Preparing for the Silk Road Mountain Race

10 08 23

Words by Josh Ibbett

The Silk Road Mountain Race is a 1800 kilometre race around Kyrgyzstan. The route features some extremely remote sections and is characterised by high mountain passes and high elevation. This will be my first attempt at the race and my first time visiting Kyrgyzstan. There are many unknown factors for me around aspects such as the conditions and how my body will respond to repeated days at around 3000 metres elevation. For these reasons, I have chosen my kit list carefully.

With any ride, best laid plans can change in the mountains. The weather can change quickly, and the goals you’ve set from the comfort of home can change just as quickly. All you can do when packing is prepare for the worst, and make sure your kit is as versatile as possible. 

Here’s what I’m taking with me.

Riding Kit:

Two pairs of pocket bib shorts, Merino base layer (short sleeve), Merino base layer (long sleeve), All Road Jersey, Leg warmers, Arm warmers, Mitts, Lightweight Gilet, Two pairs of socks, Cycling cap.

My riding kit items are the clothes I will wear day-to-day throughout the race. I will then layer over these items as conditions dictate. I’m acutely aware that weather conditions can change fast when at high elevations. Previous editions of the race have featured temperatures between -12 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius, with snow, rain and hot dry winds all likely to make an appearance. For the hottest conditions, I will wear only a pair of shorts and the jersey, however for the majority of the time I will rely on the merino base layer under my jersey to regulate heat and the Lightweight Gilet to keep off cold winds. Arm and legs warmers will be used as conditions dictate. I’m also keen to have a complete change of dry clothes should I get caught in a storm. The second pair of shorts, long sleeve merino base layer and spare socks will be kept in a dry bag for such an occasion.

Insulated Kit:

Zoa Insulated jacket (hooded version), Zoa Insulated Cap (sample for AW this year), Ultralight insulated jacket, Winter gloves, Balaclava, Down socks.

The nights can be cold in the mountains and the remote nature of the event means that it's likely I will need to bivi up high in cold temperatures. My insulated kit is a mix of items for riding in and for sleeping in. My Ultralight Insulated Jacket will be used as the first layer of protection for riding in. I can put it on for long descents as well as for those colder moments of the race. Paired with a balaclava, winter gloves and winter socks, I hope this will be enough to deal with most situations. The Zoa Instulated jacket is particularly warm and this will be used to extend the range of my sleeping bag or in case I have to stop riding in cold conditions. It’s also great to ride in when the conditions are sub zero, so could come in handy for pre-dawn mountain descents. The down socks are purely for sleeping in… no one likes cold toes at night!

Rain Kit:

Zoa Rain Shell, Zoa Rain Trousers, Rain Gloves, Waterproof socks.

It’s highly likely that I will get caught in a rainstorm at some point during the event so good rain gear is essential. The Zoa Rain Shell and Rain Trousers are tried and tested on the Tour Divide so I know I can trust them for the Silk Road. I’m also carrying a pair of waterproof socks and waterproof rain mitts. The socks can be worn over my regular socks in the worst conditions and the rain mitts can be quickly pulled over my winter gloves. All the rain gear can also be used for additional warmth and wind protection.

Hopefully my pack list will cover me for all the weather scenarios that Kyrgyzstan can throw at me, leaving me to concentrate on pedalling and enjoying the ride.