Lessons in haggling Russian style

A first dispatch from the Ice Run Chief Katy on the fastidious preparations underway for the 2014 Ice Run. Temperatures are lower, oestrogen counts are higher, and the mighty Ural bikes are as daft as ever.

Greetings from Irbit, spiritual home of the mighty Ural Motorcycle and actual home of The Adventurists' own fleet of vintage bikes, minted between 1968 and 1982, and enslaved to the cause of Adventurism since 2012.  

These ladies have weathered a bumpy ride home from Salekhard and some cosmetic, and in some cases, open heart, surgery since the 2013 Run. Before this year's teams get their polar mitts on them, it falls to Pioneers Ice Run Veteran and professional stunt man Olly Rowland, (in)ably assisted by me;  to warm them up and get a feel for the foibles of each one - to help prepare the teams over the weekend.  

Experiencing the peculiar and not altogether welcome sensation of face-freeze, when your balaclava ices up and sticks to you. Nice. Check out those hairsickles, too

No two are the same, and sometimes, no one is the same from one day/hour to the next.  If they were horses you would say "well they're not machines!".  I am not sure what the machine equivalent should be.  They do have a certain logic however and happily any problems we have encountered to date have been rider error.  Mainly mine.

Having done short test rides around the workshop where they reside on Tuesday; we spent yesterday taking them out on longer rides out to the ice lake which served as a test driving track for the pioneers Run in 2012.  Mighty silver birch lined tracks, with glossy rutted ice and some decent undulation offered both ample beauty and ample danger. And hence a suitable dress rehearsal for the Ice Run proper.  

The brakes just invite a skid, put the sidecar in a rut and you'll lose control of the back of the bike and proceed like a very aggressive eel, but over-correct the eel and the sidecar lifts off the ground altogether.  If there is traffic coming the other way it might be prudent to shut your eyes.  

 Katy fastidiously testing the Urals are running OK

Katy fastidiously testing the Urals are running OK

Nice consistent revs and engine braking are your friends on the ice.  All of these things I learned in a single downhill stretch.  On the uphills I mainly learned that you really, really don't want to stop, or rev.  There's no handbrake, and the bikes are really heavy, especially when Olly refuses to help, to "teach me faster".  

Our teams will be getting a session at the local motocross track on Sunday to experience just these kind of phenomena, and I am confident that after a day or two on the road they will be working with, not against, their steeds.  

Rural Siberia is a starkly beautiful place, still dark at 9.30am but this is more than compensated for in the evenings when the sun sets scarlet and turns the snow, your entire universe out here, a beautiful pearlescent pink, at 6.30pm.  There are definitely worse places to get stuck, lost and scared.  Luckily for our nine brave teams....

Off the bikes we have been busy arranging an absolutely kick-ass weekend of launch festivities for the teams, with local hero Sergey-the-Boss and his trusty, foul-mouthed interpreter Anatoli.  

(Sample exchange; recce-ing launch party options...
KW - "Can we fix a price now?  Last year we paid RXXX." 
**S-t-B chats to contractor, names a very high price.  Heads are scratched.  
KW - "Can that come down a bit?" 
**Anatoli wades in:
"I told him RXXX or he go fuck himself. He say ok"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to get things done)

Refuelling in Russia; an essential, but fairly tortuous experience. This bike is my favourite, nicknamed Black Caviar by her 2013 team Snow Worries.  

Happily the Winter Olympics open on Friday and the whole country is in thrall to Sochi, so on Sunday we will be taking part in a skiing contest in Irbit, whilst similar competitions take place right across the country.  Some 40 million people will be racing at the same time, apparently.  

And guess who will be presenting the medals in Irbit?  Me.  I have explained to Sergey that I spent one day on skis, once, and ended that day in hospital, but apparently the results of the contests will be lodged with the International Olympic Committee. So Olly and me, and as many Ice Runners as we can co-opt once they arrive, will be competing on the very (very) slim chance of a major upset.

On Saturday the pride of Irbit; its sturdy ice hockey team will be in action against Siberian contenders Fakel ("Torch"), having delayed the bout especially for our viewing pleasure.

The launch party is highly likely to include hot birch and cold water, reindeer and horse-drawn sleighs, and as many singing, twirling babushkas as could be called authentic.  There is also rumour of an appearance by the World's Largest Samovar.  It's a real thing, people, and it travels in style on the back of a Ural.  Like all good things.

That's all for now, I'll report back once we have a quorum of teams here and they have had some fun stalling, pushing, and with any luck, beetling about on their splendid bikes.  

We're expecting 15 Ice Runners, including our first ever all-girl team, the Wild Wolf Bikers Irene and Eloisia.  Head Mechanic Sergey is a model of chivalry and keen to offer them his own Ural, the as-yet Ice Run virgin "Bike 13", which does indeed run like a bike owned and maintained by a master mechanic.


Chief of the Ice Run

Ice Run Chief Katy is a super boffin, who does quadratic equations in her lunch-break for fun. But when it's minus 40 even super-brains get sluggish; in this instance forgetting that Urals need petrol.