"In Central Asia, we do not even have a garage for hundreds of kilometers, so the motto for our tours is: extremely reliable technology for extreme conditions!"
As tour operator in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan & Uzbekistan
Stefan, how did you come up with the idea offering bike tours in Central Asia? What is the most fascinating about it?
Some years ago I would have never believed, that I will ever organise bike tours in Central Asia. A lot of small steps made me becoming a tour operator. For several years I worked in the German International Development Cooperation. There have been two suitable vacancies in this organisation when I was applying to work there: one was on the Philippines and one was in Kyrgyzstan. At this time I didn’t know anything about Kyrgyzstan. Google gave me a simple answer: mountains, mountains and more mountains. In that moment I knew I want to go there. During that time in Central Asia 2012 till 2014 I did a lot of hiking, climbing, skiing and bike tours. From the very first moment I was fascinated by that country. I was one of my dreams to organise and guide bike tours. During a party in Bishkek the Kyrgyz capital I met Artiom my current guiding partner. It turned out that he was working as a tour guide in Kyrgyzstan since he was young. Immediately we came up with the idea of doing bike tours together. In that moment no one of us knew that this will be the beginning of a good friendship and long partnership. We left Bishkek with old soviet military maps and started to set routes and arrange trips. A lot of tracks in the maps did not exist anymore or changed meanwhile. We tried a lot, visited hotels and guesthouses and slept in yurts. Before the first tourists came, I tested the tours with my father and a friend. Now we have around 60 participants each season traveling with us in Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan – for most of us, these countries are largely unknown. How is logistics and supply during your tours? What about spare parts?
The countries of Central Asia are very thinly populated in many areas. Along the old Silk Road, there are large cities and trading centers but away from it, one finds wide landscapes. On our journeys we have almost everything by ourselves: from the camping shower to the bike workshop. On the road we can buy only a little in small shops. Logistics is the key of our travels and takes a lot of time in advance. Our team consists of several drivers, a cook, an assistant and a guide. The support team is on the road in off-road vehicles and always transports our luggage to our next overnight stop. I´m with the group with a small daypack and the most common tools and spare parts across the track. At lunch and in the evenings we meet again our support team, which then waits with delicious food for us.
„The fine dust in combination with several river crossings is a real challenge for the equipment!”
WHICH MATERIAL USES A GUIDE IN CENTRAL ASIA?
On which materials do you rely on the road?
In Central Asia, it is very dry in summer. We drive on dusty roads and dry trails and have to do severals river crossings with our bikes. For the equipment, the fine dust in combination with the water is a real challenge. Bearings and drivetrains are very stressed. For me as a guide, it is important to rely on 100% on my equipment. I ride a Mi:Tech hardtail with a Pinion P1.12 gearbox in combination with a Gates belt drive. I love this bike! It´s maintenance-free, I don´t have to wash, oil or adjust anything. This gives more time for other things on the tour. The Pinion transmission is a perfect choice for offroad adventures!
"My bike with the Pinion gearbox is an absolutely low-maintainance bike. This leaves me more time for other things on the trip."
WHAT SHOULD THE PARTICIPANTS KNOW?
What do you recommend the participants?
Our tours can be done with any type of mountain bike. Mostly, the routes are easy to handle. Riding in Central Asia is not comparable with riding in the alps. There Nevertheless, I recommend driving the participants with a full-suspension bike and / or plus size wheels. The courses and roads are in a bad condition, so you get tired much faster by the many small shocks from below on a hardtail than on a full-suspension bike. On my bike I ride 27.5 “plus tires tubeless which allows me to use low pressure. This takes many hits off the slopes and is easy to ride.