The Himalayas: How to Pick a Cycling Destination

Our destination selection usually begins shortly after returning from a trip, sometimes even during one. After several backpacking trips Yann had begin to hint at a cycling trip which for some reason I agreed to (in the winter the actual consequences of such a decision do not sink in quite yet). The longest cycling trip we had ever undertaken was a 4 day, 250km trip around Lac St-Jean in Northern Quebec. After 2 days, I contracted a mystery-illness and gave up. So, it was pretty obvious to us that we had the cycling credentials to undertake anything.

We had traveled to Ladakh in Northern India several years earlier and both agreed that we would return. So without much debate we decided to explore the possibility of cycling there. I suggested that we include the even remoter region of Zanskar in our plans, sort of thinking that Yann might abandon the idea of cycling. Many of Zanskar's villages are accessible only on foot, by narrow cliff-side trails.

Ladakh and Zanskar can be approached from the north, by road, or from the south, on foot over the Shingo-La Pass (5,091m). By road, there are two routes, one through Kashmir by the Srinagar-Leh highway and the more popular Manali-Leh highway. We hoped to avoid taking the Srinagar-Leh highway through Kashmir because we had traveled it a few years earlier and which would involve many more kilometers of cycling. We also wanted a route that would not involve doubling back on our tracks like riding the Manali-Leh highway twice. We started seriously considering the more technically difficult off-road route. We just needed some advice as to whether the stretch of non-existent road between the small village of Darcha and Padum, the capital of the Zanskar valley was actually bike-navigable.

We turned to Google with the query cyling zanskar valley turning up a great discussion on the travel forum Of course we weren't the first people to think of this! A series of responses basically said that cycling through Zanskar was impossible, with poster Captain bruce being the most forceful in the voicing of his opinion: "dont even think it unless you are a special forces paratrooper" (giving me momentary hope of abandoning this harebrained plan)

But then Belarusian mountain biker mikola saved the day with his post "cannot say it was absolutely effortless - a lot of 'hike and bike'... p.s. we aren't special forces paratroopers". Sealing our choice of destination.
We purchased plane tickets a few days after reading this series of posts (we had to make sure we wouldn't change our minds).


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