Extreme motorcycle expedition through Siberia to the coldest city in the world

As the days get colder in the northern hemisphere, few cyclists enjoy riding in the cold, let alone snow and ice – but for Marek Suslik, a 46-year-old Polish adventurer better known as the White Wolf , our winter temperatures probably seem balmy.

In January 2020, the fearless pole traveled 6,989 miles from Poland through the vast and desolate wasteland of Siberia to Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world. Winter temperatures in this remote eastern Siberian city frequently drop below -40 ° F, while the coldest temperature on record was -83 ° F. Due to the extreme cold, locals often leave their vehicles to drive outside. to keep them from freezing. While it sounds like a place few would dare to explore by car, Marek was determined to reach it on his motorbike.

Along the way, the adventurer battled temperatures as low as -67 ° F, snow blizzards, deep snow and extreme conditions to complete his quest to ride a motorcycle through Siberia in winter on his Honda XL600. 34-year-old LM, a motorcycle he affectionately calls Elza.

What prompts Marek to go on extreme hikes during the Siberian winter, and how does he survive? We caught up with the white wolf to find out.

Motorcycle ride to the coldest place on the planet

A month in ice

Marek took his first motorcycle trip at the age of nineteen, and he loved riding so much that he stayed on two wheels all year round, regardless of the weather. Along the way, he discovered the Elephant Rally (Elefantentreffen), a motorcycle adventure rally organized every year in Germany… every January. The elephant rally takes place in extreme conditions where the riders go there and camp in the snow; for him, this is where winter motorcycle ideas finally crystallized, and he started planning longer trips in the snow.

Motorcycle ride in the coldest city in the world

Over the years, Marek has traveled well above the Arctic Circle to Nordkapp in winter, the northernmost point in Europe accessible by motorized vehicles, and in January 2020 he reached Yakutsk aboard his motorbike. . “I passed through Poland, Ukraine and Russia and reached Yakutsk in a little over a month. Every day was like an episode of a TV series! During the trip, I broke my own record of running the longest distance in one day – I once covered 1,012 kilometers (629 miles) in one fell swoop, just because stopping wasn’t not an option. No one had done this on a winter bike in Russia until now, ”Marek shares.

Motorcycle ride in the coldest city in the world

Preparing for shipment

It took Marek six months to prepare for the expedition, although he says his previous trips to Nordkapp were also part of the process – the experience gained from those trips in the cold was invaluable on the journey to ‘in Yakutsk. He stressed that testing the bike, equipment and himself before the trip was crucial for success. “I had to test the equipment, but I also had to test myself and find out how strong I was. Mental training is essential because you have to face complete loneliness on an expedition like this, ”adds Marek.

He chose the Honda XL for the trip because of the motorcycle’s simplicity and durability. According to Marek, it was important to have a carbureted bicycle that would run on poor quality or contaminated gasoline if necessary. The XL is air and oil cooled, meaning there was no coolant to freeze; he was also able to modify the drum brake. Since he had to ride upright for long periods of time and braking was difficult that way, he instead connected the rear brake controls to the handlebars.

In addition, he had to put on a pair of skis to stand up straight in the snow. Marek copied the design of the Swedish military, and he says skis were essential for controlling the bike in heavy snow, wind or ice conditions. On the tarmac he would lift the skis and ride normally, and whenever needed he could push the skis down and support the bike. He used studded tires for the expedition, as most of the roads in Siberia were permanently covered with ice and packed snow.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

Another big reason for choosing a sturdy old bike was its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. “What you need to keep in mind is that extreme cold will crack metal, plastic, and steel if it’s not strong enough; the cables shrink and break, and I saw abandoned trucks in Siberia that were left on the side of the road because their suspension froze, ”says Marek. This is why, according to him, the Honda was a smart choice – built from solid materials, this bike also has a nice feature: Its dry-sump lubrication system allows oil to pass through the frame to keep it in place. hot and reduce the risk of freezing and fracture. this. He had to keep an eye on the bolts – overtightening them could cause it to break – and hold all cables and wires to continue. “The brake cable, for example, shrunk about four centimeters during the ride. The suspension got stuck, so the bike was extremely stiff and I always had to listen to it and react in time to avoid breakdowns, ”said Marek.

Equipment challenges

In addition to preparing the bike, Marek had to use special riding gear to prevent frostbite. He had three pairs of boots that he changed at every stop at a gas station, because they were freezing; in addition, he used a canadian snowmobile helmet with a special breathing mask to prevent the visor from freezing. Under his Klim riding suit, he was wearing thermal underwear and a thick merino wool suit that worked well, but Marek said he couldn’t find a solution for the gloves – his hands kept freezing and freezing. , because the bicycle charging system does not generate enough power, it could not use heated grips or gloves. “The heated chemical inserts did not work either, because the difference between the temperature of the inserts and the air is too great and your hands are burning,” explained Marek.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

Finally, the adventurer had to prepare physically and mentally to face the challenges ahead. According to Marek, he gained weight before the trip: During a day of driving in extreme conditions, your body can lose up to 12,000 calories, so having a little extra padding helped it avoid a total exhaustion. “Likewise, it is important to be in good shape and resistant to the cold. I try to bring my resistance to the cold as much as possible. Mindset is also crucial: you can’t think negatively. You have to assume that everything will be fine and keep going, ”explained Marek. He said he often talked to himself to stay motivated and not give up on the trip.

Dangers on the road

For Marek, what drives him to ride in extreme conditions isn’t the ride itself – it’s the challenge and the obstacles he ultimately overcomes. And dangers were not lacking on the icy road to Yakutsk: exhaustion and fatigue soon set in, and the further he went, the colder it was.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

He compares a walk in the cold to mountaineering: the more you push, the more exhausted you are and the harsher the conditions become. He had a car following him on the trip, because in the event of an accident help would not come soon enough – Siberia is extremely remote, and even a small accident can be fatal due to the extreme cold. “I’ve heard from locals that often ambulances aren’t even dispatched to crash or collision sites – only cleaning crews, because people just don’t survive long in the cold,” he said. -he explains.

The most dangerous aspect of the trip, he said, was the passage of trucks. There isn’t much traffic in East Siberia, and freight truck drivers often don’t expect to see a car, let alone a motorcycle, on the road. “When a truck passes you,” Marek recalls, “every time you are covered in a snowstorm and wind, and there is a risk that the truck will hit you or you will be swept away by the road or you fell because the visibility at these times is zero.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world
Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

“Paradoxically, Siberia is easier to cross in winter than in summer. All transport in Siberia operates mainly in winter when rivers are frozen: they make icy highways in winter, and even heavy trucks of 70 tons can get there. When I crossed the Lena River, I really felt what winter was like. The air temperature was -47 ° Celsius (-52 ° F), and after reaching the frozen river, I felt like I was locked in a cold capsule. I felt like my helmet and suit had shrunk. The cold snap from below was so strong that I lost my concentration for a while. The temperature on the river probably fell to around -60 ° Celsius (-76 ° F). I must have traveled 27 kilometers (17 miles) in these conditions, and it was twenty-seven kilometers from hell. The feeling was incomparable with anything I have experienced before, ”explained Marek.

Finding fuel wasn’t always easy, either: Marek carried extra fuel for a range of at least 186 miles, because Siberia is so far away that you can travel over 300 miles without finding a gas station.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

Along the way, Marek received a warm welcome: local Russian horsemen had heard of his ambition to travel to Yakutsk, and he would be invited to stay or share meals. “So many people in Siberia have nothing, and yet they will offer you everything. In difficult conditions people take care of each other, no one leaves someone alone on the road as it can be a matter of life and death. The trip made me realize that it is politics that causes problems, not people, ”he said. Along the way, he was often invited to stay with people. Throughout the trip, Marek stayed mainly in hostels and with locals. “I sometimes slept in people’s heated garages – camping was out of the question because of the cold and local hospitality was welcome,” he explained.

When he finally reached Yakutsk, the traveler was overcome with emotion: he felt that nothing was impossible. “Before the ride, people told me that I was playing with my life unnecessarily, but I succeeded and felt so happy,” Marek shares.

Motorcycle tour in the coldest city in the world

Right now he’s already thinking about another winter hike, maybe Alaska or Magadan. And the time to go, of course, will be winter.

Follow the frozen adventures of White Wolf on Facebook and Instagram and consult his site here.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Traveling around the world very slowly and without taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor-in-chief of Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people who do extraordinary things and hopes to provide travel inspiration to all two-wheeler freaks.

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