A fact to which almost any cyclist will attest, is that the prevailing wind direction can make or break a day in the saddle. A headwind can cut your speed by half and your morale by even more so. Conversely, a tailwind – pushing you forward from behind – can transform the most mediocre rider into a cycling hero, and it is on tailwind days that a career as a pro cyclist really does seem like a viable option in life.
It should be stated at this point that we have been relatively fortuitous in this regard during our journey across central Asia and have certainly enjoyed some wind-assisted miles along the way. However, the open expanses of western Kazakhstan well and truly re-balanced this particular statistic.
The confident statement declaring a likely tailwind the whole way from Beyneu to the shores of the Caspian Sea proved to be spectacularly inaccurate. The relentless Kazakh headwind punched us in the face from 6am until 9pm and was interrupted only by the occasional slightly stronger gust which would knock our unstable bikes to the ground. These conditions coupled with the non-existent road, which arguably hindered progress even more so, made for an excruciatingly slow 12km/h average speed and subsequently, very long days turning pedal. Add to this the solitude created by the truly barren landscape and understandably this situation raised the obvious question as to why on earth we were doing this. There must be something in every cyclist though that takes some reward from such a (seemingly pointless) challenge, otherwise why indeed would we be doing it? As we sank our first beer for two weeks overlooking the Caspian Sea in the surprisingly bustling city of Aktau, it did finally seem like a worthwhile thing to do.