Karolis Mieliauskas’ epic motorcycle challenge across the world’s deepest lake

WE TALK to Karolis Mieliauskas about his extraordinary solo motorcycle challenge across the world's deepest lake.



Karolis Mieliauskas

Karolis Mieliauskas has recently completed a motorcycle ride across Lake Baikal in Russia.

KAROLIS MIELISAUSKAS recently completed an extraordinary challenge when he rode his motorbike across Lake Baikal in Russia. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and saw him ride the 800km length of it over a number of days.


The Lithuanian has always been crazy about bikes and riding and here talks to us about some of his other adventures on two wheels as well as going into more detail about his most recent challenge. 


How long have you been riding a motorcycle and what inspired you to take up the hobby?


My father bought me a 49cc scooter when i was 12. Up until 16 I had three scooters and two motorcycles, but then, suddenly, interest of petrol disappeared and I did not ride again until I was was 24. I bought a Gilera RC600R which was a rear Italian enduro bike and travelled around Lithuania including some weird places in Belarus. Later came the KTM LC4 advR which took me to Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Transnistria with bombed houses and bridges. A KTM EXC450R appeared and I endured forests, swamps, and some rallies for several years after. So no big travelling happened since I sold my LC4. But the big wish remained…


What’s it like being a motorcycle rider in Lithuania and what were some of your previous most exciting rides?


Some years ago, my passion to moto travel pressed too much and i bought Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. Then it started again. In January 2016 i was exploring Morocco, riding in a desert and sleeping in a bivouac. It was fantastic as Morocco has very friendly people. Riding and living in a desert gave unique feelings and experience. Sand, actually lots of sand, wind, heat and all the stars.


It is interesting for me to drive long distances in a day. This way I once made rode around the Baltics in two days which is 2,020km. In summer last year I had a solo trip from Vilnius (Lithuania) to Vladivostok (very east end of Russia). It was 11,000km in 15 days including two days off. But that’s another story about a ride nearly half the land.


Lake Baikal

The trusted bike which took Karolis across Lake Baikal.


What made you come up with the idea to ride across Lake Baikal in Russia and what bike did you use for the challenge?


I had some very small experience on driving on ice before. So I’ve got Mitas studded tires and went out for a ride in local woods here in Lithuania. Lots of fun but the quantity of snow is not equal. Temperatures are changing and not every lake ice allows you to drive ‘securely’. However, the most fun is on the ice. We have many lakes but they are not big motorcycle areas. And the big ones don’t have the best ice.


As I said before, I like to drive long distances, so I wanted to have experience at least several days ride on ice. To understand it, to feel it, to live it. But wait, where is that big ice in a world? There are few places but Baikal in Siberia is ‘close’ to me (more then 6,500km) from my home. I know the Russian language and Russia is relatively cheap.


The energy of Baikal is Magic. I noticed it last summer – on the way to Vladivostok I stopped on a shore of Baikal for a 24-hour brake. Baikal has a distance of close to 800km you go straight, the radius is 2,200km.


I was using a Yamaha XT660Z Tenere ’08 with studded tires. First of all, it is an extremely reliable bike in terms of quality. Secondly, it is very comfortable (I do not use any kind of seat correction) for long trips. It is relatively light, which lets you use it off road and comfortably on road. Not many bikes have such fantastic fuel range – up to 530km per tank!


Lake Baikal

Karolis has been fascinated by bike since a young age.


How did the challenge go and how tough was it? How did you feel when you completed it?


Ice cracks, passing/jumping/over driving were the biggest challenges. It required a lot of physical energy, but once you have two heavy crashes in the first hour of driving in a morning, it also uses a lot of mental strength.


The first day’s snow quantity sometimes reached my knees. I had to drive on a first/second gear and was driving like a drunk. It was not possible to stay straight – Tenere is not a snowmobile, haha! Besides all this, ice was cracking constantly. I could feel and hear it all the time. Maybe not a challenge in general but a lot of food for thought.


I was driving up to 20km from the shore. From that distance the shore can be seen but not a house on it. It was a lot of snow for the first days. It was completely not standard for this part of the season. Sometimes the snow made for very low visibility. Snow covers ice cracks… Nobody was driving those days which resulted in no traces. So being alone, far from shore on the ice of the deepest lake in the world, in the extreme cold, theoretically might be dangerous. But there is no room for the thoughts like this while driving as it may result some loose of control – too dangerous, too cold, too far away, too whatever. I was not thinking!


The other thing is the constantly changing ice and snow condition. In the evening you think you know the ice already and may imagine tomorrow’s ride. But once you start on a morning you see that the ice is different again. Every day was like this. Snow became harder, ice rougher and vise versa.


The most extreme thermometer view i had was -29.5 Celsius one early morning. During the day it was between -10 to -15 Celsius.


I had no satellite phone.


Something interesting: In extreme low visibility, there was deep deep snow storm and I lost any kind of trace on the first day of ride. I tried not to stop as starting became very difficult due to the deep snow. I was approaching outfall of Angara (330 rivers inflows Baikal and Angara is the only river outflows) which was waiting for me as an extreme size of unfrozen water in front. When it begins? How to recognise that ice is already thin? Blahblahblah! And visibility was so low. Suddenly I noticed a human trace and saw two silhouettes in the distance. Approaching them, they were on foot with backpacks. Moving slowly and looking at me, I stopped, started to speak, and imagine, they were Lithuanians, the same as me! The world became a small place.


Lake Baikal

The challenges Karolis came up on the ride were even more daunting than he had imagined.

How did you feel when you completed it?


You know, with a trip like this, the biggest feelings comes during the decision making to go, planning and just before starting. Once completed it is completed, done. That’s it. Ok ok, good feelings, of course!


What have you got planned next and are any other motorbike challenges in the pipeline?


I will do the Kalindikhal Trek (Himalayas) with nearly 6,000m altitude with no ropes and other professional equipment in September but it will be on foot.


There are plans for winter 2018 on motorcycle, but it is a bit to early to talk.

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