When I decide to explore a country by motorcycle, I usually search for a good motorcycle rental on the Internet and make a reservation. I then research the places I want to visit and plot a route on my GPS. After landing in the country I simply show up at the rental, pick up my motorcycle, strap my GPS to the handlebar and start my adventure. I’ve done this many times in the US, a couple of times in Europe and once in Sri Lanka. I had initially planned to do the same in Mongolia as well. But the more I researched the country, the more I realized that using a professional tour company would be a better idea instead of doing this on my own.
The thing about Mongolia is most of the interesting stuff is not anywhere near a highway. You need to go off road and that’s where things start to get a little tricky. There are no signs anywhere and the tracks split often. They criss-cross across the landscape and if someone doesn’t like a track for some reason he goes ahead and makes his own since it’s just grasslands or desert everywhere. It’s basically a large web of tracks spread across small hills and large valleys. Very easy to get lost and go around in circles.
In fact, our lead rider, a Mongolian who has been riding these areas for decades got lost a few times. He was in constant radio contact with the tour leader in one of the backup vehicles tailing us. The tour leader used his GPS and experience to correct the lead rider’s course a few times.
If you want to stick to the highways then you don’t need to use a tour company. There aren’t many highways in Mongolia anyways. They all radiate out from the capital city Ulaanbataar and there is one that cuts across the country from east to west. So if you want to say that you rode through Mongolia, it’s just a matter of starting at one end, pointing your headlight towards the other end and keeping the throttle twisted. No need for GPS. No need for directions. Just go straight. There are fuel stations at every major village along this highway and places to stay as well.
But I wanted to experience the real Mongolia and ride a dual sport motorcycle across the beautiful countryside. I had a limited amount of time and needed to spend it experiencing the country and its people instead of using sign language with nomads to get myself out of a lost situation multiple times a day.
After some research I picked a company called Off The Map Tours and joined their tour to the Great White Lake and Khorgo Volcano. There were other tour operators, but none of them were offering the KTM 450 EXC, a motorcycle that I’ve dreamed of riding for a very long time. And what better place to do that than Mongolia. Their fleet of KTM’s are well maintained and the company is very professional. Absolutely nothing to complain about. Highly recommended.