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Lhasa to Kathmandu - organized trip with which company?

stinger67stinger67 Posts: 25
edited August 2009 in Tour & expedition
Hi, so, I'm thinking of, no wanting to do this trip, cycle from Lhasa to Kathmandu, as I work and time is limited i'm going to look into doing an organised trip, there's a few companies that do it such as Exodus, Red Spokes and KE Travel. Anyone got experience of using these companies for that trip or any other companies they could recommend. Want to get the best value I can with everything organised as much as possible (no hidden extras in the small print). Also any tips? And, how can you train for cycling at altitude in the UK, is it possible??



  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    I've done the trip as a CTC tour in 2001. Having read the details (though not recently), I'd pick RedSpokes. The timetables for Exodus and KE looked like it wouldn't be possible to ride the whole distance - at some point you'd have to take a ride in the Landcruiser.
    Accommodation is probably much the same for all 3 - decent western standard hotels in Kathmandu, Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse, Dhulikhel (Nepal), decent lodge in Kodari (Nepal), either very basic local "hotels" or camping at Rongbuk, Tingri and Nyalam, and camping elsewhere.

    Extras would be shopping & eating out in Kathmandu & Lhasa, and an end of trip bonus to the local support crew ($50?). Ask about that, and admission charges to the monasteries etc if it's not clear in the bumf.

    There isn't any practical way of training for altitude in the UK. One of those tents that some endurance athletes reputedly use for sleeping in would probably help, but would likely cost more than the trip. Probably the most useful thing you can do in advance is to lose weight.

    Apart from the altitude, the cycling wouldn't be all that hard. It's graded for trucks, so there's nothing over 5% or so. The altitude means that there's no way you can generate what would be your normal power, except for short sprints that you pay for afterwards, so you'll need to gear down and grind the passes out. That's largely a case of getting into a suitable mindset, similar to a long alpine pass with luggage. Be warned that there are often quite strong headwinds on some parts of the route - eg Gyatso La (highest pass) took me 4h for 22km, and going down the other side wasn't much above 12kph.

    The best day's ride on my trip was the back road (track) between Rongbuk and Tingri. Going back out via Pang La is a definite second best. This leg would definitely need an MTB, even if a lot of the rest has been surfaced since 2001 and would be OK on a touring bike.

    Assuming you go at a similar time to me (October)...
    Daytime temperatures are OK if it's sunny (likely), +15 or so, but the early part of the morning and after the sun has gone down get very cold (-15 overnight). I took an ME Annapurna down jacket for camp use, and was glad of it. If you don't have such kit, local copies and second hand stuff are cheaper in Kathmandu than the UK. Down booties would be good too.

  • GyatsoLaGyatsoLa Posts: 667
    I've done the trip solo - its very tough to prepare, nothing will prepare you for the effects of altitude. Some adopt reasonably well, others struggle a lot.

    I can't comment on the companies from experience, but from what I've heard from people, they almost all do it in too tight a timetable, so all but the fittest riders end up spending most of their time in the sag wagons. The German and Swiss groups I met were full of Assos clad hard core alpine riders, the more 'normal' cyclists were struggling to stay up.

    You might want to see if you can get some interested people to chip and do it DIY. Its easy to hire jeep support in Lhasa or Kathmandu - this allows you to set your own pace. No need for a guide, its a simple road to navigate, there aren't many junctions! It would probably be a lot cheaper that way too. There are cyclists hangouts in Lhasa that will help people get together and share. This place:

    is run by a Hong Kong cyclist in Lhasa, its a good place to meet up in Lhasa.

    The crucial thing is that no matter what they say on the brochure, you need an absolute minimum of 2 days pure rest when you arrive to acclimatise. Its also (and this is no April fools joke) worth talking to your doctor or pharmacist about chemical assistance. Viagra is now thought to help at high altitude - without prescription it is claimed (some dispute this) that Gingko Biloba also aids altitude cycling.
  • stinger67stinger67 Posts: 25
    Thanks for the replies guys, I'd like to sort it out myself with a few mates but most of my mates are useless :wink: what with modern day living and work, kids, mortagages etc no one I know has the get up and go anymore, myself included sometimes, it's quite appealing to have it all organised for me :D

    Thanks for the link to the Spinn Cafe

    Decided to contact red spokes as they have to longest tour, 24 days I think, but the only date I can do seems fully booked - some haven't paid any deposit or confirmed yet so still might be in with a chance? Or it'll probably be Exodus.


  • I want to do this in July as well.

    Trying to find some people to do it July 1 - 23 or so. Stinger, what dates are you thinking?
  • SlavekSlavek Posts: 1
    I want to do this bike tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu in August/September. I`m arriving to Lhasa on the 19th of August. Still anyone interested?

    Unfortunately today friend of mine refused going to Tibet because of some more important work so I am looking for anyone to join.


    Prague, Czech Republic/Europe
    [email protected]
  • jc4labjc4lab Posts: 1,055
    My experience of Exodus is one of a Big Brother long before it hit the screen..A total risk who will be on it and heaven or hell depending on age mix and how well your face fits.Once they have your money its gone...You need to find one which matches your age and abilty cos they differ.. You dont want a load of Jadelike companions tellling you what they think of you.though on a trip like this maybe that type might not be attracted to it....neither do you want to feel that you are not fit enough and are a liabilty to the group cos you cant keep up with it..A tough one to call to be honest..With a better company like Redspokes I would d say If you compare the grade of the ride with others that it offers thats tells you a lot..
  • gert_lushgert_lush Posts: 634
    Hi there

    I did this trip in April/may this year with KEadventure and had an awesome time, it really is the most amazing trip. spending a few days acclimatizing is key, and nothing really prepares you for the fisrt few big 27km climbs that we hit on day 2. We were lucky enough to had a very small group so only 6 clients, and had an excellent crew of tibetian/nepali guides. I have done some proper touring, so was a little sceptical about the whole group thing, but was very happy with the way it went, and i was always knackered by the end of each day despite beig very fit when cycling this country the altitude really takes it out of you. Plus it was great just being able to drop off the side of a 5000m pass and rip it up on the mountain bike for miles before rejoining the track!

    I have heard of some of the trips where you have compulsary drivig bits which seems rubbish, we all cycled EFI so just over 1000km and was the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. There is something very fun about waking up at rombuk at -10c, snow pattering on the tent, icicles around the sleeping bag, water bottles frozen solid and cycling upto basecamp in a blizzard..only for the sun to come out a few hours later !!!! :D:D
    FCN 8 mainly
    FCN 4 sometimes
  • I did the trip with Redspokes last October and I have to say the organisation was first class.
    I would strongly agree with Andrew in that the best thing you can do about the altitude is lose as much weight you can before you go as I found hauling 14 stone up those climbs was an absolute killer.
    We all managed to do the whole trip apart from one lad who had an afternoon in the wagon but it was without doubt the hardest thing i've ever done, physically and mentally. Fantastic trip though.
  • sattisatti Posts: 2
    bradders11... What kind of tires did you use for the trip? Did you use the Schwalbe Marathon XR tires recommended by Redspokes? thanks!
  • Yes I did and would recommend them as they're as tough as old boots but roll well, unlike a normal mountain bike tyre. The main problem was actually 3 pronged thorns that are capable of going through even this tyre but once you get a bit higher than Lhasa nothing really grows so the problem vanishes.
    I bought mine for £26 each online (can't remember which site) as mi8ke local shops wanted £46 for them.
  • sattisatti Posts: 2
    Thanks! Now I'm off to Africa instead (last minute trip)... will be on tarmac and a lot of gravel as well (along with two days of sandy stretches). Still deciding between the Schwalbe's and Continental Travel Contact.. .maybe not as tough, but I believe they have a bit more tread on the sides.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    Schwalbes every time (or travel contacts with several tyre boots and spare tubes!).
  • Hi

    Bit cheeky - but I've a pair of XR's in 26x2.0 that i used for manili to leh last year so they're just about worn in :) Ive just sold my mountain bike, so they're no use to me

    If you're interested in them then let me know


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