Wednesday, 08 July 2015 21:24

Buying an air ticket to Ashgabat took longer than expected. The favoured route was via Frankfurt with Turkmenistan Airlines. This had the advantage of being the cheapest option, the best times and also direct. Unfortunately however it was impossible even after months of trying to get a price for my luggage (bike box) or to even have the airline confirm that they would take this. So in the end the option via Istanbul worked out the best and taking the short train and bus journey to Malpensa saved nearly 1000 Euro over taking the equivalent flight from Zürich.

Tuesday, 02 June 2015 17:33

As I have already cycled extensively in Eastern Europe and parts of Turkey and due to weather / time restraints, I decided to start the trip in Asia. Normally travelling on a UK passport is beneficial and gets you places that many other passports won't - at least without a visa. However this time that was not the case.

My intended starting point of Iran is unfortunately now off track for independent travelers with British passports. So this meant shifting the starting point to Turkmenistan.

It is fairly well known that Turkmenistan also requires visitors to take a guide with the only way around this being to travel on a transit visa. There are various reports of people travelling through the country overland on transit visas but no details if this is possible when arriving by air to Ashgabat and leaving overland.

A quick call to the embassy cleared up this point. I sent off my application and within a week had the Visa attached to my passport. Very efficient service.

Following this I applied for the Uzbekistan Visa which was equally easy and then following that the Tajikistan visa and GBAO permit. From my experience, at least using the Swiss embassies, the process was fairly easy and quick.

The Chinese visa was more bureaucratic and required the presentation of return flights and a hotel booking. Despite obviously not needing these, I booked the cheapest possible flights I could find (HK-->Ningbo, Kunming-->Bangkok) and presented these at the embassy in Zürich along with my hotel booking which I would later cancel. Within 4 days I had a 6 month visa :-) .

Tuesday, 05 May 2015 05:41

The original aim was to carry under 20kg excluding the bike. This target proved slightly too ambitious and the final kit weighed in at 21.5kg. Each item was chosen on its functional merits and reliabilility. All items were tested and proven on previous trips or tested in the time up to departure. The main complexity was packing for the wide range of temperatures - from around 45C to below freezing.

Monday, 04 May 2015 21:08

Given that I will be spending many hours on the bike, it was important for me to have something comfortable and of course reliable. Finding something to my taste and exact specification in a shop was simply not possible, so the bike project started with a bare frame....

The Kona Titanium Rove is not cheap but is a well built and reasonably light frame from the USA. The frame is actually made by Lynskey. Having ridden a Merlin XLM for the last 15 years, I really appreciate the benefits of titanium.

After the frame came the wheels. I went for a SON Dynamo hub on the front and a DT Swiss on the rear, both with 32 spokes. The rims are the new SL25 from Placenti and are laced with Sapim CX Ray spokes. I had the wheels built by Just Riding Along Cycles in the UK. Jon builds the most awesome wheels and I have no doubt that these will be up to the job. In my opinion hand built wheels like these just cannot be beaten for strength or durability.

The remaining components were picked on the basis of their practical merits, durability and weight.  Worthwhile mentioning is:

* Microshift SL-10 Thumbshifters - These are super light, unbreakable and work perfectly with Shimano 10 speed. I am using a 9 speed mech however, as the 10 speed mechs have a different cable pull ratio.

* Avid Mechanical Brakes - I think discs are the way forward, but hydraulics out in the middle of nowhere is not ideal. The BB7 brakes are in this regard perfect.

* Bolt Replacement - All steel bolts have been replaced with titanium for weight saving and the T30 chainring bolts replaced with 5mm allen key versions to save carrying an extra Torx tool.

The full specification of the bike is below:

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