History repeats itself as German cyclist underestimates harshness of Russian winter

…He didn't think it would be so cold

by Simon_MacMichael   January 14, 2011  

Lake Baikal Steppe Belt.png

In the movie Chasing Legends, one HTC-Columbia rider – Tony Martin or Bernie Eisel we imagine – reflects off-camera that a particularly gruelling day in the saddle was like a “holiday in Stalingrad,” site of the battle in 1942-3 which proved to be a turning point in the Second World War as the Red Army and freezing conditions combined to halt the Wehrmacht.

It seems that not all German cyclists share that healthy respect for the Russian winter, however, with one unfortunate soul ending up in hospital this week after attempting to ride 300km across the frozen steppes of Siberia.

German mechanic Sven Riedel, aged 37, had been trying to cycle from Ulan-Ude to Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia but badly misjudged the harshness of the conditions, with overnight temperatures plummeting to more than -34C.

"I wanted to see Lake Baikal," he told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency, according to a UPI report. "I didn't think it would be so cold."

Luckily for Riedel, who speaks no Russian, a passing driver managed to persuade him to abandon his tent and get in the car to be driven to hospital.

Riedel had previously ridden in Scandinavia during winter, but Russian officials said that attempting to do so in Siberia was another matter altogether.

9 user comments

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Hopefully, now he's done a recce he'll have better gear and be able to complete the ride next time Smile

posted by 37monkey [144 posts]
14th January 2011 - 15:10

1 Like

Hmm, been snowmobiling in Sweden's Arctic north in -25C and that was pretty cold. The wind chill factor at 80km/h is worth bearing in mind. One of my eyelashes froze inside my goggles and my ice beard on the wool scarf I had across my face was impressive. When I was in Spitsbergen the temperature dropped below -30C and the wind chill factor off the sea was pretty tough there. I didn't try cycling in either place.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
14th January 2011 - 15:48


I went skiing in Sweden when it was -27°C and it froze my nose hairs, i wouldn't have wanted to sleep out in a tent Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7857 posts]
14th January 2011 - 16:33


Ulan-Ude, not Uan-Ude. One of the ugliest towns I have ever seen.

I was there in February. It was -35. However, the main problem are the winds. With a vast flat frozen inland sea surrounded by mountains, the winds can be pretty terrific.

Not great for cycling.

posted by pickles [28 posts]
14th January 2011 - 17:30


Hmmm :- 30 deg F below freezing is 'only' -16.67 deg C, which is warmer than last month in the Highlands. Now, 30 deg F below zero (62 deg F below freezing) would come to -34.4 deg C, which sounds like the temperature Pickles recalls in Ulan Ude last month. Sorry to be fussy, but my engineering brain gets upset about these things!


posted by Chris S [44 posts]
14th January 2011 - 20:55


Hmm… according to the Farenheit to Celcius converter at http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/ -30°F is -34.4°C

I see what you're saying though Chris so to avoid confusion I've changed it to centigrade.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
14th January 2011 - 22:26

1 Like

I wish people would give up with all those old units. they're confusing and clunky.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
14th January 2011 - 22:44


OldRidgeback wrote:
I wish people would give up with all those old units. they're confusing and clunky.

Those "old units" mean something instantly to this "Old Unit" while i have to think a bit about the new units.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [264 posts]
16th January 2011 - 18:39


Bah, -34? The softie needs to man up a bit..

I'd have taken thick socks, a bit of Kendal Mint cake and a stiff upper lip. And I'd have gone for a swim in Lake Baikal and all...

posted by don_don [149 posts]
17th January 2011 - 21:23

1 Like