Cycling the silk road in winter

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Yann Cano
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Cycling the silk road in winter

Post by Yann Cano »

Hello silkers.



I've been preparing a cycle trip that goes from France to North-East Russia and therefore would have to end in the late september. Here is my plan:

September-October-November 2015 in Europe
November-December-January in Turquey
January-February 2016 in Iran
Turkmenistan for five days...
February-March 2016 : Ouzbekistan
March-April 2016 : Tadjikistan
April-May 2016 : Kirghizistan
May-June 2016 : China
June-July 2016 : Mongolia
july-August-September-October 2016 : Russia, up to Magadan


As you probably noticed on the internet, nobody recommends to cycle the silk road in winter. I'm curious to collect a few comments of people who experienced it or experienced something that could be similar. Specially about crossing the Pamir highway in April, or cycling the iranian mountains in january...

Also, what do you think about the average speed in China, Mongolia and Russia (a bit more than 2000km per month)?

Thanks.

Yann
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steven
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by steven »

I know cyclists have done the Pamir Highway in winter. It's obviously cold (same for Kyrgyzstan in April-May) but people do it anyway. I couldn't find the specific blog, but I remember people's chains froze and this was an issue. But the road is clear. Adam from ridinground cycled in the winter, see his blog for some tips. Also, google cycling in Siberia/Russia in winter, I know this is becoming a minor thing amongst the crazier elements in the round-the-world cycle community and might give you some good tips.

Your other option is to stay 3 months in Iran and tackle Tajikistan a bit later. But already April is a lot less cold than, say January.
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evanrprice
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by evanrprice »

Hi Yann
I will be doing it on a very similar route in the same direction during this winter but slightly ahead of you (entering Iran in mid November) so give me a shout if you want to chat about things, i've done a fair bit of research already - mostly on the technical aspects of gear, etc. As steven said the route is open and a number of cyclists did it last year.
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Yann Cano
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by Yann Cano »

Good to read that some people have that kind of idea !


I read the winter part of Adam's website. Thank you Steven for that precious information.

Evan
About the technical part, I'm not sure that the bicycle side is the most complicated. I read a few articles about people riding in the cold and the n°1 issue is freezing water and food. You might also get cold... Nevertheless, I bought 4 winter tires with nice spikes for me and my girlfriend that we will use for sure on the Pamir highway and sometimes in Iran. I also know well that using V-breaks in the snow is almost impossible (I have V-breaks) and riding on more than 15cm of snow is the same as pedaling on a dry beach (I have good hiking shoes). If you have any recommendation for a nice breaking system, let me know.

Won't you be a bit early in the high mountains? February looks seriously cold in Tajikistan...

Do you also plan to go to China, Mongolia and Russia?
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evanrprice
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by evanrprice »

Hi Yann
Oh yeah by technical I meant everything to do with managing well/coping/surviving in extremely cold temperatures...i.e. vapour barrier and bivvy bags for the sleeping bag, pogies, and winter gloves, winter pac boots, snow tyres, bladder for water so it doesn't freeze, etc. etc. the list goes on!!
I hadn't thought about the brakes but i see what you mean ( deep mud in africa has a similar effect!), disc brakes would be better but I ain't gonna be changing now (and can't). To be honest, if the snow is that deep then i'm unhooking the v-brakes and walking!
I know it's going to be ridiculously cold but i've bought gear that should allow me to cope down to about -40C...and if it's any colder than that then i give up!!
I can't get into russia but yes, from Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan into China and then Mongolia
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steven
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by steven »

Just a quick note guys: you are crazy. In a good way. It's these kinds of wacky plans that push me to keep up this website (from the comfort of my home). Definitely make a cycling in winter in Central Asia topic once you are on your way, I think it could be very useful for others.
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Yann Cano
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by Yann Cano »

Hi Evan and Steven.



Evan, you seem to be very well prepared for cold ! Probably more than me and my girlfriend are. Fortunately we don't plan to face such a cold weather. We are prepared to survive -20°C/-25°C but we'd prefer not to sleep below -15°C/-20°C, eventhough it might happen. About the riding temperature, I suppose that we might have some -10°C/-15°C days, but this should be for the few weeks in Tajikistan, and the easy solution is to runaway to the valley if we feel too cold... So about he gears, we only have good synthetic made sleeping bags that will make us sleep easily at -5°C/-10°C plus some whool equipment (underwears + sockets + cap) and some down made equipements (jacket). This should keep us alive for the tough days ! About water freezing, I think that we will manage to keep half a liter liquid and we will use it to melt the rest of the water when needed (in case of extreme cold).

One thing I've read on Adam's website and surprised me... He took some mudguards, that turned out to be full of ice at some point. I've never used mudguards. I have a huge aluminium frame that protects me well from the front wheel mud and the rear part is covered of luggage. I would recommend the same for anybody who has a big size aluminium frame.

Another thing I've read on Christophe's website (http://voyage-sur-le-fil.fr/armenie-a-lere-glaciere/) travelling in Armenia in winter and facing many issues in the cold. He started cooking in the tent in the morning... that made the ice in the tent melting. Later he drunk his tea... That made the water freezing again, but much stronger than the nice morning dew. Later it took him hours to melt the ice on tent stick junctions... Just one example of the many issues you can face as soon as the temperature is below 0°C, and specially when it is not freezing in the day but freezing at night.

Steven, in which section should we open that topic? Isn't it the right place?
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steven
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by steven »

@Yann: Maybe let's just keep it here. I will summarize all the good tips in 1 article.
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Re: Starting the silk road in September from France

Post by steven »

Some good info on climate conditions here: http://caravanistan.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1196
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Yann Cano
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Re: Cycling the silk road in winter

Post by Yann Cano »

Just a short update that I posted on the safety Turkey/Iran crossing:

"Hi all.



My post is... Half for cyclist, half for safety concerns.

I decided not to cross the border from Turkey to Iran and took the long way through Georgia and Armenia.

It is safe... :-)

But the way is almost 1000km longer, and the passes are always higher than 2000m, with some over 2500m. The winter time, as a cyclist, was probably not the safest choice. You may risk some frozen bites or to get stocked in the snow. I spent one night at -25 degrees outside, the wind was extremely strong at every single pass, so you can imagine that it was not so "safe"... Not only the PKK issue should be considered in the winter time I think.

Also, the main road (M2) of Armenia was closed for a few days because there was too much snow.

It is already a great memory because some great Armenian people helped me a lot ! But... It was a great warning against "real cold".

One more detail... In Georgia and Armenia, the first week of the year is holidays. No restaurant, no hotels, no warm places, ... Very hard to find some food and accommodations !"
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