Finally, tomorrow is the day and we fly to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I’m really looking forward to this country, not only because it’s the 52nd one I’m travelling through by bike, but especially because of the fabulous mountain landscapes and the obviously very hospitable people.
Together with Tobias, I am now venturing on the adventure Silk Road Mountain Race, a self-catering bikepacking race over 1,800km and 30,000 metres of altitude through the Tian Shan.
At this point I have to say thank you:
Firstly, to my family, who have taken and are taking a lot of strain so that I could train and now also be in Kyrgyzstan for three weeks. Secondly, to my employer Adobe, who made it possible for me to take the time off so that I could travel.
I spent almost a year preparing for this, training for more than 300 hours this year alone and spending many days on the bike in mud, snow and rain. Or sweating on the smart trainer in my basement. I achieved my goal of having 50,000HM and 7,500km “on the clock” this year before the race and am now very well prepared for the race in purely physical terms. I would say that I am even fitter than I was before the Atlas Mountain Race.
But physical fitness is only one aspect that applies in the Tien Shan. It is more a question of the circumstances how we will get through. A mechanical defect on the bike, an infection or illness can quickly end the race. I hope not, of course, but if you look at the experience stories of the first two SRMRs, it happens more often than not. The scratch rate is around 50-60%.
And of course, in the end it is also and above all a question of mentality to withstand this day-long strain in the high mountainous nowhere. There are 16 passes (or more) over 3,000m to be mastered. But if it weren’t for all that, it wouldn’t be an adventure, it would be “just” a cycling tour. 🙂
My motto is:
“Always stay positive, be grateful and also a little bit humble that I can experience this!”
A total of 103 riders will be competing (as of now). That’s quite a low number, as there used to be 250 registered riders (including those who unfortunately couldn’t start last year). Probably due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some didn’t make it, couldn’t get insurance or just couldn’t organise it anymore. There were 140 participants at the last SRMR in 2019.
Tobias and I are travelling as pairs and have cap numbers 212A (Martin) and 212B (Tobias).
Our goal is to complete the course within the official race time, ideally in 12 days. This gives us some buffer to the maximum total time (about 2 days) in case something happens. Honestly, as with the Atlas Mountain Race, I trust our plan and race strategy to get us to the finish safely and consistently.
On 8 August we will fly to Bishkek and then have a few more days to acclimatise. For that we will ride our bikes out of the city into the nearby mountains. The official start is on 13 August – not in Bishkek, but in Talas, a small town about 300km to the west. At 10 p.m. we will set off and the first section will be a tough one with 2,100 metres of altitude difference over 50 km up to the Terek Pass at an altitude of 3,376 m. It will be an interesting night ride. And the transfer to the starting point will certainly be an experience…
But no matter how it will be: we will have to climb about 2,500 metres or more per day until we reach our destination at Lake Issyk Kul. We have a maximum of 14 days for the 1,859km. On 28 August at midnight, the time window ends with the finisher party.
Will we make it? Of course we will! I have no doubts about that.
Everything we can influence, we have done. The rest is adventure and the outcome is uncertain. But I am very optimistic, as much as full of respect for this route and task. No matter what – it will be a real experience!
My bike for the Silk Road Mountain Race
In essence, not much has changed on the Salsa Fargo since my last update: I’m riding a SRAM Rival, whose rear derailleur I’ve fitted with a Garbaruk cage to be able to shift an MTB cassette.
I have a 30-tooth oval chainring at the front and a 1×11 cassette with 10-50 from Garbaruk at the rear. This combination allows me to ride steeper sections and, above all, gives me enough room to move upwards when the days become more strenuous and the strain on the body becomes too much. The chain is a Shimano XT.
I’ll be riding with Aerobar (Profile Design Sonic Ergo 35A) and I also got myself a new light and USB charger with the Klite Ultra Bikepacker V2.
For the wheels, I’m relying on the HX491 rims with Vittoria Mezcal tyres in 2.25 inch width. Tubeless, of course. The DT-Swiss 240 EXP rear hub has been overhauled by DT-Swiss and is purring like it used to. The SON 28 does its job at the front.
The total weight of the bike, handlebar attachment, air pump (Lezyne Microfloor) and tools incl. toolbox is 13.8kg.
Equipment & Packing List
At the Silk Road Mountain Race I will be riding with bags from Revelate Designs. I usually like to ride Ortlieb, but for this event I need a system that is quick and easy to use and allows me to pack and compress the bags very easily.
At the front of the handlebars I have the Pronghorn Harness with UL pack sack made of Stratex in M.
This is not only considerably lighter, but also more comfortable and also easier to use. The pack sack is easy to attach or detach and I can pack and compress it much more easily.
In the handlebar roll I have the following items:
- TAR Neoair UL sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag Cumulus X-Lite 400
- Inner sleeping bag Cocoon MummyLiner Expedition RS Silk
- Cap (thick)
- Warm socks
- Long merino trousers
- Merino Long Sleeve Shirt
- Simond down jacket
- Washing kit (shower gel, wet wipes, creams)
- Gloves Sugoi Firewall Z
Weight (incl. harness & pack sack): 2,550g
In addition, the Egress comes with an accessory bag that can be easily clicked on.
The following items are in here:
- Thermo gloves
- Arm warmers
- Sun cream LF50
- Zinc Ointment/Cream
- Documents (vaccination card, flight tickets, passport)
Weight (incl. bag): 1,000g
I have a stem bag or food pouch from Restrap on the handlebars in which I carry a 750ml bottle or food. I may take another stem bag with me to carry food and have it on the handlebars.
Weight without water: 300g.
In the frame triangle I have the Ripio frame bag in size L.
This allows me to use more space than would be possible with the Ortlieb. A lot of stuff fits in here and can be sorted better thanks to the 3 pockets:
- Pedaled Alpha Jacket
- Powerbank Anker 20.000 mAh
- USB cable for sat nav/mobile phone + 3-way charging head
- 2x Aerothane spare tube
- Food (cup, cutlery)
- Bars & gels
- Toilet paper + wet wipes
- Spare rolls Garbaruk
- Spare spokes
- Sealing milk 125ml
- Water filter + collapsible water bottle
- TAR repair kit + hole finder
- Small backpack
- Leg warmers
- Knife Opinel No7
- Coffee & tea
Weight (incl. bag): 3,700g
On the saddle I ride the Spinelock 16L.
It is heavier than the Ortlieb saddle bag, but it has the advantage that I can take it off very quickly and easily. This means I can pack my stuff better and compress the bag more easily and then attach it again. Spinelock means that I attach it to the saddle using a titanium pin and then just remove it.
Here I have:
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UV UL 1 Bikepack tent
- Tent poles
- Tyvek foil
- Rain jacket Mountain Equipment Skardu
- Gaiters Vaude Neoprene
- Rain pants Gore Packlite
- Waterproof Socks Sealskinz
- Replacement Bib
- Spare Shirt
- Replacement Navi Garmin etrex 30x + Batteries
- 4x food
- Knee pads
- Ankle support
Weight (incl. bag): 4.250 g
The new Salsa Toptube Bag EXP is mounted on the top tube.
It has a cable channel for the Klite USB charger. The top tube bag is attached with the new Wolftooth B-Rad Mount Anywhere. However, I don’t use the straps to attach the mount, but cable ties.
Here I transport…
- the Klite USB charger
- 10,000 mAh Anker Powerbank
The weight including the bag is 450g.
All together I have a luggage weight of 12.3kg. Add to that 2.7 litres of water and probably more food for the first few days (approx. 500g).
Including the bike, I’ll end up with a system weight of about 29/30kg without me. The food will lose weight, so will I, and on the way I’ll be wearing some of the stuff from the bags anyway. So that fits.
Excursus: Tobias Salsa Fargo for the SRMR 21
Tobias rides his Salsa Fargo (2020 model, XL) with steel frame, as he did for the AMR. He also shifts with a SRAM Rival, rebuilt with Garbaruk shift cage. In front he runs a 30 chainring and rear a 11-50 cassette. The brakes are the mechanical TRP Spyre. The rims are also the HX491 and the tires are also the Vittoria Mezcal, but in 2.35 inch width.
For the bags, he goes with a mix of Revelate Framebag, Gastank and Saltyroll in the Salsa Anything Cradle on the handlebars. The saddle bag comes from Ortlieb and his food pouches from Apidura.
The light also comes from the Klite Bikepacker Ultra V2 and we do the same for sleeping: Big Agnes HV UL Bikepack tent and a custom-made Cumulus X-Lite 400 sleeping bag.
Live on the Road…
Of course you can follow Tobias and me live again and keep your fingers crossed for us. On MAProgress you can do dotwatching and get information about all the riders: https://srmr2021.maprogress.com/
Up-to-date information via WhatsApp
A few weeks ago, I also set up a WhatsApp group where I provide blog and podcast updates. In this group I would also report from the road – should there be reception – with a few impressions and info. You can easily join the group via this link (and leave it just as easily). However, the messages will then come from a different phone than the sender of the WA group – so don’t be surprised.
It’s also worth following the hashtags #silkroadmountainrace #srmr2021 #silkroadmountainrace2021 to see updates from the other riders.