Bikepack­ing the Silk Road

Action Asia - - EVENTS -

EV­ERY AU­TUMN, I LOOK FOR A BIKE chal­lenge for the fol­low­ing sum­mer. This is work as well as play – be­ing a bike de­signer, noth­ing beats the ex­er­cise of build­ing a bike for a given route and ride. I beca me ver y ex­cited when I found a new race ad­ver­tised as one of the tough­est b i k e p a c k i n g e v e nt s e v e r : t h e S i l k Road Moun­tain Race, a solo, un­sup­ported, non-stop, 1,700km tra­verse of the Tien­shan Moun­tains in Kyr­gyzs­tan. Un­sup­ported in this case meant no nu­tri­tion from out­side so it was down to the rider’s ap­ti­tude to stay fed and hy­drated. A hu nd re d bi k e a dvent u rer s f rom 2 6 coun­tries had con­verged on the cap­i­tal of Bishkek to put their bod­ies, minds and gear to the test. Ev­ery­body knew it’d not be easy, but no­body sus­pected that the first day meant con­quer­ing Kegeti, a nearly 4,000m pass which I reached at the end of af­ter­noon un­der a hail­storm. As it turned out, it was a sign of what would come over the al­most 10 days it took to com­plete the course. Tem­per­a­tures in a sin­gle day could range from -10˚C to over 40˚C, and I crossed countless rivers (my feet were wet most of t he time) dur­ing what was al­most 18 hours of bik­ing a day. The scenery and the lo­cal’s kind­ness eased the hard­ship though – it’s hard to say no to a herds­man’s in­vi­ta­tion to tea and food when you are dog-tired, soak­ing and cold. With only t hree check­points a long t he course and three sec­tions of up to 270km with no food re-sup­ply, my race strat­egy was sim­ple: carry enough food for 24 hours and ride fast! My main con­cern was get­ting stuck at high al­ti­tude and spend­ing the night in sub-zero tem­per­a­tures. There were close calls for sure: on the last night, I had to cross a 15km marsh at 3,800m on the way to CP3. Cross­ing a river in waist-high wa­ter then push­ing my loaded bike for four hours through mushy grass in low tem­per­a­ture was un­ex­pected. Luck­ily, a shep­herd of­fered shel­ter for the night to stave off hy­pother­mia, and I went on next day to cross the fin­ish line. – Pierre-ar­naud Le Mag­nan

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