Snow-capped mountains and the sweet silence of the hills. Rays of sunlight kissing the mountain peaks early morning. The biting cold and that sense of a day ahead in which momentous things will happen. Ladakh is truly special. I first rode up there over 10 years ago on a motorcycle that's sort of attached at the hip to it, the Royal Enfield. But I haven't been up there in ages. To celebrate OVERDRIVE's 19th anniversary, Shumi planned out a ride up on very interesting motorcycles indeed. For years, I've yearned to ride an adventure tourer into the region. They're supposed to be built to take on the worst of terrains, engineered to take more of a battering than you can imagine and boast go-anywhere abilities unlike most motorcycles we know. Finally the dream is coming true.
The proverbial spanner landed on Shumi's leg and broke it at the Africa Twin ride, and he was removed, ahem, from the cast of characters. But the plan remained. We were going to ride the Triumph Tiger 800 XCA (Bert's bike), Shumi's Ducati Multistrada 1200 S, the all-new Honda Africa Twin and the just launched Triumph Tiger Explorer. Unfortunately, BMW Motorrad India doesn't have a BMW R 1200 GS we could use and Ducati's brand-new Multistrada 950 suffered a crash during the prep for joining our story. Joining Bert, Rohit and me were OVERDRIVE's usual hard-to-catch-tester-person Anand Dharmaraj from Indimotard. And the new face is Chennai-based Daniel 'Dodo' Anandaraj, a Chennai-based corporate type who also happens to be a hardcore rider, founder and owner Madras Bulls, president BOBMC and a legendary instructor at the Indimotard and OVERDRIVE TWO Track School.
Purely for logistics, we'd stick to the Delhi-Leh run. We've run it a gazillion times which makes it easier to understand what the bikes were up to. And anyone who's ridden up will tell you it's no walk in the park. It has become easier though. There's a lot more tarmac, for example. But the water crossings, the slush, loose sand and rocks, they're still there waiting to catch you out. This would be the ultimate endurance test. Oh, and there're the five high passes to cross, so we were not going to get to sit back and allow the motorcycles to do all the hard work. Let's not hang around and get right into it.