May 26 2016

New summer cycling kit design – Place your orders

It is with happiness and pride that we announce the creation of a design for AtyrauOutdoors summer cycling kit.

 Summer Cycling KitWe have designed a summer cycling jersey and a summer cycling short. These online preview versions can be rotated for front, back and side views.

A fair amount of design, deliberation and negotiation has gone into it, ultimately finalized through a democratic majority vote at a recent farewell bbq.

We rather like them and believe it fits well for riders in Atyrau: it attempts to reflect  power, dusty steppes, robustness, AtyrauOutdoors and Atyrau emblems and the Kazakh colors.

We are ready to place orders.

Cycling kit will be ordered with the company Owayo, who have been helpful as usual. The order will use sport-cut grade materials. On previous occasions a pro-grade cut was used and was received with mixed very emotions, which is why we will not order that cut.

Remember AtyrauOutdoors is neither commercial, nor a proper organization. It is simply made up of just a bunch of enthusiastic riders bound by the same passion.

These are the ordering rules:

  • The design will not adjusted or individualized.
  • The outfits will be delivered to Atyrau and will not include attempts to deliver globally.
    If you live outside Atyrau and have an interest, you will have to organize delivery through someone that you know in the AtyrauOutdoors community.
  • No upfront payment received by date mentioned below means no order will be placed for you.

The exact pricing depends on your commitment to order. As we order more items prices will come down significantly. It is expected that a set of jersey and short will cost 100 Eur or less. For each tranche of 5 more the price of jersey or shorts goes down 10 Eur, see Owayo’s pricing scheme for Jersey and Short.

This is how we intend to process the order:

  1. Identify your desired sizes, using the sizing charts
    1. Sizing chart for Jersey
    2. Sizing chart for Short
  2. No later than Monday 30 May:
    Send an email to  <Casper.Blom[at]>. Mention:
    Your name
    Jersey size and quantity
    Short size and quantity
    You will receive a confirmation email of your order together with payment instructions.
  3. No later than Friday 4 June:
    Commit your individual order by ensuring that the total payment value is paid as per the instructions.
  4. Around the middle of June:
    Expect to have your order in Atyrau for pickup by you.
    Detailed timings to follow. Yet we target this so that those who depart this summer may still obtain their sets.



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May 25 2016

Sunday Smell the Flowers ride and BBQ

On behalf of Jeff Toxey:

Sunday 29May AtyrauOutdoors will be offering a season opening Smell the Flowers steppe ride for people who are interested in a more leisurely pace.  Ride start is 8:00AM.  We will then gather at Zhety Kazyna for drinks, stories and a BBQ lunch.  Target time for BBQ is 12:00 noon.

The food will be Bring Your Own although ZK has a restaurant where you can order pizza, shashliks etc or opt for the Sunday brunch buffet.  If you want to avoid the riding and just come out to meet the group and maybe bring your bike by for a look-see by one of our battlefield mechanics you can do that as well.

Ride start time is 8AM at the TCO Dostyk residences front gate OR you may join the group from ZK at 8AM as well. HELMET REQUIRED!!!  If you don’t have one we may be able to provide one.
The route from Dostyk will consist of a short 10min road section to the small bridge over the canal where the evening rides start.  The ZK group will go straight to the bridge and wait for the full group to join.
Once there the track takes you along the canal out in to the steppe near the airport.  You will get to ride out to the famous Levee Junction.  Options from there abound:
  • You can head straight back for the shortest option – 16kms
  • You can ride ahead out to Zen Pond and back – 26kms
  • Option directly to Horse Bath and back – 22kms
  • The Zen Pond Horse Bath loop and back – 28kms
  • Full Zen Pond, Horse Bath and Desert Highway loop with a levee return – 34kms
The steppe is alive with vegetation from all of the recent rains.  This also means mosquitoes!  By going early we hope to avoid the heat of the day as temps are expected to reach 33-35C by midday.
Herds of horses and camels – these are out constant companions on the steppe.  Sometimes seen closer to town (before Levee Junction) but more often seen at Zen Pond, Horse Bath or both.
Flowers – usually of the sage variety but other flowers have been seen so make sure you bring a camera.
Birds – always out with some varieties.  If you are a birder we welcome identification of some types.
Landscape – it’s flat but you get out beyond the city limits and start to see the wildness of the area pretty quickly.  With the right sun and camera you can get some good landscape photos.
Route mapping – bring a GPS or download a tracking app on your phone and you can map the route to start going out on your own.
  • Heat/Sun – dress in light clothing, apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
  • Bugs – bring along and use bug spray
Ride leaders will scout the following hazards and help you through or around them:
  • Ruts – sections of the tracks have been rutted by cars making riding tough for inexperienced cyclists.  Dismount and walk through rutted sections but be quick, mosquitoes are watching!!!
  • Mud – puddles might still exist and make sections muddy.  Walk or ride around them.
  • Sand – some soft spots might cause problems.  Ride straight and don’t turn in sandy bits.  Dismount and walk the section to hard ground.
  • Trash – usually closer to town but there can be wire, bottles, wood and other debris which can cause punctures or wreck gears.
Ride leaders will also assist with minor repairs but make sure your bike is in good working order, brakes function, tires inflated and bring spare tubes.

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Apr 16 2016

Spring fever or … arduous slog ?!

Options.  That’s how you handle 22 people showing up all at once.  The weather threatened to be perfect on Saturday and awful on Sunday.  Get two days of riding in on one day, no problem.  Just pick your distance.
The obligatory pre-ride photo for search and rescue documentation along with a brief description of the route options and etiquette was handled by Intrepid Reporter.  A ladies group formed up and was led from the back by Intrepid Pit Master.  40kms out to Levee Junction and back to ZK for refreshing adult malted beverages.  Intrepid Pit Master attempts to slow everyone down with BBQ on Sunday.
The more stable Alphabet Groups headed south with a brisk tailwind to the Bus Stop and a brief assessment of the mechanical challenges of The Dutch BrokenBallen and Water Flea.  Better judgement failed to surface and everyone continued on towards Pete’s Villa.  Winds from the north picked up and caused the peloton to string out quite a bit heading in to Levee Junction.  A lead group broke away heading for Mt Atyrau while the remainder discussed the shorter options.  A final decision on Horse Bath, Zen Pond and return was the route plan.  Near beer gravity kicked in and drew the group in.
The distance team arrived at Horse Bath and came upon a substantial herd of local equines being guided by a cousin of Mr Lada.  The ensuing track saw the alternate herding of horses, cyclists and Mr Lada Cousin, depending on who was where and the quality of the track.
Mt Atyrau provided the perfect vantage point to make good and bad decisions.  A small group decided to take advantage of the northerly winds to sail towards home assisted by the breeze.  The final distance survivors headed further north to attempt Pipeline or even Almaly.  The weather decided to play a bit of a trick and push the group easily further north and then switch to a west directed crosswind.  The Northern Dog trail did not disappoint and many canine friends came out with a full welcome.  A brief stop to fuel up and the final push to the highway against the wind.
Better judgement was again in danger of disappearing with the highway decision to push onwards to Almaly or return via Pipeline Track.  Ominous clouds seemed to taunt the riders and a final resurgence of good judgement broke through the fog of tired legs to clarify the track…Pipeline!  The group set off drawn by the strong beer gravity towards town.  Fueled by shot blocks, peanut butter and a dwindling supply of water the group made it to the train tracks for a short rest and then the last bits of tarmac to their respective watering holes.  A large group had gathered at ZK for tales of the ride as the heavens opened up for the long promised drenching of the trails.  Safely tucked inside the group engaged in double, triple and even a few quadruple entendres to keep the mood jovial.  A late arrival of potential new recruits were engaged in a marketing pitch by Intrepid “Can I have a third one for the road” Recruiter.  A good time was had by all knowing the chances of a repeat performance in the mud bog of Sunday was not in the cards.  Stock up on BBQ, enjoy your evening plans and have a proper lay in on Sunday.  The rides will pick up again when the dry tracks return.

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Apr 09 2016

From under the rocks …

Emerged a very significant number of bike riding trolls this morning. After just too many indoors caveman rides the weather gods decided it was time to show some good ol’ Atyrau weather: A cold sun and crisp blue sky put smiles on our faces at the Old satelite dish in River Club at the start of the ride.

This resulted in 19 folk showing up and eager and ready to roll. Some new faces, some not so new faces.

It was decided to ride over the road to Yerkingala and do Pete’s villa loop, and then upon return to Levee Junction a small addition of the usual Zen Pond – Horse bath could be considered for those who still felt good at that moment.

We managed to keep the large group very nicely together, and even deliberately split the group on the road section in order to minimize too much car intimacy.

A lot of very positive vides were among all, so at the end beers were well deserved and consumed at ZK.

A lovely day out there in all!


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Apr 08 2016

Useful biking skills for the Atyrau Steppe

Atyrau steppe biking is technically uninteresting.
Atyrau steppe biking is like road biking, just without the tarmac.
Atyrau steppe biking presents no technical challenges.

Yes – it has all been heard.

So what riding skills does a good biker require to get around with confidence in the steppe?

That is what this blog tries to cover a little.

Looking technique

Focal vision versus ambient vision. This is about being deliberate in looking far enough ahead, spotting object/obstacles (or features?) far ahead with focal vision, and letting ambient vision take over as you near them and the brain has already processed the information on the object.

BikeRadar has a nice story on this.
In Atyrau the terrain is generally featureless so we easily tend to forget about this. Therefor even more so than in more varied terrain elsewhere, riders can benefit greatly from applying good vision on the track.

The trick is to deliberately remind yourself upfront of a ride to think about looking technique, as it seems soo obvious.

This makes the single most important aspect to master when riding in the steppe or anywhere else.

Rider position

Bike radar has a nice, yet general article about rider position.

What follows here is the same, but a bit more specifically elaborated towards the Kazakh steppe.

Straight arms vs. bent arms

Most of us tend to ride the steppe as if we are on the road, simply because we think we can permit ourselves this, featureless as the steppe may seem.

That means that most feel comfortable with keeping their arms stretched, and leaning with quite a bit of weight on them, as we would happily do on the road.

When the soil suddenly changes ahead of us and turns to a patch of soft sand, this is the single biggest cause for the infamous endo’s (end over end), that we very regularly witness on our steppe rides.

Why does this happen? Well, our bodies are the best suspension technology on the bike. It is not the bike suspension or tyre pressure. The combination of a perhaps poorly tuned front fork and a locked-out fully straightened set of arms, causes the sudden move of the frontwheel to be passed on to the rider. When the rider is too static and has much weigth on the front, and when the rear wheel hits the soft sand the bike will simply “kick back” and throw you over the handle bars!

What to do about this? Simply ensure that at all times, your arms are not locked out and are slightly bent, either sideways or downwards. This will ensure that any bumps of the bike can be absorbed by your arms and do not get propagated to the core section of the body, causing it to wobble, or worse, fly!

Thumbs over instead of under handlebars

For most riders this is a no-brainer: Most grip the handlebars by pinching with the thumbs under the handlebars. No doing so dramatically decreases control over the bars in case of bumpiness and will consequentially dramatically increase chances of crashing.

Saddle height: legs at-ease

The amount of stretching one leg when turning a pedal is heavily subjective: What is comfortable for one person, may be totally unridable for another.

The general starting point is to position a leg with the heel of a foot on the pedal with the pedal at the lowest end and not to have the knee fully stretched.

Overstretching can cause serious long-term injuries on ligaments and tendons for example.

Braking technique

Know your brakes! Know how much pressure to apply to brake a lot or a little. Sounds like an open door? Don’t be surprised by the amount of people that don’t know and have never tested the stopping power of their brakes. And when needed, have bad consequences, such as endo’s or folded front wheels. This happens in Atyrau.

Single finger braking

In All terrain biking in close groups together, it is crucial to be able to brake quickly. This means get comfortable with the habit of always have fingers on the front- and rear brake levers. This saves you crucial time trying to avoid bumping into someone who is struggling closely in front of you.

A nice article on the fundamentals of braking is available.

Dealing with soft sand

Soft sand is most often considered as an obstacle, rather than a feature making the otherwise less feature-full steppe terrain more interesting!

The following approach works generally well and avoids being taken by surprise.

Patches of soft sand in the steppe around Atyrau generally are not very long. When you observe a patch of soft sand try to identify where the end of the soft patch is; it helps you to gauge the scale of the additional effort required.
Then before you enter the soft sand switch to a lower gear and increase your pedaling cadence.

Upon entry of the soft sand, relax and make yourself light by lifting your rear slightly off the saddle and make sure you have your weight distribute evenly and that you do not have too much weight on the front.

This mode of ‘attack’ will make it significantly easier to get through the soft sand.

Alternatively, get yourself a fat bike and ignore the surface under your wheels! On the flipside do not expect to ever exceed speeds of 30 km/h!

Group riding in the steppe

This combines the requirement of looking ahead properly and being ready to brake at all times.

When riding in a larger group in the steppe, it may feel like riding in a small peloton. Especially when the wind is helping us (not, is it ever?) we tend to want to ride close together. How should we be doing this properly?

Firstly, look ahead. Don’t like at the back wheel of the rider in front of you, rather try to look ‘through’ the rider in front of you, even if you don’t have an unobstructed view.

Be ready to break if you are closely behind the rider in front of you. See ‘Single finger braking’ suggestion.


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