Spiti Valley, 2016

A self supported cycling expedition undertaken in August 2016 by 3 riders including myself, Veteran Mahandra Kumar & Mohit Gehlout. Each of us had 10+ Kg pannier bags on our bikes. I have posted entire trip ride statistics at the bottom of this article. I do hope that it helps other riders to plan their trips & learn from our experience.

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Day 1.
Kalka to Solan

On 15th Aug 2016 at 6.30 AM, We started our Himalayan cycling trip from Kalka. Infact the expedition starts with a steep climb out of our hotel in kalka – Setting the time for things to come. The temperature after 8 AM was up to 32 to 35 degrees, making it quite hot.

On all days of our trip, We set a routine of leaving by 6.15 AM for the day’s ride with just a cup of tea and biscuits. Breakfast after around 2 hours of riding at a dhaba at 8.30 am. This meant that we enjoyed the cool morning hours of riding & covered a lot of distance very early in the day. On all days, We had a great choice of yummy breakfast options like Omelette, parathas, maggie and chai.

After riding through the heat, We reached solan by 2 pm. Lunch at dhabas included rajma chawal, tandoor rotis, rice, dal. We found accommodation in a home stay with 2 adjoining rooms.

An early dinner on all days & generally off to sleep by 9 PM – this is a routine for the rest of the tour as well.

Day 2.
Solan to Shimla

Started at 6.15 AM with a Tea/biscuit stop in 1 km. Again we rode till 8.30 am. Then we had a brief descent from solan before we started in to steep climb in to Shimla. The traffic towards Shimla was quite heavy & the himachal drivers were driving quite fast & seemed to be quite arrogant towards us cyclists.

At Shimla, We settle in to a prebooked hotel near Mall road & then had a lovely north indian lunch at mall road. After a couple of hours of rest, we spent a great evening roaming at mall road and followed it with chole bhatura and ice cream for dinner

Day 3
Shimla to Narkanda

We started at 6.30 am from Shimla and immediately had a steep & long 10 kms climbs till naldehra. Then followed a delightful ride through pine tree forests and lovely paved roads. Soon after kufri, the weather turned foggy, cold & started raining. The Rains followed us right till narkanda coupled with fog & cold temperatures.

On this route, We saw many apple orchards along the roadside. We reached narkanda at around 4.30 PM & had a great accommodation in the Himachal Pradesh Pwd hotel and our room had heavenly views. With a gorgeous weather, we had time for Chai and pakoras in evening.

Day 4
Narkanda to Jeori

The morning saw lovely weather with a bit of chill. We started with a awesome 35 kms Descent down the mountains thru fog, clouds and slight drizzle. It was a sheer roller coaster ride like experience for us.

After breakfast, The climb to jeori was long and steep. Infact the climb to our pwd hotel was the steepest climb we got till date & showed 11 degrees on my bike computer.

We were lucky to have a awesome home like dinner at the hotel at Jeori.

Day 5
Jeori to Rekong Peo

We had a tough climb from the start itself. This proved to be our longest & toughest ride of our trip. Infact it was probably the toughest climb I have done till date. We climbed an incredible 8700 mtrs of total elevation climb. The roads were extremely bad with gravel, stones & rocks constituting most parts of our journey.

Today we saw the first snow peaks & waterfalls in early morning. But Then followed 5 hours of riding thru horrible roads – gravel, stones and rocks. Thank God someone invented the padded bike shorts. . . .

The last 5 kms climb to peo was so tough that at 19% grade climb, my bike front wheel almost rose off the ground till I pushed it down by leaning forward. Total Ride time 12.40 hours.

Tomorrow is a rest day . . Wow.

Day 6
Rest day – Chilling in cool Rekong Peo with gorgeous views from our hotel.

Today we saw the first snow peaks & waterfalls in early morning. But Then followed 5 hours of riding thru horrible roads – gravel, stones and rocks. Thank God someone invented the padded bike shorts. . . .

The last 5 kms climb to peo was so tough that at 19% grade climb, my bike front wheel almost rose off the ground till I pushed it down by leaning forward. Total Ride time 12.40 hours.

Tomorrow is a rest day . . Wow.

Day 7
Rekong Peo to Pooh

Starting by 6.15, We had a brief descent amidst lovely weather & stunning snow capped peaks around us. Then we again passed through hours of bad roads cutting through rocky mountains. We had the Sutlej river below us through the journey. Now that, we had entered the deeper reaches of himachal Pradesh, The area does not see too much rains due to being in the rain shadow part. The roads are absolutely dusty, bumpy & can be dangerous with the river gorge on our side at all times.

The last 5 kms in to Pooh was a pretty steep climb. A quaint & lovely village, Pooh is surrounded by beautiful mountains. We were now in to the part of himachal where most people were budhist followers. The local foods being thupka & other dishes.

Day 8
Pooh to Nako

The ride to nako was non stop climbing for 8 hours. Most parts were Steep, strenuous and never ending bends. We climbed a fair amount of height on this day. Nako is a lovely small village with a scenic lake. It had no phones, internet. Completely cut off from world. Infact the GPS vertical elevation also gave a mis-reading & should have been 4-5 times more than shown in table below.

Day 9
Nako to Tabo

It was quite cold in the early morning when we started. With a low oxygen at 12000 ft, it was infact difficult to breathe in the first 5 kms of rigourous climb. Luckily then we were going downhill for 20 kms. Soon the road to tabo then turns in to nightmare. Rocks, stones, gravel, and dangerous at some points. The other danger now was finding nutrition on the way. There were no food joints enway. Luckily tabo is in a valley.

but we had a disaster here. Mahandra Kumar’s bike saw a broken rear wheel spoke. This was approximately 6 kms before Tabo. After a lot of deliberations, we decided that Mohit & myself will ride ahead on the bike & make stay arrangements at Tabo. Since we were all determined to climb the kunzumla pass at 15000 feet. So the Ironman Mahandra Kumar walked over 8 kms through the mountain paths with his cycle and over 10 kgs pannier bags to Tabo.

We decided to take a truck ride to kaza the next day.– the next major town & ride our luck on finding a bike mechanic there. We had a couple of spare spokes that could be fitted on the bike.

Day 10
Tabo to Kaza

We went in a truck to the next major village of kaza where we hoped to get the bike repaired somehow. ( We had a spare spoke. But it was appr 5 mm short and not appropriate for his specialized bike. )

No such luck. But he managed to get a motorcycle mechanic and got our standby spoke fixed with a small welding done. With this, the rear wheel was wobbly due to this and scrapped at the brake pads constantly, making even basic riding very tough in these conditions and mountain climbing almost unthinkable.

Ironman shifted his heavy pannier bags to the front tyres (see photos ) and told us that we will continue our journey to the peak.- with his wobbly rear wheel and heavy panniers.

At age 60, with a injured bike, low oxygen and such roads, Ironman Mahandra Kumar proved that the cyclist spirit in him is so strong and unbeatable.

Day 11
Kaza to Kee monastery

This was supposed to be our rest day. But We did a 34 kms bike ride to the ancient kee monastery nearby. This included a 16 kms steep climb towards the monastery. The monastery was lovely. We saw the dalai lama’s room & other budhist sculptures.


Day 12
Kaza to Losar

Starting early, We had a great time riding thru the kaza valley. But then we had extreme winds, horrible roads during the later part of the valley ride. This was for appr 40 kms. Towards the last 20 kms, We had a great challenge riding as we had water flowing down on our mountain road, stones & coupled with strong winds. Riding here was a huge challenge.
On these stretches, We had to take emergency food rations in our individual bikes as food joints were few & far apart. Our rations included chocolate bars, biscuits & a paratha roll.

Day 13
Losar to Kumzumla pass & descent to Bataal.

It was very Cold with a light drizzle in the morning when we started. We were very excited to be heading towards the 15000 ft Kunzumla pass. We had a 18 kms rigorous climb to kumjumla pass. The road was a true blue mountain path with rocks, dirt roads & quite narrow at many points.
Finally after over 5 hours of climbing, we reached our goal and reached our highest destination on the expedition. After spending an hour at the top, we started our descent in to bataal. This was a road with big stones & gravel & quite steep, going down. Extremely narrow and dangerous.

But we all managed to reach bataal safely & ended our bike journey here. Infact bataal has no houses. It is just a junction with couple of dhabas. There is only 1 bus that passes here to take us to manali at 10 AM the next day. We take that crowded bus next day & reach manali before leaving for delhi & then on to Mumbai.

Himachal Cycling trip statistics Aug 2016
Date From Altitude To Alititude Distance (kms) total time (hrs) moving time (hrs) total elevation gain (mtrs) Avg speed Max speed
15.8 Kalka 662 Solan 1522 49 7.46 4.39 4816 10.5 31.7
16.8 Solan 1522 Shimla 2194 43.4 5.25 3.25 3983 12.7 33.8
17.8 Shimla 2194 Narkanda 2703 60.8 9.13 5.22 4315 11.3 33.8
19.8 Narkanda 2703 Jeori 1406 92.1 10.54 6.14 4756 14.8 45.7
20.8 Jeori 1406 Rekong Peo 2353 79.4 12.37 7.52 8722 10.1 39.1
22.8 Rekong Peo 2353 Pooh 2573 70.2 11.19 6.21 1090 11.1 3.9
23.8 Pooh 2573 Nako 3546 43.9 9.44 4.57 1231 8.9 37.5
24.8 Nako 3546 Tabo 3290 63.5 9.03 5.43 751 11.1 33.4
25.8 Kaza 3290 Kee monastery 4136 34.3 5.26 3.36 908 8.7 36
26.8 Kaza 3290 Losar 4076 57.2 11.34 8.44 1034 6.5 39.2
27.8 Losar 4076 Batal 4550 30.4 7.56 4.33 533 6.7 16.6
Totals 624.2 98.57 58.86 32139
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