ADV Pulse

NEWSLETTER
Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Newsletter

Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Connect With Us

Follow On Facebook:

ADV NewsExtreme Moto Expedition Across Siberia To The Coldest City On Earth

Extreme Moto Expedition Across Siberia To The Coldest City On Earth

Polish rider takes on the cold wastelands of Siberia on an old Honda XL600 LM.

Published on 12.03.2021
Motorcycle ride to coldest city on earth

As the days grow colder in the Northern Hemisphere, few riders enjoy riding in the cold, let alone snow and ice – but for Marek Suslik, a 46-year-old Polish adventurer better known as the White Wolf, our winter temperatures would probably seem balmy.

In January 2020, the intrepid Pole covered a 6,989-mile distance from Poland across the vast and desolate wastelands of Siberia to Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world. Winter temperatures in this remote Eastern Siberian city frequently fall below -40° F, while the coldest recorded temperature was -83° F. Because of the extreme cold, locals often leave their vehicles running outside to prevent them from freezing over. While it sounds like a place few would dare explore in a car, Marek was hellbent on reaching it aboard his motorcycle.

Along the way, the adventurer battled temperatures as low as -67° F, snow blizzards, deep snow and extreme conditions to complete his quest of riding a motorcycle through Siberia in wintertime on his 34-year-old Honda XL600 LM, a bike he lovingly calls Elza.

What drives Marek to go on extreme rides into the Siberian winter, and how does he survive? We caught up with the White Wolf to find out.

Motorcycle ride to coldest place on earth

A Month in Ice


ADVERTISEMENT

Marek set off on his first motorcycle trip at the age of nineteen, and he loved riding so much he would stay on two wheels year-round, no matter the weather. Along the way, he discovered the Elephant Rally (Elefantentreffen), an adventure motorcycle rally held annually in Germany…each January. The Elephant Rally takes place in extreme conditions where riders travel to the location and camp in the snow; for him, this is where the winter motorcycling ideas finally crystallized, and he began planning longer trips in the snow.

Motorcycle ride to coldest city on earth

Over the years, Marek has travelled far above the Arctic Circle to Nordkapp in winter, the Northernmost point in Europe reachable by motorized vehicles, and in January 2020, he reached Yakutsk aboard his motorcycle. “I traveled through Poland, Ukraine, and Russia and reached Yakutsk in just a little over a month. Each day was like an episode of a TV series! During the trip, I broke my own record of riding the biggest distance in one day – once, I rode 1,012 kilometers (629 miles) in one shot, simply because stopping wasn’t an option. Nobody had done this on a bike in winter in Russia so far,” Marek shares.

Motorcycle ride to coldest city on earth

Expedition Prep

It took Marek six months to prepare for the expedition, although he says his previous Nordkapp trips were also part of the process – experience gained on those cold rides was invaluable during the ride to Yakutsk. He stressed that testing out the bike, the gear, and himself before the journey was crucial for success. “I had to test the equipment, but I also needed to test myself and find out how strong I was. Mental training is essential, because you have to deal with total loneliness on an expedition like this,” Marek adds.

He chose the Honda XL for the trip because of the bike’s simplicity and durability. According to Marek, it was important to have a carbureted bike that would run on low quality or contaminated petrol if need be. The XL is air and oil-cooled, which meant there was no coolant to freeze; he was also able to modify the drum brake. Since he had to ride standing up for long periods of time and braking was difficult this way, he connected the rear brake controls to the handlebars instead.

Additionally, he had to install a pair of skis to keep upright in the snow. Marek copied the design from the Swedish Army, and he says the skis were crucial to control the bike in heavy snow, wind, or icy conditions. On tarmac, he would lift the skis up and ride as normal, and whenever needed, he could push the skis down and support the motorcycle. He used studded tires for the expedition, as most roads in Siberia were permanently covered in ice and hard-packed snow.

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

Another important reason to choose an old, sturdy bike was its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. “What you need to keep in mind is that extreme cold cracks metal, plastic, and steel alike if it’s not sturdy enough; cables shrink and break, and I’ve seen abandoned trucks in Siberia that were left on the side of the road because their suspension froze,” Marek explains. This is why, according to him, the Honda was a smart choice – built from solid materials, this bike also has a nifty feature: its dry sump lubrication system means oil runs through the frame keeping it warm and reducing the risk of freezing and fracturing it. He had to keep an eye on bolts – overtightening them could lead to breakage – and maintain all the cables and wires to keep going. “The brake wire, for example, shrank by about four centimeters during the ride. The suspension froze stuck, so the bike was extremely stiff, and I always had to listen to it and react in time to prevent failure,” Marek said.

Gear Challenges

In addition to bike prep, Marek had to use special riding gear to prevent frostbite. He had three pairs of boots he would change at every stop inside a gas station, because they would freeze; in addition, he used a Canadian snowmobile helmet with a special breathing mask to prevent the visor from freezing. Under his Klim riding suit, he wore thermal underwear and a thick merino wool suit which worked well, but Marek said he hasn’t found a solution for gloves – his hands kept freezing and, because the bike’s charging system doesn’t generate enough power, he couldn’t use heated grips or gloves. “The heated chemical inserts didn’t work either, as the difference between the temperature of the inserts and the air is too great and your hands burn,” Marek shared.

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

Finally, the adventurer had to prep physically and mentally to deal with challenges ahead. According to Marek, he put on some weight prior to the journey: during a day’s ride in extreme conditions, your body may lose as many as 12,000 calories, so having a little extra padding helped him avoid total exhaustion. “Equally, it is important to be fit and resistant to cold. I try to bring my resistance to cold to the limits as far as it is possible. Mentality is crucial as well: you can’t think negatively. You have to assume that everything will be OK and go on,” Marek shared. He said he often talked to himself to keep motivated and not to give up during the journey.

Dangers on the Road

For Marek, what drives him to ride in extreme conditions isn’t the ride itself – it’s the challenge and the obstacles along the way that he eventually overcomes. And there wasn’t a shortage of dangers on the icy road to Yakutsk: exhaustion and fatigue set in soon, and the further he traveled, the colder it got.

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

He compares the ride in the cold to mountain climbing: the more you push, the more exhausted you are, and the harsher the conditions become. He had a car follow him on the journey, because in case of an accident, help would not come soon enough – Siberia is extremely remote, and even a small accident may be lethal due to the extreme cold. “I heard from the locals that often, ambulances aren’t even sent to scenes of accidents or collisions – only the clean up crews, because people simply don’t survive long in the cold”, he shared.

The most dangerous aspect of the journey, according to him, were passing trucks. There isn’t much traffic in Eastern Siberia, and the cargo truck drivers often don’t expect to see a car, let alone a motorcycle, on the road. “As a truck passes you,” Marek recalled, “you’re covered in a blast of snow and wind every single time, and there’s a risk the truck will hit you or you’ll be blown off the road or fall because the visibility in those moments is zero.”

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth
Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

“Paradoxically, Siberia is easier to cross in winter than in summer. All the transport in Siberia runs mostly in winter when the rivers are frozen over: they make ice-highways in winter and even 70-ton-heavy trucks can go there. When I crossed River Lena, I really felt what winter was. The air temperature was -47° Celsius (-52° F), and after I reached the frozen river, I felt as if I was encased in a capsule of cold. I felt as if my helmet and my suit shrank. The punch of cold from below was so heavy that I lost concentration for a while. The temperature on the river fell probably to about -60° Celsius (-76° F). I had to ride 27 kilometers (17 miles) in these conditions, and it was twenty seven kilometers of hell. The feeling was incomparable with anything else I’ve experienced before,” Marek shared.

Finding fuel wasn’t always easy, either: Marek carried extra fuel for at least a 186-mile range, because Siberia is so remote you may go more than 300 miles without finding a gas station.

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

Along the way, Marek received warm hospitality: local Russian riders had heard of his ambition to ride to Yakutsk, and he would get invites to stay over or share meals. “So many people in Siberia have nothing, yet they’ll offer you everything. In harsh conditions, people care for one another, nobody leaves someone alone on the road as it can be a matter of life and death. The journey made me realize that it’s politics that cause trouble, not people,” he said. Along the way, he was often invited to stay at people’s houses. For the length of the journey, Marek mostly stayed at hostels and with locals.’ “I’d sometimes sleep in people’s heated garages – camping was out of the question because of the cold, and the local hospitality was the most welcome,” he shared.

When he finally reached Yakutsk, the traveler was overcome with emotion: it felt like nothing was impossible. “Before the ride, people told me I was toying with my life needlessly, but I made it, and I felt so happy,” Marek shares.

Motorcycle journey to coldest city on earth

Currently, he is already thinking of another winter ride, perhaps in Alaska or Magadan. And the time to go, of course, will be winter.

Watch White Wolf’s video of his extreme moto expedition below and follow his frosty adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte
ADVERTISEMENT

Related Stories

Related Stories

Comments
 1

Leave a Reply

One thought on “Extreme Moto Expedition Across Siberia To The Coldest City On Earth

ADVERTISEMENT

Pol Tarres Breaks Altitude World Record On Yamaha Tenere 700

Keeping up with trials champ Pol Tarres and all the crazy things he does with...

Get On! ADV Fest Mojave: Epic Trails, Training & Good Times

What begins in a field in South Dakota and ends in a cave in Southern Californi...

Next-Level Enduro Gear: REV’IT! Component Jacket & Peninsula Pants

When REV’IT! first released its Dirt Series gear last year, it was quite ...