Serk Cycling Beijing
Kyrgyzstan is one of the worlds best kept adventure secrets. Nestled between China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan it’s the new frontier for gravel riding.
This geographically isolated country is almost entirely made up of mountainous terrain and is famed for its gravel roads, ancient herding culture and spectacular scenery. We’ll take you on a 500km journey through some of the most remote roads in the region on a route inspired by the first edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race. Expect to be completely immersed in nature and off the grid for 10 days of gravel biking bliss.
Check out the endless stretches of snowpeaked mountains and rivers out of the plane window as you descend into Manas International Airport. After a quick transfer to your hotel unpack your bike and check everything is in order. The capital’s laneways are all gravel roads so there is no shortage of places to dust up the bike. In the evening we'll take a stroll around town and sample the best local cuisine on offer.
Towards the Border
We leave Bishkek in our support vehicle to drive to Southern Kyrgyzstan. Our destination is a centuries old fort on the old Silk Road called Tash Rabat. Built in 15th century as resting place for wary Silk Road travelers we will stay in traditional yurt camp a few hundred metres from the fort. In the afternoon we will unload the bikes and ride 30km into camp travelling through some spectacular rock formations and onto the lush grassland area surrounding Tash Rabat.
No mans land
Early start today as we need to pass through a checkpoint on the border of the China/Kyrgyzstan no mans land. It’s one of the most remote and probably relaxed checkpoints you’ll visit in your life. Besides us and a handful of Chinese freight truck drivers there is not much traffic here - evidence we are visiting a truly remote location.
We soon take a sharp left off the tarmac road and along the border fence into a no-man's land. Apart from the odd horse and occasional yurt camp it is a mostly uninhabited arid plateau that has you wondering what use the border watch towers have. This is real Frontier Land and you can imagine perishing out here easily if something went wrong. Don't worry we've got your back with a following support vehicle incase anything does!
There is often a tailwind along this road so you’ll soon settle into a fast rhythm as the kilometers fly by. For added excitement we’ll ride through a number of shallow river crossings providing a welcome relief from the hot sun and dusty gravel roads.
Mid ride we turn right into what looks like another nondescript gravel road towards the iconic blue Kol Suu lake. Surprisingly the landscape soon turns to lush grasslands and fast flowing rivers and those thoughts of perishing are converted into dreams of settling here for the summer.
The green surrounds and abundance of water attract nomadic herders and their associated lifestock. A few climbs sap the last remaining energy in the legs before you drop down into the valley of your dreams - our campsite for the night along the Kurumduk River.
Cobalt Blue Camping
We rise at the same time as the local herders let their livestock out of the overnight pens. Another stunning ride is on the cards today as we head along an old USSR military road and over our first big pass - 30km of slow climbing up to another military checkpoint where your border pass will again be scrutinized and the guards will wonder why you choose to pedal these remote roads when motorized or horse transport makes so much more sense. The checkpoint is right on the crest of the climb and the combined relief of passing through and finishing your climbing for the day releases a sense of euphoria as you descend down another awesome switchback road into the valley below. Tonight we camp by a cobalt blue river.
A proper bed & shower
Its a relatively short day today into the regional centre of Narun. We cruise along the some more gravel roads before popping back onto the main tarmac road for a scintillating descent into Narun. Time for a well earned rest and refuel in the best Hotel in town. You’ll have time to wash your kit and enjoy a central Asian dinner feast.
Get ready for the best day on your bike ever. And we mean ever. After the preceeding 3 days of riding through ever changing landscapes you wont believe that something new lies around the corner. We cruise out of Narun through some typical farm villages with Soviet era Socialist signage. After a bridge crossing beneath vibrant red cliffs we plunge down below 2800m and into green forests. Tree canopies envelope the road as you constantly climb up and over the twisting road. Up high above the river before plunging back down for a wooden plank bridge crossing. Carved out of the side of the mountain the road has just the right amount of up and down to allow you to keep it in the big ring and power over the crests and bomb the descents. As the sun starts to lower and the shadows increase you’ll wish this day never ends as each corner brings another perfect Kyrgyzstan view which will be etched into your mind forever. Tonight we camp by an abodanded stable next to glacial stream.
Another day, another landscape. Today's ride is reminiscent of the African Savanna - open plains with animals running by the sides of the road. The gravel roads disappear and you'll follow 4wd tracks across the landscape. You'll pass by herders camps on the side of the tracks and you'll need to negotiate a number of river crossings.
Tonight we stay in old herders house next to a hot spring.
Today we climb the arduous Tosor Pass. There will be some hike and bike today as we traverse up to 4000m. The effort is worth it as you come face to face with a glacier at the peak and then the most amazing gravel descent awaits. It's 30 plus km of non stop fun and scenery overload as you drop down to the amazing Issy Kul lake. The ride finishes with a swim in this huge salt water lake.
Issy Kul - Bishkek
Travel back to the capital by bus for some more shopping and sightseeing. Some riders will be able to fly out tonight on a late flights.
Free day in the capital to explore!
Pack bags and fly out at your convenience.