Automobiles / Leh-Ladakh

Best motorcycle for Ladakh?

Several times each month, I receive queries from people, asking me, which is the best motorcycle for Ladakh bike ride?

While there is no simple answer to this question, there are motorcycles which I feel are more suitable for Ladakh ride, than others. So here are 5 motorcycles I would recommend you to buy, if you are planning to buy a motorcycle soon and are looking for something, which would be a better choice for Ladakh.

Hero Impulse: When it comes to tackling bad and off roads in stock form, nothing quite comes close to Hero Impulse. It has a time tested and reliable 150cc 4st engine from Honda, which although isn’t very powerful, but has enough power on tap to take you through pretty much all the passes in Ladakh. Add to this, quite a few renters in Leh and Manali now have Impulse available for rent, which should lead to easier availability of spares and service in Ladakh.

hero-impulse

Bajaj Pulsar 180: If you are looking for a more powerful bike, yet do not wish to compromise on fuel economy or spend a lot of money on buying a motorcycle, then Bajaj Pulsar 180 is a good option. It also has a large enough fuel tank to do Kargil – Padum (Zanskar Valley) – Kargil ride, without requiring refueling at Padum. It is also a time tested and reliable motorcycle, and I have been using its first iteration (180 Classic) for past 12 years.

bajaj-pulsar-180

Hero Karizma: An old workhorse, which refuses to fade into the history books, despite the introduction of better and more powerful bikes. Hero Karizma for the most part is still the same old bike, which was launched over a decade ago and still remains one of the best touring bikes in India. And even though it’s plastic parts might start rattling or even break after a few rough rides, its engine would rarely ditch you midway. For anyone looking for a motorcycle capable of breezing through Ladakh, but not wanting to spend more than one lakh, Karizma is still the best choice. That is until the new Karizma R with an uglier design (never thought it was possible), replaces the current workhorse.

Bajaj Pulsar 220: Since the new Karizma R is out and it is yet to prove itself long term and I haven’t riden it, I am changing my recommendation to Bajaj Pulsar 220F. Even though Bajaj Pulsar 220F isn’t as refined or ergonomically comfortable as the outgoing Karizma. However with the newly launched Karizma, it becomes de facto choice for anyone looking to buy a good motorcycle for Ladakh for less than 1lakh rupees. Bajaj Pulsar 220F does have a 55w projector head lamp, which is great for touring at night. Though I wouldn’t recommend touring at night in Ladakh, since you will miss all the vistas. It is also reliable enough, has a decent tank range and is powerful enough for touring with a pillion (as long as you aren’t overloading the bike with luggage).

bajaj-pulsar-220f

KTM 200 Duke: KTM 200 and 390 Duke are the most fun Indian bikes you can take to Ladakh. However, thanks to small fuel tanks and thirsty engines, you will have to either carry spare fuel or stick to routes, which have petrol pumps every couple of hundred kilometers. Due to this, even though I believe KTM 390 Duke is a better bike for the money. I am recommending its smaller sibling, due to better mileage, which translates in to better tank range.

ktm-200-duke

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 is the best RE bike for Ladakh; large fuel tank, powerful engine, fuel injection, souped up suspension and brakes are everything that was missing from the REs and was badly required by tourers. It is also the best motorcycle to ride to Ladakh, if you have a pillion and plenty of luggage. Reliability of newer UCE Enfields is better than ever before, even though there is still room for improvement. Having said that, I don’t quite like the ergonomics of Thunderbirds, never have and probably never will. I would have been happier, if Royal Enfield had introduced Electra with similar parts. But then again, like styling, ergonomics is a personal thing, so before you decide anything, make sure to book a test ride.

royal-enfield-thunderbird-500

At the end of the day, no matter which motorcycle you have, you can take it to Ladakh, if it is in good condition and you ride within its and your limits. So even if your motorcycle isn’t listed above, don’t feel disheartened, because best motorcycle for Ladakh is the one, you currently own.

256 Comments

  1. hello yogesh, i hav pulsar 135 ls ….rode 29000kms on it ..bike will probably be in good condition if serviced…would you suggest it for leh trip. Karnal(haryana) – leh – karnal. please provide me with other information like 1.total expenditure ( petrol lodging fooding etc ) 2. what and what not to carry 3. what should be the ridding gear. i hav hear a lot about renting a bike from manali …plz tell me how good would that be ??

  2. Rajashekar Brahmapuram Pandian says:

    Hey Yogesh!

    I was wondering if I could take on the harsh roads from Manali – Leh on my 1987 RE Standard 350 with a pillion. I’m planning to carry only the essentials in order to reduce the load. Also my ride is in pretty good shape. The only issue that bothers me is the though of ending up with a burnt clutch, especially with soo many river crossings along the way. Are there any particular mods which would help my bike cope better with the harsh environment?

    Thanks in advance,
    Raj

    • hello Rajasekhar, sorry i wont be help with your querry …but i was also planning to go leh from the same route …i was wondering if its poosible that we could team up ? regards

    • Hi Rajesh,

      I have just completed the ladakh ride a week ago on my RE 1987 STD model with my wife as a pillion. Let me tell you the motorcycle should be in good condition & you will have loads of fun en route. Here are some points to keep in mind

      When you say burnt clutch make sure you get your clutch assembly checked, I had an issue while climbing the Khardungla pass

      1) Make sure your engine is in good condition by that I mean the Clutch, Gear & Battery

      2) Try to carry light clothes, the lesser the better considering you are riding with a pillion

      3) Hope this is not your first ride, riders are expected to know basic repairs like fixing a puncture tyre, replacing clutch, accelerator, decompression cable, tightening the chain etc along with knowing how to fix all external issues

      4) Carry all essential tools to manage any kind of repairs

      Not sure if you have already started your journey to Ladakh, you can drop me a mail @ [email protected] if you have specific questions & I will be happy to answer your questions.

      Regards,
      Dev

    • Just drive slow, and be single at such crossing

  3. Hi Yogesh,
    What do you feel about avenger 220 cruise for this trip?

  4. Abhiudit Koushal says:

    I am planning for a road trip to leh via manali road on my new avenger 220 cruise? What are things which I should keep a check on and is it safe to ride on an avenger cruise to leh?

  5. Hello Yoges. Can u please help me with advice. Right now I m in New Delhi and I m planing to buy a motorbike and ride first to Ladakh and than going all way down to Goa. My budget is not to big i could purche maximum 75000 rial or perfere 65000. Sure i m most intusiactic abouth Royal enfild, but i m not sure if i can get good one for this money and special becaouse i m not to experience in reparing bikes (i know basic). So what do u think that would be my best choise? I would be really thankfull if u can replay fast, becaouse i need to buy my bike in feve days. Thank u in addvance

  6. Hi Yogesh, I am planning to travel Delhi to Leh-ladakh via Manali on my Hero-Glamour(125cc) on October 1st week. Is it possible to travel ??

  7. hey yogesh..

    would you sugges ktm rc 200 for this trip.

    plz reply

  8. Hey yogesh
    I have booked a thunderbird350 but still having a second thought whether to go for RE Himalayan. Could you please clarify, Which is best suited for both touring and off road conditions? Is TB350 good to manoeuvre in off road conditions?

  9. Dushyant singh says:

    hello mr. yogesh I have harley davidson 750 cc, is this the better ?

  10. Hello Yogesh, I have a Yamaha Fazer version 2 with FI. I would like to do the Manali – Leh bike trip on it later this year. I have some questions which you might be able to answer.
    1. Will the FI system on it be able to operate at the higher altitudes?
    2. Will the ECU need to be tuned to suit the conditions?
    3. Will I need to change the bikes tires from stock to dual purpose/ off road?

    Thanks in advance.

    • ECU shouldn’t have a major trouble, though Fazer does encounter major power loss at high altitude. So make sure to keep the luggage light and change the tyres to dual purpose, if you can find them for your bike and carry tubes as spare. There have been instances of Fazer alloy getting bent while riding in rough terrain.

  11. Hello yogesh.
    I have bajaj pulsar 135ls done 45000kms.
    I have taken this bike to karwar from Mumbai via Goa in 5days.
    I want to take my bike to ladakh, can i????
    planning to go in April or May.

    • You can take your motorcycle, as long as it is in good condition. However, Srinagar route won’t reopen before first week of May and Manali route will likely reopen in last week of May.

  12. sir i have hero honda old cbz 2004 model i have ride it around 70000 kms and it’s still in good condition never had engine problem yet, i am planning to take it to leh trip can my bike is good option for this trip.

  13. Hi Yogesh,

    Where in Manali can we get reliable bikes. Planning for double on each bike with luggage, what could be better than bullets ?

    Thank you. Abhishek

    • Abhishek, if you’re planning to ride with pillions, then Enfields will be better bet. Anu Motorcycles has a pretty good reputation. Though please keep in mind, in case you’re heading to Ladakh, you will have to park motorcycles in Leh. Then hire from local renters in order to visit Khardung La, Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso.

      • sudhagar gopal says:

        Hi Yogesh,
        Delhi rental agencies are confidently telling that – “there is no issues of renting bike from Delhi, and can visit Nubra & pangong”. They are giving whiteboard bikes – so no issues – they are claiming.

        Could you please clarify me Sir..

        Regards
        Sudhagar

      • 1. It is illegal to hire or rent motorcycle with white number plates, since only commercial number plate motorcycles can be rented legally.

        2. Unless the motorcycle is in your name or that of an immediate family member, motorcycle union members will not let you ride to Nubra or Pangong Tso.

  14. Rajeev Roy says:

    Hello Yogesh,

    We are 4 freinds are planing for Del-Leh trip with our old bikes on Jun 10th:
    Pulsar 180 DTSI 2007 (80000km)
    FZ 2010 (40000km)
    R15 2011 (90000km)
    FZ 2012 (45000km)
    So can you please is these bikes are okay for ladakh. Let me tell you our plan is to grom from Del-Srinagar-Leh nad will return from Leh-Manali-Del. Is it oki to there. And one more question can we take pillion with us or not?
    Thanks in advance if you reply.

    • As long as the motorcycles are good condition and you aren’t overloading them, they should be fine. Pillion can be carried, but it would be uncomfortable for the rider and the pillion.

  15. Amazing post, I will follow you.
    Keep up the good work!!

  16. Vishal Thakur says:

    Yogesh sir I have Honda cb trigger 150 cc. Of 2014 model, I want to go leh by this bike. I have also a option of maruti alto 800 lxi of 2016,which one will be better, if I am on bike I will be alone, and if in car we will be four. Pls suggest. Thanks

    • You can take either of these vehicles as long as they are in good condition. Having said that, with 4 people and luggage on board, chances of the 800 bottoming out on bad terrain would be quite high. 2-3 people with light luggage will be a better bet.

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