The weekend of August 14th 2021 was fully loaded with bikepacking races kicking off right across the globe, we are speaking to riders that are taking part, or those who have signed up to the events in the past, for their experiences and perspectives.
After speaking with regular ADVNTR contributor Marcus Nicolson as just before setting off on the Hungarian Divide we now talk with Vedangi Kulkarni on the Silk Road Mountain Race, a 1800km race through the stunning landscape of Kyrgyzstan.
Having toured the globe, how does your packing and setup Differ between this and race like SRMR?
The packing setup is usually a very personal choice, but the basics remain the same- what’s essential for a few days on the road is pretty similar to what you need for a few months on the road. The actual what-goes-where is where the personal style comes in. Some prefer having bike racks, some prefer having the more convenient Tailfin setup, and others prefer the standard saddle pack, frame pack, top tube pack, food pouches and handlebar pack with accessory pouch.
What can riders expect to encounter on the route? Both in terms of landscape and mentally.
Off road. Long. Tough. That’s as much as I can predict whilst sitting cosy in front of my laptop. The first bit would be hard on the body and a fair few days in, it would start getting hard on the mind. One thing that I remember feeling every time I’ve ridden across the country, though, and something that I’m sure those racing GBDURO will find themselves wondering at some point, is “am I north enough yet?”.
When it comes to events like this are you planning your race or going as you feel?
A little bit of both, I guess. Whilst having a plan and being disciplined about following it might seem obvious and important, it is important to remember that, at the end of the day, this is an adventure. The outcome and experiences along the way are unknown. So, having an open mind and listening to your body is what counts. More often than not, at least as far as a race like SRMR is concerned, it is a matter of survival than pure athleticism.
What has you taking on races like this, and where did the taste for long distance cycling start for you?
Heading out into the Himalayas for a short ride and realising that I can’t get enough of those mountains, and could definitely do with more of a challenge in terms of pushing myself, both physically and mentally a little bit further was how I ended up riding a route that goes across the high passes going across Indian Himalayas.
That was that. I was hooked. I then moved to the UK and was convinced that the only way I could ever make any connections with real people across this country and understand British culture would be by travelling slow, and far.
My motivation behind signing up for these races is usually to find out what my body and mind are capable of in the long haul. The simplicity of spending time away from the usual day to day life brings with it a great perspective into what’s “real” and what isn’t. It’s also nice to see if I can do better each time I hop on that bike (albeit not quite like a CX rider – more like, put my leg up and over😂).
I love surprising myself, and if it’s in a good way, Great. and if not, its a definite lesson to take home.
GBDURO has a level playing field almost with a 50/50 split between male and female riders on the start line. SRMR has only three women taking part, are you able to speculate why that might be?
I cannot explain how incredibly stoked I am for GBDURO‘s almost equal gender split in terms of participation! I think it helps that we’re all craving more opportunities to race and the fact that it is in the UK! You know, it’s home, and we’ve seen the beauty of the changing landscapes across the UK over the past few months. That’s gotta make you want to ride your bike across them to experience them at their fullest! As for SRMR, I think it’s the combination of cost of flights, COVID tests, and in some cases, quarantine requirements on return. I think this time around, it’s just been more of a hassle just to get to Kyrgyzstan. Next year, having had some interesting conversations with women who are planning on racing it then, we think it’s definitely possible to have a level playing field!
Thanks so much for your time, and really sorry to hear of the difficulties with making the line up this year, but how are you spending your time instead, and do you have any great routes you feel like sharing of your local area?
Next up for me is a bike ride from Helsinki to Nordkapp, coming up in September. I’ve been riding with my pals at New Forest Off Road Club during the weekends and riding around Cranborne Chase AONB or the Purbecks during the week days with a wild camp or two in between. I’m organising a downhill MTB race, happening this October, which has been keeping me busy as also.
As for some good routes head over to my Komoot for tonnes of great loops in and around the New Forest.
Portrait by – https://www.instagram.com/usmanovdanil/
Last modified: 17th August 2021