Adventuresome is something that those of us who love to ride would claim is in our blood. Even those who choose to live their traveling time in cages (or cars) assert that they too are risk-taking thrill seekers. In either case, very few would even consider for the briefest moment the trip that two childhood and life-long friends are about to encounter.
Douglas Robertson, a.k.a. Roma Dakota and Kevin Williams, a.k.a. Rider X grew up together in the Lee’s Summit suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. Their risky and exploratory plan is a five-week trek on Soviet-made motorcycles, starting in mid June, from the western town of Domodedovo, just South of Moscow, eastward towards the Pacific. They intend to cross the continent of Russia and their journey is code named Project-Vostok.
As friends who have known each other from age eight, both were inspired by the little known 2004 TV documentary, “Long Way Round.” This is the story of actor Ewan McGregor and friend Charley Boorman’s ride around the world on BMW motorcycles. That documentary has inspired them to put together their own plan to see Russia and take in its beauty and its people in a most unique way and on a most exclusive route.
Both Kevin and Doug clearly fit the prerequisites of adventuresome. Kevin, a renovation specialist contractor, has been a resident of England for the past seven years and has had significant exposure to many European countries. Doug has held a long interest in Russia and is very knowledgeable of the geography of this vast area. Doug’s wife Aleksandra is also from Russia, and he has visited there on three previous occasions. Both are licensed pilots.
If you are still not convinced of their worthiness for the adventuresome label, consider this: Several years ago, Doug purchased a Russian military training aircraft called a Yak 52. He had it shipped to San Diego, where he took a commercial flight there, then spent a couple of weeks assembling it before he flew it home. He still owns and maintains the plane. Having recently been a passenger in this aircraft, I can testify that it is in excellent condition. It was one wild ride and at no time was I ever concerned about my personal safety!
What would motivate them or anyone to consider a journey of nearly 6,000 miles on a parallel equivalent to that of southern Canada and on machines not known for their comfort? They quite simply have chosen to be modern-day adventurers and become the first Westerners to cross the Russian continent on Russian-made machines. Their media package includes the following motivations: the desire to encounter worldly cultures, the intent to remove themselves from day-to-day technological conveniences and finally, to overcome the challenges associated with testing one’s limits of determination and perseverance. They intend to document their journey daily and as frequently as every two to three days upload their information to the web for all to read. At a minimum, they desire to cover the event from three varied perspectives; the cultures and people of Russia, their friendship and the challenges and the machines themselves.
As if the journey itself did not have enough inherent risk, consider their bikes. Both are currently sitting in Russia, purchased sight unseen and awaiting their arrival. Doug, possessed with a lifelong curiosity of power driven devices, is a self-taught mechanic who also happens to be a physics professor and former information technology specialist. He recognizes the associated risks of the blind purchase, but is very familiar with these machines.
The motorcycles are KMZ Dnepr (pronounced nipper, the D is nearly silent). They are powered by a no-frills horizontally opposed, 650 CC overhead cam twin cylinder bike (much like older BMW air heads) and also have a side car. Doug has been riding his “Nipper” locally for nearly the past three years. During this time, his confidence and familiarity of this model of bike does not cause him great concern. These rugged looking bikes look like technology right out of the 1950s and were originally built for the Soviet military to handle all types of terrain. They do not include any modern electronics, and because of their simplicity of operations, Doug is confident that any needed repairs can be made even in remote locations. The bikes were not just chosen for their ease of maintenance and durability, but also since they are side car equipped, they will provide a much more stable platform in the rugged terrain and in creek and river crossings, as well as provide storage of gear, tools, other necessities and extra fuel.
Their route will cross over predominately the southern part of the country, passing just north of Kazakhastan and Mongolia. They intend to be in Siberia during the spring/summer equinox, the longest day of the year. Since both riders only have single entry visas, they will not be able to depart Russia until their ride has completed. With the overall objective to meet people and understand cultures, they may not make their intended coast-to-coast destination, but they intend to do their best to get as far as they can.
Their web site includes volumes of details that cover the route, the bikes, the design updates they have planned for their awaiting machines, and volumes of blogs that address the preparation activities and route information.
Project Vostok is also seeking additional sponsorships. If you have an interest in supporting this adventure, please contact Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cycle Connections encourages our readers to visit the Project Vostok web site and register to receive email updates from this incredible near term adventure. When the ride is complete, we will provide you with an insider’s viewpoint.
Story & photos by Roma, Rider X and Nic