The Journey: Delhi-Chandigarh-Vashisht-Gramphoo-Losar-Shimla-Mashobra-Baikalti-Shimla-Delhi
This route is a little off the beaten track and is meant for off-roading once you cross Chandigarh and ride towards the hilly terrain. Not the best trip for regular riders or for the weak hearted, once you start gaining altitude and leave the roads behind to be riding over narrow trails.
I had the opportunity to visit Gramphoo – Losar the third time on a recce for Raid de Himalayas and the Shimla Motorcycle Challenge. The stretch from Mashobra to Baikalti – a part of the Competitive Section of the Shimla Bike Challenge is particularly enjoyable for bikers passionate about rallies. Travelling from Gramphoo to Losar is a great way to test your off-roading skills as you ride through some tough dry river beds at high altitude and get to witness some amazing vistas at the same time.
Ideal Time to Visit: June to October and any time outside October to March when it is not snowing..
Entourage Strength: I set out as a solo rider and was joined by two other bikers at Vashisht who went their way from Shimla as I rode back to Delhi. For your first exploration of this route, a group of up to six bikers, would be ideal.
Preps: To me what matters is performance. A good looking bike that cannot perform is pretty much useless.
Ensure that your bike is in good condition when leaving for your journey, especially the brake pads. Check air pressure a couple of times while riding. Change tension all through the ride. Tighten your chain after 600 kms if you have an old chain.
You need a full preparation for a trip like this and mark your checklist for full riding gear, full waterproof gear, cables, cameras, GPS navigation devices, roadmaps etc..
Assistive Gizmos: I mostly rely on the GPS that works even if there is no network and even when there is no SIM card inserted in the device. My fellow riders were using the Garmin, Raid de Himalaya (loaded).
Road & Traffic Conditions: Delhi to Chandigarh is the usual, straight roads and tarmac, and you encounter regular traffic till you get to the hills from where the journey becomes interesting with twists and turns.
From Mashobra to Baikalti, roads give way to trails and narrow paths where one can just about walk.
Up to a certain point on the Gramphoo-Losar way and not beyond it, you may see a stray small bus ply now and then. Basically you’ll be riding a river bed and there are just stones. It is unlikely that you will spot any living being – man or animal, even if you ride out 50 kms around the endless mountain range.
Regular bikers might not enjoy doing these things.
Best speed you can hit owing to the terrain is 80 kmph.
Best & Worst Stretches: Just before Chandigarh, near Panchkula, is the place where the hills start till Mashobra.
For me Delhi to Chandigarh was a boring patch and the best stretch was Gramphoo to Losar – where there are no roads! I find off-roading far more challenging and exhilarating.
Weather Encountered: The weather for riding was good all through. Word of caution for first-timers – low temperatures and high altitudes have a way of sapping energy from the body and mind, you need to be up for it and stay tough.
Gramphoo to Losar, and Vashisht were quite cold at 0 degrees. Rohtang Pass was full of snow when I crossed it.
Food Joints & Stopovers: I would recommend a stopover near Karnal. The tandoori non-veg paranthas they serve around there are a must-try. Eateries dot the place till Rohtang. Once you cross Gramphoo, there is nothing for the next 40 kms. It is difficult to locate human habitation. Only if you’re very lucky will you find a make-shift arrangement where grub is being sold.
Bike Care: In between my journey, there were a couple of things that I had to do which included removing the fairing, adding handlebars that are better suited to off-roading, and changing the tyres to off-road tyres.
Locals: Though there is very little interaction with people along the route, you will find that the locals are very friendly. They recognise specially designed rally vehicles being driven by bikers in riding gear and encourage you on enthusiastically as bikes blaze past them. That’s very encouraging.
This journey reinforced the thought that a biker has to stay focused on the machine and the trail. The takeaway? It’s a learning process all the time and the better you are off-road, the better you become on-road.