Bikepacking the Mongolian Steppe

A while ago my friend Daniel Molloy called from Oakland and asked if I wanted join him for a bikepacking trip in Mongolia. "Why Mongolia? " I asked him. "Because it's really out there and seems like a hell of an adventure."  He left me no choice.

Daniel was in the middle of producing his first batch of prototype Tumbleweed frames which he and two other riders, Aaron Glick and Cass Gilbert, were planning to try out in Mongolia. The Tumbleweed is a fat adventure bike, so it can take up to 26x4" tires, which Daniel and Cass were using, or 27.5x3.25" tires which Aaron was going to run. With tires like that I knew they were going to be aiming for remote dirt and sandy tracks with some off-piste routes through the Mongolian countryside. Fat or plus sized tires seemed like the perfect tire for truly getting out there (and I wanted to keep up with the other guys :-)

I've been wanting a Surly Krampus for years and this was the excuse to spring for it. I liked the 29x3" size because I ride larger bikes and enjoy pushing around larger wheels. The Krampus also takes standard mountain bike cranks and uses symmetrical wheels, unlike every fat bike out there (except the Tumbleweed). So I could have a narrow Q-factor, have a plus sized bike and not totally obliterate my bank account because, well, Surly's are a deal for what you get. 

To prepare for the trip I added triple water bottle mounts to the underside of the downtube and the back each fork leg in order to attach Salsa Anything Cages. Rack eyelets were attached to the fork and the rear triangle. I made a water tree rack for the fork, where I could put four bottles on the front and two on the back, allowing me to carry 4.4 liters of water on my fork. With the Anything Cage on the underside of my downtube I carried a 1.9 liter Kleen Kantine bottle, so in total I could carry 6.3 liters of water with a low center of gravity and without taking up space in my bags. Attached to a home made rear rack were a set of Porcelain Rocket Micro Panniers and a 20 liter dry bag, giving me 40 liters of carrying capacity for a cookset, camera gear, clothing and a Hilleberg tent. The Revelate frame bag was used for heavy stuff like food, tools and tubes. On the front of the Jones H-Bar was a Porcelain Rocket MCA that carried lighter things like an Enlightened Equipment quilt, sleeping pad and down jacket. Inside the cockpit a Porcelain Rocket DSLR slinger held my video rig and a Revelate feed bag for snacks. My hoops consisted of a Rohloff Speedhub in the back and a Son28 dynamo in front to charge up a battery pack via a Sinewave Revolution.  

My main form of documentation was capturing video with a Panasonic GH3. I'm in the middle of editing the footage and will shortly have a film up on my Vimeo page. But for the purpose having photographs, I took an Olympus XA and a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film. Below are a few photos from the roll. 

If you want to take a look at some fantastic photos of the trip head over to Cass Gilbert's tumblr page, it's certainly worth a peek.