Jul 13 2016

“Old” Aerial photo of one of AO’s favourite places

An old aerial photograph of Horses bath taken back in 2011 by one of our former riding members during a maintenance flight.

The area looks quite different this current season!

Aerial photo of Horses Bath taken in 2011 during maintenance flight.

Aerial photo of Horses Bath taken in 2011 during maintenance flight.

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Jun 28 2016

Far, far away and recovery

Calm winds, mild temperatures, fresh legs and a desire to explore some new terrain…  This was the mix that came together this weekend to push further than had been attempted in quite some time.  Satellite image work had revealed the possibility of a prize beyond Karatyu Lake.  White cliffs, rolling terrain and several structures near the end of the known Atyrau universe.  A group set off on the most direct route to minimize thinking and maximize time to stop, take photos and make mistakes before time got away from us.

Nine riders made it out to Karatyu Lake when two decided the “about 80kms total-ish” comment and past experience told them this might not end well.  The rest gathered up and headed out with plenty of water and food to brave the desolate unknown.

Navigation went well for most of the ride.  The junction to drop off the old shoreline was reached and we searched for the White Cliffs.  Very obvious on satellite images, very subtle on the ground.  Not as impressive as we hoped but the track was good so we pressed on.  A small navigational error resulted in one of the most interesting stops of the day.  A large camel had decided to take a quick rest from which it would never return.  Dubbed Dead Camel Mountain we found it partially eaten and relaxing near an old shell-hash beach.  Dead Camel Beach served as a nice stop for a turnaround and reestablishing the plotted track.

Dead Camel Mt

Dead Camel Mt

Near the end of the exploration limits we came upon a berm with a dugout cellar and mud brick walls on a concrete base.  A few photos and suggested names kept us occupied long enough to fuel up and head back.

Farthest NW point. Toxey Cabana

Farthest NW point. Toxey Cabana

Not merely content to find one new peak but another navigational opportunity led us to the real find of the day.  Mt Everest!  A lone massif on the steppes with white capped peaks and a prominant face we all donned oxygen and attempted the summit.  A few seconds later we were successful!  The greatest natural topography conquered we decided to call it a day and head back to town.  Total of 85kms give or take depending on when you started your GPS and we were back to finish strong!

Summit of Mt Everest

Summit of Mt Everest


Recovery

Such a long eventful day of riding took most of our energy and left us longing for the simpler days.  A new rider joined us to mercifully give us an excuse to take it easy.  Thanks to Graeme for his kindness and we look forward to many more days on the bike.  We did reward him with a summit on Mt Fuji for his trouble.  Shoes optional!

Shoeless on Mt Fuji

Shoeless on Mt Fuji

 

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Jun 27 2016

Ride of Dead Things and more exploring

Transitions…we all go through them.  This time of year is especially full of them with the conclusion of school, the changing of the season from pleasant to hot and the loss of foundational riders.  Some have been here for years and some for a few short weeks but all have their impact.  We said goodbye to Mark on his final ride this Saturday.  His one request, to rob graves!  Actually, to go out to The Boneyard and secure one of the coveted skulls which seem to be concentrated in this location.  The dead fish on the riverwalk did not bode well for the rest of the day…

Our first challenge was a new set of actual tracks put down by the train company.  That route will have to be updated since it is now in danger of being a giant game of Frogger.  Our second challenge was Mr Mechanical having another epic day of drivetrain problems.  Executing a swift repair while the horseflies gorged themselves with several pounds of cycling flesh the group moved on along The Wetlands track.  Boneyard was reached but covered with brush so our riders had to search for a good specimen.  A few quick negotiations with other “skull holders” and the group set off never to speak of what transpired on the steppes.  The lead cyclists saw two live foxes on the open landscape while the following pack merely noticed the lone deceased fox on the dirt road.  Our third “dead thing” on the ride.

Never content to make things too easy the group headed for The Hole with a Bridge Around It crossing and turned once again into the Salad Alley of high brush, horseflies and mosquitoes.  Great motivation to keep moving!  Another exhausting finish on a hot day with refreshments and another rider sent off properly!

Ride of Dead Things group

Ride of Dead Things group

New tracks...literally!

New tracks…literally!

Tomb Raiders

Tomb Raiders


A new lake!

The exploration bug got us again as we set off for a new lake identified from satellite images.  Dubbed Karatyu Lake on the maps of the area we took off from Zhax Fall with The Man himself!  A quick stop to summit Mt Fuji, check out an old Caspian shoreline, name Fatbike Gully and finally the lake.  A quick ride back to Zen Pond and a new area had been opened for further exploration west of town.

Summit of Mt Fuji

Summit of Mt Fuji

Fat bike Gully

Fat Bike Gully

Karatyu Lake

Karatyu Lake

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Jun 26 2016

First century and breaking new ground

“The next horizon over…”  The drive to explore, to test limits and push beyond the known.  This is what drives many of us to get on the bike and ride.  Sure, there is a fitness component but the real joy is discovering new tracks and sometimes discovering more about what used to be old tracks.  The seasons, the riders and the bikes have changed but that drive to explore has remained constant.  With that I present to you a series of ride reports to catch you up on what you have missed and the opportunities that await your next ride.


Season first century

A group set off on a Saturday ride with several new riders in attendance.  Cliff’s Lake was the target with a small band going for the psychologically important 100km mark from there.  High water along the Ural brought debris on to the tracks and caused a few flats.  2 riders bailed early while the rest carried on.  Cliff’s Lake was nice and full for photos and the group split off with the majority returning and a band of 5 heading off on Banana Peel (Atyrau Outdoors 2015 Centurion).  All went smooth until the levee track on the southern end where the rain soaked steppe had blossomed into a jungle of high grass and general “salad” conditions.  A few bug bites and pulling plants out of rear cassettes and we were back to the origin for some well deserved refreshments.

Cliff's Lake / Banana Peel Fruit Salad group

Cliff’s Lake / Banana Peel Fruit Salad group


New bikes on old tracks

You may have noticed some of our regular riders getting smaller, or is it their bikes are getting fatter?  Yes, the fat bike craze sweeping the cycling world has landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan.  Started by a rogue import from the northern reaches the utility of the fat tire platform (5″ wide tires!) was soon recognized.  Paired with studs it can plow over snow covered ice with no loss of control, float over snow drifts and sand traps and ride down stairs like they’re not even there.  However, put them on a road or a nicely “pressed track” and they can hold even the fittest riders back from the “pizza cutter” pack.

It was upon these steeds that the Sea of Sand which has gobbled up lesser bikes was conquered along with some new exploration tracks opened up one fine Sunday.  A team of three set off on a short recovery ride after the season first Banana Peel Fruit Salad century took place.  The fatties plowed over brush covered track and floated over the sand to the distant Mt Kilimanjaro.  Mosquitoes swarmed and drove the explorers back to the safety of the desolate sand plain.  Tracking back over known terrain the explorers finished strong at ZK and enjoyed the tales of their new alternative tracks dubbed The Lada Brick Road.

Sea of Sand

Sea of Sand

Double-wide bridge

Double-wide bridge

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Status update

The Atyrau Outdoors Grand Council has decreed the start times for this weekend of 25-26 Jun shall be 7AM.  They have also decreed the start locations shall remain the same.

UK citizens will have to negotiate their own start times and locations from henceforth #Brexit…
Cheers,
Grand Council Spokesperson
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