15th March - Tuesday
Half the teams are at a hot springs 20 km beyond Severobaikalsk, the rest are still in the town, refuelling and picking up supplies for the next leg. There is very little between here and Zhigalovo, so we should prepare for the worst.
I'm pleased to report all eight bikes are running well. I am with the rear group and enjoyed and awoke with the benefit of a night's sleep in a warm hotel. We're about to demolish the buffet and kit up before hitting the road.
The next couple of days will take us along the Davan pass aside the BAM railway. The snow gets so heavy the snow drifts are regularly shot with cannons to keep the rail line clear. Last night Richard and Anton (Kraken Molotov) did indeed turn back to wait in the city for the snow to be cleared.
After the BAM railway it's 300km of rough unsealed snow on the way to Zhigalovo, the chance of running out of fuel is high and teams may have to take on fuel from the back-up vehicles.
17.40pm a report comes in of a crash for team Tushonka. Both bikers are fine, the Ural much less so. They crashed into a car on a bend. Ephraim was taking evasive action from a car heading towards him and was hit by it broadside. The front of the car shared the damage with the side of the bike. The car driver is also unharmed.
An attempt is being made to rebuild the bikes. There are spare pistons, cylinders and heads in the truck so there's a chance it is possible. A slim chance, but you'd take that.
It turns out that while the piston could be replaced the connecting rod had been bent. It wont straighten and there is no spare, so it's game over for Tushonka. Ala and Ephraim will hitch the rest of the way.
The afternoons riding is like a very extended Olympic bobsleigh event. A giant ice luge, up hill, down hill, round tight bends, all brilliant white with the sun glaring off it, stunning Siberian taiga forest to left and right and the mighty BAM railway running in parallel. Where we cross the tracks and see trains they hoot their horns in salute.
Benny and Dave managed to flip 501. Trailing in our wake with Dave riding flat out, they started to glide sideways towards a snow bank, Benny put his weight into it but too late and they cannoned into the snow bank and rolled it.
Freddy and Michael's bike stopped running with an electrical issue. Their first mishap. Freddy tests everything with a multimeter. Battery and alternator fine, so they started testing the wiring. 45mins later found it, the battery strap had come loose under all the vibration and cut through another wire. they replaced the broken wire and fired up straight away. Good work.
That night we all stop in a cafe in a tiny village, after dinner and beers we sleep en masse on the floor.
16th March - Wednesday
We talk about heading to Zhigalovo in one stint but I am sceptical as to whether this is possible, it's almost 300kms in one day. We do make good time though, all bikes absolutely flying. It tuns out my bike is overheating, it’s getting clogged with oil. Dave says I need to 'gun it more'. Trying to gun it more, I over-gun it and brake too late on a turn with a drop into a massive puddle. We don’t stack it and I make the turn, and get back to a suitable speed….but Marc and James cannon into the back of me.
We are all fine but James and Marc have proper dinged their sidecar. By this time we're all on about half a tank. We decide to keep going until we run dry and then wait for the back-up. We're making good time and might just reach Zhigaolovo by nigthfall.
We roll into town just after it gets dark, but sadly the hotel is full. Fortunately the Maitresse feels sympathy for us and lets us sleep where we can. This is great news as plan B was to camp in the car-park.