Photo Story: Mountain Biking in Chernobyl

Mar 16, 2019
by zam  


Richard Gasperotti speaks about his Ukrainian biking adventure.

Even though Ukraine is now better known for defending its own seaman detained by old angry big bear living next door, this country is, in fact, a great place for mountain biking too.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

bigquotesI have been wondering about visiting Ukraine for a long time, just to be invited by the importer of the Bikeworkx products. And so I had realised that time was ripe to poke my nose into this promising countryRichard Gasperotti

It hadn't taken long till Gaspi packed bis bike, put it on the plane and took off to arrive in the capital city of Kiev where he was warmly welcomed by Alexander Todorov and other guys from the Broken Rim bicycle company.

Kiev is an active metropolis with an incredibly rich historical past. It's not only the modern capital of Ukraine, but also the historical centre of the country's religious and cultural past.

While most of the visitors crave for visiting stunning historical monuments like the Golden Gate or St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Gaspi was heading to the best local biking spots.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

In the first day, Gaspi had an appointment with the local MTB crew at the trails of Mishelinovka, derived from a Ukraine word for the mousetrap. The facility is believed to be the largest enduro area in the countryside near the capital city with 8 different trails to pick from.

Most of the trails run through a wonderful canyon with the incredible outlooks at the surrounding landscapes. "I really loved this spot as each trail had a variety of both natural and man-made obstacles,” says Gaspi who took a lecture of cycling basics and explained some more advanced techniques of riding to the local riders.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

The program followed by a stop in a shop called "A bit rim". In an amiable company with emotional atmosphere, Richard recollected interesting stories from his biking trips in the framework of the project, ZAM is a journey of one freerider and screened all the seven episodes of the documentary movie which has been filmed since 2012 by Gaspi's crew all around the world including Mongolia, Taiwan or Azerbaijan.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Visiting of Chernobyl Nuclear Station site

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

The next day, Gaspi joined the group tour sightseeing the site of former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. Visiting contaminated areas including the city of Pripyat is relatively safe. But at the same time, there are large numbers of objects and zones, where the level of radiation contamination is perilously high.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

photographer Maksym Protsenko

Therefore, a visit to this area is possible only after receiving permission from state authorities, passing passport control and special briefing only accompanied by employees of the 'Alienation Zone' facility with an individual instrument for measuring the received radiation dose - a dosimeter. Passing into and out of the zone is carried out only through a checkpoint, where the level of radiation contamination of visitors and their belongings is monitored.

photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

photographer Maksym Protsenko

Surprisingly, thirty years after the accident, five ‘Red Book’ species of birds appeared in the exclusion zone, which have not lived there before, as the result of leaving the countryside to the mother nature. "It was necessary to obtain special permission to get my bike into the territory. Obviously, it was not much about riding itself but a day spent exploring abandoned buildings, which were left once forever just hours after the accident, was an overwhelming experience," says Gaspi.

photographer Maksym Protsenko

photographer Maksym Protsenko

photographer Maksym Protsenko

In 2016, 25.000 people visited the exclusion zone and the city of Pripyat, in 2017 more than 30 thousand people visited it, and in 2018 the number of visitors surpassed 50 thousand.

photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

On the territory of the exclusion zone, not far from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, there is the Duga 5N32 (Duga-1) over-the-horizon radar station, which is one of the elements of the early detection system for launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.This object has never been used.... and the yellow sign is here for tourists only.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Riding at the Khortytsia island

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

From Chernobyl, Gaspi moved to the industrial city of Zaporizhia situated on the banks of the Dnieper River. The best trails were easy to find at the different sites of the Khortytsia which is the largest island in the River Dnieper. The island is a unique natural reserve included in the Top 7 wonders of Ukraine. "In spite of wonderful landscape and picturesque rural architecture, there was the air filled with the exhausts from the heavy industry plants that were visible from each corner of the island. Nonetheless, all six trails were really nice and fun to ride," says Richard.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

The final day of Gaspi's visit to Ukraine coincided with the mini DH Cup final of Ukraine that took place in Khortytsia island. Each rider had two attempts on tracks with the length of 450 m and the summation of both achieved times made the final result.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

photographer Maksym Protsenko

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

"The country still remains affected by the history of being part of the Soviet Union, however, it's already stepped out from the vicious circle and is now heading to its independent future. To me, spending time with local riders resembled the best period of the mountain biking attitude in Western Europe around the year 2004 when all friends hold tight together, people invested their entire energy and free time into building new trails and developing the community. Whenever possible, I'd be delighted to come back and meet these true riders,” Richard Gasperotti says.

Ukraine Trip Photographer Maksym Protsenko

Text: Adam Marsal / Bitiy Obod
Photographer: Maksym Protsenko

organized by Bitiy Obod /Broken Rim/ Sasha and Yana
Bikeworkx Official
Chernobyl Adventure


107 Comments

  • + 422
 Should have been on a Nukeproof.
  • + 19
 You win! Comment of the day!
  • + 89
 Or at least a frame with a half lifetime warranty.
  • + 15
 So rad!
  • + 3
 Mutant Bikes (BMX) also seems fit.
www.mutantbikes.com
  • + 4
 what would happen to any electric bike Smile
  • + 25
 People give glowing reviews.
  • + 24
 @Randy-Verified: One reviewer said it would run better with an ex fusion shock.
  • + 4
 I hear that bike has some glowing reviews!!
  • + 16
 @metaam: that pun was isodope
  • + 2
 Like the neon green paint job and kit.
  • + 6
 Luckily no one had a meltdown.
  • + 3
 Came here to say that.
  • + 1
 came here just to see these comments. skipped the whole article
  • + 3
 Yup, definitely nukeproof.....with atomlab wheels....
  • + 34
 Crazy to think that 50,000 people used to live here, now it’s a ghost town
  • + 7
 Came here to say exactly this. Good work.
  • + 1
 Nukes are scary. When this is what an old crappy reactor does, think about if someone launched a nuke... our warheads are thousands of times more powerful than the one the US dropped on Japan. If you ever want some interesting education about radioactive test sites, look up "what happened to the nuclear test sites" on YouTube. Crazy stuff.
  • + 1
 @trialsracer: the nuclear fallout from a warhead is far less than what this and Fukushima put out.
  • + 1
 the good 'ol McMillan. All ghillied up best mission in the CoD serie.
  • + 11
 There was a recent documentary about Fukushima showing a farmer who decide to stay and carry on farming. Lots of his cows were covered in tumors - you could clearly see them in the film as he as feeding them. Perhaps a small dose for a limited time is a low risk, but no risk is better than low risk.
  • + 20
 I agree no risk is better than low risk. That's why I sold all of my mountain bikes and skis. Better safe than sorry. Currently sitting on my couch in a bomb suit. Ya know, just in case.
  • + 9
 @pistol2ne: not really comparable with radiation poisoning.
  • + 2
 No way, its a completely safe and non retarded idea to go hang out in Fukushima or Chernobyl or whatever. What could possibly ever happen?
  • + 3
 @pistol2ne: little overkill in the condescending category but a funnier than he’ll comment nonetheless.
  • + 1
 What is the name of the Doc? TIA !!
  • + 1
 @Thustlewhumber: Several documentaries about Chernobyl. Many areas nearby now have less exposure to radioactivity than flying in a commercial airliner exposes you to.
  • + 11
 Apparently there are some hotspots, and definitely you want to limit your exposure to areas right around the reactor, but in general the risk is not very high. In a recent article on BBC science about the exclusion zone it was explained that in most places you would go as a tourist you are being exposed to considerably less radiation each hour than you are while on a commercial flight at 10,000m. I think its fairly interesting to see nature reclaiming the area, both animals and forest.
  • + 8
 You’d be exposed to more radiation flying there than actually visiting Chernobyl
  • - 4
flag Thustlewhumber (Mar 16, 2019 at 19:33) (Below Threshold)
 Background radiation from being on a plane (where you are being shielded by the plane fuselage) is completely 100% the opposite from being onsite and in direct line with actual uranium radiation from a disaster. Radioactive isotopes have settled into absolutely everything around Chernobyl; dirt, any objects, the air, everything. You walk on the ground, you breath the air, you touch the pretty objects... you are guaranteed having long term effects of radiation poisoning.

You are absolutely fooling yourself and potentially harming thousand of others that could buy into the belief that Chernobyl is safe: I will repeat again - it is NOT safe to be there for any amount of time, no matter how much you pay the government official to get a pass. Shame on Pinkbike for glorifying this type of behavior, and shame on you for spreading this misinformation that nuclear radiation is as safe as a plane ride.
  • + 5
 @Thustlewhumber: there are two possible ways to be harmed by radiation.
One is being exposed to radiation, i.e. being close to a source. How dangerous this is you can actually measure. Removing radiating material from a site reduces radiation levels. Thats how you can make a contaminated area safe again and that's what happened at Chernobyl. Different story for the mentioned nests of contamination in the wider perimeter of the reactor, but around the reactor you can use a Geiger counter and check for yourself.

The other danger is ingesting radioactive material. Thats the bigger problem because having radioactive matter in your body in direct contact with your cells increases the risk of damage manifold. From a radioactive source you simply walk away, but if it's in your body you cannot do that. Now air itself cannot be radioactive, but breathing in contaminated dust could be an issue. But that's not going to happen by walking around in Chernobyl, as again the area around the reactor has been cleared of contamination.
  • + 4
 One thing that Chernobyl has taught us is that humans are more dangerous than our most powerful weapons.

A while back Prof James Lovelock suggested dumping all our nuclear waste in the middle of rainforests. It would keep people away and nature doesn't really care about radiation (most animals don't live long enough anyway). He also suggested giving some to him to heat his swimming pool.
  • + 11
 Never thought I would read about Myshelovka (that’s the correct spelling by the way) on pinkbike! Nice choice of places to shoot, but a bit sad that Chernobyl is the only place that is recognisable by local crowd here
  • + 6
 well.... a lot of us are not Ukrainian... Big Grin The world is full of awesome cities and towns that no one hears about. Frown
  • + 1
 I have the opportunity to work in Ukraine. What kind of bikes are available to purchase in Kiev? It looks like there is a lot of flat terrain also so I am surprised to see full DH bikes in the article.
  • + 6
 Actually the site surrounding the sarcophagus and power plant is safest due to immense cleanup effort and the new enclosure. The problem lies in the surrounding areas, which still has pockets of extreme radiation at surface level and just below ground. Stuff you would kick up by walking or indeed riding a mountain bike.
  • + 5
 Was wondering if he would come across any Stalkers - weird anomalies - mutants Big Grin

Aside from the propaganda text - nice photo essay.

I wonder if the writers realised that the Ukraine Soviet State was one of the most prosperous in the Soviet Union with a high concentration of Science and Industry based there. Most of the Soviet Premiers after Stalin were also from Ukraine and post Soviet times Ukraine has been living of it's Soviet Legacy loosing itself every year. Last year they had Antonov Design Bureau close, much of their ship building facilities close, and more.

Lovely people on the street and there would be some great mountain biking to be discovered there especially in the mountain regions near Hungary and Romania.
  • + 7
 So do you have to take lights with you or does the glow from the plants provide enough light?
  • + 8
 Go for broke, lets see a bunnyhop foot plant on the "Elephants Foot."
  • + 5
 The city's name is now officially spelled Kyiv to reflect Ukrainian (rather than Russian) pronunciation.

It's pronounced ky-yiv, not kee-ev!
  • - 5
flag gnarterrorist (Mar 17, 2019 at 8:55) (Below Threshold)
 Where did Russian - you know the language and the people come from??? Kiev-Rus? Perhaps.

Learn some of your own history instead of pissing on the great legacy of Kiev as the Second Constantinople and the birth place of what is all things Russian (Which includes Belarus and Malaya Rus (The Ukraine by it's modern name) and the big Bear to your North. Geez how there can be so much hatred of ones own history is beyond me.

Why don't you just move your capital to Lviv and be done with it? By the way what is the riding like in Lviv?
  • + 7
 @gnarterrorist: Please be so kind to read some REAL history books instead of those fairy tales you did.

1. In Old Slavonic language “Kyiv” read as «Кыѣвъ», «Киѣвъ», «Кіѣвъ». So Kyiv but not Kiev.
2. Malaya Rus is a name from imagination of Moscow tsars after Tsardom of Muscovy stolen name “Rus” in order to name their Tsardom. The real Rus was at the territory from Baltic to Black sea with the center in Kyiv in 9th – 13th century (there were no Moscow yet)
3. Why don’t you go and read history of Europe instead of advises where we should move our capital?
  • + 1
 @gnarterrorist: Who says I was pissing on anything? That pronunciation is the current preference of the people who actually live there. Who are ANY of us to judge what they choose to call their city?

Are you sure you're from OZ? You sound more like a Russian troll than an Aussie.
  • + 3
 Wow super cool! I can't say that I would ever take the risk of visiting the area. There was an article years ago of a girl on her motorcycle touring through Chernobyl theory was on 2 wheels you kick up less dust and the contaminated dust etc wouldnt track as much onto a motorcycle vs a car. With. a Geiger counter mounted on the handlebars it was a fascinating read...
  • + 4
 Yes I remember her! Elena Filatova! Rad woman
  • + 1
 The Grand Tour went there too. Before that film Clarkson looked just like Brad Pitt. Unfortunately he did a power slide and kicked up some radioactive tyre smoke. Now he is the ugliest man ................ In the world.
  • + 5
 An remember when riding there, you should always wear good technical clothing with strong zips otherwise Cher-nob-yl Fall out.
  • + 5
 So has the bike now grown a tail?
  • + 1
 Growing up being a HAM radio operator the Duga site was always a problem for communications around the world, at times it would shut down all communication on a given band. However, if you had a strong enough transmitter you could disrupt "The Woodpecker" as it was known and force them to move.

Meanwhile Spring has sprung and we are riding in Fruita/Moab etc !
  • + 2
 It's a cool video of a french parkour team in this contaminated area:

youtu.be/D6VhvVzW1UY

I hope you will enjoy it! Wink
  • + 3
 Chernobyl? You couldn't find a better place to ride?? Actually very cool pics. Time warp there.
  • + 3
 Gaspi always goes on the best bike adventures!
  • + 4
 That's really Rad !
  • + 3
 “After Chernobyl.. my penis.. it fall off”
  • + 1
 Nice pictures, but yeah I am all set with anything near a nuclear meltdown site.
  • + 2
 Some of these pic's are absolutely glowing.
  • + 1
 Maybe if you take a POS bike there and ride it the radiation will morph it into a trail shredding machine.
  • + 2
 You sure that's not nj some of that looks like Camden
  • + 3
 Get out of here STALKER
  • + 1
 that was a fun game!
  • + 1
 @stiingya: my all time fav series Smile
  • + 1
 Love to go to the exclusion zone but wouldn't be biking, particularly kicking up dust like that!
  • + 2
 Sick. I’d love to see a video of these places
  • + 1
 "Sick" is what happens a few days after your visit... then you turn into a nuclear zombie that projectile vomits acid
  • + 1
 Google is your friend
  • + 3
 I want that little car.
  • + 1
 Kind of looks like a Lada. They're all over Russia.
  • + 4
 That is ZAZ-968. That cute cars were made in Zaporizhia city (Ukraine) from 1966 till 1994 on the Zaporizhia Automobile Factory (ZAZ). It's personally one of my favourite cars since ZAZ-968A was the first car I was learning to drive. That was my grandfather's car.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZAZ_Zaporozhets
Actually the car on the picture is hand-recovered ZAZ-968A of Latvian tourist, who made his trip to Chernobyl on it.
  • + 1
 @maxprotsenko: Cool! - thanks for the info. The rear end reminds me of an early 60s Ford or Lotus Cortina MkI
  • + 2
 theres a Call of Duty MW joke here somewhere.
  • + 1
 Went to the comments section looking for one.
  • + 1
 Follow up story - riding a bike with horns growing out of my head - and why are my balls glowing?
  • + 1
 All the pictures remind me of Call Of Duty.
  • + 2
 Looks absolutely epic!
  • + 2
 That's RAD
  • + 2
 That YT is sick!
  • + 1
 This is somehow weird...
  • + 1
 Disinfect your tires...
  • + 1
 C.H.U.D.
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