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  • Thomas Sweeney

2017: Jeep Trails of Western Kazakhstan

When I first started researching bicycle touring in Kazakhstan, I came across a blog that showed images of dirt roads and sand. I thought to myself, “That won’t be me. I’ll stick to the MAIN roads. Things didn't go as planned.


The first fifty miles in Kazakhstan were fine … And then the pavement disappeared. A harsh gravel underbelly emerged, pounding my bike and belongings and reducing my speed to six miles per hour. The pavement returned in sections, but disappeared again, leaving me worried about the remaining two-thousand miles of Kazakhstan.

On either side of the fragmented highway, scattered jeep trails emerged, cut by drivers trying to find a better route.

The jeep paths were smoother than the road, and I navigated the beautiful singletrack with relative ease. But with seventy pounds of gear on my narrow tires, I worried about the beating my wheels were taking.

It was impossible to stay in one line, as the tracks would crisscross with other tracks, and where one would fizzle out into a mess of mud and rocks another would appear. Several times I pushed my bike through areas of sand, the bottom of my bicycle rims disappearing beneath the brown crystals.

The weather remained cool and overcast. Small grasses swayed to the north and south, and droves of horses congregated around watering holes.


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