4th September 2023
Josh Ibbett's Silk Road Mountain Race 2023
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Josh Ibbett after his adventure in the 2023 Silk Road Mountain Race held in Kyrgyzstan. The Silk Road Mountain Race is an extraordinary and grueling event, infamously known for its challenging terrain and stunning landscapes. Riders traverse the rugged mountains of Kyrgyzstan, facing extreme weather conditions, high altitudes, and unpredictable terrain, all while pushing their physical and mental limits.
This year's race was particularly gripping, featuring two Mason riders, with Angus Young, who had recently emerged victorious in the Highland Trail 550, also making the arduous journey to the starting line.
How did you find the ride, route and experience overall compared to previous years and generally speaking?
This was my first time in Kyrgyzstan and first attempt at the Silk Road mountain race so I didn’t really know what to expect. If anything I was a little intimidated by the race, not necessarily for any one reason but more the accumulation of a number of factors such as the high altitude, remoteness, unpredictable weather and the new culture. However, once the race got underway I soon adapted on many of those pre race worries proven to be unfounded, I find its much easier to deal with things in the moment rather than thinking through the worst case scenarios pre event. As it was I had a really smooth ride with no major issues and ended up feeling very comfortable out here on the race route.
What was the toughest moment of the race?
The toughest moment would have been at some point on one of the many long straight, slightly uphill, corrugated dirt roads into the never-ending headwinds. It was slow going and not necessarily physically tough but more of a slow mental fatigue that gradually builds over the duration of the event.
What was the best moment of the race?
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment however there were plenty of times where the landscape would just unravel before my eyes when crossing a pass or turning into a new valley. Kyrgyzstan is an incredibly beautiful country and the scale of the mountains is breath taking so whenever the riding gets tough its comforting to know that at some point you will get your reward.
How did the bike perform? And were you happy with your choice of components?
The RAW was pretty flawless. I experienced no major mechanical issues and everything just worked as it should apart from a stuck gear cable in the last few days… but I probably should have changed that after the HT550 so it's my own fault! I was glad I chose the RAW as it allowed a nice comfortable position on the long climbs and I was able to relax on the downhills and let the bike do the work.
Anything that you learned along the way that will stay with you in life?
I learned that it’s possible to ride a very long way on stale cheese sandwiches! In all seriousness, the human body is an amazing thing and it's fascinating to experience how far it can go on so little fuel. We never get anywhere close to finding out limits in daily life so it’s nice to get a little reminder by doing a ridiculous bike ride every now and again.
Any plans for the rest of the year?
As winter is approaching I’m very much looking forward to another Cyclocross season on my trusty Bokeh. I also have another international trip planned for the end of October when I head to Japan for the Japanese Odyssey. It will be my first time in Japan so I’m very excited to experience a new country and culture as well as pedal my Definition up some steep old mountains!