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Royal Enfield Himalayan in Himachal Pradesh. Photo © Karl Rock.

First Time Renting and Riding a Motorcycle in India Advice

Hi Karl, Amazing site and thank you very much.

I am going to be the assuming jerk here and tell you I am shotgunning a much-needed trip. I live outside Chicago, USA and fly balloons for a living.

I have ridden British bikes all my life and owned a bullet. They are unreliable but fun. I saw your advice on Enfield models. Makes perfects sense.

I am looking at tickets for India, leaving in the next couple of weeks.I took the winter off because I was almost killed in the fall by a texting teenager who rear-ended me. I lived an recovered but need time to myself. India has had a special place in my heart, and I fear I may not have the time or lack of responsibilities to be able to ride a bike in India ever again.

I am looking at your checklist. Outside were to get permits it all seems straightforward. I need your advice as to what contacts, if any do you have for me to rent a bike. I don’t want to get there and mess up securing the most important part.

From the looks of it, the price range for renting and buying a used bullet is in my range (for a once in a lifetime trip only) but am sure an explorer would most likely be a rental. Insurance? Is there a way to pay a bit more so that you don’t end up paying for every knick or problem, just walk away?

Sorry to hear about your fall! That’s good you’re taking time for yourself, that’s what life is about.

Where to rent a bike?

Your best bet is to rent online before you arrive. I went to the motorcycle market in New Delhi and rented, but I wouldn’t recommend that if you haven’t been to India before. Last time I looked Let’s Ryde was the cheapest. Do a search for “Delhi Motorcycle Hire” and price compare.

Do you want to do it alone though? I’d recommend going with a tour group. When you go with a group, besides making friends, they include the bike rental, accommodation, some food, and they have a van that carries your bags and a mechanic with spare parts. Again, Google and you’ll find the options available.

Do you need insurance?

The rental companies ensure their bikes so no need to buy it. But if you do cause damage then they’ll take it out of the deposit you’ll pay them on top of the rental amount.

Last time I had to pay ₹10,000 deposit. I lost all ₹10,000 too because I buckled the tire, the sari guard fell off, 3 of 4 indicators smashed, and the handlebar bent (LOL oops). But that was an offroading trip through the most difficult roads in India. If you’re not offroading, then you won’t have any major issues as I did.

Note: You should haven general travel insurance before coming to India still though. I’ve always used World Nomads, they’re cheapest & you can buy and extend insurance even when overseas already.

I’ll be buying your guide if I go and right now I have a few websites that suggest bullet rental shops with a good reputation but now after reading your site and my previous knowledge of not even being able to tide it 500 km without a major repair, or the brakes always on and opps, no pad! Or, better yet, no oil! Surprise.

I shudder the thought of being in a place where there are no friendly locals with a truck and a cousin who is a mechanic, plus the cool roads you are on I could ride a bullet but wouldn’t want to risk it breaking down so remotely.

Rental companies keep their bikes in good shape, they care about protecting their investment and want to get max miles out of it. Most will tell you how old the bikes are so you can make sure you’re not getting a bike at the end of its life. All the Royal Enfield Himalayans (which I recommend to people) are only a few years old anyway as it was just launched in 2016.

Our rented Royal Enfield Himalayans on the Road in Himachal Pradesh. Photo © Gaurav Malik, all rights reserved.

Our rented Royal Enfield Himalayans on the Road in Himachal Pradesh. Photo © Gaurav Malik, all rights reserved.

The good thing about India is that there are mechanics in every town. I got stuck in a remote village once with a flat tire, but even there, there was a local guy with a patch kit who fixed it for free. On all the main routes there are plenty of trucks, some of them empty, so with the help of a local, you’ll be able to transport your bike to the nearest town.

Either way, if you get in trouble alone, some English speaking local will be happy to help a guest in India (as they say in India, “Guest in equivalent to God.”)

All Royal Enfields since the late 1990s have the gear shift on the right side of the bike as per overseas.

Renting foreign motorcycles in India

If you decide to take a bike that’s not made in India, mechanics, service centres, and parts are few and far between. The market for imported bikes is tiny here. Royal Enfield and other Indian brands dominate and therefore are easily serviceable India wide.

If you had 2 -3 weeks just appear out of nowhere, what would you suggest as a route as well?

Part of the Jodhpur Fort, Rajasthan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Part of the Jodhpur Fort, Rajasthan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Go to the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan. Ride Delhi > to Agra (Taj Mahal) > Jaipur > Jodhpur (stay at Bishnoi Camp) > Jaisalmer (camp under the stars in the desert). Then back to Delhi from Jaisalmer.You’ll need to break up the ride back over a few days, it’s long.

And remember the travel times look short on Google Maps but because of the roads, I conservatively calculate travel time as 1 hour per 50 km (31 miles)

Rajasthani Thali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Rajasthani Thali. Photo © Karl Rock.

Make sure you take the riding and trip slowly and spend lots of time off the bike exploring!

Me in Royal Enfield Motorcycle Gear. Photo © Karl Rock.

Royal Enfield Motorcycle Gear Review (Helmet, Gloves, Jacket)

When my friend Gaurav asked me if I wanted to go on an off-road motorcycle trip with his Royal Enfield Himalayan Group, my answer was obvious. I’d be craving to get back on a bike since arriving in India, and this was my chance to begin riding on Indian roads. So, I did what any sane biker would do. I went and got kitted up!

I needed the basics: helmet, gloves, jacket, and boots (I already had my excellent and long lasting Dririder riding pants). I only knew one motorcycle store in India at that time, Royal Enfield. So I headed to the upmarket Khan Market store in Delhi to do some shopping. The Khan Market store is one of their flagships. The company’s Head of Apparel, Samrat Som, also happened to be there when I visited. Bonus! Samrat was a great guy. He didn’t mention who he was but explained to me a lot about their gear – hence why I looked up who I had been speaking too as he went above and beyond the typical employee at the store.

So far so good.

What I bought

Where locals buy their gear in India

The next day when Gaurav saw what I’d brought, he laughed. The look of slight disbelief on his face told me I’d done something wrong. Turns out, a Royal Enfield showroom is the last place a local would buy their gear. Typical foreigner mistake. Then he enlightened me. Major cities have entire markets dedicated to motorcycles and gear. In Delhi, it’s Gaffar Market in Karol Bhag. Doh!

Before our next trip to Ladakh and Kashmir, Gaurav took me to Gaffar Market to buy extra gear for the tough ride. To be fair, Gaffar Market is not for the uninitiated foreigner. You need to know the right shops to visit, and not all shop keepers speak English. Some good shops are hidden inside little alley ways inside buildings. You’ll be walking past people manufacturing motorcycle seats and accessories on your way to certain stores. It’s a bit like walking around a motorcycle repair shop, manufacturing plant, and dingy retail show room in one.

Back to the ride

The very next day, I took the new helmet, gloves, and jacket out of Delhi as we rode into the seldom visited state of Haryana. Eventually, we turned down a shady dirt road and ended up. It was like in a horror movie where the cast turns off the main road and ride into the unknown, but instead, we ended up in a traditional Haryanvi village. What struck me was that every single person was carrying a large, thick wooden stick. It’s called a “lath” and it’s used for scaring away monkeys, walking, and security and protection. Sounds handy huh?

Where we ended up. Photo © Karl Rock.

Where we ended up. Photo © Karl Rock.

Then guess who got a puncture? Yup. Lucky someone at the village had a puncture repair kit and generously took us back to his place and fixed it. Not to mention another village we stopped at taking us in and giving us tea and biscuits. That’s village hospitality for you!

The villagers house in Haryana. Photo © Karl Rock.

A villager’s house in Haryana. Photo © Karl Rock.

Review – The good and the bad

Since that ride, I’ve taken the above gear everywhere with me. Including the City Riding Gloves to New Zealand where I wore them daily for 5 months. They were the only item to fail. After 5 months use, they had had it. My finger eventually ripped through the weak seam. Besides poor durability, they also leaked a ton of dye onto my hands! When I first wore them, my hand was slightly dyed black! A light shower would make the dye run all over my hand even worse, discolouring it for a while. To try to remove some dye I soaked them in water and began pushing the dye out. That helped a bit. They lost at lot colour but the dye on my hand became manageable. Obviously, avoid these gloves!

Street Nimbus Helmet on the back of my dirty RE Himalayan. Photo © Karl Rock.

Street Nimbus Helmet on the back of my dirty RE Himalayan. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Street Nimbus Helmet and Safari Touring Jacket faired better. I even got to test them in an accident where I ran into black ice and landed on my shoulder and head then slid down the ice covered road on a frozen mountain pass in Ladakh. I received a torn left shoulder muscle from the fall. Without the gear, no doubt it would have been worse. The helmet and jacket are still in great condition too. That may have had something to do with landing on smooth ice rather than rough gravel road which grates your gear.

One annoyance I had with the helmet was that Royal Enfield does not sell spare or tinted visors for them! Once it’s scratched, you’re screwed. Their helmets are made by Shiro in Italy and no spare parts are available in India. Whereas the helmets sold at Gaffar market are fully supported with accessories.

Why did my friend laugh at me? Pricing.

Gaurav knew I’d paid too much for my gear. Royal Enfield gear is overpriced compared to what you’ll get for your money at a motorcycle market. When I went with him to buy a helmet, he got a superior model for half the price of mine. Everything is 25 – 40% cheaper at the markets. For the price I paid for my gear at the showroom, I could have bought better gear there.

That being said, if you’re a foreigner the price you’re paying at an RE showroom is cheap. Goods from the market are cheaper but they have the risk of being notoriously bad quality. A pair of boots generic riding boots I bought at the market for Rs. 5000 ($78 USD) lasted me only 2 weeks in Ladakh & Kashmir before the stitching, zips, and soles began to fail. Not so great. If you’re shopping at the market, you have to know what you’re buying and give it a thorough quality check before buying.

So neither the Royal Enfield showroom or motorcycle market is perfect. If you don’t mind paying extra, then the Royal Enfield showroom is a good place to buy decent gear (except Helmets). If you have time to explore the market and know enough to quality check the goods then you’ll get more bang for your bucket at the market.

Bikes on the side of the road in Himachal Pradesh. Photo by Karl Rock.

Delhi to Ladakh, Kashmir & Jammu Motorcycle Tour Super Guide [+ 4K Video]

I’ve never been so in awe of a place as I was with Himachal Pradesh (past Manali), Ladakh, and Kashmir. The mountains and beauty of this land are breathtaking. The sheer scale is like nothing I’ve seen before, and I’ve travelled the world.

It’s grander than Yosemite, more picturesque than New Zealand, and more enchanting than anywhere else.

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Royal Enfield Himalayan Motorcycle. Photo by Royal Enfield.

Royal Enfield Himalayan (2017) Adventure Bike Foreign Review

The bottom line on the Royal Enfield Himalayan is it’s a good entry-level adventure bike for off-road and an average bike for on-road. If you’re living outside of India, for a little extra you’re much better off with the tried and tested Kawasaki KLE 650 (the fact that the U.S. Military have been using it for the past 30 years says something).

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Discover the 5 Most Unusual Temples in India

India is most famous for its temples. Ever since the ancient times, many rulers have built temples for certain gods and goddesses. Some of these are easily accessible while some are situated on the top of mountains or deep within caves.

Given the high number of temples here, it is no wonder that there are quite a few unusual and strange temples also in this country. So weird that they’ll keep you wondering for years. Well, these are worth a visit.

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