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CYCLING THE WORLD'S HIGHEST ROADS

At the Khardung La. It's high, but don't believe everything you read.

Niall Corbet, Colin Pells, Steve Pells, Damian Connaughton

This website is (mostly) about mountain cycling. Not "mountain biking", in its commonly-used sense of "cycling off-road", but riding in real mountains, with a lot of climbing, whether on- or off-road. In 2001, we cycled the Manali-Leh Highway in the Himalayan mountains of northern India. We met quite a few cyclists on our trip, yet found information helpful in planning the trip to be hard to find, or even inaccurate. We've also been to the French and Italian Alps, the Pyrenees, the Bolivian Andes, the Southern Alps of New Zealand and to several hilly regions in the UK. The point of this website is to provide some (I hope) useful information for other cyclists planning trips to high regions, and a bit of entertainment at the same time. Simply follow the links in the navigation bar to the left.

What's New: February 2006: I've added some thoughts on the relative merits of digital v. film photography when travelling by bike in isolated regions of the world.

January 2006: It seems very unlikely that the Khardung La is actually the world's highest road, according to debates backed up with altimeter, GPS and SRTM data; see for example here, and here, and a commentary here. This pass is probably substantially lower due to a rerouting of the road from the traditional route when the current road was built (for example, see the United States' Army Military Survey sheet NI_43-8). I have therefore corrected the relevant pages dealing with the MLH, except for the route profile, because it's too much hassle to redraw it. The highest road pass is a matter of debate, but I think that the Uturuncu mine road in Bolivia is not a realistic candidate, and the Marsimik Pass in Ladakh is apparently not yet accessible to independent cyclists. (I am also not certain that it is actually the height claimed by the pass sign). So the Semo Pass in Tibet looks to be the likeliest contender right now. Certainly the road looks good enough. A hard place to get to though.

December 2005: I've been meaning to add some information that might be useful to people planning on cycling in the southwest of Bolivia, a beautiful but challenging region, but have been too busy to wade through logbooks, GPS data and so on. Until I get around to this, I've added a couple of pages on our experiences with a few pictures. You might be able to glean something from this; if not, please feel free to email if you need anything more directly useful. August 2005: I've added an article on wheels for cycle tourists, that was originally to go in the Trailblazer Guides Adventure Cycling Handbook but was deemed unsuitable in its original form. Despite this incomprehensible decision, it's still a tremendous book (-: and includes very useful route information for, well, nearly everywhere. Pavel Protopopov of the Russian Cycle Tourist's Club has translated the stuff on the Manali-Leh Highway into Russian, and made a brilliant job of it too. His page is here. Rob "Tridog" Blomquist has resurfaced, and his Trilog spreadsheet for following your triathlon training is now available here. I have added some thoughts on cycling in the Edinburgh area; this article will be found in the UK Rides section. Changes to the type of rabies vaccine available in the UK have necessitated updating the medical page.

Website Technical: It is hoped that this website is easy to read, fast-loading and cross-browser compatible, so there is no Flash, javascript, frames, etc. Most of it was written by Steve Pells. Most of the photographs were shot on 100 ASA Fuji Sensia slide film using a Canon EOS 1000FN SLR with a 35-80 mm Sigma autofocus zoom lens. The slides were scanned with an Acer Scanwit 2720S film scanner and tidied up (if necessary) and converted to web-sized JPEGs in Adobe Photoshop. Most of the tea drunk during the writing of this website was Twinings English Breakfast, made with Edinburgh tap water, semi-skimmed milk, no sugar.

© Steve Pells, Niall Corbet, Colin Pells and Damian Connaughton, 2001-2005

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