Video: Venturing into the Wilds of Kyrgyzstan

Dec 28, 2018
by H+I Adventures  

“Cross Kyrgyzstan by mountain bike,” Dan said. I laughed and carried on hiking my bike up a scree slope being battered by gale force winds in the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. We were on an exploratory trip in the southern-most part of South America, and already Dan was sowing the seeds of another, even wilder adventure… because he knew I was a soft touch when it comes to an adventure!

When asked what they know about Kyrgyzstan, most people come up blank. It is a little-known country trying to shed its recent history of Russian rule and the negative view the western world has of the ‘stans’. A name change to the Kyrgyz Republic, better tourism infrastructure and daily flights from Turkey are all helping to open up ‘Kyrgyzstan’ to the rest of the world.

That said, the country is at the early stages of development, Bishkek and Osh are fairly standard modern cities, with a little of Asia thrown in for good measure. But step outside the cities and venture into the mountains and all that changes. Farmers are still working their land by hand, families are still baking bread in communal ovens in the middle of their village, roads are rustic and horses are the favoured mode of transport for any self-respecting family.

Over the past year we had been planning this adventure, to ride, carry and push our mountain bikes from a remote valley not far from the city of Osh, aiming to get as far up the imposing and impenetrable Lenin peak as we could manage. This was a ten-day expedition that would see us doing a 9 hour hike-a-bike, crossing a number of passes over 4000m, washing in ice cold mountain streams, sleeping in guest houses that are little more than a floor with a rug, dodging afternoon rains, being covered in and eating a lot of dust from the tyre in front of you, all of this while being supported by seven horses and their expert handlers who were thankfully carrying all of our overnight kit.

The team consisted of Red Bull riders Tom Oehler and Rene Wildhaber, local fixer Dmitry Kalinyuk, videographer H+I’s very own Douglas Tucker and adventure photographer Dan Milner, all pulled together for this special trip by yours truly. It was unusual for me to be setting out on an adventure that wasn't a new-tour-scouting mission, which also made it a bit special. It was adventure purely for adventure's sake.

Copyright Dan Milner

Copyright Dan Milner
Copyright Dan Milner

Copyright Dan Milner

Copyright Dan Milner
Copyright Dan Milner

Copyright Dan Milner

Copyright Dan Milner
Copyright Dan Milner

More of Dan Milner's incredible shots from Kyrgyzstan can be found on the H+I Adventures website.


MENTIONS: @DanMilner / @HI-Adventures




21 Comments

  • + 20
 I've just been there recently on a 3 week trip, the landscape is stunning, I wish I had my bike with me! the people are great to and I even met a group of three little local shredders hollering down a hell of steep mountainside on hardtails, I can only recomend to go to this amazing country! ohh and concerning the washing in the ice cold streams, you should rather not wash yourself in the streams but get some water from the stream in a bucket and not wash yourself directly in the river as they are concidered sacred by the local nomads and they often are the only drinking water suply for the villages downstream, at least that is what I've been told by the locals apparently lakes are totally fine for washing though
cheers to adventure travelling I appreciate the content! Smile
  • + 3
 Great to contrast our experience with your own. It is truly an amazing place. Good point on the bathing - we weren't told that, but could only face the icy dip at 3900m once in the trip anyway. Certainly the local support guys didnt have a bucket for us to use anyway - but maybe that was because they didnt want to risk seeing our manhoods shrink even more before their eyes post icy-wash!
  • + 4
 Beautiful part of the world, we lived there for a couple of years and enjoyed it. The riding is mainly tracks from livestock walking in the hills around Bishkek but it still makes for a fun ride. There's not much in the way of vegetation like the PNW but the mountains are breathtaking. Be aware that everything is well above sea level, Bishkek is 762m above, Lake Issykul is 1560m above so prudence is advised.

This was taken around the Ala Archa national park, we managed to climb 1600m vertical on this.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdICujPK8rQ&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR28ZJ716CA1jHLykuV1mx1xPjKcdgZKC_6db65jdRwXHHh8q-YYgF-GNpw
  • + 3
 Awesome video thanks for saring. You should be proud of that adventure! Cheers ????
  • + 2
 @ViceGrips: It was pretty epic, we had a blast. Thanks for taking the time to comment
  • + 2
 That video although not as well produced (because it wasn’t done by pros) actually shows more of the landscape and actual riding flavor than the one featured in the article. Thanks for posting. Looks pretty epic.
  • + 6
 I was there last year and it's an incredible country. So unspoiled and really nice people. I can't recommend it enough.
  • + 3
 Rode through Kyrgyzstan in July while heading for the Pamirs in Tajikistan. Those gravel roads sure get rough, and on those long descending roads after climbing a few hours, them down hill bikes would of been a welcome relief over our drop bar touring bikes. Hope your video inspire cyclist to take a cycling holiday in that part of the world.
  • + 1
 I'm going to Pamirs in China.Riding big mountain freeride around Muztagh Ata in the next year with Loose Riders Flaming Mountains.Juat can't wait for the trip.
  • + 1
 Note fellow adventurers, Kyrgyzstan (Kstan is what many of us use for short) is on Trailforks. The trail record is still somewhat limited, but periodically grows: www.trailforks.com/region/kyrgyzstan

This is not unlike the Swiss Alps terrain wise and you legally can ride your mountain bike almost anywhere you want. So ride responsibly, but don't worry about the local police chasing you.

You might be surprised at the variety of terrain. There is of course the high alpine meadows, waterfalls and serious amounts of glacier covered mountains. However, there's also terrain that would give the very best of Utah a run for it's money. There's hints of that here: www.trailforks.com/region/kyrgyzstan/photos specifically examples like www.trailforks.com/photo/15720584
  • + 2
 Surprised these guys wouldn't use flat pedals for adventure rides like these. Seems so much easier to hike, and just bring 1 pair of shoes.
  • + 4
 Thats a common point you make Slinky. But if you're 100% used to riding with cleats like me, then I cant think of riding anything else (and would rather stick with what I know for the actual riding part). For example my Mavic Deemax shoes (with cleats) hike great. You just have to choose the right shoe - there are cleated shoes designed for racers (with super stiff mid shanks and no flex) and those for adventure (some flex, with a deep-treaded outsoles for grip). Choosing the right shoe has more affect than deciding between riding clipless or flats - in fact so many flat pedal shoes are actually worse for such adventures as their totally flat outsoles offer no grip when the trail is loose, gravelly and steep. I've watched riders slipping about in front of me when trying to hike up crazy stuff. Scary. I'm quite happy living in my cleated bike shoes on and off the bike for days on end and love their grip when I'm hopping about off trail shooting pics. Hope that helps.
  • + 2
 @DanMilner: makes sense
  • + 3
 @DanMilner: Yeah, a pair of Shimano ME701's might do the trick.

Either or but flat soled shoes would not be that great in such terrain.

Would love to visit and ride. Part of a Silk Road Tour on MTB. Big Grin
  • + 2
 Glad things have changed a bit since Tommy Caldwell and his pals were kidnapped over there.
  • + 3
 That's what I call a good Bike Edit, Nice Work!
  • + 3
 That is rad!
  • + 2
 Great shots and video. And an adventure with Rene must be awesome.
  • - 1
 Don't go over the border and get put in a concentration camp...

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