Tibet is one of those places that fires up many cyclists’ imagination as it is known as “Roof of the world’’ and “Land of Snows”. It has a reputation as one of the world’s most challenging cycling destinations, for its extreme terrain and climate. However, cycling in Tibet becomes a popular activity. It’s completely different from commercialized trips via other modes of travel. It’s a great way to enjoy the scenery along the trails engaging with the local Tibetans, laughing with them, marveling at their culture, totally participating intimately in their life.
The most popular route is crossing the Himalaya from Lhasa in Tibet，via Mount Everest to reach Kathmandu in Nepal. Usually it takes about 22 days.
The average altitude in Tibet is of almost 4000m. The height brings its extreme temperatures and the land is often covered in snow. The lowest temperatures in winter will reach around -40ºC. Midday in summer can be as hot as 38ºC. The rainfall is limited to 25-50cm per year, most of it falling within a three-month period (from June to August). Essentially, cyclists may visit Tibet at any time of the year. However, April-May, September-November are the best time for overland travel in Tibet.
During the journey, cyclists will visit Tibet's famous monastery towns of Gyantse, Shigatse and Sagar .On the detour away from the main route towards the Rongbuk Monastery, the road climbs to the Pang La, which rewards tourists with magnificent views of the Himalayas, and reveals Mt. Everest. Finally reaching Base Camp is an experience you will never forget.
It’s necessary for cyclists to spend one night at Everest Base Camp before riding 60 kilometres back to the main Lhasa-Kathmandu 'highway'. Back on the main road, cyclists will reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau while crossing the 5,200 meter Thang La, and begin “the longest downhill in the world”. The downhill ride starts from just 5200m at Thang La, then cycle down to below 700m in Nepal - around 4600m in just over 160km of breathtaking descent. A final day of cycling brings cyclists back to civilisation in the form of Kathmandu, enjoying the relaxation time.
On the tour there are 5 major passes above 5000m and traverses of 1000km over the backbone of the Himalayas. So bear in mind you are going to ride for long distance almost every day at high altitudes, just be prepared for it.
Trip Preparation: Equipment
Frame; fork; chainset; shifters; brakes; cassette; saddle; wheels; tires; extra brake pads; gaffa tape; bolts; chain links; grease; oil; bicycle computer; water bottles; bags/panniers; carry bag; strap; bottle cages; multitools; hacksaw blade; bicycle pump; cassette lockring remover; shiman chain separator etc.
cycling shoes; knee pads; down jacket; socks; windproof overshoes; thermal long-johns; fleece trousers; long-sleeved thermal vests; cycling gloves; fleece neck muffler; fleece cap; cycling helmet; cycling shorts; cycling jersey; rain gear,
wind shield; fuel bottle; repair kit; cooking pot; cup; lighters; spoon; water bag; multivitamins etc.
tent; sleeping pad; sleeping bag; compression bag; repair kit etc.
first aid package; sports tape; painkillers; diamox; ciproxin; vepicombin etc
Visa and Permit:
To enter Tibet, a visa for China is necessary; the standard tourist visa is valid for 30 days. Independent cyclists in Tibet are not allowed. Therefore one still needs to be part of an organized tour, at least with a tour guide and Tibet Travel Permit. Tourists can ask local travel agency for help, we recommended TibetVista Tour, a local Tibet travel agency offering various kinds of Tibet tours, they have rich experiences in Tibet cycling tour and train tour, offering service ranging from local tour guide, bicycle rental and Tibet Travel Permit.
One of the most hardships of this journey would be the nights. Most nights camping, others might be in hotels.
In the Tibetan regions, yak meat, yak meat buns, yak meat noodles are great to restore energy. Self-made milk tea and yogurt by some of the Tibetan households is also good choice. But sometimes you could not find food within a fair distance, and have to rely on bread and canned ham/fish.
Taking bikes to Tibet
A few cyclists buy mountain bikes in China or Lhasa, a good quality bike is around USD$500-USD$700. Other cyclists bring their own bikes to Tibet.
Taking bicycles by planes:
It requires you to remove spare parts such as the pedals, deflate tyre and turn the handle bars around, pack frame with foam and then bag or box your bike. You can ask bicycle shops for professional help, the packing fee is only around USD$ 8.
The baggage allowance of most airlines for an economy-class ticket is 20kg per person, but airlines include the weight of bike in your luggage allowance, so remind you, excess baggage charges could occur.
Taking bicycles by trains:
It also requires you to take off your panniers and wheels, and then pack frame with foam and then bag or box your bikes. You’d better ask bicycle shops for help too. The fee for taking a train from Beijing or Shanghai is around USD$20.
Taking bicycles by buses:
There are some buses or trucks which can be a lot of help. Only need to pack key parts with foam. The rate is about USD$30.