We had the usual reasons for setting out on this trip… Holidays not long enough. Fed up at work…. If we don’t do it now will we ever do it? So we both gave up our jobs, sold our cars, boxed all our gear up and put it into storage, rented our house out, packed up our bikes and set off.
Nic was using her old steel Salsa that has done many many trips. I was using a slot drop out On One Inbred.
I have had had the Inbred for about 3 years and had first used it on a trip to Iceland. I think the frame works well for touring because, you can fit a normal rack and use discs, steel can be repaired anywhere, the frame can be fitted with any gear set up and I think a mountain bike geometry is perfect for cycle touring.
I had fitted the bike with a Rohloff by simply beefing up the lower left hand part of the drop out. This worked well in Iceland so I was confident that it would be strong enough for this bigger trip. I also fitted 2 more bottle mounts, one on the seat tube and one on the lower side on the down tube this was done simply using riv bolts. A set of Mary bars, hope hub on the front, Avid BB7 disc brakes, On One ergo grips, Brooks B17 saddle, Kona P2 fork, square taper bottom bracket, we used flat pedals and power grips, Schwalbe Marathon tyres, Tubus rack, 2 Ortlieb Panniers on the back, a bar mounted bag and an Extra wheel trailer clasic trailer. And that was about it.
Nic used mostly the same gear but no trailer, an 8 speed shimano set up and vee brake on the back because the frame had no mounts. Both bikes worked well, but we did need to replace both our rear rims (my rim cracked and Nic’s wore through (after 28000km) Nics rack mounts broke (welded in Kazakstan) I had to replace my right hand pedal, 2 sets of tyres, 3 sets of brake pads, Nic used 8 chains, I used 5, 1 broken spoke, 2 wheel bearings ( should have used better quality bearing on origional build), 2 sets gear cables (both bikes) and an awful lot of oil on the chains.
We set off at the end of July 2009, this was later than we had hoped due to me having to finish my job. So we set off knowing that we could not make it to Mongolia that year. With this in mind we decided to head south through Eastern Europe to where it might be warmer in the winter. We also love the mountains so we made a few detours to see the Polish and Slovakian Tatras, The Carpatians in The Ukraine and Romania. Dermitour National Park in Montenegro, the mountains of Albania, the Pindos mountains in Greece and the Turkish mountains south of Istanbul.
We arrived in Dalyan on the South coast of Turkey in the Middle of November 8500 km later. We stayed here for a month! This was mainly due to a parcel of bike parts that got delayed.
Once the parcel had arrived, new tyres, chains and brake pads fitted we set off again through Cappadocia and then south for Syria and Jordan. Back up from Aqaba through Syria again to Turkey and north past mount Nemrut dagi (we didn’t see the stone heads.. too much snow.. only saw the hats!) then north to the Black Sea coast and Trabzon. From here we traveled through Georgia and Azerbyjan to the Caspian sea. An interesting ferry trip took us to Kazakstan, acrosss the step to the Uzbekistan desert, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent (for our expensive Russian Visa) then back into Kazakstan to Almaty (June and 18000km) then north towards the Russian Altai.
Through the Altai and to our goal Mongolia. Problems at the border!! We didn’t register in Russia so had a fine to pay. Also you cannot ride your bike across the 30km of no mans land between Russia and Mongolia, so a lift was needed. Luckilly we had camped with a Swiss couple the night before and they had offered us a lift across the border, so that was ok but.. we still had the fine to pay! All of a sudden the power went off at the border, the computers crashed and.. it was lunch time! The Immigration officer at that point decided that it would be less hassle for him to let us go without the fine if we went NOW! So the bikes were quickly thrown onto the Land Cruiser, we threw ourselves in, and , we were off.
You cross the border into Mongolia and you couldn’t be anywhere else.. Its just Mongolia, we were lost for words, The Gers, the animals, the mountains, the people.. We had ridden our bikes to Mongolia!!!!
We cycled in a daze for the rest of the day camping that night in the wildest most remote place we have ever been.. Amazing! The next day we cycled into Byan Ulgi on the 7th of July 21217km. Our next aim was to get to Ulaanbaatar to extend our visa. This was a 1400km trip that guides say will take about 4 weeks to cover, we had we though 18 days so we had to get a move on. Riding your bike in Mongolia is great- you can camp anywhere, you will be helped by anyone and everyone, the food is great (if you like mutton and yoghurt) and navigation is not that difficult. We used the central route towards the White lake and Tsetserleg then onto Ulaanbaatar.
So on the 26th July 22866km and just over a year later we arrived at the Oasis hostel in Ulaanbaatar. Most people would catch the plane back from here but, feeling good, and more things to see out there we set off north back to Russia and Lake Baikal the lake that holds 20% of the worlds fresh water. Then on to Irkutsk. Here we decided that our visa was too short to be able to cycle across Russia to the Ukraine (6000km) It was the beginning of September and the Siberian winter was on its way too! So we booked ourselves on to the Trans Siberian train.
This took us to Moscow and then onto Kharkov in the north east of the Ukraine. East from here to Poland, Czech republic, The south of Germany then north to the Nederlands. We arrived at the port of ijmuiden at the end of October. Normal people (after cycling 28500km) would get onto the next ferry and go home, but, we arranged to meet a couple of friends and went for a 1 week cycle touring holiday in the north of the Nederlands. This may seem ridiculous, but to spend a week with friends you haven’t seen for over a year, doing something that you love (riding your bike) and exploring another country was great.
So we got the ferry back to Newcastle, re traced our route back to our home near Penrith and arrived at our house on the 1st of November 29,215 km later.
What next? Sort stuff out.. do some work.. Plan the next trip.
11 January 2011