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.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.atyrauoutdoors.com/wordpress/?p=1979

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!


Permanent link to this article: http://www.atyrauoutdoors.com/wordpress/?p=1908

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.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.atyrauoutdoors.com/wordpress/?p=893

Apr 03 2016

Atyrau City social promotional ride

With pleasure we share the advertised social ride that announces the “opening” of the Atyrau Biking season
This municipality facilitated ride will take place on Saturday 16th April 2016 at 10:00 AM

Enjoy your riding!

Atyrau City social ride
This is a map of the planned route with start and finish locations.
.Atyrau City Social ride map

Permanent link to this article: http://www.atyrauoutdoors.com/wordpress/?p=1901

Mar 06 2016

A fresh ride to Lada Canyon

The puppies were out this morning on a good and fresh ride out in the steppe.
A long winter with sub-optimal outdoors riding possibilities lead to a very nice group of 8 riders all eager to get out proper at the start from Dostyk.

This very soon become 7 as one had mud-detection-calibration issues. Then 2 more bailed at Horses Bath for time restrictive reasons. The rest on to Zhaks Fall and back.

Verys soft conditions, yet on the pressed surface tracks all good and ridable.

On the way back we had some fun at “Lada canyon”.

Still highly humid (cold) air and soft soil and wet spots. Definitely ridable now.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.atyrauoutdoors.com/wordpress/?p=1878

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