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July 19, 2012 | SiStour has started!

We had planned to post an entry about the stretch from Moscow to Yekaterinburg, but events have developped quickly, and something much more important has happened today:

SiStour has officially started!

And more or less on schedule, too, which had been in grave doubt due to the many problems with the Editourmobil. The time constraints caused by those not only prevented another blog post (and photos in the last one), they also threw in doubt the timely start of SiStour itself – but after two (further) nights with very little sleep, we’ve started driving today!

This has only been possible because we had helpers, and for that help, big thanks are in order: First of all to Kay of Go to Brau Beviale fame, who endured countless hours of Felix and me discussing our project, working on it, assembling and dissassembling the bikes, and causing general chaos and mayhem in the Editourmobil. Thank you for your patience, Kay!

And then to Torsten and Michael, who constitute the second team for Go to Brau, whose help with the final ebike assembly in the wee hours of today’s morning was invaluable and greatly appreciated! Thank you two, too!

Michael arrived at Yekaterinburg airport this morning at three, and thus we delivered Kay to his hotel in Yekaterinburg yesterday evening, picked up Torsten there, and drove the Editourmobil – with a detour to the local, and huge, OBI – to the airport. There we checked in on a long-term-parking area, and went to bed at 12:30, only to get up two short hours later to meet Michael at the arrival gate.

Since Michael, due to jet lag, had no interest in sleep, and since we had lots and lots of work to do, we began the final assembly, and removed our stuff from the Editourmobil – first, onto the parking lot, then later, into the totally overloaded Burley trailer. Michael and Torsten had to leave at eight, and it took Felix and me forever to get all our stuff into the trailers. Loading and unloading them is comlicated due to modifications we made for the solar panels. And of course all the electric wiring has to be in place and stay there, too, even when fully loaded.

It was half past two when we were finally satisfied with our setup. Airport security had long noticed us and told everyone else about our goal, and so we were given a warm farewell and best wishes by the Yekaterin airport parking lot staff. The weather played its part, too: The past two days had seen big rainstorms, but this morning stayed dry and cool – perfect work conditions. And with us leaving the parking lot, the sun was leaving the clouds, and soon our panels were generating lots of energy!

We drove slowly at first, still a little unsure if our setup would really work, then progressively faster when all held up well, save for two or three stops to change and refasten some of the straps that had not been in optimal position yet. The roads were kind: Some very rough patches, but also some of the best roads we have seen in Russia, and many qualities in between – all in all, it could have been much worse.

The best thing, however, was the driving itself: What an awesome feeling to finally, after all these months of preparations, hit the road! And it’s hard to describe how elated we felt when our setup really worked just as we had imagined. Right until the end, we had been unsure if our overloaded, top-heavy trailer would really play well on real-life Russian roads – but it held up beautifully, and we became progressively more confident. The same goes for the electric setup: The panels really generated the amount of energy they ought to, Felix’s wiring seems to have losses that are even lower than we had factored in, and the trikes themselves and their ebike modifications worked beautifully. Just wonderful performance all around!

And some of the big problems we had feared have so far failed to materialize: The Russian drivers nearly without exception slow down, overtake with huge space, honk their horns to greet us and wink: They clearly are amazed and happy to see two people do an obviously big bike project, and don’t mind that we slow them down a little in the process. The mosquitoes seem to think of us as too fast as well – at least we certainly had much worse problems whenever we stopped the Editourmobil than we had today: not a single bite since Yekaterinburg!

At seven pm, after 110 km, we turned onto a farm road and set up our tent maybe 200 m from the main road. 110 km are, of course, not 200, and there still are lots of little things to do in the coming days – but as far as first days go, this one went way better than expected! It’s half past ten now, and we are both very tired, but happy, and look forward to the coming days!

PS. And it’s now possible to follow our route in real time here.

PPS. The real time tracker has been removed after it has fulfilled its purpose when the tour ended, as has that link.