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Old 01-24-2014, 12:16 PM   #31
KTM 950S
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Location: Greece....
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Very nice trip and writting s far..waiting for the rest
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Old 01-24-2014, 12:36 PM   #32
Joined: May 2006
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Nice report, subscribed
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:38 AM   #33
Miikka OP
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Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
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Chapter I: From Russia with love

Day 7, June 7th
Barabinsk - Altay mountains

Cell phones began their wake up symphony at 6am. Took a quick vote and set new alarm at 6:30. Unanimous
decision. Maybe our medicine wasn't old enough?
Normal outdoor breakfast scene and engine start at 8:20am, weather looked way better at +18C.

Rode past Novosibirsk and that slowed us down quite a bit. What else is new?
Tons of traffic and lane splitting.
After fighting our way past the town riding was mostly boring with basic russian stuff along the route.
Stopped few times to take some tourist shots. Of monuments, naturally.

Stopped for a coffee break in the afternoon and made new friends; Sergei + his family. They were running some
sort of travel agency and were very friendly in a russian way. Didn't speak too many words of english
but that's fine since we don't speak too many words of russian.. Normal photo session took place, lots of
hand shaking and Sergei insisted on giving us some special treats to take with us on the road. It was some sort of canned
meat. No idea which animal, since it was all in russian. We did end up tasting and eating one of the jars.
Can't really say whether it was good or bad. When you are 5000km away from home and tired, pretty
much any warm food is good food. Thanks Sergei!

We were closing Mongolian border and we knew we shouldn't ride too far to avoid high altitude (cold)
camping. Altay mountains were close. On the other hand we wanted to get close enough to border so
that next day we would have enough time to get there, make it across the border and also ride to Olgi
before dark.
We were advised by several people not to enter the town of Olgi late at night. Easy to meet wrong type
of crowd and to run into unpleasant situations.

One step at a time. We hit Altay mountains late afternoon and were planning to find a nice camping
spot as soon as possible. Well…there just wasn't any "good" spots and
we found ourselves climbing higher and higher. When we realised that darkness is just around corner
we lowered our standards for ANY possible camping site. And soon we did find one along the road.
Not level, not nice, really close to road and accessible by car. Just the way we don't like 'em.
Nevertheless, it was a relief to set up camp and start dinner finally at 9pm.

While prepping dinner a guy on a military camouflage suit…and a rifle…approached us from the woods.
We put on our best smiles and introduced ourselves. Initially threatening situation (from our point of view)
turned into improvised sign language discussion and we think we learned that he was hunting with his
friends for deer. He invited us over to their camp site for drinks (surprise!) but unfortunately we were
in the middle of cooking dinner so we politely declined. Not that we would have been keen on leaving our
gear behind unattended that close to a road.

Our camp was at 1400m altitude and temp was +11C when we called it a night.

Ritsikirja notes:
- Do NOT start climbing Altay mountain in the afternoon
- When in doubt, smile!
- Our remote support crew (Tuomas) isn't almighty after all
(Failed to translate what we ate from the jar)

631KM TOTAL 5049KM
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Old 01-26-2014, 02:58 PM   #34
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Joined: Jun 2006
Location: northern Arkansas
Oddometer: 2,494

Somehow missed your first posting but am tuned in now. Looks to be a great ride.
R1200GS Ural Patrol KLR650 DRz400 XL185
Austria '08
Back to the Alps in '11
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:35 AM   #35
Miikka OP
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Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
Oddometer: 126
Chapter I: From Russia with love

Day 8, June 8th
Altay - RUS/MON border crossing - Ölgi

Wake up call at 6am. Temp +3C, bit of a chilly breakfast scene with an awesome scenery.
Everything mighty moist after a cold night.

Engine start at 7:45am. Awesome twisty mountain road climbing higher, no sign of speed
traps. Peak at 1800 meters. Still low temps but all warm and fuzzy inside!

Lunch break around noon just before border in the last town on Russian side.

Strike a pose

After tasty lunch we prepared ourselves mentally for the border blues and hit the border.
There was a line of about 20 vehicles at the border and we opted to make our way close
to pole position. Started chatting with locals (with no common language) to test the ground
and see whether our move was rude or just fine. Turned out they didn't mind. People kept
pointing at our passports trying to tell us something and we finally figured it out that we needed
some sort of a stamp from a shack a couple hundred meters back. Fun. Backtracked to the
small "office" only to find out that they are on a lunch break.
Their lunch break ended after only 30min wait and we got our stamps without too much hassle.

Waiting for lunch break to end with some local ladies

Didn't want to steal the pole position.

After the stamp session we returned to our near pole position on the border line and the waiting
began…or continued. Every now and then some official would walk towards to gate and initiated
a Le Mans effect: all engines around us sputtered, started and rpm's rose. People got ready to roll
just in case it would be their turn to enter the border zone. First that made no sense to us since
there was a line (initially) but soon enough we found out that the line doesn't have much to do with the
actual entry order. The uniform guys pointed at a vehicle and that vehicle would then storm inside.
As the gate closed all engines were killed and the waiting continued.

So we waited.
And we lubed our chains.
And dropped tire pressures.
And checked engine oil levels.
And tightened every bolt on bike.
Most important, aired out and dried our socks!

This waiting game of confusion and random entry order continued for about 2 hours before it was our
turn to go through. Needles to say that the passport and customs control procedure inside the building was
not less confusing. Eventually we had enough stamps and signatures and after one final question: "Drugs or
guns in your bag..?” we were good to go!

..well not really. Once we rode thru the no mans zone we still had to entertain Mongolian side of the border
for a while but at least there was no waiting behind closed gate. On Mongolian side people didn’t even bother
pretending standing in a line to get their paperwork done. People just advance towards the counter from every
angle and hold their paperwork up for grabs. Not optimal system in my opinion but when in Rome?

After we found our way thru that paper work maze we still had one obstacle ahead before open road: bike insurance.
I still don't know whether it's official or not but they say that green card is not valid in Mongolia nor your own
bike insurance and hence they “need” to sell you one for $20. We were maybe a tad tired and pissed off after 5h of
border games and we didn't want to comply with this rule. Jani was ready to hop on his bike, flip a finger and ride away
but since we didn’t know whether we’d get ourselves in real trouble by doing that…we ended up “negotiating” and paying
$25 total for two bikes and got their comprehensive insurance packages. But no smiles?

For what it’s worth, knowing the procedure I’d ride by the insurance shack, wave my hand and ride on.
The shack where those two elderly guys sell the insurance documents is about 200 meters after the
border. It just didn’t seem right. I bet it’s “official”. But it’s an official scam if you ask me.
Does anyone think we would have been covered by this insurance in case of a traffic accident with a local
vehicle..? Didn’t think so.

Finally, Mongolia!

Found the right path and eventually a real road to Olgi and barely made it there before dark at 8:30pm.
"Support crew" had sent us coordinates / suggestion for accommodation and we ended up at hotel Duman.
Secure parking behind closed gates behind the building, all good.
Language barrier made things complicated but luckily soon we met manager Andy.
He was really helpful and sorted out money exchange and food for us and was willing to help with anything.
We got our gear sorted out, tummies full of food (2 portions for Jani!) and comfy pillow.

Andy the Manager

Even a good size room gets crowded trying to sort out gear

Ritsikirja notes:
- Noticed cracked headlight on a gas stop. Naturally on Miikka's bike since it has an
expensive Touratech guard for the light? No damage whatsoever on Jani's unguarded headlight..
- heal protector broke off Miikka's bike when raising bike on centre stand.
- Total time to cross border: 5h15min

477km, total 5540km (pretty good considering border X)

Chapter one, crossing Russia in one piece complete!
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Old 01-29-2014, 11:55 PM   #36
Miikka OP
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Chapter II: Mongolian Entree

So we made it thru the appetiser...time to concentrate on main dish!

Day 9, June 9th.
Olgi - lake Uvs

Woke up at 7:30am and got our bellies full of food. Manager Andy helped us out on money exchange
and gave us general advice and tips. He gave us his contact info in case we’d need help along the way.
Andy is originally from Kazakhstan and he was studying in US but helps out his father by running the
hotel in the summer time. His opinions about the locals weren’t too praising. His general advice was not
to stop and talk with anyone, they are all drunken troublemakers.. Well, we all have our opinions and
we took that with a grain of salt. Anyway, with the help of Andy we got general things sorted out pretty
fast in the morning and we were ready to roll by 10am.

Fuelled up and navigated out of town. Tarmac ended immediately after exiting town and turned into
gravel and loose stone.

Finally we’re in business!

These signs are...pretty awesome!
Notice the stickers at the lower right corner left behind by adventure Guru Walter Colebatch and another one by inmate Motorfiets.

This is naturally where the navigating begins. No more highways and clear signs.
We had loaded up a track “across the northern route” on both gps devices for navigating reference.
In addition we naturally had paper map and Mongolian Road Atlas. Map was ok and useful, road
atlas not so much. There may have been “roads” at some point where the Atlas suggests, but in real
life the tracks come and go according the season and weather.

Technical side note. Jani had Garmin Zumo and that device is pretty useless in Mongolia. Browse
the forum for details regarding that in case interested. I had a Garmin Montana and that device worked
like a charm. Best feature (upgrading from 276c) was being able to switch between nav databases on
the go. I was using OSM and Garmin NT maps in Russia and naturally only OSM maps in Mongolia.
If I needed more details on small roads I’d usually go with OSM and when in need of a POI I’d turn to
NT for reference.

Soon enough we got our first taste of loose sand and a good reminder to stay alert at all times.

Jani was leading and doing around 50km/h when he came across dried out river bank and noticed
a bit too late bunch of big sharp looking rocks on the track. ABS off he wiped out the front. As a wingman
I had front row view to this tumble and my initial fear was that his leg must have gotten stuck under the bike.
Luckily no damage to rider and only scuffs and scars on the pannier + rotopax. More street credibility!

180 degree parking

Pannier got some looove.


Track continued on similar shape and condition. 50-60km/h was a reasonably safe speed to ride
bearing in mind that rocks of any size and shape were all over the track. We figured that it’s way
faster to proceed (in bigger picture) a bit slower pace than take the higher risk of a puncture.
Slow and steady wins the race?
Weather was clear and temps were around +23C.

We found our way to Ulaangom and fuelled up.

Soon after Ulaangom we hit a huge plato with mountains
on the right and Uvs lake on the left. We rode about 50km and set our camp on the plato before 8pm.
Night was dry and warm. Much nicer than previous chilly camping experience high up on Altay mountains.

Going thru the bikes in the evening we found few hits on the rims. About a million rock on the way it’s
impossible to avoid them and/or slow down every time. Well, you can but then you need a month to
cross the country.
I have to admit that I was truly amazed that we didn’t get a puncture on day 1 in Mongolia.
Beds of rocks caught us by surprise numerous times and gave proper beating on front tire/rim.
Heidenau Scouts aren’t as vulnerable to sharp rocks as originally planned TKC’s. The pattern protects
the tire way better. Downside is less traction. Win some, lose some. In this case I’d say win lots.

I woke up around 4am to weird sounds around my tent. yikes. Gripping my swedish Mora knife I carefully
and quietly took a peak out of my tent thru the window…only to find myself staring straight into a cows eyes!
I’m no cow expert but I decided that it’s best to keep quiet and let them eat their way thru our camp.
I estimated about 40 heads. In less than 15min the herd had passed and I got back to my pillow.

Jani did not wake up to this encounter…so if you ask Jani there was no cows except in my head. Fair enough.

Ritsikirja notes:
- KISS (keep it simple stupid)
- ABS mode? Jury’s still out.
- Tires seem to tolerate a helluva beating. Rims not so much.

293km, total 5839km
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Old 01-30-2014, 09:39 AM   #37
lucky dog
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Location: Cincinnati, OH
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A true adventure ride!

Great writing also!

HoW (ForeverWest) 2014 CO/UT 2013
Northern Rockies 2013 IBA Key West 2014 Tentspace
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Old 02-01-2014, 05:34 AM   #38
Miikka OP
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Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
Oddometer: 126
Chapter II: Mongolian Entree

Day 10, June 10th
Lake Uvs - N49 31.940 E96 59.359

Wake up time 06:15 and our two man caravan was back on track at 08:10.
Our track was marked as A18 on Mongolian road atlas. Naturally there were several tracks
to choose from. Some of those in reasonable shape and some not. 60km/h was a good
compromise between stupid fast and unbearable slow.

We chose the so called “northern route” to ride across Mongolia. Despite our research we
did not get enough info on the less travelled “middle route” and the “southern route” did not
attract us with it’s endless sand pit us much as mountains up north. We felt good about our choice and
we still do.

Ovoo. (places of worship that can be found on top of almost any given hill)

Zulaankov was our first planned stop. Didn’t find fuel. Didn’t really need it either but in Mongolia we
opted to fuel whenever possible. Range for F800GS is around 350km (+/- 50 depending on
pace) and on top of that we hauled 1 gallon of fuel (red rotopax under pannier) per bike as
reserve fuel.
Baruunturuum was no better…but luckily “city” of Tes finally had fuel for us. F800GS fuel tank
capacity is 16 liters according to manual. We had plenty of fuel left since we were not able
to fuel up more than 16,2L on my bike and 15,8 on Jani’s bike. Not finding fuel in those
previous two towns made this stretch a close call. Only close call on entire trip. (but then
again, we still had those rotopax reserves untouched so we were ok)

Temps were up to +28C and sun kept us plenty warm. Klim Badlands proved out to be excellent
choice with really good vents for this kinda riding. Standing still we were boiling but riding was
fine. Jani’s Beemer Rally suit worked fine as well under the sun. (not so well in the rain..)

Lots of loose / soft sand on our track that day which isn’t our specialty. Not too much first hand
experience on that. Heavy bikes don’t make it any easier, not to mention TIGHT grip on the
handle bar! “Are you sure your grip is tight enough and shoulders locked..” was a frequent
sarcastic question over the “intercom”. Answer would be “I’m sure!”, without a fail.

We kept discussing the ABS mode over the day and by the end of the day we switched ABS
back ON. Until this trip at least I was strongly off the opinion
that the only way to go off road is ABS OFF. I changed my mind in less than two days crossing
Mongolia. Here’s my reasoning. Tracks are unpredictable. One may find anything between a
dead camel/yak/horse/lamb/reindeer to a man size hole in the ground around the next corner. And we are riding fully
loaded big adventure bikes weighing around 600lbs plus rider. It’s easy to stay sharp and
100% alert for an hour or two but when you’re riding 10h/day for days and days in a row…not so
easy. So when shit hits the fan and you notice the bed of sharp rocks around the bend
it’s more than easy to wipe out the front on loose sand with ABS off. With ABS on you can just
slam on the brakes and concentrate on finding the least shitty spot to get thru in case the
bike won’t stop in time. It will certainly take longer distance to come to full stop but most times
it was enough to drop speed from 80(km/h) down to 20 as fast as feasible and find your way
around the obstacle.
Not meaning to start another ABS debate over here, just sharing our experience. (Besides BMW has
addressed this issue on newer models with different ABS options.)

Sometimes you just had to stop and take a moment.

Stopping for a coffee break in the middle of a plato resulted in, almost without a fail, a nomad appearing from nowhere to check us out. With a horse or moped.
You don't see a soul in 5 hours, you stop, a nomad!

No issues or problems over the day. Just a few close calls on loose sand with white knuckles..
Naturally we collected our trash and hauled it with us til next trash can. But finding a trash can
in Mongolia isn’t that easy. Riding thru 3 “towns” we finally found one.

Got our camp set up at 8:40pm and enjoyed dinner + few drinks. While prepping dinner we
got a visitor from nearby Ger. A young nomad riding a horse without a saddle stopped by and
checked us out. No common language. He asked for a smoke (we think) but that was a short
“discussion” since we don’t smoke.
Anyway, he stared at us for a while and then hopped back on his horse, rode away bareback
singing something. Now that would have made a great shot if a camera would have been within
a reach.
In Finland youngsters drive around with their pimped Ford Escorts stereos playing latest hits.
In Mongolia nomads don’t have Fords and stereos, but they do pretty much the same thing
with a horse and a set of strong lungs.

bar is open

Ritsikirja notes:

- Miikka left fuel tank cap open after filling the tank. Noticed quickly because of the
puddle beneath the bike once bike was up.
- ABS mode chosen for Mongolia
- First tankful of 85 octane fuel on this trip (RON). No issues so far.

358km, total 6203km
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Old 02-01-2014, 07:20 AM   #39
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Location: South Hamburg
Oddometer: 55
Fantastic story

Any issues / flats with heidenau tyres?
South Hamburg: sometimes sunny but always funny
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Old 02-01-2014, 07:34 AM   #40
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Location: Seven Springs NC
Oddometer: 1,006
Keep it coming!
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Old 02-01-2014, 09:45 AM   #41
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Joined: Jul 2004
Location: Concord, CA
Oddometer: 1,505
Great RR so far. I am planning a trip around northern Mongolia this summer. Keep the pictures and story coming. I am really looking forward to updates. Might have to hit you up for beta about Mongolia at my trip gets nearer...


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Old 02-02-2014, 03:31 AM   #42
Miikka OP
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Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
Oddometer: 126
Originally Posted by KL__07 View Post

Any issues / flats with heidenau tyres?

We were incredibly lucky not getting a single flat on our 15000km tour.
I personally believe we would have dozen+ flats with TKC80's.
Heidenau has a wide and solid centre stripe and the pattern on the sides is
more protective than on most (wannabe) big dual sport knobbies.

After 15000km's both front and rear were still "ok". Front would have
covered (in case one REALLY needed to) probably another 5000km and rear
a thousand or two. Few knobbies on rear tire were showing signs of rupture/cracking. But those tires really gave us plenty of bang for buck.

2012 the 140 wide tire had wider centre stripe than 150 so we used 140.
Haven't checked if they have changed their pattern since.

Traction wasn't an issue. On mud it would have been a different story..
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:41 PM   #43
Miikka OP
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
Oddometer: 126
Originally Posted by live2ridetahoe View Post
Great RR so far. I am planning a trip around northern Mongolia this summer. Keep the pictures and story coming. I am really looking forward to updates. Might have to hit you up for beta about Mongolia at my trip gets nearer...



Thanks JG!

Feel free to shoot me a PM in case you have questions. Enjoy the prep!
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Old 02-03-2014, 03:37 AM   #44
Miikka OP
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: Bellingham, WA / Finland
Oddometer: 126
Chapter II: Mongolian Entree

Day 11, June 11th.
N49 31.940 E96 59.359 - Lake Höövguul

Once again wake up was at 6:30am and wheels spinning 8:10am.
Morning temp +9C but temp rose quickly up to +29.

Riding thru spectacular scenery with average pace of 30km/h (including coffee / fuel stops).

We did see "five jewels" of Mongolia: horses, sheep, goats, camels and yaks.
We did not see wolves, bears or snow leopards. And I ain't complaining.

The towns (or villages) that we saw along the way were a bit depressing in their overall
vibe. Tiny and not so great looking shacks in a neat row made of whatever has been available.
At least someone has laid out a proper city plan. People seemed phlegmatic with
not much to do. Or say. I mean I do understand that they do not speak any other language
than their own but it still seemed weird that they did not bother communicating with us
basically at all. (This applied to “cities”. Nomads were always greeting and curious to see us)

Nomads packed up and relocating

I’m guessing most people in those little towns are unemployed. Within a minute from our
arrival to any of those towns, without a fail, an official town drunk would approach us.
(town drunk was our nickname for the shirtless skunk drunk guy, sometimes covered in blood,
sometimes not) Mostly harmless but most often annoying. Sometimes the other people around
us would politely escort that guy away but sometimes they just kept their distance and let
us deal with the situation. We sorta got used to that.

MAH01114 from Miikka Leino on Vimeo.

Interacting with "normal" people was much more pleasant.

Our deals in those towns were very basic and limited. We searched for fuel and water. Everything
else we found was a bonus. The little shops they had offered chocolate bars, dry food, basic
clothing and alcohol. And water + other drinks. But asking for water usually resulted in a vodka
bottle on the counter..?
Anyways, finding bottled water was not a problem crossing mighty Mongolia.

A good bridge for a change

We wanted to check out the national park up north next to Lake Höövguul.
Got tanks full at town Khatgal and headed further up north constant uphill towards
the park. The road was under construction and we rode the whole way up next to
the road switching side whenever needed. Kinda cool experience to blast uphill just
navigating thru paths and obstacles.

Once we got to Lake Höövguul we noticed that the place was pretty much closed. It must have been
off season. All guest houses seemed closed. We asked for accommodation from a couple
of places without luck and started mentally to prepare for a tent option. Luckily our last
attempt paid off after lots of smiling and negotiating and we were finally offered a ger
to stay at. Little bit more negotiating…dinner!


Dinner time

Our ger for the night

Gorilla tape to the rescue. (again)

Ritsikirja notes:

- Miikka donates his left sandal to the gods of Mongolia. (sandal fell of the bike sometime after lunch)
- gusty wind blew few items off Jani’s bike while parked. Jani rushed to the rescue forgetting
that Sena (bike to bike radio) was connected to power outlet for charging. Charging cable
was sturdier than the mounting plate.
- Gorilla tape. Priceless.

369km, total 6578km
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Old 02-03-2014, 06:26 AM   #45
wannabe explorer
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Location: Belgium
Oddometer: 69
fantastic report, thank you for this
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