A few years back we had the idea of doing the 10,000-mile Mongol rally on Monkey Bikes – not the Honda ones, but 90cc Jenching replicas. With some friends, me and my brother Wayne put on bash plates, bigger oil coolers and stronger shocks, and went from 8in
to 10in wheels with Continental tyres.
So off we went to Hyde Park in London for the start, where 200 entrants were setting off. We had no support crew and very little budget (unlike them posh BMW Long Way Round people who never signed anything for our charity). To save weight we didn’t even have a tent.
On Saturday afternoon the horn blew and off we went. We knew we had to push it to catch the Eurotunnel but when we got out of London onto the motorway Wayne got stopped by the police. He had his Mr Incredible inflatable suit on so he couldn’t see them in is mirrors and I didn’t know he was pulled because I was overtaking a bus at the time.
So I was sitting outside the Eurotunnel thinking he’s broken down. It turns out the police said he wasn’t allowed on the motorway and he said he was, so they had to radio the station for the ruling and had to let him go. We just caught the Eurotunnel. Good start.
The first party night for the rally was Sunday in Prague but because we weren’t allowed on the autobahn we had to go the long way round and didn’t get there until the following Thursday. Wayne said the German valleys on the route would be beautiful and hot, but how wrong he was. It rained for days so we had to stop at Hein Gericke to buy some new clothes.
Because of the speed we were going (40 to 45mph) we soon knew we couldn’t do it in the four weeks we planned, so our only option was to start riding day and night. We tried to stop every three or four hours and sleep rough at the side of the road for 15 to 20 minutes.
After refuelling our bellies with Mcdonald’s in Prague we set off for Poland. Near the border we pulled into a garage for petrol at about 2am and a guy pulled in on a KTM Adventure. He asked where we were going and then asked where we were sleeping, so we told him round the back of the garage. He reckoned the police would come and move us so he offered to put us up for the night.
So we followed him home where he gave us a beer and some food and let us use his shower. We had our first comfy bed for a while and in the morning his mum made us breakfast, packed some food for us and then he put us on the right road towards Poland.
We realized we had to move faster, as we had to cross the border of Ukraine by a certain date or we would be fined. This meant we had to ride to the point of exhaustion but we still arrived a day late and were fined about £40. Our budget wasn’t big so we knew we had to make the rest of the Russian border dates on time.
After the border guards had stopped laughing at us we went into Ukraine and that’s when the fun started. The roads had pot holes that cars could fall in and it was like riding a hammer drill. And the food was horrendous. The riding was hard, we had no sleep and lived off Liptons iced tea.
At Volgograd we had our first breakdown after Wayne slipped on some tram lines in the rain and the bash plate hit the cylinder head. We rolled into a garage and the mechanic made us a head gasket out of aluminium! Then we headed for Kazakhstan but at the border the guard said we wouldn’t make it to Mongolia on these bikes and he wasn’t going to let us go through. We had to go into an office and make our case that Mongolia was nearer than England. After a while they came back and said we could go, but we should not stop for anyone or we might get killed.
Later we were riding through the night through very soft sand (above the wheels) when we came to a hill and my bike wouldn’t go up it. After an inspection with a torch we realised there were no teeth on my rear sprocket. Luckily we had a spare and away we went,
heading towards Omsk and Viad and the Altai mountain range.
We arrived at the Mongolian border on a Sunday afternoon but the border was closed for the weekend. Luckily we bumped into a team from the rally from Milan and they shared their food and accommodation with us until saying goodbye on Monday morning.
Twenty minutes after getting through the border we saw the Milan guys coming back with four flat tyres. What chance had we got?
On we went through the desert until Wayne’s rear cog went just like mine, but we didn’t have another spare. I wrapped a tie down strap around him and pulled him about six miles into Bayan Olgiy – this wasn’t easy as he was about 17 stone. In Bayan Olgiy we searched the markets for bike spares with no luck but then a guy took us to a car garage which had a lathe and a drill. The guy’s first attempt at making a sprocket didn’t work so I had to take mine off for him to draw round. He said it would be ready in the morning.
We were sick of the food so we showed the Mongolian cook at the hotel how to make chips. They were to die for. The next morning the guy from the garage called in with a perfect sprocket which he charged us 30 dollars for. We gave him a breakfast of chips too.
Then we were off to Bayanhonger when Wayne’s rear wheel bearings collapsed so he pushed it into town where five locals fixed it for nothing. The next day we rode into Ulaan Baatar to Dave’s English bar which was the finishing line. After a good night’s sleep, a full English breakfast and a pint of lager we went to see the real reason why we did this charity rally – the street kids. We saw how some lift the man hole covers up and sleep on steam pipes underground, as it can reach -30C in winter.
This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it was soul destroying riding day and night, but I would do it again tomorrow if I could. Despite it being so hard, we had a lot of laughs and met some amazing people. The journey took us five weeks and we rode around 10,000 miles and only stayed in hotels for two nights so it was quite cheap. It just proves you don’t need a £15,000 bike and lots of money to travel half way round the world.