IF YOU’RE looking for a new biking adventure, how about riding 2000 km over and around Planet Earth’s deepest lake? Lake Baikal in Russia is the oldest and deepest (it’s just over a mile to the bottom) lake in the world. With temperatures in the region dipping to a balmy minus-20-degrees C, the lake spends most of the year frozen and the folks over at The Adventurists decided it was high time that a group of people rode across it on old motorbikes with sidecars attached. Naturally.
The Ice Run has just opened its doors for entrants. Teams of two comprising one driver and one navigator in a side-car, although you can swap over as much as you want. There’s no route set in stone, but you’ll be given a selection of GPS co-ordinates for fuel drops and some particularly hazardous areas to avoid (best not to get those two mixed up) and some expert advice on where the best riding will be found, help you get across and then, on forest trails and rural ice roads, around the lake.
There are a few Russian vodka-fuelled parties under the stars, with Banyas, fires and feasts of local fish, thrown into the mix during the 12-day event, but the most fun comes in the form of dealing with the lake’s 12,000 square miles of ice.
Parts of the ice will be sculpted by the wind and smooth as a baby’s derriere, other bits will be more like a sweaty builder’s arse crack, meaning the route across the lake certainly won’t be in a straight line. While the wind can polish the ice smooth and flat like a mirror, in more sheltered areas it can resemble a freshly ploughed field with great tombstones of ice to navigate around. If the winter is mild there will be surface water and cracks to pick a path through and sometimes jump over.
“We made some rash decisions. I remember going across one particular crack and not really thinking about stopping. The back wheel went through the ice. We had enough momentum to pull through, but it was a bit of an eye-opener.” said Richard Fleming, 2015 competitor.
“When you put the brakes on, not much happens except the bike pulls really hard to the right. Then the steering goes funny, the brakes lock up and you skid at a strange angle, usually straight into whatever it is you’re trying to avoid.” said Katy Willings, Ice Run Chief.
“I’ve been all over the place on crappy vehicles that breakdown all the time, but it’s never really been a problem because whenever you stop you don’t feel like you’re going to fall through the road.” said Matt Prior, 2015 participant.
If this sounds like your cup of tea but you’re a little concerned about the fact you’ve not ridden a bike across a giant frozen lake before, you can be partly reassured by the fact there’s three days of rolling training and mechanical briefing on the lake, so you get to know the basics of how to ride and fix a Ural motorcycle in minus-20-degrees C, how to camp in the cold and how to pull someone out of the ice. If something does go drastically wrong, The Adventurists invisible backup crew are only a call away with a team of bike and adventure experts on hand.
A note from The Adventurists on saving the world: “Adventurists teams have raised millions for charity and by supporting Cool Earth, you’ll be saving the world one rainforest at a time. Not because we’re tree hugging sandal weavers, but because the world would be shit without them.”