Winter Biking Siberia
In January 2014, I flew back out to Irkutsk in western Siberia. My initial plan was to cycle across Lake Baikal, but the lake was late freezing over and since I also hoped to cycle up in the Russian Far East, I could not afford to hang around and wait since my visa was only valid for 3 months.
After a shake-down trip to Olkhon Island, I took the train to Neryungri to begin cycling to Yakutsk. By now it was early February, the coldest time of year in this region and the temperature dipped below -50C nightly. I’ve no idea how cold it really got – my thermometer only went to -50C!
By the time I reached Yakutsk, I realised I had underestimated the challenge. Winter biking in northern Scandinavia the year before had lulled me into a false sense of security. The temperatures in Siberia were far more extreme, regularly below -40C, which is the temperature where things stop working and start breaking. Cue… punctures!
So, from Yakutsk, I made the decision to cycle to Magadan instead. And it was a great idea. I met fantastic people along the way, had a great time and still it was a challenge – but the greatest challenge turned out to be psychological rather than physical, dealing with the solitude and isolation of the region.