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  1. #1
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    Khabarovsk -> Vladivostok

    My daughter is going to Vladivostok for three months, and I told her that I would fly to Khabarovsk and then visit her on my bike. "Sure" she said, and I think that means she doesn't believe I will actually do it.

    So that makes me really want to do it. I want to show her that old daddy can still do 800 kilometers in about a week. Now I looked at the climate tables and I read that Khabarovsk in January has an average temperature of -23°C (-9°F). Daily lows are -24°C (-11°F), falling below -31°C (-24°F) by the end of January. Oops...

    The climate in winter is fairly dry, and not much wind, so that is an advantage. But I have zero experience in such kind of expeditions. I rode my bike to France a few times many years ago, but that was always in summer and when I got tired I could just take a nap somewhere in a field. If I do that near Khabarovsk I guess they will find me in May.

    I am trying to figure out the right kind of clothing. I think I need to focus on my face, hands and feet, the rest should not be a real problem. For my head I want to buy two pair of caps like these:

    https://www.google.nl/search?q=face+...ed=0CAYQ_AUoAQ

    Then ski goggles, and that should be it for my head.

    But my hand and feet I am less sure what to do exactly. Any advice (other than "better stay home")?

  2. #2
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    If you have no experience your chances of succeeding are very small as there are always small details that are missed that make huge differences. For this kind of weather no skin visible from outside, good mitts or barmitts, good winter boots, pants that cut wind and insulate well are mandatory.
    Do small distances first then little by little go for bigger distances to learn and adjust. Find a place there where you can buy your gear. Unless you have some kind of experience doing 800km in a week at those temperatures is a very difficult challenge. Everything is harder and slower when riding in this kind of cold weather. Chain grease freeze, your layering prevent your leg from moving, tires roll less well, cooling your body become less efficient because of the extra layers, roads are bumpy, snowy...
    At -31C, one layer is not enough for me on my head, i need 2 layers at least.
    Anyway, I believe getting advices from this forum won't be enough as devil is in the detail, you need specific advices to your specific situation rather than generic one. Experimenting by yourself is necessary to know what works for you but it's also not enough as this requires time to process which you don't have. You would need to go with someone that has some kind of experience. If you can find someone over there that is ready to do the distance with you that would give you more chances to succeed.
    Last edited by erig007; 11-10-14 at 10:07 PM.

  3. #3
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    I truly hope you do it, but you have a lot to learn! Good luck!
    Last edited by TallTravel; 11-11-14 at 09:28 AM.

  4. #4
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    Seems like heavy-duty trolling. No matter what the case, the detachment from reality does not justify keystrokes, to say it bluntly

  5. #5
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Cheers and welcome to Bike Forums!

    Don't worry about the clothing, yet.

    Have you ridden any length of distance with studded tyres before? You're looking at +100 kms per day, in Siberian winter conditions. A metric century with studded tyres is a feat in itself, even if you rode it on bare ice (less resistance) and at balmy -2C. Your plan is to do it each day, every day, for a week, in unknown but varying snow thickness, at -25C...-30C (or more).

    Like I said, forget about the clothing for a while and get busy arranging a SAG wagon for the entire length of the trip. Make sure they carry enough firewood too, in case the car breaks down. The fire will keep you warm while you wait for the (also pre-arranged) backup to arrive.

    --J
    Last edited by Juha; 11-11-14 at 02:56 AM.
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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  6. #6
    Fahrradfahrer jwarner's Avatar
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    You can ride in those temperatures, and everything will be fine, as long as it is fine. When things go bad near minus 40C, they go really bad, and only get worse fast. Getting a flat tire can cost fingers, or worse. This happens relatively quickly.

    At minus 40, your freehub won't even engage unless you rebuild it with low temp grease.

    I strongly suggest you start much smaller. Although 100K a day may seem reasonable, I would say 25 or less is optimistic depending on the snow conditions and weather.

    At those temperatures, I wear mukluks, polypro gloves inside wool mitts inside leather mitts, my ski helmet, a balaclava, and mountaineering shell jacket and pants over appropriate insulation with easy venting. I carry even more layers and a fur hat and mitts (nothing warmer) in case things go bad.

    I've been living, working, playing, and riding in similar temperatures and colder for well over 20 years, and was extensively trained in arctic survival in the service. What you have described, would be an expedition for me. I've done similar (on a dogsled, not on a bike), and it was fun in a sick sort of way, but not for the faint of heart or ill prepared.

    By the way, at -40C, with 12 well-trained and conditioned sled dogs (a number of whom had experience in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog races), which are perfect for this environment, when I was just out of the service in my late 20's, I would be lucky to make 80 miles a day, and that was pushing it on perfect trails.
    Strange things are done in the land of the midnight sun by those that bike in the state bought by oil

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    Thanks for all your advise. To 2_i ("heavy duty trolling") I want to say: you made me smile, and I am not trolling. I seriously want to try this.

    About the SAG wagon: I will be riding the M60/M370, that is the main highway between the two cities. There is plenty traffic and a bus service. If I have to abandon the trip I can just hop on the bus, or hitch-hike.

    jwarner writes "when things go bad near minus 40C, they go really bad" and that indeed is what worries me most. I don't think I would be able to fix a flat tire at -30C, so with a flat tire I must hitch-hike to the nearest village. Anything that breaks on the bike will force me to abort, there is no way around it.

    I will not do 100km per day. Maybe 50km or 30km in the beginning, the trip will take a little longer, that's ok. About chain grease freezing (erig007), I read that also brake systems and gears may clog and freeze. Anything I can do to prevent that, like special winter lubricant?
    Last edited by ysbrand; 11-11-14 at 05:21 AM.

  8. #8
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Cables are especially prone to freezing (shifters and brakes). In my experience, old skool friction shifters are least troubling in winter conditions. Nothing much you can do except clean everything and put some thin lubricant in appropriate spots. Any thicker grease will freeze solid.

    Gears clogging: if you use a derailleur bike, your rear cassette may get packed tight with snow. This is likely in warmer temps (closer to 0C) and heavy snowfall, less so if it's really cold. Not much you can do to prevent this if the conditions are right (except getting rid of derailleur and riding single speed or hub geared bike - and I'm sure IGHs have their own problems in those temperatures). Stop and clean the cassette as required.

    jwarner has a point regarding your rear hub pawls not engaging. I've experienced that here, and we seldom have so extreme levels of cold. Again, your rear hub should be clean and well lubed with something that's meant for those temps.

    I'd use dynohub lighting for riding. You do have about 8-9 hours of light in January but still. Lots of reflectors. A battery lamp or two for emergencies (having to flag down a passing vehicle, for example). When you don't use them, carry the batteries close to your body, beneath your outer layer of clothing in a waterproof bag.

    What are your plans regarding accommodation? There's likely long stretches of road without even houses, I'd imagine hotels are few and far between.
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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  9. #9
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    For a hint of what looking at, take a look at this and read some of the articles. Last year the winning cyclist took a little over 20 hours,and the race had 30 out of 84 cyclists finish the course.

    Arrowhead 135 - Home

    Photos: The brutal Arrowhead 135 Ultra | Minnesota Public Radio News
    We have met the enemy and they is us.

    Pogo

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    I am currently buying some lighting gear. One LED lamp on the steering, one on the helmet, one for the back, plus a spare lamp. All lamps will share the same AAA-batteries, so fewer spare batteries to take. I will take 30 spare AAA batteries, that should be enough for 10 days and four hours per day. I prefer not to use a dynohub.

    I bought 7800mAh battery pack plus a 50.000mAh backup for my phone. I don't really need it for navigation as it is just one straight road, but I want to have a tracker on the phone that reports my position to the family back home. At least they will know where to find the body.

    Accommodation... well eh... there is not much, as far as I can see. There is a hotel in Pereyaslavka for instance, but that is only after about 70 kilometers on the first stretch. I am not sure I will make it there in one day. If I do and that hotel is fully booked I have nowhere else to go, the next hotel is another 80 kilometers.

    So I must be prepared to just ask people if I can stay for a night. I did do that occasionally when I was 16, but now I am 56 and somehow it feels different. I am currently following a Russian course, that should help a little. Not sure how this is going to work out.

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    Steve0257, Thanks for that link, I am going to read all and take a good look at the photos. And I read: "pedaling at 7mph steady...", and that's the guy that took second place!
    Last edited by ysbrand; 11-11-14 at 07:39 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ysbrand View Post
    To 2_i ("heavy duty trolling") I want to say: you made me smile, and I am not trolling. I seriously want to try this.
    If you are serious, then I am sorry to say you are aiming at killing yourself. It is very easy perish in tough conditions not even knowing where the danger comes from. Yes this stuff can be done with gear and experience but you lack either and that includes surroundings and social infrastructure. First time you get out of the house with new gear things break down and gradually you optimize and fix things. In what you propose there seems no room for reset and you can pay with your life and I am completely serious. Maybe the easiest outcome can be that a truck carries you over.

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    Hi 2_i, I appreciate all the comments and advise here. Also your remark is valuable to me, I read it as a serious warning and I appreciate that. It will be in my mind as I progress. I do not intend to die over there and I know very well that cold can kill. So I move cautiously, I come here for advise, I know new equipment usually breaks after three hours and I must plan for that. If I must back out I will not hesitate.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    You said that you had ridden your bike to France a few years ago. What have you been doing on a bike lately , say the past year or so ?

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    Nothing. My racing bike has been hanging in the garage for 25 years now, I used it maybe twice a year for short trip. But I put new tires on and made a 100km trip last weekend, that was a piece of cake. I now started training on my skating machine.

  16. #16
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    What is the wildlife situation in this area? Are you going to be viewed as a "meal on wheels" by the local fauna?

    Are you fluent in Russian or whatever local dialects may be prevalent? You've established that you aren't riding much now. You are considering travel to an inhospitable place at the worst possible time of the year. You have no prior experience in riding in these conditions. How old are you?

    As a side note, I think you are woefully unprepared for such an adventure. Don't make your daughter's memory of her trip to Vladivostok be one of "Yeah, and then I had to ID the body and make arrangements to fly it home."

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    They have brown bears, lynxes and wolves. The bears are asleep, the lynx will run off. I think wolves killed two people in Alaska and Canada in the last ten years, I will take that risk. I am not going to stay outside after dark, and no tent. Intoxicated truck drivers pose a bigger threat. I am familiar with traffic in Ukraine, that is no laughing matter, and Russia is worse.
    Last edited by ysbrand; 11-11-14 at 10:48 AM.

  18. #18
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    Equipment:

    How long will your phone battery last in those temps, if it is buried in your pack while yout ride?

    It seems the simplest bike may be the best. You mention bikes, but I don't see you've yet chosen the bike you will take on this adventure.

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    A phone battery loses capacity rapidly at low temperatures, so I bought a triple capacity battery plus an extra power backup.

    Anker® 7800mAh Extended Battery Combo for Samsung Galaxy S4 TPU Cover Included | eBay

    50000 30000mAh External Power Bank Backup Dual USB Battery Charger F iPhone 6 | eBay

    I have off-line maps in the phone (OsmAnd) so I don't need a data connection to figure out where I am. Also I will not fully rely on electronics and I will take a paper map as well.

    I have not chosen a bike yet. I have a list of bike stores in Khabarovsk and they have websites:
    ????????
    Горные велосипеды. Купите горные велосипеды недорого в интернет-магазине Спортмастер. Горные велосипеды: Stern Dynamic, Stern Motion, Stern Force, Stern Energy.

    And there are a few more. I still must decide what I will buy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ysbrand View Post
    So I must be prepared to just ask people if I can stay for a night. I did do that occasionally when I was 16, but now I am 56 and somehow it feels different. I am currently following a Russian course, that should help a little. Not sure how this is going to work out.
    Took me 3 years to reach the same level in russian than 10 years of learning german. Once you've learn alphabet it is somehow pretty close to french/english. Since you are in netherlands you probably know some german already so learning russian should be a piece of cake for you.

  21. #21
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    You seem to be adding a lot of weight with every decision. Are you expecting to use panniers? Many bikes you are showing here won't/don't have eyelets for mounting ands securing panniers.

    Have you established time for testing and riding in those exact conditions before you set out on the ride? 2-3 days before, just to experiment, make adjustments, buy more appropriate accessories, etc?

    Those bikes for sale are really just normal bikes for summer riding. I think most will have too many moving parts for a cold weather trip like that. I think you ought to be thinking about far simpler bikes.

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    Since you will be in vladivostok in January (if you're still alive by then) why don't you try Yakutsk a little bit further north, the coldest major city in the world. At this time of the year, temperatures may reach -64C/-84F
    Last edited by erig007; 11-11-14 at 12:12 PM.

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    I speak German fluently and I can read the Russian alphabet. But the Russians have an awful lot of inflections or conjugations in their language, I think more even than the Germans, that may make it difficult. We will see.

    About the bike, and things that break, I was planning to buy a bike, then make two day-trips around the city to see how it works. When I feel confident that I got it right (bike, but also luggage) I will head for Vladivostok. How is a winter bike is different from a summer bike? Winter tires, yes, no studs if possible, and I want a derailleur, not an IGH, and I agree that the old friction shifters would be easier although I don't know if I can get them. I will need eyelets to fix the carriers, and then panniers. Here in Holland we see sometimes bikers with all the stuff on their backs but I think that's not a good plan.

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    You need to know how your bike handle cold as each bike is different. You can't know that with just a 2 day trip. How often you get a flat? (as you can't repair a flat easily when it is -23C outside), how often your brake cable freeze, how your chain handle cold (chains on derailleurs are often smaller than on single speed or IGH and can't handle the same tension as bigger one which matter in cold weather), screws, bolts, frame, brake cables, solder junctions, panniers can break in cold temperatures. Give you at least a month of trials to know what is reliable and what is not. You will need to adjust your seat, position etc which also requires trials.
    Do you know for sure that you will have a room at a hotel every time you decide to stop? What will you do if there is no hotel or room available?
    How about frozen food and water? What do you do if you don't feel well while riding between 2 shelters?
    Last edited by erig007; 11-11-14 at 12:46 PM.

  25. #25
    Fahrradfahrer jwarner's Avatar
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    I certainly applaud your spirit, but do hope you do some serious research before setting out. Hard unsupported efforts at these kinds of temperatures are nothing to take lightly.

    Batteries. Lithium batteries do best in the cold, and don't progressively dim like alkaline batteries. Be aware that some equipment designed for alkaline batteries cannot use lithium batteries (I believe this is due to slightly higher amperage, but don't remember off the top of my head). Lithiums do die without warning once they have reached their end, so keep spares somewhere where you can find them in the dark during snowstorm. Test everything before you use it, and work out where you are going to put everything based on frequency of use or ease of access (for safety-related items).

    Anything and everything that is important to you (something that your life depends on), should be attached to your body in some way. If your phone is your lifeline, it should be next to your body under layers in secure pouch. I used to hang all kinds of stuff around my neck on cords to keep it from freezing and make sure I could find it when I needed it if I was going out for days with no immediate support. I would also make sure I always had extra mitts, extra socks, and an extra hat on my person.

    Calories. You are going to burn lots and lots of calories. 6K-8K are not unrealistic numbers. The best way is to keep snacking throughout the day, and to eat lots of fat. I generally bracket snacking throughout the day (I'm constantly eating), with a huge portion of oats in the morning, and a huge portion of pasta in the evening. If you can get your hands on cold smoked salmon (cold smoked until dry) this is a great source of energy, as are almonds, and semi-hard chocolate cakes (like brownies) made with a lot of fat. Pemican is also good for energy, and will keep you going, but not especially tasty -- you probably won't care after a days' hard effort at low temps. It's important to note that chocolate bars are almost worthless when they freeze. I've broken a healthy molar on one at the kind of temps you will see, and had a friend almost choke when a frozen M&M stuck in her throat. It had to thaw before we could clear her airway.

    Hydration. Keep drinking. Never stop. Dehydration contributes to every cold weather injury, reduces mental sharpness, and is a bigger problem than hypothermia on longer-term journeys. At the mountaineering school I worked at in the service, we dropped (sent home) more students for dehydration than any other injury or illness. Cold water makes this harder because we don't want to drink it when we think we are cold, or when it is cold outside. Also, our thirst mechanism shuts down when it gets cold. We don't want to drink, despite loosing a huge amount of water through respiration, perspiration, and evacuation. You will have to find or make clean water every morning and night. Not counting cooking and other uses, I would expect to drink at least 3-4 liters a day, likely more.

    Ice fog. If you are on well-travelled roads or near built-up areas, you will experience ice fog. This is moisture introduced into the atmosphere as free water when warm air cools. You literally get frozen fog. It is like riding through a constant curtain of microscopic ice crystals, is cold, gets on everything, and makes it almost impossible to see, as ice fog reflects light. Also at -40C, pollution from autos, fires, etc. doesn't rise, and unless there is a wind, doesn't dissipate. It's best to try to stay away from roads and low areas where it collects.

    I wouldn't worry at all about wildlife unless it walks on two legs. This area is very similar to Interior Alaska where I lived for many years. You might see a lynx. If you are lucky you will see a wolf -- they won't bother you (potentially if you run away, which triggers a chase instinct, but most likely not). You will most likely just see a lot of chickadees, ptarmigan, grouse, and moose. Moose are the biggest danger you will face from four-legged wildlife. Give them a very wide berth. Adults can weigh as much as 550 kg, and can break a wolves skull with a single swipe of their hooves. If they have a calf, never ever get between it an mom, and don't go anywhere near either. Moose may look clumsy and friendly. They are not.
    Strange things are done in the land of the midnight sun by those that bike in the state bought by oil

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