does breed a touch of monotony. The climb up Kunzum La is again a journey through sharp and harsh snow covered peaks that have yet to succumb to erosion. The geological youth of the Himalayas becomes very apparent when seen from such places. Losar onwards the road attains a semblance to the usual meaning of ‘road’ as we know it and there’s more tarmac than gravel and stones now on.






    On way to Kunzum Top






    Descending Kunzum towards Losar



    I had done some small changes to the Duke for this trip and they did prove their worth. Most obvious and important, I changed from stock tyres to CEAT Vertigos, both front and rear. The front was a 100-90/17 used as tubeless and the rear was a 120-90/17 used with a tube as the rear rim is wide and a 120 section tyre cannot be inflated and set on the rim without a tube. These tyres do alter the stance and geometry of the bike to some extent but the change is not really all that bad even though it seems so in the beginning. The tyres were good both on tarmac and off-road and the high aspect ratio protected my rims from any damage on bad roads and over no roads. The front tyre did present me with a fitment problem as the clearance between the front mud-guard and the tyre was reduced to within touching distance and I had to raise the mud-guard by an inch or so as a result. Not a very difficult thing to do actually and a couple of pictures show how it was done.


    Your's truly making a splash with the Duke.


    The CEAT Vertigo's worked great.




    The USD fork tube rubber boots up close




    The raised front mud-guard for increased tyre clearance


    The mud-flap


    The edge-to-edge scrubbed rear tyre. Great fun on twisty tarmac.

    I also attached a mud-flap to the rear of the front mud-guard to stop the front tyre from flinging mud into the radiator. And the small 6 inch mud-flap was fully effective. I also covered the fork tubes with rubber gaiters (probably those used on Pulsars) to protect the exposed seals of the USD forks from getting damaged by working against deposited mud and slush. I just slit the boots lengthwise, wrapped them around the fork tube and tied up the upper end with a plastic cable tie leaving the lower end open and free. My concern was primarily in keeping the mud out of the fork seal area and it worked well. All in all the bike ran faultlessly through the entire 1600+ kms. Prior to the ride I had anticipated that the small capacity fuel tank would run out of fuel, especially between Kaza and Powari (some 240 kms)but wasn’t worried as I had 3 other Karizmas’ with their 15 ltr tanks to lend me a liter each at the very least. But the Duke runs a high compression ratio, has fuel injection and these two allied with moderate speeds in the hills enforced by bad roads meant I didn’t run short of fuel anywhere and ended up with an overall fuel consumption figure of about 36 kmpl for the entire trip. Not bad at all for a 25 bhp bike.


    The road to Tabo. The onset of winter has its own charm here.


    The Duke in its terrain.


















    The roads between Kaza and Shimla have improved a lot in general though these days there a lot of widening work going on between Puh and Powari and so the conditions can be quite atrocious at places. In fact, being aware of the traffic hold-ups due to road-works (traffic is stopped while they blast parts of the mountainside and the clear the debris), we left Puh at 0430 hrs and made it past the worst even before the workers had woken up for the day! Puh to Naldehra is about 250 kms and I personally love the portion between Kingel and Basantpur – 88 kms of lovely twisty tarmac with so little traffic that we literally sat on that road for about half an hour munching on apples and apart from a solitary villager on foot, no one passed us by. We reached Naldehra well before sunset and had a wonderful time sharing tea and riding stories with Vivek, Dhairya and Navendu who were in the area practicing for the Raid they had taken part in which was to begin a day after.







    This sojourn with Spiti was made memorable not just by the bike I rode on but also by meeting up with so many friends in that far-off land. Familiar faces are a true delight days away from home and hearth. And there’s nothing like celebrating the shared passion as a brotherhood together and deep within the traveller’s terrain.
    Last edited by Old Fox; 10-17-2012 at 12:19 PM.
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  2. #2
    somen1984
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    Nice pic and some different angles!!

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    Adventurer Shivanshu's Avatar
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    Good to see KTM finally spreading its leg in the region where we all know its done wonders all over the globe, so how was it in here SIR. The pics are amazing and its good to meet friends up above the sky at times

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    Its raining spiti travelogues on xbhp and I am loving and cherishing it.
    @OF Sir : Thanks for refreshing up my last year trip too, and I wish I could ride with you one day..........one day
    Fare thee well xBhp, All the best for being the biggest name in corporate world

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Fox View Post
    My 14th foray into the region and this part of the route remains the same.
    if some one asks me my DREAM DESTINATION , it will always be SPITI and someone who has done this 14 times, YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION, A ROLE MODEL !!!
    I don't have words this time !!!

    R E S P E C T ! ! !
    when i ride...I RIDE...!!!

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    Rookie Anunoy's Avatar
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    What a ride man!!! and equally tempting captures... just loved them buddy

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    Super Moderator Old Fox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shivanshu View Post
    Good to see KTM finally spreading its leg in the region where we all know its done wonders all over the globe, so how was it in here SIR. The pics are amazing and its good to meet friends up above the sky at times
    Was fun Shivanshu. The KTM is unmatched on the twisties, especially tarmac.

    Quote Originally Posted by prateek2210 View Post
    Its raining spiti travelogues on xbhp and I am loving and cherishing it.
    @OF Sir : Thanks for refreshing up my last year trip too, and I wish I could ride with you one day..........one day
    Why just 'one day' Prateek babu. Lets make it a real trip up into the hills sometime.

    Quote Originally Posted by lovish09 View Post
    if some one asks me my DREAM DESTINATION , it will always be SPITI and someone who has done this 14 times, YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION, A ROLE MODEL !!!
    I don't have words this time !!!

    R E S P E C T ! ! !
    Spiti is an eternal favorite Lovish and has something new on offer each time one ventures there. Thanks for your appreciation and do ride out to Spiti this March to experience it in all its winter glory

    Quote Originally Posted by Anunoy View Post
    What a ride man!!! and equally tempting captures... just loved them buddy
    Thanks Anunoy
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    Moderator The Monk's Avatar
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    Dear OF sir, I do believe you mean the 29th of September

    I missed all you guys by a couple of days. As I was at Gramphoo on the 27th evening!! Though I did meet Shivanshu and gang...

    Two trips to Spiti in two consecutive years. And I know I will be going back for more

    Every stretch of the road in your pics is immediately recognizable as I was going so slow
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    Rusted prateek2210's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Fox View Post
    Why just 'one day' Prateek babu. Lets make it a real trip up into the hills sometime.
    That will be an honour sir riding with you. May be next year, and would personally need some guidance for the "big one"
    Fare thee well xBhp, All the best for being the biggest name in corporate world

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    Rusted ridermax's Avatar
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    Great to see a travelogue from you after quite a while OF !! The pictures are awesome and i can see you guys had an amazing time

    Cheers & Ride Safe

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