September 18, 2006 GMT
Race against the clock

I went back to Vladivostok to pay a visit to Shustrik and prepare for the rest of my trip across Russia. I had heard about the very bad road between Birobidzhan and Chita and I had no intention of riding on it. My motorbike wasn’t design for that type of roads, I was almost one month late on my schedule and Madame de Bourboulon had not taken that road herself.

I nevertheless rode all the way to Khabarovsk and, with the help of Evginy, a friend of Shustrik, we put the motorbike on a train on August 24th. The next morning I boarded the Trans-Siberian to Ulan-Ude where I was welcomed by Sergei, another friend of Shustrik. The following day, we went with some other bikers to the station to wait for the train with my motorbike on it to arrive. The train was on time and I could now ride my motorbike across Russia.

On arriving in Irkutsk on the 30th, I noticed that oil was leaking from the front suspension. I had a name and a phone number, again provided by Shustrik. I called and a few minutes later Alexey and Pavel showed up. The next day Pavel and I went looking for parts. We couldn’t find any but Pavel decided to buy some auto parts instead and redesign them to fix the motorbike. It worked. He probably could have made a brand new motorbike out of two old bicycles. Then he replaced the saddles, which were too small and completely worn out, by an aluminum box originally made for Aeroflot, the former Soviet airline.

The weather was getting colder and colder. For the three days I stayed in Irkutsk, the temperature remained under 10°. I couldn’t loose too much time on the road and I had to reach Europe before it got too cold. It had become a race against the clock. The road to Krasnoyarsk wasn’t particularly good, with plenty of places where it was only dirt and gravel for dozens of kilometers. One day I had heavy rain for the entire day to be replaced by a temperature of only 3° the next. It had snowed before I got up that morning.

On arriving in Krasnoyarsk on September 6th, again I called a contact given to me by Alexey in Irkutsk. Andrei was a member of a bike club and I spent the night in his apartment. The next day he was going with some other members to Novosibirsk to attend a bike meeting for the weekend and asked me if I wanted to join them. I did and we rode to Novosibirsk in two days under a much warmer temperature of above 25°.

Shortly after arriving in Novosibirsk, I took part in a big parade that took a couple of hundreds bikers in the evening to a small national park on the other side of the Ob river. Streets had been closed to traffic to let all those bikers ride freely across the city. I camped in the wood that night. I have no tent but I managed to install my sleeping bag next to a camp fire. The night was cold but it didn’t rain and I slept well.

The next destination was Omsk where I arrived on the 10th. I went to a hotel but the next day I called another contact to do a small check up on the bike. The muffler was making an abnormal sound. Alexey brought me to a small house with a yard that Slava, the owner, had transformed into a garage with plenty of old and new bikes. After looking at the muffler, he realized that it needed to be fixed urgently. It worked on it for two days and was able to fix it. Russian mechanics can do miracles.

I left Omsk on September 13th escorted by Roma, a biker that I had met two days before. I soon noticed that my rear break wasn’t working properly. Roma took a look at it and was able to make it works. But he said that it would have to be fixed properly in Tyumen. He told me not to worry, phone calls would be made and people would be waiting for me to help.

On that day the temperature dropped again and I had hail for quite a long time that prevented me to ride as much as I wanted. I decided to stop after 280 kilometers for the night and I reached Tyumen the next day after 380 kilometers and a day of rain and cold. I was welcomed there by Alexey and some of his friends. They spend two days fixing the rear brake as well as the rear suspension which had been damaged just before reaching Tyumen. They replaced it with a Russian suspension, not perfect but good enough to cross the rest of the country as well as Europe.

I’m still in Tyumen, waiting for the weather to improve a bit before crossing the Ural and reaching the European continent where I hope it’ll be warmer.

Posted by Fabrice Blocteur at 03:44 PM GMT

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