July 2010

Georiders - Mountain Biking in the Republic of Georgia

When I was travelling in India in 2009, I often dreamt of going back to Georgia and doing loads of mountain biking. I wanted to get involved in the local biking community and contribute. Back in Georgia, I was lucky to meet some local mountain bikers. I didn't expect to find them because I thought that the cycling wasn't very popular in Georgia and people seemed much keener on burning about in tinted windowed Mercedes and BMWs. How things have changed though! - at least for the burgeoning cycling and mountain biking community. I met David, and Merabi and they knew many routes around Tbilisi and further afield in Georgia. I was thrilled at the prospect of exploring some of the country with them.

Merab

David

Georgia, Khevsureti - October 2009 - Caucasus mtb ride (24)

A bike trip in Khevsureti

Georgia, Khevsureti - October 2009 - Caucasus mtb ride (30)

Descending from the Shatilli pass at dusk

Read the full blog post about the Khevsureti bike ride. I accompanied them on many bike rides local to Tbilisi and further afield. Georgia is an ideal destination for mountain biking. It has mountains and trails right next to the city and the Caucasus mountain range only a short drive (or cycle) away. David told me he had occasionally taken out groups of tourists on bike tours so I offered to build a website (http://www.mountainbiking.ge) 'Georiders' - with the idea of further helping to promote the mountain biking community and attracting more people to visit Georgia and go biking. The website has gradually grown in popularity and receives an increasing amount of interest. Recently David sent me a couple of videos where Georiders has appeared in the Georgian and Russian press:- If you would like to visit Georgia and book a bike tour please contact David and Merabi on georidersmtb@gmail.com or visit the website at http://www.mountainbiking.ge. If you would like to work for Georiders and contribute to this growing mountain biking collective please contact us! We are looking for an additional volunteers to help develop the website, marketing, guiding, training, and exploring new routes. If you live in Georgia and ride there or have been biking there before and have photos or video footage we can add it to the flickr and Youtube accounts.

Mongolia Mountain Biking Adventure - Some thoughts in retrospect

Yesterday I cycled 140km from Dover to Central London where I now reside. I've had a lot of time to digest the brilliant travel experience I've had in the last 2 months.
Mongolia - Some photo highlights (6)

The Mongolian countryside was epic

The relative shortness of the Mongolia trip compared to previous trips has not made it feel less worthwhile. On the contrary the trip has rejuvenated my interest in cycling and bike touring. In a world of morally-questionable marketing, quick fix solutions and weird politics it is reassuring that old fashioned adventure, not overly prepared for, infused with a willingness to take risks and a venture out of one's comfort zone is a recipe for a hugely satisfying experience. It was relatively easy to make the trip happen and it was surprisingly simple to organise visas. The Russian visa was received through Real Russia who were expensive but effective. The Mongolian visa was issued hassle free in Ulan Ude, a Russian town close to the Mongolian capital Ulaan Baatar, and we extended it to 2 months on arrival in the the capital. The bikes that Tom and I used are near spot on for adventure cycling. Tom's frame, the Kona Explosif benefits over the Caldera because it is steel and has burlier horizontal dropouts. Horizontal drop-outs allow for the bike to be easily converted to a singlespeed if necessary. My Kona Caldera frame suffered from a bent rear gear hanger after the rear mech hit a rock. The gear hanger is replaceable but it's not ideal to have to carry spares or try to bend a piece of aluminium back into shape. Aluminium tends to being brittle and snap the more you bend it whereas steel is more malleable.
Mongolia - Some photo highlights (14)

Fun

Mongolia is best for cycling May to mid-June. By mid-June, we found there were many more mosquitoes and insects. However, if you are going to Mongolia and plan to travel to the mountains in the north, Lake Huvsgul is frozen over until around July if you were hoping for a proper swim or other watersports.
Mongolia - Some photo highlights (16)

Cold water didn't prevent us from going for a swim

Mongolia is ideal for bike touring if you want to make a trip which ventures off the roads as there are very few to begin with.You can venture on the main 4x4 tracks between cities or if you want more of a challenge then you can try the smaller routes into the mountain regions which offer a variety of tracks, topography and more sparsely available supplies. We found that people were never far away. Ger tents (mongolian traditional dwellings) would pop up in the middle of nowhere and we asked occupants for water and often were invited in for tea. People, as usual, were hospitable and willing to help.
Mongolia - Some photo highlights (3)

Tom goes for the impossible line down to the river

The possibilities of cycle touring really becomes apparent when you venture off the roads where cars and trucks can't go but bikes can. This last trip has rejuvenated my excitement about bike touring and re-affirms the bike as an ideal mode of transport for adventures!