Out towards Yekaterinburg. Trying to make peace with the bike. Already calculating how many times I might have to start the bitch over the rest of the trip. Giving up or turning round isn’t an option. Death or glory…shit or bust. I’ll keep it running as much as possible and just see what happens. It’s nothing I can fix easily out here anyway. If it’s the starter then it’s a fuck of a job involving wiggling the engine within the frame to get access .. yes really .. I was quoted £1200 by a dealer … and if it’s something else then I’m going to need some specialist tools, some fairy dust and three wishes from a KTM genie. I tried bump starting it out of a petrol station but the slipper clutch wont let the rear wheel lock. I’m not going to able to bump it myself for sure.
I take to the fields for a moment to distract myself and look for a suitable ditch to burn the bitch in..
I decide she can live just a little bit longer, as long as she can get me to a nice truck stop for a random assortment of culinary delights… so she does .. proper food at last. A sea of beige .. just the way I like it …
I’m scooting along on my own and get to Yekaterinburg early. Arrive at the hotel… and … eh … you can almost smell the turd polish .. Some creepy bloke you wouldn’t let in the same county as your daughter, with swarms of flies under each armpit comes running out and tells me the parking out here in this quiet and secluded dead end road by the building site is perfectly safe as there is a security camera about 500m up the road that is turned on between 10-11pm almost every evening. He then directs me through some blast proof intruder doors, down some steps that have obviously been donated from a number of separate buildings into a corridor of rooms that will at some point appear feature on the Discovery Channel’s ‘Worlds worse serial killer’ episodes. The place stinks for a start, and the rooms look like people have screamed a lot in them, and probably lost a lot of blood… and teeth .. and other body parts used for going to the toilet .. It just looks and feels like the Grim Reaper is a regular here. He’s obviously purchased a fuck off tin of Turd Polish and used it on his Booking.com entry as this place bears little resemblance . Always be wary when a listing shows a lot of the local area and not much else… I know… I just know for an absolute fact that my buddies will not get within sniffing distance of the creepy fuckwit before turning round and buggering off up the road so I go and hunt for a replacement. I just need some fuel first. So I go to the nearest station … its a bloody automatic one .. it’s going to be a nightmare … but for some reason I park and just wait … something seems to be interfering with my ‘bovvered-ometer’…
After about 10 minutes the interference clears and my ‘bovvered-ometer’ suddenly registers 100% and I have to leave before I put an Alpinestar sized hole in the screen .. Go and find more fuel and a hotel then get back to the hotel just as my mates arrive. “Novotel anyone?”
Yekaterinburg is a big place and has the highest building between Moscow and Vladivostok. 55 floors so up we go for a gander.
We head out early towards Tyumen. The Ural motorcycle museum is at Irbit and we were going to try and take a look. Internet says ‘closed on Monday’ .. guess what today is .. bollocks .. we’ll go and take a look anyway and see what gives.
Not so busy today… getting less and less as we go further and further east..
Dive into any little village .. people just getting on with it ..
Get to Irbit but can’t find the museum.. probably because it’s closed .. Google maps apparently thinks it’s inside a stationery shop.. or possibly right next to a prison … so ask a taxi driver and follow him out of town to a little courtyard.. down a little alley .. through a little door .. and it’s closed. Bugger. I give the door a good rattle but it’s locked. I turn around to leave and the door suddenly opens and a little bearded bloke starts chatting away. I think he’s been asleep for the last 2 months and has been awakened by the KTM bouncing it’s booms in the alley. After a bit of a chat he invites us in. Result! I’m not really into old bikes but it’s quite an interesting little place none the less. This little bloke is the museum director Alexander Bulanov. He’s a bit of a hero! He’s a decorated Ural motorcycle champion and also has some Guinness world records including covering 25506 kilometers in 440 hours (with his mate Konstantin Matveev) without stopping the bike. He had a big sidecar accident and now walks with a limp and a stick. Nice bloke, gave us free rein and let us just wander about sitting on the bikes and taking pictures.
Then a few hours of this ..
into Tyumen and .. officially .. Siberia. Siberia is BIG. In fact it’s fucking HUUUUGE The UK would fit into Siberia 62 times. It’s 1.3 times the size of the USA. And that’s just Siberia, not the whole of Russia. Tyumen is just another big city. Another spot on the dot to dot line across this truly massive country.
Go out for dinner and happen upon a club so in we go.. Walk in and we’re confronted by a clutch of young women that have been carefully poured into very tight, very low cut dresses. They’ve been filled right up to the very brim … one false move and they’re going to spill something … something pink probably … best be careful then… I do like pink though ..
Looks like the club can cater for about 500 but I think they’ve had a few cancellations… like maybe 495 .. There is a live band playing and they’re really good. Playing to an empty dance floor for an hour can’t be much fun but they do a good job.
Get out the city towards Omsk and it’s really starting to thin out.. nothing wrong with that. Lots of miles between fuel… never ending fields of wheat sunbathing in 30 degrees… welcome to Siberia..
The road follows the Trans Siberian railway, sometimes loosely and sometimes, like today, runs alongside for long periods. We crisscross it regularly and often just run alongside the trains as they lumber their way back and forth. We plan to be on that train in a few weeks, retracing all these miles back to Moscow.
Not so bad eh? Beautiful weather and miles and miles and miles of nothing but fields and trees. A song in my head, the KTM just purring towards the horizon. Friends… food … fun… The minute I leave on these trips someone goes round in my head and shuts all the doors to my life at home. Work … shut…. bills … shut … that leaking gutter … shut … now is all that matters.
More roadworks.. more pissed up Russians on their phones. These ones were out their car with a permanent marker defacing the bitch before I knew what was happening. I let them get on with it… fucking bike is getting on my tits … sometimes going a day without a problem, then squealing like a horse that’s been kicked in the knackers all day long. Bitch!
Riders .. make your pillions dismount … obviously!
Get to Omsk and a creepy hotel I’m convinced from the moment I walk in is haunted. My Aussie mate’s wife feels it too. She has a quiet word and convinces it to move on so I can get some sleep..Next morning, breakfast is bought to us by the colour green.. Truth be told I much prefer these ‘what the fuck is this?’ places to the cookie-cutter ‘where the fuck am I’ hotels.
Next dot on the map is Novosibirsk where we’re going to hole up for a couple of days and fettle the bikes… or use mine for RPG target practice… It’s been OK last couple of days… not a squeak ..bastard!
Siberia… flat…. flat and more flat .. the scale of the place is almost frightening though.
But it’s another beautiful day, and it’s another great ride on the Trans Siberian highway …
In all the big cities we get to the traffic is obviously growing faster than the road systems. It’s a crawl if you’re lucky, and it’s gridlock if you’re not. The crawling starts miles of the city and gets tighter and tighter. It’s hot.. we’re hot .. the bikes are hot… tempers are hot.. we get to the big bridge over the river and there are 4 … yes count them … 4 separate accidents within 1km or so. One involves a motorbike that’s laying horizontal across the road. Others are just rear-enders. Novosibirsk traffic is a prize fucking bitch and by the time we get to the hotel in the centre my balls are glowing red and my legs are cooked ready to carve.. Nice view though, right overlooking the station and our friends the Trans Siberian trains. I’ll be back here soon enough ..
Novosibirsk is a major city along this route and has a lot of the big dealers. We ride past Honda, Triumph, and Suzuki dealers on the way in … no KTM though .. and the Aussies have had tyres sent to the BMW dealer so we head off up to see they will allow a KTM to darken their workshop. Big and shiny showroom just like anywhere else on the planet, with the bikes tucked in a corner. He reckons they sell about 30 bikes a year. Not many, but as he says, in a month’s time it will be -30 degrees out here .. OK then.. The BMW oil doesn’t specify the necessary MA2 tag so rather than take the risk, my Honda mate and I spend an hour in the metal melee working our way across town to the Honda/Triumph dealer. Really nice bloke, Alex, and speaks good English. He’s got room so we get the oil changed, drink coffee, and look at the view..
I don’t think they do pipes LOUD enough for me …
I’m sitting drinking coffee … I hear a long loud squeal… has someone trapped a young stallion in the workshop? My heart sinks… then I hear the bike start. Fucky tits shit bugger and bollocky wank.. The bike has been squealing but starting up to now… this time it just span and didn’t start… KTM really should offer psychiatric care packages the way these fucking bikes mess with your head… I go and boil the bitch in 10 miles of hot, shit, slow and smelly traffic as punishment…
Back to the hotel. I press a button for a lift .. a light comes on … the door opens and a man in a hard hat steps out .. of the top of a lift ..
I think the Russian state hackers have been practicing on these lifts. The fucking things have gone into meltdown. Press to go down.. it goes up … press to go down again … it goes down a bit .. then it goes back up .. press to go up … it goes down. We’re on the high floors so we can’t use the stairs all the time .. just trying to go up to your room to get something can mean a 10 minute up..down..down..up…down.. up.. BINGO .. to get to your floor… then back to the lift to fight your way down. Something that should take 5 minutes easily takes 20. I missed breakfast this morning so tonight I’m going to drag my mattress in and camp out in the lift to make sure I get fed.
We take a wander across the square to the station for a look. They’re really ornate places, just like the underground.
I really enjoy being in Russia and I really like this place. Lots of really good memories and a feeling of being properly immersed. I could spend a few days here .. wandering about … riding the lifts ..
Russia .. the only country where the green-cross-men are hung like horses…
I threw the thigh chaff-ometer away … I’ve switched to visual …
And … see my theory about aliens … they’re really integrating into society out here … this bloke even married one .. or maybe she did … it’s difficult to tell..
Go to start….start …. START … START YOU FUCKING BITCH OR I AM GOING TO GET THE GREEN CROSS CODE MAN TO STICK HIS MASSIVE DICK RIGHT UP YOUR CHUFF ….. That does it…
The bike only starts on the 4th try. That’s a bit worrying… in the same way that finding a huge stinking oozing green pussy lump on your cock would be worrying … BITCH. I’m properly in the middle of nowhere now this could be an enormous pain in the backside .. in the same way that having the green-cross man … you get the picture..
Fuck it… let’s just go…
Get out of the city and the main road is closed for a cycle race. The diversions aren’t obvious and a kind bloke toots and stops me when he sees I’m going in the wrong direction. Either that or he is directing me towards Austria as he can see I’m on a KTM and just assumes, quite rightly, that it’s in the middle of a breakdown…
For all my bravado .. my ‘shit or bust, death or glory’ attitude… I can’t stop worrying about this starting problem. Riding out of Novosibirsk feels like we’re leaving the last chance saloon. The last really big city. The last place I might possibly get this diagnosed and/or fixed. I’m so lost in thought … that I don’t see the police car following me … overtaking on solid while lines … their absolute favorite reason for …. here we go .. lights on .. pull over … wallet to emergency. I’ll just put my sunglasses on the ground here so I forget to pick them up and they get driven over by the policeman as he leaves .. that would make this day a lot better.
Here we go. I know what I’ve done. He knows I know what I’ve done. It’s just a matter of time and money. He sits there repeating himself and drawing pictures. I sit there working out my starting bid. I open my wallet… offer him 1000 rubles. He just starts laughing. Wrong move Ivan.. so I slowly just put the note back in the wallet. Put the wallet in my jacket. Zip up my jacket. Zip up my coat. Put my hands in my lap, and wait. After a surprisingly short pause, he blinks first and tells me to put the note under the dash out the way of the camera as usual and I’m on my way…
Get to the next petrol station and the bike is fucking about again. I look at the road. Left out into the wilderness. Right .. 90 minutes back into Novosibirsk. I don’t know exactly what the problem is. There is a 0.00001% chance it’s the battery, and a 99.9999% chance it’s the starter/sprag clutch. I just need to do something. Just to get some confirmation from a mechanic. Right it is then, 90 minutes … 2 and a half hours back into Novosibirsk to the Honda dealers to have a word with Alex. I get there, fucked and hot after fighting the traffic across the city. Alex has a replacement battery, but he gets the mechanic out and I think he knows what I’m going to ask before I even press the button. ‘Starter’ he says. Fuck… I was really really really hoping it was the battery .. So that’s that. Decision made. I’m going to ride into the wilderness on a wing and a prayer. What will be will be. Next decision… BAM.. that’s looking like it would be a very stupid decision indeed ..Next – And on and on
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