R5k members head to the frozen lakes of Mongolia

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Members of the #ride5000miles Facebook group have a sense of adventure, with pictures posted of trips to far-flung shores. You’d usually see snaps from Mark Leonard exploring the leafy lanes around his Exeter home, but earlier this year he traded the rolling Devon countryside for the icy lakes of Mongolia.

With lost luggage, freezing temperatures and nights spent sleeping on the floor of locals’ homes, it was an organised chaos that made for unforgettable memories, on the trip arranged by Vintage Rides.

It was a baptism of fire from day one for Mark and his fellow travellers, sharing the riding duties of their Royal Enfield Bullet 500, complete with a Yeti sidecar.

"Temperatures ranged from cold through to brass monkey weather and it felt worse when you take in the wind chill factor," says Mark. "We set off to Hatgal, a small village on the southern shore and had our first taste of local food, boiled sliced mutton, pasta and vegetables in a soup format, washed down with a large amount of vodka.

Motorbikes and sidecars on the frozen lakes of Mongolia

"We slept on the floor of our host’s home in our sleeping bags, with our hosts sleeping to one side of their home and when we woke the first job of the day was to change to off road tyres and apply ice studs.

"We were off to the frozen lakes for a practice riding on ice, and for most of us we had neither ridden intentionally on ice or with a sidecar before!"

Mark found riding on ice to be an interesting experience. "You imagine the ice will be level and smooth and all the same colour, but it’s not. Stagnant water forms a nice deep blue hue, while fast moving water has a lot of air in it, which makes the ice white in colour.

"The ice moves, while in some places it’s smooth and in others it’s rough. The ice sheets form as sections and grate against each other, and this can pile up to four feet high. There’s also heavy frosts and some snow about.

Sliding the sidecar damaged a wheel

"Our confidence grew and we learnt to drift the bikes, but this led to the odd unplanned semi-spin."

If you fancy tackling some new routes but Mark's journey is a bit extreme for your taste, why not join the #ride5000miles Facebook group and see where else people have been?

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Alison Silcox

By Alison Silcox

Office Manager and centre of the MCN universe.