Some more remarks
I had zero problems with my bike. The Shimano gear system worked flawlessly, absolutely faultless. I remember going to France when I was 16 years old with the old metal shifters on the frame and I was worried that the modern plastic clicky things are too fragile and complicated and easily break. Not so! The Shimano system worked perfect in the cold. Not one single hickup.
The brakes, also Shimano, worked fine too, no problems. I read in the forum that oil based disc brakes could freeze up, but they didn’t. To be honest I do not understand why they would freeze up, it is the same DOT4-fluid that is in every Toyota and Lada, their brake lines don’t freeze up either.
Shoes bought in Vladovostok, with extra insulation inlays. But it was not enough. Next time I must add neoprene covers, or buy something with real fur
I was a little lucky with the weather. Sure it was cold, but I had no snowfall, and only moderate headwind. Could have been a lot worse.
Gloves I got from the family in Kiinsk, made from some kind of wilt. Very simple and very effective. I wore them all the time
Russians are a little distant when you meet them, but they open up rapidly. They are all willing to help once you talk to them. In restaurants they very easily make contact, wodka helps. Wodka, some bacon, black bread and onion, I have come to appreciate the stuff.
The traffic, at least in that region of Russia, is very ok. YouTube is rife with dashcam car crash movies from Russia and I have seen bad accidents in Ukraine, but my experience here was very positive. Relaxed, no hurry, no horning, they wait for crossing pedestrians. It feels just as safe as in The Netherlands. The only accident I saw was a small fender bender thing in Khabarovsk, that was it.
The Russians love paperwork. I order a coffee in a caffee-bar, so the waitress writes a note: one coffee, milk, sugar. Then she turns around and behind her a small window opens where there is another girl who makes the coffee. I see this girl also writing down: one coffee, milk, sugar. Finally when I pay I get a handwritten bill. Three pieces of paper that must cost more than the coffee itself. There is two people running the bus: one drives, the other does the tickets. Halfway the ride a third gets in who counts the passengers then matches it with the accounting of nr. 2. There is personnel sitting and waiting everywhere. An average store that we would run with a staff of ten, they will have at least thirty people employed. There are shop assistants sitting behind counters polishing their nails, lovely. I must say it makes for a very stressless environment. Nobody is in a hurry, everybody has time for you. Maybe it is not efficient but after a few days in Russia you start wondering if they are really doing it wrong. Maybe not.
Every railway station has not only guards but also these metal detector portals. The portals beep all day and nobody cares, they just let them beep. After the incident with the dogs I had a big knife visibly mounted on my bike. Nobody blinked an eye.
My knife, ready to slash a dog. Didn’t need it fortunately
My camera worked flawlessly. I had an Olympus E-P2 with two fixed focal length lenses, a wide angle convertor, eyefi-card and three spare batteries. Worked without one single problem, kept taking photos even at -30º Celcius, except that my fingers would freeze to the camera and the SD-card produced a write error twice. I am not sure the write-errors were caused by the cold, but in both cases the camera worked fine again after a few hours. This camera can survive a drop, it has no touchscreen, just dials and buttons and I could take photos with my gloves on.
- Olympus E-P2. Turned out to be very reliable*
I had an Anker battery pack in my Samsung Galaxy S4. The standard battery pack is 2700 mAh, the Anker is 7800 mAH. I had two GPS trackers running on the phone continuously, one writing my track to the SD-card every minute and the other reporting my position to the internet every ten minutes so that if the tiger would show up, my family would at least know where to retrieve the bike. Also I used it with OsmAnd, an OpenStreetMap mapping application that has the maps on the phone and does not need internet, to monitor my progress and position. Usually by the end of an eight hours ride I would still have 70% or 80% battery left. Better be safe than sorry. I never looked at the paper maps I had with me.
OsmAnd and openstreetmap.org has very detailed maps
My drinks froze regularly. Whatever I packed on the outside of my bike packs in plain air would freeze in no time. Other bottles I would pack inside a bunch of clothes in the bike packs, they would last a little longer but not the full eight hours of a ride. I had a bottle in the inside pocket of my outside coat, that bottle would also freeze. I tried different products, not only Coca Cola, but even stuff that was green and yellow and looked very unhealthy and full of nasty chemicals. It all froze, just like Coca Cola. The final solution was to keep a bottle on the inside of my arm sleeve, near my arm pit. That worked!
If you have an internet contract with our Dutch provider KPN, forget about getting any real connectivity. Every Russian kid has his nose in a 4G smartphone, but KPN-clients get nothing. I made a few calls to the Helpdesk in The Netherlands but they had no solution. I never got anything faster than 2G, on manual settings that I had to change constantly, and then KPN sent me a 35 euro bill for no service. When I came back I filed a complaint and their response was an arrogant boilerplate letter, saying it could be a mix of factors, you know, my phone, the weather, Putin, whatever. In their emails KPN couldn’t even get my name right. Goodbye KPN, I am already on T-Mobile.
Yep, no contact. No Helpdesk. No KPN
KPN can’t get my name right, they think I am mr. Bergen