Silk Road Mountain Race with Pete McNeil (Video)

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In this new video from Alpkit, Pete McNeil shares a detailed overview of his bike and gear choices for last year’s inaugural Silk Road Mountain Race, as well as some of his experiences on the route. Watch it here, along with a packing list and a short essay from Pete on his motivations for pedaling across Kyrgyzstan…

Alpkiteer and Adventure Pedlars frontman Pete McNeil traveled to Kyrgyzstan to race in the inaugural Silk Road Mountain Race last year, becoming one of just 30 people to finish the race.

In this video from Sonder and Alpkit, Pete gives a detailed walkthrough of his kit choices, talks about what worked and what didn’t, and shares some of his experiences from the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains (see our Tian Shan Traverse route guide here). Watch the video below, then continue on for photos of his loaded Sonder Broken Road and some written reflections from Pete, in which he discusses his motivations for persevering through the race and the big questions that were floating around him while doing so.

  • Pete McNeil Silk Road Mountain Race
  • Pete McNeil Silk Road Mountain Race
  • Pete McNeil Silk Road Mountain Race

Pete’s Titanium Sonder Broken Road + Kit List

While many other riders chose drop-bar gavel bikes for the race, Pete opted for a Sonder Broken Road configured with a suspension fork, plush tires, and an upright riding position. The titanium frame was outfitted almost entirely with bags and gear from Alpkit.

His complete pack list included:

Clothing:

  • Kepler Velo Merino jersey
  • Kepler Merino Long Sleeve top
  • Rhythm and Specta gloves
  • Arro windproof vest
  • Gravitas waterproof jacket
  • Floe shorts
  • Rana waterproof socks

Seatpack:

  • Parallax waterproof trousers
  • Filoment down vest
  • Katabatic Insulated jacket
  • Airlok dry bags
  • Firepot meal packs
  • Spare food

Frame Bag:

  • Kraku Titanium stove
  • MyTi Mug 650 titanium pot
  • Gas canister
  • Lampray lantern
  • Hydration bladder
  • Tool kits and repair spares
  • Mini Pump
  • First Aid kit
  • Water filter
  • Swigg drink bottle with rehydration tabs

Cockpit and top tube bags:

  • Snacks
  • Suncream
  • Chamois cream
  • Spare batteries
  • Gamma headtorch
  • Arm warmers
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Backup maps
  • SPOT tracker
  • GPS

Bar roll:

  • Ordos 2 tent
  • Pipe Dream 400 sleeping bag
  • Cloudbase inflatable sleep mat
Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit
  • Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit
  • Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit
  • Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit
  • Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit
  • Sonder Broken Road, Alpkit

Finding What I’m Looking for on the Silk Road

Words by Pete McNeil (@adventurepedlars)

The Silk Road Mountain Race is a 1700km, self-supported bikepacking event that takes in 26,000m of elevation through the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan along gravel washboard, old broken soviet roads, winding singletrack and the occasional gruelling hike-a-bike.

I headed out into the unknown on my Sonder Broken Road amongst 100 other international riders ready to test themselves against the inaugural edition of the race. I came back having finished 8th out of just 30 riders who completed the route.

“Why?” – It’s a question that reverberated around my head for long stretches of solitary riding. In many ways, the psychological challenge of answering it was more demanding than the 4000m passes I was hauling my bike over. There’s something that feels quite counterintuitive about going to one of the most stunning and fascinating parts of the planet and then putting your head down and racing through it. Not for any prize, reward, or even placing, but just for the hell of it…?

At times the draw to stop the whole ridiculous charade and to freely tour around on my bike for the fun of it was almost too strong, especially when I crossed paths with bands of other ‘scratched’ riders who were doing just that. It seemed like a wholly sensible idea.

But sometimes in life we don’t need ‘sensible’, we need the ‘ridiculous’ and what’s more, we need to choose the ridiculous. Through making this choice I subjected myself to ecstatic highs and crushing lows, a good dollop of tortuous boredom, and the occasional blissful sensation of effortlessly flowing through a landscape and culture of magical, timeless beauty and simplicity.

And so, on rolling into the finish camp after 11.5 days of feral living, my overriding sensation was one of having finally scratched an itch; of finding a way to give my soul what it needed, letting me breathe a contented sigh and (just for a moment) no longer scanning the horizon in search of the big ‘what next?’

That’s a hell of a thing to find.

And, looking into the exhausted faces of the other riders rolling into that camp, I could tell I wasn’t alone.

If you want to head out with Pete on a Peak District cycling adventure, get in touch with him at Adventure Pedlars for bikepacking courses, kit hire, and custom cycling expeditions.

See the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race listing on our events calendar here. And if you want some extra inspiration, be sure to watch Wild Horses, the documentary from the inaugural running of the race, and read our interview with winner Jay Petervary here. Ready to go ride across Kyrgyzstan yourself? Check out our detailed Tian Shan Traverse route guide.

Thanks to photographer Tom Hardie (@tomhardies) for the cover image of Pete.

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