Prep Time: Three months
Time Off Work: Two weeks
When to Go: May, October, November
When a government makes policy based on gross national happiness, you know it has its priorities straight. "I remember stopping at the top of a high mountain pass to talk to two schoolgirls," says Bhutan cycling vet Peter Rudy. "It was late in the day, and I said, 'Aren't you going to be late for school?' And they said, 'What's late?'" KE Adventure is one of only a few companies allowed to operate inside a country sandwiched between India and China, where individual tourism has always been highly restricted. KE's Thunder Dragon cycling trip is a 12-day, 528-mile, west-to-east traverse of the vast rural landscape, dotted with monasteries and ancient fortresses, over no fewer than 10 alpine passes for 50,856 feet of total climbing. The trip's longest descent, off the 12,468-foot summit of Thumsing La, is 53 miles long. On this downhill and for days after, you'll bask in the giddy satisfaction of rising GPH: gross personal happiness.
Start Today: Three by three. Three months before you go, do three one-to-two-hour rides per week. One of them should push your threshold, and increase in length every week until it reaches four hours. And no pumping iron; instead hit the cardio machines for some long, slow distance workouts to build endurance.
Don't Leave Home Without: Great cycling shorts. Dial in your "contact points" – seat, shorts, gloves, and grips – for long days in the saddle. And for that one all-important contact point, pick up Castelli's Free Bibknicker.
More Info: For the KE trip, you'll fly to and from Delhi on your own dime and then take a connecting flight to Paro, where the cycling begins.
MJ Insider: You'll need to bring your own steed for this trip, but leave the road bike at home. Third World asphalt, with crumbling shoulders and wheel-bending potholes, is the norm. A hardtail mountain bike with slick tires is the ticket. Kona's Dew FS (konaworld.com) is a durable, comfortable fleet option.