Tackling Different Terrain in the Himalayas On a Bike
The reason why biking through the Himalayas has become very popular recently is that it not only lets you know what is the limit of your physical endurance but also how good your riding skills are, as you may encounter hurdles which includes snow, gravel, rain and slush on the way. In this article, we will tell you how to tackle hurdles which you are most likely to encounter while motorcycling through the mighty Himalayas.
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Tackling Different Terrain in the Himalayas On a Bike
Landslides pose a major hazard in the mountains and this means lot of gravel on the road. Riding through it needs all your skills because going through a road full of gravel is totally different from riding on concrete or asphalt.
If you want to smoothly negotiate a gravel strewn road, traction has to be maintained at all times as this will allow you to be in complete control of the bike. It is important to keep a moderate opening of the throttle. Riding with the clutch pulled is not a good idea more so when going down hill because without the rear wheel getting power, the bike will not remain very stable.
The best way is to put the bike in the required gear and slowly negotiate your way through the gravel patch with adequate throttle input.
There will shaking and wobbling of the front wheel and the best way to tackle it is to maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars and to counter the wobble, gun the throttle consistently so that torque is maintained. Avoid hard braking as this may cause the bike to slide. The best way to stop or slow down is to use engine braking and the rear brake. Avoid using the front brake all of a sudden and instead do it gently.
This is another hazard which is commonly encountered in the mountains because of numerous streams which crisscross the higher reaches and in some places flow over the roads. In most cases, the flow of water is so strong and frothy that it is virtually impossible to see what lies under it.
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Stop the bike and see which is the best route through it. When you spot the shallowest path, take it. Like driving through gravel, grab the handlebar in a relaxed way.
Never ride with the clutch half pressed because if you cross the stream on a half clutch, it will lead to the clutch plates burning out prematurely. If the bike gets stuck in the water, try to free it by rocking it from side to side and give it throttle. Never let the engine die even if the bike gets stuck, try to get out of the situation using engine power. If the engine ingests water and stalls, don’t try to start it in the middle of the stream. Try to push the bike out of water and let it dry down before restarting it.
If you are riding to Leh, this is the trickiest hazard out there. There are certain parts where soft mud covers a long patch on the road and makes it slushy, which not only makes driving on them a drag but the strain it puts on the engine results in the overheating of clutch plates and breaking of clutch cables. Here too, drive in a relaxed body position and grip the handlebars softly.
Never ride the clutch. Wheel spins occur commonly in slush, so if it happens push the bike with your feet. If the rear end of the motorcyle tips dangerously, put your feet down and bring the bike upright again. In extremely slushy conditions, you may have to drive with one or both feet down, just as you ride in rush hour traffic in a city. If you have time on your hand then clean the mud off the bike’s engine and the exhaust because after drying, the mud hinders the proper cooling of the engine.
Mountains get foggy during the rainy season and it is very essential that you make yourself visible at all times and for this keep the headlight of the bike switched on continuously. If needed, fog lights can be fitted. If there is a vehicle ahead of you, keep a safe distance as the muck thrown up by its rear wheels can reduce forward visibility drastically.
Keep handy a clean cloth to wipe the goggles or the helmet visor and the headlights.
Again, drive in a smooth fashion in these conditions. Don’t slam hard on the brakes because they might lock up and the bike can skid in the wet conditions. Brake early and, more importantly, a bit gently. Always have room for margin of error on roads which are wet.
Stones on roads can be hard on your bike and can wreck it if you don’t ride it properly. There are a couple of ways to tackle roads which have stones strewn across them. First, slow down and go easy over the bumps and though the jerks will make you feel unsettled, at least the bike will be safe from any major damage, which is very important. Second, grip the fuel tank with your legs, stand on the foot pegs and hold the handle loosely.
This way you will save yourself from a sore back but the bike may be damaged as you will tend to drive faster and also the rider won’t be able to see the rear view mirror and if a vehicle is going to overtake you it won’t be visible and you may be taken by surprise. The best solution is to drive on the terrain using a combination of both techniques.
Yes, it is very likely you may encounter sandy terrain in the mountains. So, the best way when you encounter sandy terrain is to keep the momentum going, never stop till you get out of sand. The most suitable way is to put the bike in the second or third gear and maintain constant momentum, keep your legs on the pegs and just ride through.
If the bike gets wobbly, take the help of the throttle to steady it.
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If you lose momentum, you can get bogged down and once the front tyre sinks into the sand getting it out will be difficult. If it does get stuck, give the bike throttle and though there will be wobbling of the front wheel, the key is to grip the handlebar loosely and let the bike find its way out.
It is inevitable that you may encounter snow depending on which month you undertake the journey. There are two ways of riding on snow-covered roads. The best way is to follow in the path created by vehicles which have gone ahead and only thing which you will encounter is water.
But, sometimes, when the temperature is below freezing, the water freezes and forms a thin layer of ice on the surface of the road, which makes conditions very slippery. In such a condition, you need to observe carefully the line to take. Once you spot the path which has the least snow, go through it slowly. If the rear slides, don’t panic, keep modulating the throttle according to the conditions and keep your feet on the ground if you feel the bike is tipping over.
The points mentioned here are just a pointer on how to negotiate varied driving conditions in the mountains. Once you get there, the conditions you experience may be different and it will be up to your intuition to help you in taking the most appropriate route. However, the best approach is to take everything easy if this is the first time you are riding in the mountains. Last but not the least, it is very essential to have the proper riding gear.