Connecting east-to-west for centuries, the Silk Road has been enticing adventure motorcycle riders in ever increasing numbers in recent years.
The historic trading route passes through ‘The Stans’ of Central Asia, which offer challenging terrain mixed with excellent hospitality.
Running several successful trips from Europe to Asia, most recently from London to Tokyo, Kevin and Julia Sanders of GlobeBusters knowledge of the region is probably second-to-none in the motorcycle world.
In the recent April issue of RiDE, the husband and wife team laid out some key information for riders thinking of visiting Central Asia:
- What’s It Like To Visit?
The Silk Road crosses some of the world’s poorest countries, and it can be something of a culture shock. Russian is the common language is these predominantly Muslim countries, where meals often consist of meat on a stick, and alcohol is widely available. If you’re looking for nice hotels, this is probably not the place for you as home stays, camping and yurts are commonplace.
You’ll need to research your border crossings in advance, as some are not open to international travelers. Outside of capital cities, both infrastructure and medical facilities are basic, but the people are both generous and hospitable, with the ancient towns and stunning scenery more than worth the challenges.
- What’s It Like To Ride There?
Road conditions in Central Asia are both varied and challenging. From tight, twisty mountain switchbacks to mud, gravel and long, straight potholed roads. Watch out for camels, goats, and unpredictable traffic too. Temperatures can change dramatically, and you’ll be dealing with high altitude and weather extremes. Basic adventure bike maintenance knowledge is a must, and really the route suits people who have plenty of adventure and off-road riding miles under their belt.
With long distances between towns, you need to be prepared to carry provisions, including spare fuel. Outside of the main cities, there is little traffic, and what you do come across mainly consists of large, badly maintained lorries.
- Where Should You Ride?
The Silk Road crosses a vast area of land, but there are plenty of sites along the way, Among Kevin and Julia’s recommendations is the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan, also known as ‘The Door to Hell’. In Uzbekistan, you can follow in the tracks of Ghengis Khan to the ancient city of Khiva with it’s impressive mosques and minarets. For the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale, it’s also worth checking out Kazakhstan’s Charyn Canyon. If you’ve got a head for heights, then at 4,655m above sea-level, Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway is the second-highest international highway in the world.
- When Should You Go?
Kevin and Julia recommend visiting between May-June, or September-October.
- What Should You Ride?
If planning to use your own bike, you can air freight to either Almaty in Kazakhstan, or Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Rentals are available from silkoffroad.kz of Almaty from around $90 per day.
- What Documents Will You Need?
Your passport will need to be valid for at least six months beyond date of entry. Turkmenistan and Tajikistan require a Visa, plus a GBAO permit should you wish to ride the Pamir Highway. To enter Uzbekistan, you can obtain an e-visa. Don’t forget your UK driving licence and international driving permit, plus the original V5C for your own bike if applicable. If using your own bike, you will need to buy insurance at the border, plus have a personal travel and medical insurance policy which covers medical treatment and repatriation in case of injury.
With so many poorly maintained and dirt roads, GlobeBusters opt to fit our versatile TKC 70 rubber which offers excellent mileage along with a level of genuine off-road performance which is more than capable of tackling the challenges of the Silk Road as they push on eastward. If things really deteriorate, the venerable TKC 80 Twinduro is always on hand to get them through…
You can view the full Continental adventure tyre range here.