Off-road in Russia
Location: Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Author: Tanya Shulakova
Photos: Dasha Bekosh
Reverse Side of the Road is perhaps the most popular event for cycling enthusiasts in Russia at the moment. The race consists of both on-road and off-road segments. Participants have to tackle winding paths on varying surfaces through the forests, fields and roads of the Leningrad Region, which is located just outside of the former Russian capital, Saint Petersburg. There is the option of a 73km 1 lap circuit, or, for those feeling brave, a 146km 2 lap circuit.
Reverse Side of the Road takes place annually and is the largest event of its kind in Russia. The race is hugely popular, boasting participants not only from all over Russia, but also from abroad.
The race itself has an interesting format. Participants are only told about the location of the race in the days leading up to the event. This is done to prevent any competitive souls from scouting out the course in advance. On the night before the race everyone gathers at a campsite next to the race’s start line. This year, we camped next to a beautiful lake about 80km outside of Saint Petersburg. Despite the fact on the following day most people were going to race more than 140 km through fields, forests, asphalt and mud, the atmosphere was festival-like and everyone was in fantastic spirits.
Camping and a festival atmosphere the night before the race
In terms of bikes, there are three disciplines: multi speed, single speed and fixed gear. There is only one mandatory requirement for all the bikes– no shock absorbers. This year the winner completed the longer distance in just over 5 hours.
For me personally, this year was the first time that I decided to take part in the race. As a result, I thought it was probably best to tackle the shorter route. I rode the 73 km lap on a Cannondale CAAD X. For the first 30 km, it was, admittedly, a bit difficult at times as I’m not used to riding on these kinds of trails. However, once I got to halfway, I stopped noticing the time spent turning the pedals. The gravel sections, steep climbs, and long sandy sections started to all merge into one. I later found out that there were people who rode fill 146 km on fixed gear bikes. Maybe something to consider next year…
Only bike requirement - no shock-absorbers
I enjoyed absolutely everything about the race – the gorgeous views, the dust that was sprayed up by passing trucks and the tasty snacks handed out at the food points. I even managed to take a small tumble whilst crossing a narrow bridge that took us across a picturesque little stream in one section of the forest.
If you haven’t previously ridden on country and forest roads, I highly recommend that you do so. What’s more, I would recommend coming to the Reverse Side of the Road race and getting a taste of the growing cycling scene in Russia.
If you do plan to come, don’t forget to pack a good tent, warm sleeping bag and plenty of spare tubes. Coffee, food and DJ sets are all kindly taken care of by the race organisers.