At the end of the first week on the road, the teams are making halting progress towards the Arctic. Despite the bikes being tuned to Olympic standards prior to the launch the conditions have taken their toll & teams are hampered by mechanical failure, electrical failure, the odd hangover, and in one notable case, the hasty addition of a Russian spouse to the team.
In the cold light of Saturday morning, Uray seemed to be the ideal location for a few running repairs to the increasingly battered Urals. Exaggerated reports soon started flooding in of various 'game over' situations.
Angry Bird and Grumpy Owl/ Wild Wolf Bikers
Chris and Nick popped by the mechanics to check up on Irene and Eloise. Having made sterling progress as far as Uray they were struggling to keep any charge on their bike, (despite changing "all three" spark plugs*) and were getting the once over from no less than seven enthusiastic locals (the bike, not them, though Irene may yet return to Uray to make a life here with this chap).
[*Urals have two cyclinders & thus two plugs - Ed]
Seeing the high standard of customer care on offer, the lads decided to see if they couldn't have a tinker with their right heated handlebar grip, which was apparently playing up. This is a rough sequence of what happened next....
Nick drily noted at this point that "our bike was fine until we took it to the mechanics"....Whereupon the whole thing got taken apart. Commence more chit chat about leaky valves, timing being taken to pieces, and then this little beauty
After no small amount of swearing and I suspect some weeping, the bike was duly stapled back together, though sadly not in time for their Russian mechanic friends to catch the USA/Russia hockey game. This was almost an international incident. Chris described the atmosphere as "frostier than a snowman's nutsack". Quite, it was a good game.
Rocking Chair Motorcycle Club - over and out
Sadly Fredda and Russ called it a day in Mezhdurichenskiy yesterday morning, citing electrical failure on their bike as the reason. They are now back in Irbit and will hopefully come up to Salekhard later in the week to cheer on the surviving teams.
Meanwhile their (not very) trusty bike is still in the thick of the action....
Ice Ice Baby
Sam and Mo started pissing fuel yesterday and found a fault line had developed in their fuel tank. After some welding they were still a bit windy about the quality of the container so decided to cannibalise the newly-decommissioned Rocking Chair MC bike and swap out their fuel tank. Frankenbike, as he has now been Christened, is alive and well and has since powered all the way to Nyagan.
Not before Sam and Mo tore up the dancefloors of Uray however. Check this out
So that told them. This footage from Karan Suri, Motorcycle Diaries, who has thoroughly enjoyed all manner of Russian hospitality this far, and enjoyed speaking with Russian mechanics on the phone, despite no shared language.
Karan has remained in Uray awaiting the arrival of the rear guard, Dylan and Dalbs of team Up to Snow Good, who have had perhaps the most dramatic bailout in Ice Run history, when their bike actually burst into flames. Some failed wiring close to the fuel lines melted and set their fuel hose alight, and it's frankly a miracle that the whole thing didn't go up in smoke. Lucky that priest blessed them at the launch....in a rather ingenious piece of will-not-be-defeatism, they put both their bike, and the remains of Russ and Fredda's bike, on a truck and hitched a lift to Uray, where they will be cannibalising two bikes to make what we hope will be once rideable one, on Monday. Here's them enjoying their ride to Uray.
Oznog Racing/Boris & Natasha
Meanwhile Chris Plough, Kate deWald and Boris Berkovich have enjoyed a relatively smooth passage these last couple of days. What looked like a total electrical failure on Chris's bike turned out to be a case of not turning the ignition on. And then he lost his keys...
Meanwhile, somewhere way out west, Kabir Late is on a sticky wicket. After a glorious day's riding on Friday, his crank shaft packed up, despite plenty of oil top ups to date (these bikes do seem to be rather thirsty), and his gearbox too. He's currently using all his haggling skills to get repairs underway and back on the road, or truck the bike forward to a better pit lane. One way or another he's getting to Salekhard, resolutely.
So there you have it; the bikes are living up to their reputation for being buttock-clenchingly unreliable. Then again, you don't see anyone else trying to ride them 2000kms over ice in -30 or less. The now well-established chorus of "you guys are bat-shit crazy" is drowned out only by the noisy welcome and insistence that the teams come in from the cold, toast them at their wedding or birthday party, and pose in their photos.
Meanwhile, in Salekhard, things are as silent and eerily serene as ever. A very strange contrast.
More updates as we get them.
Ice Run Chief