ice Lake

The Plan

The plan is to ride the entire length of Lake Baikal from Slyudyanka in the south to Severobaykalsk in the north in early March 2019 by motorcycle taking up to ten days and creating a Guinness World Record for “The longest journey on ice (off road)”.

Haha… that’s the theory and in practice the outcome may be very different. This is a journey of huge uncertainty unlike any other journey that I have ever undertaken. With other journeys that I have made and not involving riding over a lake one mile deep I would have always known the start point and the end point and the “waypoints” in between from day to day and what one would expect to experience on the way and at the various waypoints. External factors such as weather, availability of warmth, fuel and food as well as politics and bureaucracy all had little impact overall. This is going to be different. Very different. It’s impossible to predict what will happen on any given day or if the overall aim will in fact be achieved. But with a heart and a half I start my preparations as follows:

Getting a suitable bike

Procurement of a bike - I’m actively looking for a bike in the UK and likely will purchase a Honda CRF250 Rally although BMW would also be an excellent choice. I’ll ride the bike to either Holyhead or Pembroke, take the ferry to Ireland and ride to County Clare.

Prepping the bike

Modify the bike by changing all fluids to cold weather fluids such as coolant, engine oil and fork oil and insulate the engine casing. Install 2 digital temperature gauges one for water temperature and one to read wind chill temperature.

Add bits to the bike, a mount and associated wiring for my trusty Garmin390LM, Oxford heated grips, hand covers by Hippo-Hands, a compass, a luggage system by LOMO and a DBPOWER sport action camera. Hoping to get spiked tyres made up in Lithuania and fitted either here in Ireland or possibly in Moscow.

Getting the bike to Siberia

Once the bike is ready I need to get it to Moscow ASAP. I have acquired a great man in Moscow by name of Maxim Anokhin who has been so helpful in this regard. Thanks also to Karolis Mieliauskas from Lithuania who has offered much advice and help too. What would I do without them?

But getting the bike from to Moscow will in fact be more difficult than getting it from Moscow to Siberia. Possibly I will road transport the bike to Vilnius in Lithuania and ride it from there to Moscow. I’m hoping Maxim will take care of the bike shipment to Irkutsk, by train or road. Let’s see.

Prepping the Rider

Ha, this can be broken down into physical preparation and mental preparation. Let’s deal with the physical preparation first.

Prepping of a rider for such extreme cold conditions is certainly not an area of expertise for me. Sure why would it be? I’m Irish! Now if you want to know about riding in horizontal rain them I’m your man! So for extreme cold I must lean on my long time Finnish connection and friend Sakke Hayrinen. This man rode to the Artic in the middle of winter in -30 centigrade. He’s my man! Despite the amount of information Sakke has sent to me I have decided to cut to the chase and just meet with him in Helsinki and say “Deck me out Sakke”. Apparently layers are the answer. I also hear merino wool being mentioned as with “heater visors” and so on. Again Karolis Mieliauskas has a lot to offer here too.

The need to be physically fit is very important. Long days on tough terrain can be difficult and physically very demanding. Whilst thankfully I am quite fit yet I need to build up my physical strength so look out for push ups, pull ups, squats and abdominal workouts.

Next is mental preparation. I’m not sure how good I am at that. My main concern right now is managing the huge logistics ahead of me whilst at the same time trying to live a normal life with work and family commitments at the same time - perhaps that’s not fully possible? But I need to try hard. Your mind can stress you and play games with you. I feel like I’m on a journey into my mind also and trying to understand and deal with these mind games. Fear is what keeps us from getting what we want and becoming who we honestly deep down want to be. Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears. Perhaps one should do the thing he fears and the death of fear itself is then certain.

The Overnights

This is one of my biggest challenges. If I camp on the ice I need to bring a lot more stuff. So on this occasion I need to rely on finding shelter from -30 centigrade nights. Lake Baikal is a remote place - no five star hotels to be found here, maybe only some fishermen’s huts here and there. I have surveyed Google Maps for all settlements on the shore of the lake and noted their GPS coordinates and graded them by the number of settlements I can see. Thankfully Maxim Anokhin tells me that he will be able to supply me with this information from a Russian perspective. That will bring comfort knowing that there is indoors to be found for the long cold night ahead.