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Up, Down, Up, Down, Is My Vstrom a YoYo?????

Posted by TravellingStrom on August 25, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

Hi all, as you know I have been off the net for a while, this is mainly due to the lack of internet, the blocking effects of these countries down here, lack of time, and the fact sometimes I was camping with no access anyway. I will try and do a quick catch up as to what has happened in the past few weeks. I am currently in China, I have had the bike repaired enough to ride to Mongolia, I still have some things not working, the GPS has a cracked screen and is buggered, I might be able to get a new one, so for now, I will have to follow someone else for a while, anyway, read on as this day was the toughest riding I have ever done, and never want to do it again, not on a Vstrom anyway!!!

I am jumping ahead, I left Almaty and entered Kyrgyzstan and spent two nights in Bishkek, I re-met up with Lorraine and we headed to the lake called Issyk-Kol, we camped for a night right next to the beach, a great spot, although I did fall off the bike twice in the soft sand!!! The next day we rode around the lake and ended up at the Can-Cun of Kryg but it was not really worth it, we met up with Neil and Chris and stayed in the same place, the next day I rode with Neil and Chris while Lorraine headed back to Bishkek for a larger fuel tank. We basically backtracked to where I was the night before, but that was no issue to me. At the end of the day we checked out the first few kms of a ‘road’ that crossed the mountains and ended up at a town called Naryn. We had 3 days to get to the border of China to where we meet our guide and cross into China itself. As a diversion this road looked OK, a bit rough, it was dirt of course, but I reckoned I could handle it. It was only 200km to Naryn, so if it took all day at a slow pace, then who cared πŸ™‚

So, I was camped at the lake this time with Nacho, another of our China group and we had nearly lost our tents last night due to this wild storm, but although we were wet and full of sand, we did survive the night. The morning view was nothing like last night at sunset and the waves were no longer 1 ft high and crashing to shore, you can see the marks in the sand where we dragged our tents from the beach front to the sheltered spot!!!

We headed off for the 0830 meeting point, myself and Nacho had camped at this beach spot, while Neil and Chris had camped where another of the group had camped, I had finally met up with Iain last evening but I did not want to ride off road into deeper sand again if I could help it. I had only two more of the group to meet, Robin and Keely, but we had no idea where they were at this moment, but we were all converging at the right time. So we rode off towards the snow capped mountains, with none of us aware of what was in store for us this day. The initial 10kms was fine, rough road, a bit rocky and a few potholes, nothing really to write about, just a nice ride πŸ™‚

It was not long after this that the rough roads took it’s toll though, my first real rocky hairpin turn and I dumped it, this was to be a continuing theme all day, hence the blog title!

My major issue was the ground clearance, I had bugger all so every time I hit a big bump and got out of shape, the front wheel would most likely hit a big rock and I would fall off 😦 I nearly pulled the pin after this fall, but was convinced that maybe the road is better further on, hah! Mind you the views were nice, some of the road was fine and fun, so it was not all bad.

But, every few kms we found another rock slide to cross, these big rocks are very hard to get around with a pig heavy bike, I was not the only one to struggle. Every time I tried to ride across these I was taking major battle damage underneath and my bash plate sounded like a cow bell!!

It was a struggle, but we all got across this one, I never dropped mine this time but not long after this came the worst one of all, a hill climb with rock slide and washouts, something my bike was never designed to ride over.

I did ride up this crap bit of ground and I did actually succeed, but my dismount was not good, as I reached the top, I hit a rock which bumped the front wheel to the right and I also was hanging on so tight, I forgot to back off the throttle and had to bail out before I went over the edge!!!!!

Now for the fun part, if you think that hurt, come along for the ride πŸ™‚

I had a sore left knee, shin and ankle, that was all and could walk. We left the bike where it was while the rest of the bikes attempted this slide, a few bikes went down, I won’t mention names, but no other damage. Here is a view of Chris, from this angle you can see how bad it is

and Nacho

Once we were rested we man handled that bike backwards up the slope, only about 3m or so, it was challenging but we did it, we had no choice really. I had sustained damage to the bike, the clutch was slipping, the gear shift lever broke off, so I used my spark plug spanner and some cable ties and silver tape to make a new one and continue on, the front indicator was in my pocket, all the left side fairing had busted away from the mounts. Bar ends bent of course, hand guards ripped off, dashboard broken away from the mount on one side, the pannier on that side was extremely bent and the frame was twisted. It was ridable, that is all I can say at this stage.

Now was when I wanted to go home, or back to the paved road, because I knew there was more of this and I was out of my depth. But, it was too late to head back, it could get better later on and I really did not want to try those bad bits downhill by myself, so onwards we go!!!

It did not get any bloody better and the next slide got me again, we were also riding around 3500m by now the air was thin and everything was against me, now is when I would like a set of longer legs, so I can paddle through this stuff instead of trying to ride it fast.

I sat and looked at this for about 5 minutes, I was really nervous and nearly terrified, but I gave it a go, but did not succeed!

It took a few of the others to help me through this section, I was about done in, so they pushed and I rode and we got it through but the clutch was having a hard time, I had no idea what was wrong, but I did pull the side cover off and do an adjustment, but it had little effect. A couple of Germans turned up in as VW camper, I want one, right now, but they would not swap 😦 This section was nearly at the top of the pass, around 4000m and over the next hour we got the bikes through this section. Iain, Chris Neil and Nacho all helped me by either riding my bike through the next few crap bits, and or pushed me on it. My bags were removed and carried up to the top, where the Germans took them and would give them back in Naryn later on, if we ever got off this mountain!!! Here is some more yucky stuff, I have heaps of videos, but no time to edit nor upload at this time.

So, it was finally done, we had climbed the mountain and were through the pass, it was 5pm, we had covered 60km in the past 10 hours and we still had 140km to go, but there was a small possibility that we might see paved roads at a road intersection in about 40km. This section of road looked OK, and was a big relief after all the other horrible bits. My bash plate was toast, it was pushed back, it had cut the side stand interlock switch, so I had to bypass that to get the bike going, but it needed serious welding work yet again. Anyway, we were once again off and running but the nice bits never stayed that way, more slides and then the water crossings 😦

I chickened out here as the bottom was so full of big rocks I would have drowned it, so I asked Iain to do it for me, he is the best rider of our group and without him today, we may still be up the top of the pass as popsicles! But, I did give the next one a go, with the expected result, actually the bike stayed quite dry, I landed in the bloody drink and it was freezing!!!!

While we were repairing Iain’s bike I took some battle damage photos, here they are 😦

Here is Jo and Anika, the German couple who were so helpful, thanks guys, much appreciated, riding the bike without the bags on the rear seat was so much easer πŸ™‚

We rode on, another 5km later and the worst, deepest and fastest river crossing yet πŸ™‚ Here we met two Italian riders who said this was the last of them and it was all plain riding after this, still potholed and bumpy but no more crossings. Hmmm, but we still had to get over this one and it was getting late, the other side looked nice except for the bank had a lip at the water edge and a steep dirt bank afterwards.

Iain rode through, stalled in the middle, but got to the top after some pushing and support from Chris and Neil, then some local Yurt dwellers told us about an easier crossing, it was a lot more rockier, and still water but once again I backed out and asked Iain to do it, I was at my limit. The bikes all did get across and we were now in for some easier riding, but not for long as it was getting very late and the sun was sinking behind the mountains.

Just as we got some pace along, I slammed into a big pothole and the last of the bash plate bracket gave way, this was not good!

But, after asking a local guy for a welder, (I got no answer), the old ratchet straps which I had been carrying finally came into use, although I had not intended it for this, just for stabilising on ferry crossings.

We still had 140km to go, we had covered 70km in 12 hours and we had no chance of making it to anywhere so we decided to camp and found a nice spot and pitched tents, threw all our food offerings into the ring and had had quite a nice dinner, thanks once again to Joe and Anika, for the hot water and stove πŸ™‚ It was very cold now, all of us had wet boots and socks, and pants, I had a wet jacket as well because I faffed around and went swimming when I should have been riding, and as it got dark we all had no choice but to get into our sleeping bags with all our clothes on, so it was an early night, with no beer.

BUT, I have now proved this road is doable on a Vstrom, although it was a costly effort. And even though I did not actually ride all of the bad bits, I still have a sense of achievement, because I gave it my best and I had survived, I was hurt but not down, the bike was having some issues, but it was still a tough bastard of a bike, it took a lot of stuff today and was still going πŸ™‚

Cheers from Kashgar, China

25 Responses to “Up, Down, Up, Down, Is My Vstrom a YoYo?????”

  1. Arnold said

    Omg! You must feel just as knackered as the bike looks! RESPECT!
    btw. Did the Pro-Oiler survive this ordeal?

  2. Bob said

    Those “roads” would be a challenge on a 250. Incredible that a bike that must weigh over 600 lbs as loaded made it through. What are the other riders riding?

  3. Donunder said


  4. GrahamD said

    Thanks for the Update Richard.

    One tough day that one !!

    I hope you keep that bike so you can bore the local kids stupid with tales of adventure.

    “Back in my day son……” and all that.

    Well done.

    Here is to a smoother journey from here on.

  5. Al & Ann said

    We think you’re as tough as that Vstrom could be any day, we’re glad you dusted yourself off ond got back on.
    Ride On!

  6. Carl said

    Glad to see you new your limits and did’nt do anything stupid. Having a BUNDY for you right now and it is sensational.

  7. Jeezze RIch,but might hat off to you,this is a real adv ride now,the strom looks like it took a battering,hope the clutch is not too serious

  8. Wow – Richard! This is the sort of “adventure” that makes for great stories at a HU meeting, but perhaps not so much fun in the doing. I’m glad to see that you’re all right, even if the V-Strom is looking a little shabby. It’s great that you share the experience of your travels with the rest of us; I’m sure I’m not the only one “lurking” (i.e. not commenting) who is very interested in your trip, and sympathizes when things go pear-shaped. I definitely prefer it when you keep the rubber-side down – happy travels!

    • Thanks m8, I could be accused of trying to earn brownie points for extra presentation time at a HU meet, but I can assure you, this was not planned in any way

      Hopefully this is the last of the upside down strom pictures

  9. Steve Rahm said

    I was going to say this might be the first day i would not want to be riding along with you but in that sick spirit that drives us I know it isn’t true. To plod on through that odd point where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry just cements the memories in place. Keep on unmet friend.

    • I was in despair a few times, I had to let others ride the bike through because I was causing so much damage to it, I nearly shed some tears everytime I saw another rock slide or river crossing

  10. matt g said

    Hard core dude! Way to charge through, good thing you had a crew to travel with, and no critical injuries or damage was done…SUCCESS. I have a 1988 VW camper van with a lift and some other fun upgrades. LOVE IT! Cornelius (My vanagon) is not 4×4 so I would never be able to make that trip. I have made it to some cool spots in the western U.S.A. in him though! Looks AMAZING up there in the mountains of China!!

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