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Thread: Heavy Metal around Mongolia and Central Asia

  1. #1

    Heavy Metal around Mongolia and Central Asia


    Winding our way north westward, a couple of days from the Mongolian/Russian border we’d developed a reasonably fast technique of riding our heavy bikes through the sand and loose stone over the past four weeks, our main problem being the occasional big dip or hole catching us unaware.

    I checked my mirror for Baz, who’d been riding behind me. He’s not there. A few moments later a young man gallops toward me, his horse’s hooves leaving a trail of dust. Soon he indicates there’s a problem and a motorcycle has crashed.

    Riding quickly back, followed by Pete and fearing the worst, we’re relieved to see Baz on his feet surrounded by a small group of Mongolians and his machine upright.

    But something wasn’t right, the rear of his bike had collapsed after hitting a big dip, the paralever was snapped where the rear suspension mounts. I knew immediately we couldn’t repair it and there were only three days of our visa in Mongolia left.

    I do believe there was a tear in Baz’s eye.

    Eight days later we’re in Almaty, Kazakhstan and I finish putting his bike back together. Baz is jubilant. Another tear?

    Anyone who has read the first page of Ted Simon’s ‘bible’ of motorcycle travel, Jupiter’s Travels will understand the philosophy that many problems on the road will work themselves out given a bit of time, thought and luck...

    Luck. Where would we all be without it?


  2. #2

    Dream to reality.

    After years of dreaming, nearly a year of planning, endless emails for visas, bike preparation, gear choice and much more we finally had our group together.

    Due to a shoulder injury, it was conceded that Rick could still join us with his Land Rover and on two occasions I’m sure one of us would be very grateful of that!

    The bikes were two BMW GS1150 Adventures and two BMW GS1200 Adventures.

    Big heavy bikes perhaps for a trip like this particularly given our route in Mongolia but GS motorcycles have played a large part in my travels over the past ten years so it seemed fitting to give them a try.

    Whether they were the right choice of machine is a question often asked of me and one I still ask myself, but 17,000 miles and twenty two countries in three months should have provided some answers. Let’s see what you think.

    This photo was the original map of the world I highlighted our intentions on after several beers, I had a laminated copy stuck to my pannier on the trip and was used countless times to explain our journey along the way. It's not accurate...should you be counting the countries and the route around Mongolia was somewhat more! Clockwise btw


  3. #3
    I meet Pete and Baz at the M25 services south of London. We feel like rugged travellers already amongst the commuters and coach parties. Pretty cool hey?
    Well cool until Baz’s overladen bike fell over by itself in front of everyone. Note my sympathy.

    There was a bit of riding to do before seeing the white cliffs of Dover again

    The ferry left Dover around 3pm we stopped for a quick photo

    Then began to find somewhere to stay in Belgium or Holland...but not before Baz's front brake caliper nearly fell off
    Jarvo looks typically unimpressed.

  4. #4

    A blast across Europe

    We left France, Belgium, Holland and Germany behind but still don't look very rugged by the time we're in fact quite the opposite I'd say.

    Sometimes a riders just got to shut them eyes for a moment, I bet you all know that feeling.

    And Rick, driving the Land Rover maintains his Adonis like physique with healthy snacks to keep him going.

    In Poland we pass the twisted remains of a few vehicles in a field, the police and ambulance crews don't appear to be in any particilar rush...I guess the occupants are all dead. Riding a muddy track we bypass the waiting traffic with a reminder of how brutal the the road can turn in an instant.

    Off the main roads and into smaller undulating lanes through miles of forest it's time for a break.

    Riding out of a village in Lithuania I lift the throttle a bit early and get nabbed for doing twice the speed limit.
    One of the cops is an attractive young lady, I do my best to amuse her...given the circumstances (a grey bearded, dirty biker in his early 50's sat in the back of a police van caught speeding in an ex Soviet state with some money in his wallet) , it's not to be, they say pay or we take your licence. I did manage to get the fine reduced by 30%, but this police corruption was just a taster of what lay ahead.

  5. #5
    Our last 'European' country before entering Russia was Latvia.

    I rode through here three or four years ago with little to report, I did so again. We're on a mission.

    And so, four days after leaving my home in North Wales we're ready for Russia in the morning, but we didn't expect it to take twelve hours to get through the border.

    Not a very exciting read so far ay, dear reader? Neither was the ride so far, so you'll have to endure it with me, but it does get better, oh yes, much better and Mongolia is still a long way off.

  6. #6
    That's short for Pumpernickel Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Jan 2006
    Oxford, UK
    You know how to build up a certain suspense, Tim, don't ya?

    Keep it coming! - Four months through South America on a DRZ

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Manchester UK

    Now that's what i call a ride!

    Fantastic pics, excellent reporting, keep it coming!!!!!

  8. #8
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    Oct 2006
    really looking forward to the rest of this.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    weaving thru' the GATSO's
    I don't know whether to read this in dribs and drabs or wait 'till it's all done and have an epic night in with some beers.

    Come on Tim, it's not like you've got anything else to do

  10. #10
    Normally when there's a queue like this, you'd shoot straight to the front on your bike but we'd agreed to stay with Rick and his Land Rover through border crossings in case of any problems.

    Now I can't can't stand queing in the supermarket for much more than forty seconds so let's imagine we're stuck there for twelve hours, the portable toilets resemble termite mounts and it starts raining. Out comes the awning and we get a brew on.

    The motives for this trip had been to see mythical lands such as Mongolia, the Pamir regions of Tajikistan and ride far away from any tarmac but it was increasingly the people we met along our way who provided an unexpected fulfilment.

    Waiting at the border to Russia I chat with this man, Peter I think. he's a few hundred meters behind us so agree to let him jump ahead of us which will save him 4 hours, in exchange he'll help us fill in the paperwork for customs etc.
    He used to live in Russia, moved to Latvia region, married then Latvia get's it's independance. He's queing for twelve hours only to spend 3 hours in Russia before returning.
    Peter's well into his seventies and with an admirable twinkle in his eye. I put it to him there can be only one reason to queue for so long and return so quickly, he pauses before agreeing.
    "The women in Russia are so beautiful" he smiles with far away eyes, "my wife is in Latvia, and she...." I nod my understanding. Top bloke

  11. #11


    Rick makes coffee and we're on the road....and what a road! It started as ruined undulating tarmac which was an early test for our suspension with heavily laden bikes and a Landy full of bling. Then the roadworks.

    Roadworks in Russia means ripping up most of the tarmac leaving trucks,bikes, cars and vans to make their own way through the quagmire.....did I mention it was raining?

    Cold temperatures added to our pleasure, waterproofs and heated jackets were barely adequate as we splashed our way east, destination Moscow.

    Jarvo overtakes a police car and is pulled. Oh how he laughed

    To cut a long story short he evaded jail, having his bike and license conficated but came away 150 euros lighter. I can't mention his later conversation about the incident...there may be children reading this, but if looks could kill

    Hot soup in a shed revived our spirits to a level of joy far exceeding any Russians we've met so far.

    To our eyes Russia appears as a strange planet inhabited by miserable aliens, I do hope the next 5000 miles shows us another side to the country and it's inhabitants.....of course it did


    We hit the Moscow ring road at rush hour just as the heavens opened.

    Having survived that we stopped, found a coffee and sought to find the nearest accomodation, this seeking went on for about 50 miles, in the wet, dark and busy road.

    Eventually we find a fantastic wooden chalet hotel, drained the fridge of it's beer, drained the beer kept in the Landy and demolished the a bottle of Bushmills.

    We had been on the road in testing conditions for 13 hours.

    For me, the room was was 3.30am but sleep came quickly although brief.

    A knock on the door at 7.45 anounced breakfast.

  12. #12
    So, east it is then. East for the next thirteen days or so.

    Cross winds, rain and the police never far away.

    If there's any policemen reading this and feel you're part of a international brotherhood then your sadly mistaken. Cynical and corrupt they take advantage of motorists to top up their meager wage, this is at it's worst west of the Ural mountains.
    After we'd all been stopped and fined several times we did eventually learn how to avoid the law in many cases.....don't break the law

    Russia's a big country make no mistake, for us it was a means to an end....the road to Mongolia! But turn the music up, get into the rythym
    of a long road trip and it becomes addictive.

    A variety of cafes, often rough but always welcome.

    Endless hours on the road and Russian coffee begins to affect us all.

    Rick eventually finds a burly trucker with a similarly appalling dress sense.

    More about Russian truck drivers later, either they're all gay or following a vodka drinking session they'll shag anything or anyone....and that includes you!!

  13. #13
    Russian roads can be brutal, and you're never never more aware of that than when riding a fast bike. Every couple of kilometers a bunch of roadside flowers tells a tragic story,
    Trucks in fields, a result of vodka or no sleep.

    I'm told the Russian people are warm when you break through the icy reception, possibly true in many cases but often they're abrupt, rude and hard work. This attitude towards others is reflected in their driving.

    Taking the dual carriageway to bypass Irkutsk, I'm riding at 80mph in the slow lane, an old pick up pulls out in front of me, I move into the fast lane covering my brakes, it too moves into the fast lane.
    Surley this is the end as my rear tyre smokes and the front howls, the others following witness it's going to be a big crash.
    A couple of feet from the back of the truck I'm matching it's speed then drop back. I'd removed the servo and abs from my bike prior to the trip and my brakes were perfect, they saved my life.

    We pull over onto the hard shoulder and I have a smoke, my heart rate hadn't changed, I felt no panic, it was as though I'd been demonstating an emergency stop just as do with my students week in week out. I was very lucky.
    Remember that luck we all need on a trip?

    Baz's gets the first puncture.

    Somewhere in central Russia we meet a couple of GS'ers from Moscow, they'd just had a blast around Kazakstan.

    A few images from the way east.


  14. #14
    Don't worry, I haven't forgotton about Mongolia but stick with it we've still got to get across Russia

    Yet another police stop, this time just routine and legitamate

  15. #15
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    Jan 2008
    Amazing stuff Please get the rest on Tim

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Great stuff - awesome. You can keep your long way round - I've been looking forward to reading this from the first text that Steptoe posted as you started the trip


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