Two days training. Nothing like test driving we have ever done before, as the skills needed out here are SO unique. First ordeal was getting all nine bikes running at the same time, which is always a delicate operation. Took about two hours on Friday, down to just one hour yesterday. You never know we could be ready to roll in 20 minutes by the end of the trip. Probably not.
Exercises included digging out of deep snow, using a tree, an ice-drill and another tree to engineer a winch and get the bike out if just pushing and reversing and digging and revving don't get you there.
We practised failing wholesale to stop on smooth ice. We practised losing, and then regaining control, going from snow covered ice to bare ice, and vice versa.
On day two things got even hairier as we were introduced to the splendour, and horror, that is the "ice ride-up". (see pics). Basically, it's not all going to be smooth sailing, and at times teams are going to have to work as a group to smash up enough of a path through the ride-ups, before gritting their teeth, loosening themselves in the saddle, and just going for it.
We also went over protocols for immersion in the cold water of the Lake. A couple of brave volunteers took a ducking and tried "not to panic" as instructed by the steel-jawed Dmitri.
Other sessions included lighting fire on the ice, building for optimum wind-proofing, heat and efficiency. Teams practiced erecting their tents in ideal conditions - broad daylight and low winds - so that they might stand a better chance of getting them up in the dark, in a snowstorm, on the Ice Run proper.
Training has revealed some key lessons; firstly, how mind-bogglingly intense this adventure is going to be. The sheer brutality of some of the terrain, and the remoteness of the location, will test the Urals to their very limits. Probably beyond them. This puts a huge premium on all of the teams to look after each other as well as they look after themselves and their bikes. Riding is the easiest challenge of all; keeping their Ural in a condition where it can run, and themselves in a condition where they can ride it, will be a true test of these Pioneers. They and their bikes are in for an absolute kicking.
They could hardly be more up for it though. Maneouvres which look quite terrifying to the casual onlooker have been executed with booming laughter, and the more stuck the bikes get the more brute strength and man-muscle piles in to save the day. Half the teams have flipped their bikes already. The resilience of both man and Ural has been clear for all to see. The teams have adopted a 'no man left behind' mentality and they have been bonding enthusiastically with smoked fish and vodka of an evening, so hopes are high that this will last for the onslaught to come.