INTRODUCTION

After returning from Arctic Dirt 13 I started toying with the idea of doing a longer ride the next summer. I had of course read all of Walter Colebatch’s adventures and watched Oisin Hughes’ fantastic video series among other things, which both added fuel to the fire. The BAM road seemed to me the crown jewel of adventure riding at the time, so that was the logical heading to go to. I was pretty sure that the BAM road was not the only bad section of road in Russia and started mapping out other smaller roads and tracks too. I wanted to ride from Helsinki to Baikal, around it and back. Since I was there I thought I’d have a look at Altai and Mongolia too, not forgetting the Ural mountains.

A vague route started to form and I figured I could do it in two months and twenty thousand kilometers. I planned to do normal bike maintenance and service every five thousand kilometers. I split the ride into four sections with service breaks in Omsk, Ulan Ude and Novosibirsk. I originally planned the second service break into Ulan Bataar, but changed it to Ulan Ude so that I wouldn’t have to ship tyres to Mongolia.

I’m used to riding solo but for this trip I thought I’d try to hook up with another rider if possible. If it didn’t work out, I’d ride solo but would have to opt for a safer route. On some of the local rides I had gotten to know a guy with a BMW 650 XChallenge. He had already been on a ride to western Russia and was big on finding new routes. I pitched the idea to him and after some soul searching he was in.

During the Moroccan Black Hole Turkey Tour 13 in November 2013, I mentioned my plans to the other riders in the group. In the last day Juha aka. The Walrus asked a lot of questions concerning the ride. I had met him previously through work and we had ridden in the same enduro camp in Estonia earlier in 2013. I couldn’t say that I knew him well, but what I did know was that he was a very good rider, a good mechanic and generally a relaxed and nice guy to be around. So I was very happy when he asked whether there would be any chance to join the team. Come December he was the owner of a brand new KTM 690 Enduro R K13. In my not so humble opinion the best year, but that’s another story entirely.

Our team of three was not to be as my friend on the XChallenge pulled out in January 2014 due to injury. So Juha and I would be a two man team. Both KTM 690 Enduro R K13’s, which somewhat simplified things. We spent the best part of winter planning and building the bikes, sorting out logistics of spare parts and planning travel gear. The bikes were more or less finished by May so we went on a four day test run to Northern Finland. The legendary Mongolian Cosmonaut, Mishutka, had organized all tyres and oil to the three service break cities. On June 28th we were ready to ride.

 

THE RIDE JOURNALS

During the ride I kept a ride journal on my laptop. It became a habit to write in my tent before going to sleep every night. I cherished the moments with my earphones on, going through the events of the day. Completely oblivious to the world around me. I used to do the pen and notebook routine, but it just became too tedious to rewrite everything on the laptop from scribbled notes. Besides my shorthand is so bad, even I can’t read it. So here is my story of the ride. It will be published chronologically, as it happened. I’ve split it into separate weeks for easier reading.

Week One

Week One

Helsinki-Kirov. From endless rain, a border crossing and shattered dreams to sunshine and rekindled faith.

Week Two

Week Two

Kirov-Omsk. Pushing further east. First mechanical problems and some seriously beautiful riding.

Week Three

Week Three

Omsk - Uvsiin Khar. Leaving Siberia and entering Altai and Mongolia. Meeting new friends.

Week Four

Week Four

Uvsin Khar - Ulan Ude. Taking a break and finishing the Mongolian leg. New trails and unexpected difficulties.

Week Five

Week Five

Ulan Ude - Zarb. Headed north and hitting tricky trails.

Week Six

Week Six

Zarb-Mrakovo. Rolling west through Siberia. Many new friends and goodbyes.

Week Seven

Week Seven

Mrakovo-Tallinn. Pushing west, the longest day and meeting many people.

Week Eight

Week Eight

Tallinn-Helsinki. The end of the adventure.

 

PREPARATION

The preparation phase is as much fun as the ride itself, and I documented the key areas. Now, after the ride, I find it amusing to read some of the stuff I wrote back then. The enthusiasm, excitement and sheer amount of energy that was poured into the project made up for a lot of the inexperience.

Eastern Dirt 14

Eastern Dirt 14

The love of enduro and adventure? A midlife crisis? Overconfidence? A complete lack of self-criticism? It could be all, some or none of those characteristics, but the fact of the matter is that we're going. Here's what we planned.

Adventurizing the KTM 690 Enduro R

Adventurizing the KTM 690 Enduro R

I love the 690. It's a good bike straight off the production line, but with a little (or a lot of) work it can be truly excellent. After trawling through the forums and 12000 km on the bike, this is what I think it needs to survive Eastern Dirt 14.

Spare parts

Spare parts

Spare parts are tough. You want to ride light to be faster and efficient over technical terrain. Then again waiting for spare parts makes you slow on the long run when something breaks down. It's a game of calculated risk, what you absolutely need to keep going and what is something that can be sorted with steel wire and duct tape. This is what we're carrying.

Travel gear

Travel gear

The logic with what to pack is very similar to planning the list of spare parts. You want to be light and fast, but need a certain level of equipment not to get slow due to bad food, hypothermia or injuries. Also, just to keep the morale up, you need just a pinch of comforts. As a photographer and a writer, the bulk of my luggage consists of a laptop and photographic equipment. Everything else is secondary. Except for instant coffee.

Test Run '14 in short

Test Run '14 in short

After we finished building the bikes, selecting equipment and choosing spare parts, we packed up the bikes and headed north for a test trip. A full report of how everything worked will follow, but here is the trip in pictures.

 

THE POST MORTEM

The seven week ride was a great opportunity to thoroughly test our gear from the bikes to riding and camping gear. Here are the articles related to validating or debunking our speculations and conclusions prior to deciding what to take along.

Klim Dakar In The Boot pants reviewed

Klim Dakar In The Boot pants reviewed

My favourite pair of non-membrane pants reviewed after seven weeks on ED14.

Modular or integrated suits and armour

Modular or integrated suits and armour

We decided to ride in a modular setup as opposed to integrated membrane suits. Here's how it worked.

Dirty photography

Dirty photography

Getting the shots done when it gets tough requires the right tools. Here's the Nikon 1 AW1 and why it's my choice for close combat shooting.

41 comments

  • Erkki Sainio June 29, 2014   Reply →

    Terve Jussi!

    Sain Ramilta tiedon blogistasi. Varmasti mielenkiintoinen ja rohkea reissu. Lycka till!

    Eki

  • Tiit Rand June 29, 2014   Reply →

    Good start, good luck!

  • Taria Kossila June 30, 2014   Reply →

    I wish you lots of good luck! Enjoy your journey!

  • Akseli Kaakko June 30, 2014   Reply →

    Keep eye on mr.Walrus blood sugar. Always keep snickers or jagermeister close, wired up walrus and hi performace dirtbike is unpredictable combination!

    Have fun Mates!!

  • Jukka, The Fat and Old from the East July 4, 2014   Reply →

    The plan looks great! Only minor problem is the riders, at least one of them 🙂

    Keep posting updates if you can so that we can give you some advices what you should do 🙂 I have popcorns and cold beer ready, so I’m well prepared for the journey! But please don’t send any pics of smelly socks so that I can keep eating my popcorns… Or maybe I should switch to dried apples because of the good old times.

  • The Rolling Hobo July 5, 2014   Reply →
    The Rolling Hobo

    Yo Akseli, I’ve got a stash. thus far he’s been Mr. Happy despite blowing up a beer can in a dry bag with his sleeping bag, a radiator with disappearing coolant and dropping his tent on a logging road and riding back 20 km to get it. BTW, you were right about the rear brake pads. Check out the Twitter feed. Done in five days. Luckily I’ve got an extra pair, and only…..55 days to go. So who sells KTM pads in Russia anyway?

  • The Rolling Hobo July 5, 2014   Reply →
    The Rolling Hobo

    Jukka, I remember you making me smell your base layer after your ascent of Denali. Send me your address, I’ve got some plastic base layers headed your way in two months. 😉

    Be cool my friend.

  • Marina Valjakka July 6, 2014   Reply →

    Spasibo! Ja izuchaju vash marshrut. Stranno, chto net russkogo yazyka.

  • jeff July 17, 2014   Reply →

    Hello the hobo , jeff with the 990.. I hope you have good fun. Was thinking about you with all this rain.I am stuck in barnaul due to Sprocket damaged but should be fixed tomorrow and i will rock again going to altai..thanks for the sticker already on the big sister. Have fun guys and take care . jeff

    • The Rolling Hobo July 26, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hey Jeff! Sorry to hear about your trouble with the sprocket. I hope you have it fixed! We too were drenched in the Altai, but the weather cleared up and we had a dry week in Mongolia. Now in Ulan Ude. Be safe my friend.

  • Marina Valjakka July 27, 2014   Reply →

    Юсси привет!

    Надеюсь у Вас всё хорошо? По карте посмотрела, завтра будете на Байкале.

    Всего хорошего.

    С уважением

    Марина

    • The Rolling Hobo July 28, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Привет Марина!

      Спасибо! Немного болен, но все хорошо. Завтра мы пойдем с СВ в Тынде. Мы увидим Байкал на севере. Северобайкальск, я думаю. БАМ трудно в этом году. Много дождя, многие воды.

      Всего хорошего.

      Юсси

  • Marina Valjakka July 30, 2014   Reply →

    Привет Юсси!

    Надеюсь, не серьёзно болен?! Завтра едете в Тынду.

    У тебя прогресс в твоём русском!

    Всего хорошего!

    Пока!

    • The Rolling Hobo August 6, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Привет Марина!

      Все хорошо. Мы не шли в Тынде, но пошел труднее маршрут, к востоку от Байкала. Дорога 110. Это было хорошо. Я видел четыре медведей! Байкал, Сибирь и Тайга красиво.

      Русский язык лучше. Но здесь никто не говорит ехать, они говорят идти. Немного странно …

      Всего хорошего!

      Пока!

  • Marjo August 6, 2014   Reply →

    Jopas kundit painaa tosissaan kaukana kotoa. Pysykaa polulla ja katse eteenpain;)

  • Эдуард August 6, 2014   Reply →

    Парни привет! Нужна ли вам помощь в Новосибирске? Как долго вы будете находится в Новосибирске? Добро пожаловать в гости. Новосибирск ул. Лобова 52. Удачи!

  • The Rolling Hobo August 6, 2014   Reply →
    The Rolling Hobo

    Привет Эдуард! Мы обслуживаем мотоциклы сегодня и идти на запад завтра. Все хорошо. Спасибо!

    • Эдуард August 6, 2014   Reply →

      Видел ваши мотоциклы. Сделал фото! У меня рядом офис. Можем встретится вечером выпить пива, вы не против?

  • The Rolling Hobo August 6, 2014   Reply →
    The Rolling Hobo

    Конечно! Давайте иметь пиво вечером. Я пошлю вам сообщение, когда мы вернулись из гаража. Хорошо?

    • Эдуард August 6, 2014   Reply →

      Хорошо! Буду рад видеть! )

  • The Rolling Hobo August 6, 2014   Reply →
    The Rolling Hobo

    Все хорошо. Мотоциклы готов. Встреча в 7 или 8? Хорошо?

    • Эдуард August 6, 2014   Reply →

      В 8 часов вечера. Я приеду за вами на автомобиле к гостинице.

    • Эдуард August 6, 2014   Reply →

      Я на месте 🙂

      • The Rolling Hobo August 6, 2014   Reply →
        The Rolling Hobo

        Мы вышли. 5 мин!

  • Niko, Swingers Club Finland account manager August 11, 2014   Reply →

    Watching you guy(s) is truly an inspiration, rare of us will have a guts to obtain life (and ass) changing experience like this. …or rare of us are suffering as bad and complete lack of self judgement like our hero’s here. Either way, this is aaaabsolutely fing-fantastic story! When yer back, let’s see is there a possibility for another Quarter Intoxication™, will provide the beer(s) to hear more!

    Cheers mate, and hope final leg of the trip goes as well as the beginning!

    Oh, and where I can get official Hobo t-shirt (preferring not field-used)? Just shut up and take my money for it!

    • The Rolling Hobo August 13, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Thanks bro, never underestimate the power of the male ego combined with a complete lack of self-criticism. It’ll land you in a sticky situation every time 🙂 It’s QI time for sure. With guns, as usual, right? It’s been pretty mission orientated and disciplined here. Only one sketchy night with Wildriver MC in Novosibirsk during our service break.

      I’ll save you a T when I print more.

      Later, amigo.

  • Tolga aka M PAWA August 26, 2014   Reply →

    Hey man, excitingly waiting for the report. Keep the M PAWA spread!

    • The Rolling Hobo August 26, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Sure thing buddy! Are you still in Magadan, waiting for a ship south? M-PAWA!

  • Robin Eales August 27, 2014   Reply →

    Thank you for sharing and congrats to your blog! It’s clean, your texts are amazing to read and the images speak for themselves. I am looking forward to reading the full report as I am planning the same trip on the same bike at some stage soon. Thank you! Awesome!

    • The Rolling Hobo August 30, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Thanks for the feedback, Robin. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with while planning your trip. Roll safe!

  • Taria Kossila August 29, 2014   Reply →

    Safe and sound back home! Kiva kuulla. Ja upeaa nähdä tuota kyrillistä kirjailua, kieli varmasti hyvin hanskassa!

  • Anonymous September 3, 2014   Reply →

    So stoked for this story!
    Your blog is one of my favorites, great writing, amazing photography, and awesome stories.
    Definitely an inspiration!
    Thanks for taking the time to write it

  • John September 6, 2014   Reply →

    Great story man! Waiting for the next post on this trip.

  • Mikko Tanskanen September 15, 2014   Reply →

    Ens kerralla sitten tuonne: http://imgur.com/a/J7kZJ?gallery

    • The Rolling Hobo September 15, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hienoja kuvia! On listalla 🙂

  • Tom October 7, 2014   Reply →

    @hobo:
    It´s a pleasure to read your travelreports. I´m wishfully locking forward to week 4 and continous of eastern dirt.
    Thanks so much for doing the hard work of sharing your adventure. Top!
    *thumpsup*

    • The Rolling Hobo October 10, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Thanks Tom! Sorry for not replying earlier. I’m headed back into Russia in the morning and have been busy with the preparations. ED14 will also be on hold for at least a week.

  • Tom October 13, 2014   Reply →

    No hurry! Autumn is just incoming. I’m happy with a good read during the cold season. Your blog is quiet impressive, and so are the links to other adventurers are! So i’ve a lot to read in the meanwile. Tx a lot for sharing! Enjoy your adventure!

    • The Rolling Hobo October 25, 2014   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Thanks Tom. Have a great winter and ride safe!

  • Overtoasted January 13, 2017   Reply →

    Hi,
    Very inspirational RR! I am now in the visa preparation process to pursue a similar rideroute starting from switzerland. We are planning to join up with you route at Uvsin Khar, and then more or less follow it all the way to Tallinn.

    Did you go with a double entry business visa to escape the obligation to follow a snug travel itinerary and having to sleep at hotels every night? Also, do you know if its enough to sleep at a hotel one night (before 7 working days of entering Russia), getting the visa registered, and then one is free to camp for the rest of the duration?

    Many thanks for helping a fellow hobo,
    PS I would also be extremely interested in recommended itineraries or gps tracks if you have any?

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