The BAM Road - ultimate test of man and machine

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. Gooch

    Gooch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Oddometer:
    276
    Location:
    East of the river
    I'm struck by how much that river resembles my memory of the Yukon. The landscape to my memory, has a very raw, unfinished or young feel to it, like the geologic and alluvial forces are far from finished with their work. Love the use of barges for docks; perfectly sensible and evocative of the feeling of a permanent frontier.

    Many thanks, and keep it coming.
  2. tylerjwhite

    tylerjwhite Wandering Mtn Goat

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    875
    Location:
    Orem, Utah
    I agree. I couldn't get over how open everything was and how huge the mountains were and deep and wide and the rivers were with so many lakes, and the space in between them with all the massive amounts of snow on top of the mountains, when I was in the Yukon and how much it looks like your pictures. Also every time I see Russian stuff it reminds me of the shops in Kyrgyzstan and the people there that were so nice and how much I wanted to get off the base I was on and just ride horses or anything up into those mountains. I want very badly to save up some good amounts of cash and find a way to go back there on two wheels. I haven't posted really much of anything until now but I have been following along religiously. I am going to make a trip like this happen some day even if it is only on good roads I want to visit these areas and so I will make it happen. Thanks for the inspiration.
  3. tylerjwhite

    tylerjwhite Wandering Mtn Goat

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    875
    Location:
    Orem, Utah
    There is a mine similar to that in the US if you ever go through Salt Lake City Utah. It is called the Kennicot mine and can give those of you in the US that won't ever be able to see that part of Russia a basis for comparison.

    <iframe marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Bingham+Canyon+Utah&sll=40.535981,-112.142258&sspn=0.106196,0.308647&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bingham+Canyon,+Utah&t=h&z=11&ll=40.5504,-112.1558&output=embed" frameborder="0" height="350" scrolling="no" width="425"></iframe>
    <small>View Larger Map</small>
  4. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,896
    Location:
    Tacoma - ish, WA
    The Yukon SHOULD look similar to Siberia. If you look at this map, it's easy to see how the continental drift that caused South America to split off from Africa, and created the Atlantic Ocean (a process that continues to this day), also divided North America and Asia, creating the Arctic Ocean.

    [​IMG]

    Oh, and guess what? There are diamond mines in northern Canada!

    Diavik Mine - Northwest Territories
    [​IMG]

    Sorry for the interruption. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
  5. tmotten

    tmotten Lefthand ride Dutchy

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,705
    Location:
    Calgary
    Kalgoorlie Super Pit

    [​IMG]
  6. AdamAbel

    AdamAbel Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    87
    Location:
    Yorkshire, England
    Great report. Makes my efforts look pitiful. One day I hope to have the time, money and gumption to get somewhere near it...



    Must make for an interesting approach to the runway for the airport in the background:
    [​IMG]
  7. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,226
    Location:
    Schmocation
    [​IMG]

    Arnaud and I had arrived back in Ust Kut around 10pm last night and arranged to stay on board the boat for one more night. The plan was to leave first thing in the morning. We pushed the bikes off the boat and locked them together next to the boat, set the alarm for 05:30 ! and tried to sleep. Sleeping was near impossible onthe boat, without the drone of the engine in the background and it was an evening of tossing and turning and restlessness.

    5:30 came and despite both wanting to sleep in, we headed down to the galley, where the cook from the boat had also woken up early to cook breakfast for us. With full stomachs, we loaded up the bikes and were ready to go by 6:30, only it was still pitch black. I consulted my phone ... daylight comes to Ust Kut at 7:20 am on this day of the year. And so we went back to our cabin and had 45 minutes snooze before finally hitting the road about 7:15.

    It was cold and foggy and I had dressed in my heated vest. Arnaud on his little 250 had no such luxury. He just had to endure the cold. Bratsk was 350km away, mostly over dirt roads, but the roads were decent and we made it to the sprawling spread out city of Bratsk around lunchtime. We knew after Bratsk the road would be sealed. The Hydroelectric dam at Bratsk is supposed to be one of the largest in the world, and it certainly was huge. I have never seen one bigger.

    [​IMG]

    I noticed my front end didnt feel right. Tony P has a credo that if something doesnt feel or sound right, its because something isnt right, and you need to stop and sort it out. I knew something wasnt right but just felt like I wanted to get to Krasnoyarsk where the bike would get a full going over by Zhenya (our mechanic in Krasnoyarsk) and his team of bike mechanics.

    Bratsk is spread out over about 50 km and while riding through Bratsk the unease in the front end of the bike felt progressively worse. We stopped and chatted to some Police guys about the road to Taishet, the last 300km of the BAM road. They said if we want to go to Krasnoyarsk from Bratsk, we needed to go on the asphalt road to Tulun and then the Trans Siberian Highway to Krasnoyarsk. With my front end clearly sick, I decided not to argue. It was a longer route, but a safer one with a sick bike.

    [​IMG]

    80 km outside of Bratsk and I was kicking myself for not listening to Tony's credo. I had seen grease oozing past the right front wheel bearing seal when we had stopped in Bratsk and strongly suspected that bearing was on the way out. I had been obsessed with getting to Krasnoyarsk and should have stopped in Bratsk to see what could be done about the bearing. Now I was out on the empty road and the bearing was dead. It was cold and it was raining. There was nothing for it but to get wet and greasy and sort the problem.

    Arnaud rode 500 yards ahead where a truck was parked on the side of the road and borrowed a hammer. I jacked up the bike with a stick and removed the front wheel. I started whacking out the old bearing with the hammer and a screwdriver. Predictably it crumbled and I was left with the problem of trying to remove the outer housing of the old bearing. After 20 minutes and a lot of sore thumbs, I had removed the old bearing completely and searched around in my spare pars bag for new bearings.

    [​IMG]

    5½ months on the road and a lot of water in the side bags had left my spare bearings in poor shape. All my spare parts were covered in sand and rust. I had no option by to clean up one of the bearings as best I could and use it. The truck drivers up the road began to move off and Arnaud went to offer them the hammer back. They said we needed it more than them so keep it to finish the job. Very Russian!

    An hour and a half after I had started and we were ready to roll. 100km down the road and I had the same horrible feeling in the front of the bike. i stopped to loook and this time it was the left front bearing that was wobbling. Riding the extra 80km past Bratsk with one damaged bearing ovbiously killed the other bearing. Again there was nothing for it but to change the bearing. Again we stopped near a truck and borrowed some tools. Again the bearing came out in 20 pieces, with the only hard part being to remove the outer casing.

    [​IMG]

    This time the truck drivers got involved and began to help us. An hour after we started and the 2nd new bearing of the day was cleaned and fitted.
    BillUA likes this.
  8. hardwaregrrl

    hardwaregrrl Can't shoot straight Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    9,956
    Location:
    Atlanta
    I've always wanted to go to Russia. Not necessarily on a motorbike, but just to go and see it. Now I think I know why. Russian people, man, that is just so cool how anybody will help out, even if they don't know how to help. Thanks so much for educating us on the wonders of Russian people. Saving my pennies...
  9. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Oddometer:
    8,898
    Location:
    Ft Likkertail , USA
    Those truckers were very helpful :nod , I guess that they all look out for each other too in that remote area!!!


    :lurk
  10. quicktoys2

    quicktoys2 ADVrider junkie :)

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    633
    Location:
    Patras, Greece
    Good thing you had some bearings with you ........ were they able to clean up OK or was it a temp fix till you get to a mechanic shop?
  11. Jerrykap

    Jerrykap Motorbike mishugana

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2003
    Oddometer:
    234
    Location:
    Davis, CA
    I believe I am close to your age, 66 this March. When my younger riding friends tell me I'm an inspiration to them I just laugh it off as meaningless. What you did out there on that bridge, in that weather, is not meaningless...it was dangerous, hard and necessary. My helmets off to you for sucking it up and doing what needed to be done. It could easily have ended very badly. Thankfully it didn't, and you're now safe and warm with the ones you love. That moment of triumph is yours to enjoy forever, just close your eyes and I'm sure you'll be able to relive it again and again step by step. What you did out there was EPIC and the stuff of legends. You, sir, and your mates are an inspiration to all of us.

    I'll soon be in Death Valley riding the mountains and canyons again, if I find myself complaining I will take a deep breath and remember what you guys did.

    All the best for a new year, after reading your ride report I feel like I'm starting over.

    C-ya Jerrykap:norton
  12. Qwik

    Qwik Adrenaline Addict

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Oddometer:
    7,788
    Location:
    Basalt Colorado
  13. Vstromdek

    Vstromdek Vstromdek

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    141
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    Amazing trip report...thxs.:norton
  14. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,226
    Location:
    Schmocation
    By now it was getting late in the day. It was still raining and my hope of a mammoth riding day to Krasnoyarsk had all but crumbled along with my wheel bearings. I decided we needed to seek out Zhenya, an old friend, in Sheragul, less than 100 km away. He would surely receive us and end this day of misery. We rode into Tulun and I called him. He was ecstatic to hear from me and Arnaud and I refuelled to head to Sheragul, 20 km down the road.

    Tulun was on the Trans Siberian Highway. So that was it. No more BAM Road. I had made it back to "civilisation".

    But yet another problem hit me. The electrical connection on the top of my fuel pump was no longer sealing, and as I filled the tank up, fuel came out the top of my fuel tank, via the electrical connection on the pump. The idea of a load of leaking fuel around an electrical connection, right under my arse didnt please me at all. I sucked a litre of fuel out of the tank and spent a good 20 minutes cleaning up the leakage around the fuel pump before daring to turn on the ignition.

    I rode gingerly to Sheragul, where we arrived at Zhenya's in the rain, but were welcomed into a warm friendly modern home. Arnaud remarked it was stepping out of Siberia and into Europe. It was almost 3 months since Tony and I had seen Zhenya and his family, and I promised him I would be back, tho I did had to apologise for the short notice!

    - - -

    The knowledge that it was about 700km to Krasnoyarsk ensured we left early. Zhenya had already gone to work, so we said farewell to Svetlana, his wife and left in light rain. Fortunately the rain lightened after the first 50 km. My bearings seemed to be holding up, but progress was halted near Taishet when Arnaud had a flat rear tyre. His first in almost 20 years of motorcycling. It was raining and town was less than 10km away so I took his rear wheel into a local tyre repair joint to fix it, returning an hour or so later to Arnaud.

    [​IMG]

    This town, Taishet, marks the end of the BAM Road. I had made it to Taishet having not completed all of the BAM Road, but knowing that with Tony and Terry 2 weeks earlier, I had succeeded in riding more of it than anyone has done before. There were two sections we hadn't ridden ... the large section from Fevralsk to Tynda, which we were told would be impossible and the small section right at the western end where Tony and terry had discovered all that red mud.

    The map below shows our route in green from Vanino, way back at the beginning of this thread in Vladivostok, up to the start of the BAM Road at Vanino, and then westwards for to Taishet in central Siberia. (BAM Road is in pink and the Trans-Siberian Highway in blue.)

    [​IMG]

    The remainder of the day was all about just doing the miles. Arnaud's 250 was a lot slower than the 650 of mine, and while I could sit comfortably all day on 110+ km/h, Arnaud was lucky to do 80 - slower on the hills. I stopped every 150 km to top up, grab a bite to eat and wait for Arnaud. This section of the Trans-Siberian has a fuel station every 10-20 km and is full of cafes and the like. It was strange to have all this "roadside convenience" for the first time in 6 weeks ... 4 weeks on the BAM Road and annother 2 weeks used up with my diversion up to the Arctic Circle at udachny.

    The afternoon was broken at a notorious traffic police checkpoint at Novy Ingash. We were pulled over and the traffic cops decided to check every piece of paper they possibly could. I was disappointed. This was the first time I had been genuinely hassled by traffic police in Russia proper on the whole 7 month trip. They wanted to see passports, immigration cards, customs forms, insurance papers and when after an hour of scrutinising documents they still had found nothing out of order, they insisted in looking at our mobile phones. It was all a huge waste of time. Eventually we were let go and continued on our merry way.

    It was well after 9pm when we got to Krasnoyarsk. Dima, our biking contact in Krasnoyarsk, met us in the centre of town and took us to the same hotel that Tony and Terry had stayed at 2 weeks earlier. Tomorrow was Monday and my bike would finally get to a proper bike workshop to get a full service. It was long overdue.
  15. casperghst42

    casperghst42 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    219
    Location:
    Rotterdam, The Netherlands (in exile)
    They are quite happy telling you that it's visible from space, and yes it a very big hole in the ground.



    Casper
  16. Zecatfish

    Zecatfish XTique Rider

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,928
    Location:
    Arkansas USA
    What a journey, absolutely amazing.
    The trip of a life time I'm sure.
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
    :clap:clap:clap:thumb:thumb:thumb:clap:clap:clap
  17. AZ-Twin

    AZ-Twin Dusty and Thirsty

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,337
    Location:
    Sierra Vista, AZ
    Colebatch,

    Do you suspect they were fishing for a bribe, or just making the day pass? I was under the impression that when when the officials solicit a bribe they were forward, and you being an experienced traveler in that region and knowing the language I am sure you would have known.

    Can you educate us on the process of of bribing officials in countries where it is common practice. I know earlier in this report you said it is not as common in Russia as other countries, but I imagine it does still happen.

    Thank you.

    [edit]

    almost forgot, amazing report from you 3, put me down for a book and a DVD.



  18. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,226
    Location:
    Schmocation
    Absolutely they were fishing for a bribe. Waste someone's time enough and you are effectively saying to them, if you want to go, then show me the money.

    They never really overtly ask for cash or say "I want a bribe" ... they tend to say "this is a problem" or "you have a problem". Often even if there is nothing wrong and they are hunting for bribes and as a foreigner they know you dont know the rules, they will just say "there is a problem" even when there is not. Thats what these guys were doing, trying to bluff us into thinking there was a problem.

    Most of the time they genuinely catch you speeding or breaking a traffic rule and legitimately pull you over. They dont really want tto write you a ticket. Cause they dont make any money out of writing you a ticket, and its an hour out of their day to do all the paperwork, so there is an unwritten convention in Russia / Kazakhstan / Ukraine etc that if you legitimately get pulled over for a ticketable offence, you pay half the money direct to the cop and all are happy ... you have saved half your money and save the points on your licence, and the cop has saved an hours work and made a profit to boot. If the cop thinks that as a foreigner, you dont know the penalty for the offence you have committed, he will happily show you the Russian traffic code, and set penalties for breaches of certain rules. This is to help you work out how much cash to slip into your documents.

    The process, once you know you have been legitimately caught speeding or crossing a white line (the usual offences), is you put the cash with your documents. The police then check your documents, your cash disappears faster than the eye can see and your documents are returned to you 5 seconds later with a smile and a "thats fine sir, all is in order".

    You NEVER hand over cash without it being concealed. And they never ask for cash. Thats the system. You "accidentally" had some cash with your documents when you handed them over and it "accidentally" disappears when in the policeman's custody for 5 seconds.
  19. Moraflex

    Moraflex Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,342
    Location:
    San Dimas California
    Well done fellas. A very nice way to break up the day. Read your report, work, read, work, and finally the end. Now I have to find another epic adventure to pass time. :clap:clap:clap
  20. EvilRoySlade

    EvilRoySlade Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    Cahokia Illinois
    Thanks for the best RR ever. Now I need to see it all for myself. :clap