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Preparing your motorcycle for Ladakh


An arduous journey like Ladakh can take its toll, on not only the rider, but also on the motorcycle. In places like Manali - Leh highway or Zanskar Valley, a mechanical failure can spell disaster. With nearest town miles away and a mechanic even further down the road, it is a good idea to get the bike serviced properly and get the worn out parts replaced, before embarking upon a journey of this magnitude.


Things to watch out for when getting the bike serviced for Ladakh:

Clutch Plates: For the steep and hilly terrain of Ladakh, it is best to ensure that your bike’s clutch

plates have enough life left in them, to see you through the trip. So when you are getting the bike serviced, ask the mechanic to check the clutch plates and replace if necessary.

Piston Rings: Another thing to watch out for is the health of Piston rings, if your bike has been drinking engine oil lately; it is best to get the piston-cylinder kit checked for wear and tear and while you are at it, get the valves checked as well.

Timing Chain: Another thing you need to pay close attention to is a loose/worn out timing chain which can end up spoiling your trip by reducing your bikes power output. So do make sure that you get the timing chain inspected at the time of service.

Drive Chain & Sprockets: Check drive chain and sprockets for wear, if the chain and/or sprockets are on the last lease of life, change the entire chain-sprocket set. Else get them cleaned and lubricated.

Suspensions: Riding on the harsh terrain of Ladakh with a bike loaded with rider and luggage can take a toll on the suspension of your motorcycle. Get the front and rear suspension checked, and if the need be, get them repaired/changed.

Swing arm bush: Get the swing arm bush checked for slackness, change if there is a need.

Air filter/spark plug: If your air filter and/or spark plug is over 10000kms old or approaching that figure, get them changed. Don’t throw the old ones out, keep them as spares.

Clutch & Accelerator wires: If your Clutch and Accelerator wires are over 10000kms old, get them changed and keep the old ones as spare. If they are not in need of a change then get them lubricated.

Brake shoes/pads: Get the brake pads and shoes checked for wear, if they can’t last for 5000kms, get them changed. Also get the brake fluid changed or top it up, if you had changed it recently.

Con Set: Con set is an essential part of the bike and if it’s loose or worn out, it can affect the handling of the motorcycle. At the time of service get it checked and change it if the need be.

Engine oil/filter: If the engine oil is over 500kms old, get it changed. Also change the oil filter. In case your bike uses an oil strainer, get it cleaned.

Electrical: Get all the electrical wiring checked, check all bulbs to see if they are functioning properly. Also clean the headlight seal beam and brake light to ensure better visibility.

Fasten all nuts and bolts: Get all the nuts and bolts fastened properly, in case any is missing, get it installed.   

Carburetor Tuning: Keep the Carburetor tuning as close to stock as possible. Running it rich will cause problem in high altitude areas and running it lean would lead to overheating in plains.

General check: Give every thing a once over, ensure every thing is working properly. And all the fluids are topped up, i.e. battery water, engine oil etc. Ensure all fuel lines are intact and there is no leakage any where.

Tyres: Check both the tyres for wear and signs of cuts and cracks. If either of them is nearing the end of their life, get them changed.

Wheel alignment: In case your motorcycle has spoke wheels, get them checked, and if the need be, get them aligned before you begin your trip


Learn minor repair/servicing:

If you have gone through the above routine, your bike should hold through for the entire trip, but its a good idea to ask your motorcycle mechanic to teach you minor chores like tightening rear brakes, adjusting clutch and accelerator play, adjusting chain, fixing puncture, replacing bulbs and changing accelerator/clutch cable/levers. 


Final checks on the D-Day and beyond:

Now that you have prepared your motorcycle, and are ready to embark upon your trip, there are few checks that you need to perform.

Check if all lights, horn and indicators are working.

Double check fluid levels such as engine oil, brake oil, battery water etc.

Check tyres for air pressure as well as look for any signs of any nails, rocks etc lodged in tyre tread.

Check if chain is lubricated properly and isn’t too tight or too loose.

Check for any leakages.

These checks should be performed each day before you start your journey, this should ensure there is no surprise in the middle of the trip.


List of essential tools, spares and motorcycle documents:

Although it is recommended to learn basic repair of your motorcycle, even if you don’t know much, it is generally a good idea to carry necessary tools and spares. Since sometime even in the smallest of town you can find a mechanic or some one who knows how to do basic repair, but might not have the required tool and spares to go through it. 


Essential tools:

1. Tool kit: OEM tool kit that comes with motorcycle is an essential part of the tool kit that every tourer should carry.

2. Ring spanners size 8 to 17: Should come in handy for tightening nuts and bolts of various sizes.

3. Screw Driver set: Try to carry a screwdriver set which has multiple attachments; a set which also includes a set of Allen keys is a good choice. While purchasing screwdriver set, ensure you get one which is the sturdiest of the lot and wont break while you are tightening or opening something. 

4. Steel wire: Can be used to tie together bike parts in case of any breakage.

5. Electricians & Scotch tape: Can be used for tying together various parts and insolating damage wires.

6. Torch light: In case of break down in the evening or early in the morning you will need it to see your bike, even once you are off your bike it can prove quite useful.

7. Foot or Electric air pump: Since motorcyclists don’t have the luxury of carrying a spare tyre, an electric or foot pump combined with a puncture repair kit and spare tube can turn out to be a life saver. 

8. Puncture repair kit: Puncture repair kit for tyres with tubes should consist of; rubber patches, solution for pasting the patches on tube and tyre iron for taking off the tyre from the rim. In case of tubeless tyres, purchase a tubeless puncture repair kit.


Essential Spares:

1. Engine oil: Carry at least half a liter of engine oil recommended by your motorcycle manufacturer, daily check engine oil level and top up if necessary.

2. 90w Gear oil: Can be used to lubricate drive chain, in case you prefer to use WD 40 or chain spray, please carry that.

3. Headlight and brake light bulb: Always carry a headlight and brake light bulb.

4. Chain links: Carry couple of chain links, in case your drive chain breaks due to some thing, you can fix it and ride on.

5. Clutch and front brake lever: In case of a fall clutch/front brake lever can break leaving you with a small piece to try and control your motorcycle with. Its best to carry each of these as spares to ensure you can ride with ease.

6. Clutch and accelerator wires: Clutch and Accelerator wires have a habit of snapping in the middle of nowhere, carry each of them to ensure in case one of them snaps, you can still carry on with your tour.

7. Spare tube for front and rear tyre: Carrying a spare tube for both the tyres will ensure that in case of a puncture you wouldn’t have to waste your time trying to repair the punctured tube and can simply change the tube and continue riding.

8. Spark plug: Although spark plugs of modern motorcycles rarely give problem, it is a good idea to carry a spare one.

9. Spare key of your motorcycle: Always carry a spare key of your motorcycle and never put both the keys in the same place!

10. Spare Fuse: A blown fuse can leave your motorcycle without headlight and/or horn, so don’t forget to carry one with you.

11. WD40: Can be used to lubricate and clean various mechanical and electrical parts of the motorcycle.

12. Nylon Rope: Can be used for tying together various parts of your motorcycle or to help you tow your friend’s motorcycle or help some one else tow yours.

13. Bungee cords: Helps in tying the luggage, always carry couple of spare ones since they can snap under pressure.

14. Electrical wire: Can be used to replace faulty electrical wire in the wiring.

15. Few nuts and bolts of various sizes: Based on your motorcycles make, carry nuts and bolts which hold parts like exhaust, leg guard, foot pegs etc.

16. Petrol pipe 1-2 meter long: If you run out of petrol and come across some one who is willing to lend some petrol to you, you will need it to take petrol out of their petrol tank.

If you own a Royal Enfield Bullet, also carry 250ml clutch oil and a decompressor cable.

In case any of your motorcycles parts have a history of ditching you in the middle of nowhere, it would be a wise to carry it as spare.  


Essential documents:

1. Driving license

2. Registration Papers of the bike

3. Insurance certificate

4. Pollution under control certificate

Carry two - three copies of the above mentioned documents; generally you should have photocopies of Registration certificate and Insurance certificate handy, while the original should be kept in safe yet accessible place. In case of photocopies, they would have to be attested by a gazetted officer in order to hold any value. You should always have your original license and PUC certificate handy as well.

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