Siberia by Scooter and Sidecar

An excerpt from Our Ridiculous World (Trip).

From 2017-2019, Armchair Adventure Festival founders, Matt Bishop and Reece Gilkes became the first people to circumnavigate the globe on a scooter and sidecar. They received a Guinness World Record for the 'Longest Ever Journey By Scooter and Sidecar' and raised just over £7,000 for charities fighting modern slavery. On return of the trip Matt wrote a book called 'Our Ridiculous World (Trip)' about their journey, the people they met on the way and modern slavery around the world - the below is an excerpt from it. You find the guys just over a year into the trip as they begin the ride back home through a Siberian winter...

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As we inched our way up the side of China, the temperatures were getting colder and the roads scarier. The adrenaline had worn off and we were now just two blokes sat in a sidecar, cold, scared to death, and still staring at the biggest challenge of our lives. We were still a few days from Chita and it was likely to get worse before it got better. To make matters even worse our headsets had gone, so the guy in the sidecar would just sit there, watch the ice form on his visor and hope that the rider didn’t slip into a passing truck on the treacherous roads. We were genuinely beaten down by the conditions and we were only a few days in. Here’s my diary entry from that evening:

20th November 2018 – Day 6 on the road.

Fucking freezing. Went from Uglegorsk to a place just outside of Sivaki. Kicked off at -30°C or something. Frozen to the core. Every minute we’re not on the bike, we’re dreading riding it. It’s shit. Just genuinely such a stupid, bad thing to do. It’s fucking freezing beyond belief and nothing interesting to see. Worst thing I’ve ever done!

The following day was more of the same. We had managed to get the bike indoors, so it started fine in the morning, but the conditions were just terrible, still. So cold and so scary. Our attitudes were at an all-time low. We said at the time that usually when you do something terribly stupid and genuinely awful, you look back and say, “I won’t do that again.” Here, we were saying, “Hey, let’s do it from dawn till dusk every day, for at least another month.” It was ridiculous.

After a morning’s ride, we were freezing cold and beaten down again. We rolled into the town of Magadachi and agreed we had to make a change. There’s no way we would make it if we kept up this attitude and progress. We decided to book into a guesthouse and take an afternoon off to try and make some adaptations in order to make our ride more comfortable. We knew that there were two things that would make a huge difference: 1. Solve the visor dilemma; 2. Stop the wind whipping through the sidecar.

Scooting through the frozen forests of Siberia.

We’d had loads of people commenting online saying, “Guys, just buy some heated visors or at least a snorkeling set.” Great tips but sadly we were a week out of the last place we’d be able to buy either of those things. This was the wilds of Russia’s Far East and there were no snowmobile shops selling heated visors or scuba diving centres with snorkeling kits. Nope, we would have to get creative. There were about ten shops in the town, mainly selling groceries or clothes, but there was one hardware store. It was our only hope at finding some kind of fix. We went into the place and started looking around when we had a tap on our shoulder by a pretty stern looking local policeman. “Passport,” he said, sharply. I questioned as to why he wanted my passport, but I got a stern look back so handed it over. He looked me up and down, nodded and then turned to Reece, “Passport!”

“It’s at the hotel. Sorry, mate,” Reece replied.

“Passport!” he came back with.

“Listen, it’s at the hotel, besides why do you need it? Is this shop its own territory?” Reece replied.

“Hotel!” he pointed at the door where his colleague was waiting and marched us off back to our guesthouse. He led the way; he knew where we were staying. We got to the hotel and they followed us up two floors and into our room.

Obviously, he had put our noses out of place. Here were two average blokes just trying to get around the world on a scooter and sidecar and he thought he could waltz in there and boss us about. Reece picked up his passport and handed it over to him with a sarcastic, “Here you are flower, feast your eyes on this.”