Bikepacking Juuku Valley
James Hayden
bikepacking video
February 19, 2024
by Malik Alymkulov
Being involved in competitive bikepacking events in Kyrgyzstan has given me the bonus of bikepacking with ultra-distance champions! This not only includes competing with them during races, but also riding with them overnights in touring mode. It is an incredibly fun experience that widens my world and makes it more exciting!
My first such ride was back in 2019 when I was preparing for my first Silk Road Mountain Race. In that year, I asked Lael Wilcox and Rue if I could join their scouting ride up to Kegety Pass. We camped in the lower valley and conquered the pass the next day! That ride was particularly motivating as both ladies were strong and fast!
In 2022, just before the start of my third race James offered me the amazing opportunity to join his acclimatization at Jiptik Pass in southern Kyrgyzstan. I was absolutely fascinated by his offer, unfortunately, I was unable to join him there.
In 2023, James wrote to me about his plan to spend some time at Juuku Pass in the area of Yssyk-Kul Lake, before the next edition of the race! This time I couldn't miss the opportunity to join him on the ride.
We met at the airport at about 8:30 am. We drove over 7 hours to Saruu Village. This village is located about 45 km west of Karakol and about just over 400 km east of Bishkek! The driver dropped us on the fields at the washboard road to the mountains. At about 4:30 pm after a short preparation we set out our ride.
The Juuku Pass is the most challenging pass of several editions of the race and it is also the first and most challenging climb of a popular route that traverses the Kyrgyz mountains. The Juuku valley is the longest valley in the area and may be one of the last valleys that has not been heavily impacted by mass tourism! It is full of forests and streams! The ride is long but not as hard, except for the last few hundred meters before reaching the pass.
Since 2019, I have been obsessed with participating in the ultra-endurance bikepacking race that takes place in Kyrgyzstan. I took part in three races in 2019, 2021 and 2022. I didn't want to stop but at the same time I couldn't dedicate and afford as much time and resources as I needed to the race and preparation.
This trip with James was the first time that I was able to experience myself outside of the competitive bikepacking context. Before that, all my travels were either related to the race itself or in preparation for it. James came to Kyrgyzstan to compete in the race and this trip to Juuku Pass was part of his job. But I, on my part, enjoyed being just a tourist, thinking about personal things, about my plans, watching James rolling the bike and preparing myself for the big trip ahead in August, for the first time as a bikepacking tour guide.
We weren't rushing anywhere, we had plenty of time, and our goals weren't tied to results.
Two days with James was my cherished goal, whether I would make it to the big Juuke Lake or not.
James kept my pace and I was happy with the ride.
founder & editor
happy slow rider
Malik Alymkulov
bikepacking kyrgyzstan 2024
Made on