Our mission is to map and ride twenty thousand kilometers from Helsinki to Mongolia, around Lake Baikal and back again through Siberia.
We ride light and fast. No support vehicle, no film crew, no mechanics, no tarmac. Two light enduro bikes and two riders with an insatiable lust for adventure. Thousands of kilometers of dirt and gravel, on some of the toughest terrain there is.
We start from Helsinki at the end of June and plan to be back in sixty days. The date of return is not set in stone as there are no rigid plans on rides like these. It will take as long as it takes, and end where it ends. Other than that, there are no certainties.
The obvious challenge is keeping riders and bikes fit to perform in demanding terrain for two months. That is fairly trivial. Proper fitness, technical enduro skills and correct nutrition keep riders going. Bikes are kept alive by frequent maintenance with a good set of tools and spare parts.
The real challenge will be mental stress. The team needs to remain functional despite back to back days of tough riding in sometimes hostile conditions. Being wet, cold and miserable for days from river crossings and rain. Fatigue and bad sleep. The challenge is to cope with it, and be able to enjoy it all over again the the next morning. For sixty days.
We will mostly camp outside, so wild bears will be a very real threat to prepare for in Ural and Siberia. The Mongolian equivalent would be running into a sand storm in Mongolia.
The long stretch through Europe and Asia is ridden several times annually. Mostly on heavy bikes, on the best roads available. Only a handful of riders have ever covered the distance on dirt tracks.
The BAM Road, a section of our route, has been dubbed “The ultimate test of man and machine”. However, all over Russia conditions are similar, if venturing off the main veins of transit. Smaller roads and trails have fallen into decay from exposure and lack of maintenance.
The vast body of Mother Russia is crisscrossed with rivers. Many of the bridges are long gone, if there ever were any. The mountainous trails of Ural, Altai and Siberia require navigating high mountain passes on small or nonexistent trails and crossing raging mountain rivers. Mongolia treats us with days on end of desert riding. If it rains, the rivers in the valleys become flooded and riding turns into a waiting game.
We ride KTM 690 Enduro R K13 single cylinder, enduro bikes. They are be severely modified to cope with our ride. Main upgrades to the stock bike include a 300 mm rally suspension, three extra fuel tanks for 500 km operating range, protection for electrical system, radiator and engine, luggage racks with soft luggage, custom navigation system, racing exhaust and a million little tweaks and improvements.
Our route is split into four roughly 5000 km sections, due to bike service and tyre change intervals.
In addition to the rider, the bike is designed to carry all personal riding and camping equipment. All group equipment for maintenance, cooking, first aid, photography and communications will be distributed evenly among the bikes.
Where did you find the tracks?
I’ve used Russian topo maps and satellite imagery. It’s very uncertain though and will need adjustment enroute.
No doubt an ambitious plan & epic trip. Good luck guys!
Wow – when I lived in China we used to fly over Novosibirsk on the way back. Looking forward to this write-up!
An amazing venture. Can’t wait to see your trip report!
I’m looking to use your work as a blueprint for the work I’m keen to do on my 690E before a trip from UK to Swaziland roughly down the Nile route where sensible.
Of all the work you’ve described (and the ‘million little tweeks’) what would you say are the priorities and which are the ‘vanities’?! Also, is there an obvious list of work that needs to be done sequentially?
An inspiration – thank you.
…also – the photos are amazing.
Very interesting comment about removing the UV lens and simply ‘squirting’ the lens with water from your camelbak to remove dust. How’s that working out? Have you really kept it hanging from your chest throughout the journey so far?
Hi Rupert, sounds like you have an amazing adventure ahead of you.
With the bike I’d say the suspension and navigation/lighting setup are dependant on personal taste and riding style. Everything else is basically for added reliability. There is no sequence to it really except that the extra protection to the wiring is best done on an unused bike as there’s nothing to contaminate it yet. Also, the air filter is a top priority on a new bike. I’m making some minor changes for this season though, but nothing dramatic. A secondary GPS for backup, as I’m riding solo and some changes to wiring. Plus tons of maintenance of course.
The Nikon 1 AW 1 is an incredible camera. It was connected to my harness throughout the ride except for during very dusty sections when I was riding behind the Walrus. I’ve been thinking about adding a neoprene sleeve on the lens to avoid the dust particles getting in. We’ll see….
Anyhow, best of luck on your ride and make sure to let us know where the ride report is 🙂