Trip to Himalayas on a Ducati Monster 796
We (my wife and I) have created a facebook page for our trip.
The enchanting, mystical Himalayas. The mesmerizing beauty of the Himalayas (Leh, Ladakh) is raw and pure. As beautiful as it is, the terrain, climatic and road conditions, to reach there, are equally challenging. The two ways to reach Leh, the Manali - Leh Highway and Srinagar - Leh Highway, both provide the ultimate adventure with altitudes rising above 17,000 ft with an average altitude of 11,000 ft above MSL.
If there is one place I like to tour again and again is the Himalayas. I had already toured Leh, Ladakh twice before, in 2008 with a team of four bikers and in 2010 which was a solo ride, on my other bike, the Hyosung Comet GT250 2006.
My wife and Me had been planning for a Leh, Ladakh trip since 2011 but somehow it wasn't materializing. Earlier this year I bought a pre-owned Ducati Monster 796 2011 from a friend in Mumbai who had maintained it beautifully. I rode it all the way down to Bangalore covering around 1000 kilometers in just about 16 hours straight with small breaks in between. The bike performed exceptionally well and that got me thinking what if I toured the Himalayas on the Monster.
And why not, the bike has impressive ground clearance, a super strong engine, suspension, etc. It has all the right things to make it through.
The only question was that this is an expensive bike and I wouldn't want to ruin it if something bad happens.
But then you wouldn't know how will it be unless you take it there.
We decided to go ahead and I started preparing the bike. The only modifications on the bike I did were:
- An aftermarket free flow air filter which I thought was necessary to cater to the air supply at such high altitudes where air density is very very less.
- A saddle bag holder frame so that the saddle bags can be attached without touching the exhaust pipes and saving the turn signals.
- An extended front mud guard so that the slush, water, rocks, lose soil doesn't hit the front cylinder/exhaust bend pipe/etc and damage it.
We started the trip on 8th July from Delhi and eventually completed in on 21 July. This was a very special trip for me. One reason was that I did this trip along with my wife and other reason was doing it on one of the most coveted road bikes.
On top of that we celebrated my wife's birthday, which fell in the middle of the trip, in a special way i.e. riding through the Himalayas.
I would like to appreciate and congratulate Ducati for making such a sturdy bike which could effortlessly handle the harsh climatic conditions as well as the terrain which probably is one of the toughest in the world, the one which is respected by motorcyclists all over the world. The bike was able to pull through fully loaded with me, my wife as pillion and all the luggage, saddle bags, tank bag, a portable tent and a back pack for carrying extra fuel because at some places there won't be any petrol pump for about 370 kilometers. The fueling of the monster was impressive as well, I was constantly getting 17 to 18 kilometers per litre even when I had to run the bike in lower gears for most of the time.
Only two problems I faced regarding the bike there
Though the Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres perform exceptionally well on the road, the compound was too soft to be used in the Himalayan terrain and I got a flat rear tyre twice in the trip.
Unfortunately due to those punctures we couldn't visit the famous Pangong lake and also for the last 150kms odd kilometers we had to take local people's help to reach next destination.
The other problem I faced was that the front sprocket lock, the small lock which keeps the front sprocket in its place while running, got lose and due to which the chain shifted towards the chassis and started rubbing with the chassis. Both of these issues didn't impact much the trip much as these came up only in the latter stages of the trip and other than that I had no issues whatsoever with the bike.
Whenever we used to stop for a break in the between people were in the awe that a Ducati can also reach this place, they were full of respect as well.
I received several interesting comments en-route even from people who were visitors in India from Holland, UK, etc
- "Ducati is an expensive bike to be ridden here",
- "I don't believe my eyes that I am seeing a Ducati in the Himalayas"
- "What is a Ducati doing here! This is no road to race"
- "Hats off to you dude that you are taking your monster to such places, I have a Suzuki Hayabusa but I can't even think of bringing it out here"
We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I am glad that I did this trip on a Ducati and my beloved wife being with me made it extra special. In fact this whole trip wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for her. It's not easy being a pillion on such bumpy roads. I would like to dedicate this first to my wife, Moreen, and then to my bike, My Monster.
On this trip we covered around 2000 kilometers in 14 days crossing over some of the world's highest mountain passes, of which following three are certainly the highest in India.
1. Khardung La (Altitude: 18,380 ft./5569 mts above MSL)
2. Tanglang La (Altitude: 17,582 ft./5359 mts above MSL)
3. Chang La (Altitude: 17,590 ft./5360 mts above MSL)
Some of the other high passes we crossed en-route:
- Zozilla Pass (Altitude: 11,575 ft/3528 mts)
- Namik La (Altitude: 12,408 ft/3760 mts)
- Fotu La (Altitude: 13,478 ft/4108 mts)
- Lachlung La (Altitude: 16,600 ft/5059 mts)
- Nakee La (Altitude: 15,547 ft/4711 mts)
- Baralacha La (Altitude: 16,043ft/4890 mts)
Delhi - Ambala (Chandigarh) - Dharamsala - Udhampur - Srinagar - Drass - Kargil - Leh - Khardung La - Leh - Chang la - Leh - Tanglang La - Sarchu - Manali - Baralacha La - Mandi
Trip dates: 8th July 2012 to 21 July 2012
To the best of my knowledge I am pretty sure that this is the First Ducati Monster 796 in the world that has reached the road/pass which is considered to be the Highest "motor-able" road in the world, Khardung La (Altitude: 18380 ft) (there is a slight confusion on the actual altitude reading of the pass).