The Silk Road Mountain Race is a non-stop fixed route, unsupported, single-stage 1,900km cycling race through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Martin and Jeannie Dreyer set off on an adventure of a lifetime on 12 August this year with their Cannondale Scalpels loaded with all the supplies they would need to survive over the next 11 days. 

The challenging race route traverses gravel and old soviet roads and single and double track paths that once comprised part of the Silk Road trade route that connected China and the Far East, Middle East and rest of Asia.

Along the route, the Dreyers had to contend with numerous hike-a-bike sections, where they had to push their fully-laden bikes up steep climbs.

“At some points we were only covering one kilometre an hour and taking between 4-6 hours to get through these sections,” recalls Jeannie.

And many of these climbs topped out at over 4,000m above sea level, especially in the initial stages, with over 37,000m of total ascent over the 1,900km route.

“The altitude was a major factor – it was energy-sapping. But the reward at the top of these climbs was breathtaking views over the valleys and across to other mountain peaks, some of which stood over 7,000m,” continues Martin. “It was truly spectacular and the natural beauty is unsurpassed.”

It was also dangerous in sections. “We were a bit nervous after seeing an avalanche in the region before leaving. The mountain tracks are also ‘knarly’ and you need to tread very carefully in places. The fragility of the mountainside really took me by surprise,” recalls Jeannie.

And the Dreyers had to cover immense distances between resupply points – often up to 200km in certain cases.

“On one day we cycled 150km along the river before riding a switchback climb to get up and over the mountain on the other side. We then enjoyed a 40km downhill section into another valley,” recalls Martin.

“Everything is super-sized in that part of the world. You just don’t get that scale in South Africa. It is absolutely grand and spectacular and there are massive contrasts in the terrain and the beauty of the area. You are left in awe and feel very small.”

But covering those distances on that terrain was hard work.

“We got hungry on the longer sections where there were no resupply stops. We couldn’t carry a lot and sometimes only found instant noodles at supply points in villages. This is where our Biogen products really helped,” continues Martin.

Jeannie adds: “We were so lean when we finished. We certainly need to find ways to carry additional calories.”

While riding such immense distances on consecutive days requires sustenance primarily from whole foods, the duo supplemented their energy and calorie requirements with a range of Biogen products and functional foods.

Every morning they took a Biogen Immuno Boost tab for a vitamin and mineral boost to supplement the shortfall they had from a lack of sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables.

On the bike, the duo sipped on Biogen Cytogen periodically and on the longer, tougher sections included a few energy gels when they needed a boost. They also carried a range of Biogen protein and energy bars to eat on and off the bike to meet their daily energy needs.

Another factor was the temperature, which ranged between -15°C and 40°C.

“The temperature variations were extreme.” continues Martin. “The Biogen Electrolyte Plus tabs were a life-saver in the heat of the valleys, which reached 36-40 degrees on certain days. Even when we weren’t pushing the pace, the sweating meant our electrolyte loss was immense, which limits your recovery.”

A Biogen Recovergen shake offered an indulgence and some much needed recovery support after they parked their bikes for the day.

“This intelligent carb-protein mix was a life-saver as it ensured we could recover for the next day. This chocolate milkshake was a real treat,” says Martin.

After an extremely challenging effort, Team Dreyer would celebrate with a Biogen Plant Based Protein Bite.

“We only took three boxes, so we limited these delicious treats when we needed a mental reward after accomplishing a significant milestone or as the cherry on the cake after cresting a massive mountain peak,” says Martin.

“It would’ve been nice to have carried more products with us but the added weight was a limiting factor. It was a real spoil to have the treats on the route,” adds Jeannie.

For added muscle recovery, Martin and Jeannie shared a Biogen Night Feed bar in their tent before going to sleep.

“This was another chocolatey treat for us, and when your body is always in a calorie-deficit, it helps to limit the muscle loss.”

“It was definitely the toughest mountain bike adventure that Jeannie and I have ever done. The organiser paints it as the hardest bike race on earth and it certainly lived up to its billing,” affirms Martin.

 The altitude, the ruggedness, the temperature extremes, the physicality of the route, the wild camping, and the weight of their bikes were all serious challenges. 

“Thankfully, we came into the race with the right attitude. We were there to pay our school fees as novices. We were intentionally conservative at the start and never pushed into the red. We walked the steep hills and got better quality sleep as we took mattresses.” 

Martin and Jeannie started moving through the field in the second part of the race, passing many riders who had pushed too hard in the early stages. 

“If we had tried to push, the wheels would’ve come off for us too,” adds Martin. 

This was definitely an appropriate approach as Team Dreyer finished in 10 days and 22 hours in 15th overall as most of the field came back to them. And Jeannie was the first female to cross the line. There were roughly 164 starters from 41 countries in the field. 

“We were also lucky to not have adverse weather conditions as some riders got hit by snow storms,” adds Martin.  

Their attitude towards the challenge also meant that the couple got what they wanted out of the experience. 

“We didn’t go there to race, despite what our result suggests. We managed ourselves and controlled our efforts, which meant we got much more out of the journey,” explains Jeannie. 

“The ability to ride without worrying about the usual stresses of everyday life after making provisions at home meant we could focus on the task at hand and not worry about anything else.”

While the Dreyers thoroughly enjoyed the physical challenge and the experience of exploring a new country on a bike, it was the people of Kyrgyzstan that would draw them back for another visit. 

“The people are what made the race so special. They are so courteous and respectful. They live a basic rural life with no running water, and toilets that are outside, yet their hospitality is amazing. They feed you and offer you a bed and refuse to take anything in return, even though they don’t have much. It was refreshing to see such kind people,” says Martin. 

“They were so hospitable and humble. We would definitely consider going back purely for the people and the cultural experience. We would probably not do it in the race conditions, though, and would love to take the kids along next time,” adds Jeannie. 

“We really enjoyed the simplicity of life there,” continues Martin.

“It was just so amazing to interact with the people and the environment,” adds Jeannie.  

After chatting to people at the finish, the Dreyers have realised that there are many other bike-packing races around the world to consider, like the TransBalkan or Morocco Atlas unsupported bikepacking races. 

So keep your eyes glued to Biogen’s social media feeds for updates on the Dreyers’ next adventure!