Babushkin- Ulan Ude Bike Ride
Friday, August 21, 2009
99 miles = 72 ridden + 28 in a car = 160k
Rider’s notes follow the narrative.
After an exceptional start, this did not turn out to be a good day. Here’s why:
Yep, that’s the frame of my Trek 520, broken. Details follow, but for now let me say that this bike has less than 5,000 miles on it (across South America, some riding in the states, and the first 300 miles or so of this trip) and the frame should not have broken.
Anyway, back to the good part. We had a nice breakfast on the shore of Baikal, packed up, and hit the road around 8am. Cold again, I stopped some distance into the ride to remove my full gloves. Took a picture of the village next to me and the road ahead at this point.
Little did I realize that this would be the last time I would actually see Baikal, maybe ever. The map indicated another 30 miles or so along the shore, but from this point forward the view was blocked by trees. Here’s the first distance sign of the morning.
Only 140k to Ulan Ude. About 84 miles. Easy. The road was relatively flat for the first 40 miles or so and I was averaging maybe 17mph. Then I came to this sign:
At this point, after riding about 220 miles M-55 turns away from Baikal and heads ENE through a huge delta formed by the Selenga River – one of the largest in Russia and Mongolia. Half of all the water that flows into Baikal comes from the Selenga.
The bigger towns along this largely beat-up section of road, Kamensk and Selenginsk, are off to the side. The M55 bypasses them and weaves around smaller villages that predate the 2 lane highway by centuries. Here are 5 shots from along this section of road.
The sign announcing the largest town along this stretch -Selenginski. That’s the TSRR on the right (the wires anyway).
A larger factory of some sort. First one I’ve seen since Irkutsk. Spewing black smoke from multiple stacks.
A village road. Once you get the hang of it, you can cut through a couple of the villages instead of staying on the M-55. Fun to ride through, but check the side street to a) judge whether or not it intersects back with M-55, and b) for road quality. Most are poorly or not maintained at all… hard riding.
Some locals in transit.
A group of six bike riders with a Lada as a support vehicle! They passed us while I was on a break about 60 miles into the day – not riding hard at all. I wonder where they came from or were going to?
It was lunch time and today we sought a cafe and found it 67 miles into the day. There was nothing of note about it except that it is named after the highway. For lunch I got a salad of thinly sliced salami, carrots and cucumbers, with a giant dollop of mayonnaise on it, and two Pepsi’s. I’m getting sick of water and endurance power mix drinks already.
That’s Alexsey waving in front of the café as we get ready to depart. Off I go to Ulan Ude! Maybe 15 minutes later Alexsey drives by into the distance, then bike starts feeling a little wobbly. I get off and check the tires and wheels. No problem. Get back on and hear a distinct twang, like a cable broke. Very wobbly bike. I get off, look it over. The last thing I think would fail on the bike, the frame, broke.
The good news is that we are less than 30 miles/50k from the third largest city in eastern Russia (Ulan Ude, pop.319,000). Here are 3 shots form the car driving into that city.
The TSRR bridge across the Selenga River.
The sign announcing Ulan Ude.
First view of the city.
First priority is fix/weld the broken Trek 520, or get a new bike. The only big/decent bike shop = the Trail Sport store, which has lots of bikes.
Unfortunately, all of them are either mountain bikes or kids bike. Only two will accept a 27” wheel, like my road bike. They all have straight bars, while I use only a drop bar/aero bar combo. Different kinds of brakes, derailleurs, etc. We spend some time considering welding the old frame, buying/riding a MTB (aauuuggghhh) and then doing what we ended up doing, combining parts from my bike with parts on a cheap ($300) Mongoose that I purchased mostly for the frame.
That’s two of the Trail Sport guys working on the old and new bike. Waiting for the mechanic, figuring out options, deciding and building the new machine was a 4 hour process – and I left before it was done. While they were working, I walked for an hour around the neighborhood to see what it was like.
There are dozens of these 5 large story apartment buildings. Very few people have cars. There are only a few parking spaces for each building, mostly empty. The Lonely Planet guides says Ulan Ude has a vast public transportation system… and that’s what everyone uses. Trams and busses all over the place.
I also walked through this huge park, if that’s what the call it. They fence it in, have paths, but don’t seem to do any landscaping.
Finally, across the street was a giant factory complex that I tried to get into. The guards didn’t understand why I wanted in, and I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let me, but at the end of the day, I didn’t get in. I could tell that they make train engines and cars there. Would have been fun to wander around.
Tomorrow I pick up my cheap, makeshift bike, head toward Mongolia, and hope for the best.
Bob 8/22 6:56p Ulan Ude