The Off-road to Severobaikalsk

The pioneers are about half way through the Baikal Ice Run. They've been forcing a path across the ice along the northern shore towards Severobaikalsk; at times bashing a route through the icy tombstones & ride-ups also navigating over and round stretches of open water. Here is chief Willings' report.

Dennis taking to the wet stuff like a duck to, er, water


Could you make this any harder?
— Dennis

The biggest spill was Dennis rolling. He was one of the last through a monster crack, which got progressively gnarlier as more bikes crashed through it, and rolled the bike spectacularly. Huge splash, huge air, huge flip. Astonishingly he was ok and furthermore, the bike started easily once the engine had had a few moments to dry out.

The first night of camping there was a monstrous earthquake, not really what you want when you're riding on thin ice. The whole shoreline underfoot rippled and boomed, and the ripple of sound was quickly followed by a ripple of trepidation.

Bandits Ellie and Travis have recovered from several near misses and an unfortunate incident in which Travis ploughed Anastasia into the lake itself (Ozero Baikal is 'frozen' but not altogether frozen). Their bike has suffered persistent engine trouble, somewhere between ignition coil, carburettor, ignition leads and cylinder blocks.....possibly because all of the above are crap.

When she runs she really sings, but she's on one cylinder much of the time and causing the bandits no small amount of heartache. They are bearing it  gracefully. Local vodka may be having an impact on the team morale, probably for the best.

The Italians are limping along with an electrical issue, possibly a failed alternator, which they hope to replace when they reach Severobaikalsk.

Eva is running to her usual standards. Kick and go. She’s getting beaten up but we are keeping ahead of it. We bent the shifter peg of a massive ride-up yesterday, so changing gear is now a bit of a challenge. The bike is still running well. Big cracks and ride-ups are a serious challenge to the bikes, they could so easily do irrevocable damage.
— Eric - Amerikhan Boys

Team Meh-Teh at the Shamen Rock -  Olkon Island 


Joe's Bar - Whiskey barrel sidecar mount 

The first afternoon on ice at Olkhon Island was a lighthearted affair skating with the Urals doing doughnuts and playing ice hockey. A moment of calm before the inevitable clusterfuck of storm.

The teams camped overnight in a fisherman's cabin where a friendly local old boy gave up his home for them. The local Buryats cheerfully tell the pioneers how nuts they are to ride to Severobaikalsk by Ural. The sort of sign language that needs no translation.

Adopted bandit Joseba has been riding with a barrel of whiskey mounted on his sidecar (Joe's bar). He's having a blast after two amazing days of riding, including jumping through cracks, ride-ups and deep snow. His bike is running smooth as silk with no more maintenance needed than having its spark plug polished in the mornings.

Coz and Hugh are sweeping all before them  - mainly because they don't have 2nd gear and cannot go below 50kph. It's a bit like Speed with Coz playing Sandra Bullock to Hugh's Keanu Reeve. At one point they lost power which was only restored when Dave hot-wired the bike from horn to ignition coil.

Who would have thought changing seven million spark plugs could make a person manic? Lucky that vodka makes everything happy and nice.
— Bandits on Ice


I underestimated how tough and cold it was going to be. I have been having a ball. Best experience of my life.
— Ashwin - Team Meh-Teh

The unseasonal warmness has led to a lot of water on the ice, making it very unstable. Dmitri has told the teams they cannot stay still and have to tow bikes to safety if they aren't running because to stand and make repairs on thin ice is too risky.

The pioneers are drenched from splashing through the surface water, no-one has dry feet and camping on wet ice has been a test of morale and balance.

Yesterday was spend battling through deep snow, gunning the bikes hard to keep up momentum. The teams sat pillion rather than in the sidecar to balance the bikes and ensure they could jump off quickly and push when the bikes got stuck. Tough going but exhilarating.

The bike has been brilliant, although a few bits have been falling off eg mudguards and windshield.
— Natraj - Team Meh-Teh

(A brief period of) smooth running - photo by Hugh C

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Team Bianco, Rosso e Verdoni crossing a crack in the ice