Thoughts On Riding The Mongolian Steppes

During the briefing the tour leader had warned us that the first day would be a long hard day of riding. We rode a total of 400 kms that day, out of which 300 kms was like the terrain in this picture. Although we could ride faster the lead rider restricted us 70 kmph. There was a very important reason for doing so and its something you need to keep in mind when riding through the steppes of Mongolia.

For the most part the tracks are straight and curve gently. So you can keep the throttle twisted and go flat out if you want. But the problem is that tracks intersect each other at all kinds of angles. If you are going fast its too late to brake and slow down before your front tyre rams into the deep corrugations of the intersecting track. Braking on loose gravel and sand isn’t going to be very effective anyways.

It’s better if the tracks intersect at 90 degrees. You get just enough time to stand up, put a death grip on the handlebar and brace for impact. But when the tracks intersect at angle other than 90 degrees the handlebar turns as it hits each corrugation and you really need to turn it back and keep it pointing straight. It you don’t you and the motorcycle are going to fly off in different directions.

This is also why you need a motorcycle that is suited for this terrain if you want to cover long distances in a day on these steppes. In all the seven days, I hammered the front of the KTM 450 EXC many times into corrugations at all kinds of speeds. But the front suspension didn’t bottom out even once. The long travel of the front shock absorbers is just what this terrain needs.