Jussi Hyttinen and Juha Tapiola battle swollen rivers, mud churned trails and bears as they take on one of the most remote trails in Eastern Siberia, the Winter Road 110.
In the 1970s the Soviet ‘construction project of the century’ was quietly underway. The Baikal-Amur Mainline, or BAM as it is more commonly known, was being constructed as a strategic alternative route to the Trans-Siberian Railway, running north of, and parallel to the cross-country rail tracks. The winter of 1974-1975 around Lake Baikal was exceptionally warm and desperately needed construction materials could not be delivered to the BAM as there was not enough ice on Lake Baikal to construct the annual ice road. To keep the supplies flowing, the Soviets decided to build a road east of the lake, stretching 160 km from Ust-Barguzin to Novy Uoyan. Work was carried out at a fierce pace, day and night, in the brutal winter conditions of Siberia.
The temporary road was completed on February 1, 1975, and immediately put to good use. Up to 80 lorries rode up the new track daily, transporting building materials to the BAM construction.
The BAM was eventually finished and the temporary road became redundant. It was used as a winter road for a while, but nothing man-made lasts long in Siberia unless it’s maintained. The road fell into decay. Bridges rotted, water washed away gravel and unearthed boulders. It could not be used for traffic any longer, and it became a mighty test for off-road enthusiasts. It was christened ‘The 110’ in accordance with the last surviving kilometre post on the road.
It was on a two-month ride around Mongolia and Siberia when I was heading for the Western BAM Road. In the planning phase of my trip I had stumbled upon a strange trail in the maps that nobody seemed to know about. It ran on the eastern side of Lake Baikal and it eventually turned out that a Russian crew called The Mongolian Cosmonauts had ridden it the previous year. It was the 110 and the Russians told me that it could not be done with two bikes ‘unless you were very strong’. My riding partner, Juha aka The Walrus, was a big guy so I figured that took care of the ‘very strong’ part. We had been on the road for a month and were taking a service break in Ulan Ude, south-east of Lake Baikal and our plan was to head up to Tynda and ride the Western Bam Road. Instead, we decided to ride north to the 110.
Arriving at the southern bank of the Bar guzin River marked the beginning of our adventure. Everything leading to that point had been child’s play and we were now in business. The river was a hundred meters wide, with deep fast-flowing channels between wide rocky rapids. The ford was clearly visible as the road plunged right into the river where we had arrived. It looked like it was used mostly by 6WD trucks and too deep for bikes. Juha waded in and was quickly thigh-deep in fast-flowing water. We would not be able to cross there.
Upstream, in the middle of the river, was a small sandy island scattered with debris. I walked up the southern bank to investigate whether it could be reached and I found a connection to the island via a chain of gravel bars and fordable rapids in the river. The biggest obstacle between the island and the northern bank was a deep fast flowing channel. Attacking it directly from the island was impossible.
It was too deep and ferocious. The channel fed a wide rapid just below the island and I followed it downstream. It swung gently towards the northern bank where another gravel bar would lead us out of the river. The only problem was the channel between the rocky gravel bars. It was deep and had a strong flow, but narrower than upstream. It was risky, but the only option.
Back at the bikes we had a brief debate about the situation and decided to make the final decision at the deep channel. Getting the bikes to the island was hard enough, the gravel bars and rapids were all smooth rocks and boulders. Finding grip was hard and we took a few tumbles. Luckily the water was shallow and the bikes did not drown. Reaching the island, we took a small break and stripped all luggage from the bikes. Attacking the channel one bike at a time seemed like the safest option and I rode in first.
Cutting across the rapid was tough, the boulders were constantly guiding the bike downstream and I repeatedly had to wrench the bike towards the narrow gap in the channel.
Reaching the channel, we had a short discussion. If we were to get on the 110, we would have to risk crossing the channel. I knew there would be no second attempt and I was fully committed. Playing into the decision of taking the risk was also the prospect of having to ride all the way back to the southern bank. It would have been hard work going upstream. We decided to power walk the bike over the channel, with me on the upstream side operating the throttle. Juha was supporting on the downstream side. Little by little, boulder by boulder, we inched the bike into the channel. The flow became stronger as the bike went deeper. The flowing water started pushing against the bike and creating a wave that crept higher and higher. I moved my body forward to protect the airbox intake from the flow.
Choking the bike there, in that channel, would have meant serious problems. The airbox just about cleared the water level, which started to ease off as we started to ascend the opposite gravel bar. It consisted of smaller rocks and I rode it standing on the pegs, to reach the beginning of the road. It had been a severe river crossing and having made it I felt extremely relieved and exhilarated.
We waded back to bring Juha’s bike over in the same fashion without incident and then another two trips for our luggage. Wading upstream and hauling all the luggage was hard work. When everything was on the northern bank, we took a break before packing the bikes. It had been a tough morning. Even though we had triumphed in the widest river crossing of the 110, we had only just gained access to the beginning of the road. We were tired and drenched.
The 110 ran through the Dzherginsky Nature Reserve and after packing up and taking to the road, we reached the rangers’ hut. It was the last inhabited house for 150 km. Our plan was to camp there with the rangers, recover and hit the road the following morning with replenished energy. I walked into their humble office to register and pay the nature reserve fee of 250 RUB per person. The rangers kept asking us about the rest of our crew, and when I told them it was just us, they were clearly surprised that we did not have a support vehicle. They also told us to get a move on as it would start raining later. Further north, the Barguzin River turned east and the 110 would cross it for a second time, sixty kilometres up the trail. We had been very fortunate to have made it over the river due to low water in the first crossing. If it rained, the river would swell up and we would be trapped between the two crossings. Tired and wet as we were, we had to move.
Before leaving I asked about the second crossing and was told that it was narrower but deeper. This sounded pretty worrying as did the fact that there were a lot of bears in the nature reserve. The ranger did add though, that they didn’t bother people. To this notion, we said our goodbyes and took off.
The road from the rangers’ hut was in good shape. A normal forest road, that had seen some maintenance. It ascended sharply to a mountain pass, where we briefly stopped to put on our Klim Gore-Tex jackets, over completely drenched MX armour and jerseys. It would be a cold race to the second crossing.
The road twisted through the hills and dropped down into a lush valley. The skies looked threatening but it was still dry. The road was in decent condition, with a makeshift bridge and some minor obstacles here and there. Mostly it was easy going and we were making good progress. We had just connected with the Kovyli River when rounding a bend I noticed a strange hulking shape in front of me. It was fleeing from me down the road and my initial thought was that it was one huge dog. I then realised that it was in fact a bear and I hit the brakes, staring at it in disbelief, too dumbstruck to take a picture. The way it moved was alien, lurching from side to side and looking back to see if we gave chase while it ran. Juha soon stopped next to me and we watched the bear run off and disappear into the forest. I felt very fortunate to have seen one in the wild for the first time. It also dawned on me that they actually did exist here in large numbers, which resulted in a bittersweet emotional cocktail of gratitude and anxiety.
The road ran parallel with the Kovyli River, reaching a closed wooden gate, we passed through it, closing it behind us, and proceeded to the last evidence of civilisation. A small farmhouse and fields. Leaving them in our dust, we were soon at the Birankur River.
The crossing was easy, but it had a totally different ambience than any other river crossing I’d been to. The air was thick with tranquillity and the absence of human interaction. Debris, carried down by the river, lay in piles and we carved a path between them. Access was granted to us, not taken. We were there as visitors, not conquerors.
Our route took us in a generally straight line through the floor of the wide Kovyli Valley. The road was in good shape, but the skies kept growing darker, eventually covering us with a light drizzle. It was a stark reminder of why we had to keep moving. Reaching the crossing of the Kovyli River I was feeling overconfident and target-oriented. The river was flowing fast, but I rode straight into a line I had spotted. I only made it across maybe a third of the way when I hit a boulder and fell on the right side of the bike. Taking falls is normal and the only damage was that the breather cap in my Rally Raid front tank which had blown off. I was annoyed at myself for the cockiness.
Feeling more humble, I continued up the trail which ascended for 400 vertical metres to a mountain pass. The road had been very good but quickly deteriorated as we descended into the valley that lead to the second crossing of the Barguzin River. The terrain got sporadically marshy, with deep soggy pools stretching over the road. Being on bikes we managed to pass them on the solid turf on the sides of the road. Riding through the pools would have been risky as some of them had clearly been churned out by 6WD Ural trucks.
Crossing a small pool, I used the bank of the road to avoid riding into the water. I was carrying some speed and the bank ended up being completely soft. My front tyre sank in and before I knew it, I was airborne. I landed on the hard rocky road, but thanks to my full MX armour, I was just a little dazed. Going back to my bike to assess the damage I could see fluid gushing from underneath it. I picked up the bike and noticed that the bottom of the right-hand side front tank had been completely sheared off by a rock. Fortunately, the taps on the front tanks were closed, so I only lost what was in the tank and we had plenty of reserve, so I had enough to make it through. Luckily the bike was undamaged. Juha was already ahead of me so after I caught my breath, I got back on the bike and rode on. The second ford was only five kilometres away, and that’s where I caught up with Juha. I told him about the situation, but as there was nothing to be done about it we proceeded to figure out the crossing. The Walrus waded in and scouted an arching line running downstream and then back up again. He rode over it with ease, but I was getting tired and had to power walk my bike over.
The crossing was beautiful and would have made for a lovely spot to camp. Instead, we decided to just take a break and head up into the mountains for the night. It was ironic that one of the reasons to camp in the mountains was that we thought there would be less bears than next to the river. Riding up the steep mountain road, I recognised the familiar dark shadow on the road and hit the breaks. Or rather three shadows, in the form of a female with two grown cubs. I knew enough not get close, so I waited for Juha. The bears were ignoring us, with the female looking in our direction every now and then but not moving off the road. We honked our horns and revved our engines and eventually, they started to move. It was almost humorous how in charge the female was. She was in no hurry to get off the road and made it clear that she walked into the forest because she chose to, not because she had to. We waited for a while before attacking that section of road in Erzberg style.
Riding up to the mountain pass, we found a flat spot suitable for camping. By that time we were wet and tired so getting a fire going was our top priority. Luckily we found some dry wood and before too long were warming up and drying in front of the campfire. It was the only fire we had made during the four weeks on the road and I think the fact that we were less than a kilometre from where we had met the bears had something to do with it.
The fire provided comforting heat and light and we had some snacks for dinner. Both of us were too tired to be interested in cooking, and a sudden shower made the final decision for us. We crawled into our tents. In the comfort of my down sleeping bag I wrote my trail notes for the day and hoped that the weather would improve before the morning. Even though we had managed to cross the Barguzin twice, we had the most technical terrain ahead of us as well as one more deep crossing. I drifted into an uneasy sleep tormented by visions of drowning bikes and bears in our camp.
I woke up at around six after sleeping badly. It had been a cold night and all my gear was wet from the day before. Outside it was raining hard and I realised that the way back was shut. The Barguzin River would be a raging torrent and we would not be able to cross it. The only way was forward and making it through the 110. It was a sobering, yet fortifying realisation. I lazed in my tent for another 45 minutes, hoping the rain would subside. Unfortunately, it only grew stronger. The only option was to leave the comfort of my sleeping bag, put on my cold, wet riding gear and crawl out into the rain. Mornings like that really were what Siberian enduro was all about. Enduring. Enduring fatigue, malnutrition, being cold and wet. Finding the mental strength to get up and out when your body resists. The reward on the other hand is priceless. Only for the mind though, for the body, it’s more of the same.
We were on one of the most remote and hardest trails in Siberia. It had been raining all night and the rivers would only be harder and harder to cross as the day progressed. I told Juha we should skip the coffee and get moving immediately. On the trail, we had the opportunity to get warm and we could eat our snacks instead of breakfast. If the rain subsided or we could find shelter, we could cook food. He agreed and we packed up hastily. Despite the exertion of packing up the bikes, I was still cold as we hit the trail.
The road over the Ruhlovskogo pass was not bad and we immediately passed the legendary viewpoint. I recognised it from all the empty vodka bottles. The viewpoint would have given great views over the Barguzin River and mountains, but as the weather was so bleak we rode right past it. Descending towards the Akumtu brook the road deteriorated and became deeply rutted, with rocks and debris scattered over it by water.
Water in the Akumtu brook was strangely low and we crossed it with ease. The main attraction was the bridge next to it. There were supposed to be several of these steel bridges on the 110. Apparently they were flown in with helicopters and dropped next to the road to be put into place later. It never happened and they were just left there. Almost like the skeletons of behemoths that had chosen to die there. It felt strange that seventy heavily loaded lorries had travelled back and forth on this road almost forty years earlier. Save for the pouring rain, it was eerily quiet and time stood still.
We continued down the trail crossing ford after ford. They were all similar to the Akumtu brook, with the hulk of a dead bridge looming in the background of the ford. Water levels swelled with the rain and brooks turned into streams and creeks. Fording was still easy, despite the terrain being very rocky. The trail also became increasingly riddled with puddles, sometimes spanning over the width of the road. They had muddy bottoms for the most part but weren’t deep, with water only up to the top of our tyres. I rode them mostly in first gear with high throttle on the exit.
The world was ominously dark with the thick rain clouds unloading on us. Visibility was still pretty good but the air seemed to consist mostly of water. We both had our goggles slung backwards as it would have been impossible to see through them and we were so slow anyway that there was no need for them. It was almost as if I was in a bubble, travelling through the Siberian taiga. With the sound of my single cylinder breaking the surrealism.
I felt as if we had been granted passage over the Barguzin, twice, only to be trapped on the northern side with only one way out. Almost like flies navigating through a web, with the spider watching closely. Playing with its prey. There would be no conquering, only enduring and surviving the 110 if we were lucky and played it smart.
On a long straight, I finally noticed what I had been expecting to see. The 110 km signpost. It is apparently the only surviving signpost and what gave this road its name. I parked in front of it and Juha followed suit. The post was covered in stickers from 4WD expeditions. They liked to travel with luxuries and had even brought a wooden table and benches. It was covered with initials and dates. All dated on 2014. We took some mandatory photos and I added The Rolling Hobo into the sticker collection on the sign. We did not have time to linger and were soon back on the road.
The last deep water crossing that had worried me was suddenly ahead of us. When I saw it, I laughed out loud. It was just a big dip in the road with a trickle of water in the bottom. We passed it with ease and my heart was lighter, despite knowing that all the difficult technical riding was still ahead of us. There would be many rivers to cross, but they were shallow. Very technical but shallow. At least we had a fair chance of riding them instead of being stopped by deep water.
On our way to the bank of the Namana River, we crossed the Amnei River. We had left the long straight lines of the wide valleys behind us and were in a world of rock and stone. A technical trail, carved by the water where the old road had been. A grey scar through the lush pine forests. Riding it was still easy, a preview of what was to be in a much larger scale. The Namana River was beautiful, wild, remote and impassable. We rode down its eastern bank, navigating rocky obstacles where water had washed away the road. The riding wasn’t too difficult and here and there the road climbed back into the forest. We rode through green wet tunnels of branches and foliage which had drooped over the trail.
Approaching the conflux with the Svetlaya River, the terrain got increasingly technical. It peaked just before flattening out and the road reappeared. Small rivers, fed by the generous rain, plummeted down the steep slopes to feed the Svetlaya River. All the sand and dirt was long gone and we were riding on boulders. Riding on pegs was out of the question, as taking a fall from standing up would most likely have resulted in serious injury. Riding boulders and technical rocky stuff from the seat was exhausting. The seat height on the 690 is tall, especially with the extra 50 mm of suspension we had. Balancing was delicate and I was constantly looking for the next boulder for foot support on either side. If I missed it, I went down and had to pick up the bike. I was doing everything I could to avoid that situation but went down three times in that section. I was exhausted when I reached the road on the other side.
Riding down the bank of the Svetlaya River, we came across a wide flat gravel bank sticking out into the river. We rode on it and killed the engines. Time stood still and I could feel myself relaxing.
It seemed as if this was the first opportunity to really observe my surroundings. Solemn mountains watching over a calm, graceful river. The air seemed to be clearer and the rain had subsided to a drizzle. Juha had some business in the forest so I had the place to myself for a while. It was a blissful break from the noise, the rain and the battle with the trail and the rivers. A little solace.
Soon Juha was back and we fired up the engines. Time suddenly accelerated back to normal, noises whooshed into my helmet, the world shrunk to just a tunnel vision of the trail, and my nerves steeled. We were back on the 110.
The trail continued down the rocky eastern bank. Some sections were very rocky with water rushing down the mountain, cutting across the trail. We ended up getting stuck in a very muddy pool and had to dig up both bikes before continuing. Our time at the bank of the majestic Svetlaya River came to an end as we turned east to meet the Ulug River. We still had the worst ahead of us and crossing the Ulug River was a light preview. It was an awkward crossing as it cut across the river in a bend. Juha rode in a large arc, crossing the river twice, but I opted for the direct route right up the river. It was hard work and I regretted not taking Juha’s line. On the other side of the crossing, I took a small break. I knew that we would next be riding right into the heart of darkness, the Sramnaya Valley.
The ride to the Sramnaya River was the usual mix of road, puddles and mud. When we got to the beginning of the Sramnaya Valley, it was like nothing I had ever seen. The walls of the valley were steep, rising 500m on both sides as the valley plunged down almost 400m in roughly eight kilometres. The river was wild and fast flowing in a riverbed strewn with boulders. The rains had seriously swelled it up and it had a menacing demeanour to it.
We crossed the Sramnaya several times, as the road zig-zagged between the steep walls of the river. The first crossings were easier, with some sand in the bottom and boulders only here and there. Further down the valley, it got more technical as the crossings got deeper with more boulders. In the end the road went straight into the river and disappeared. I looked at the route in disbelief. I couldn’t see the exit line and there was no way back. Somehow we had to find a way forward.
I parked my bike and waded into the river. We were above an impassable section so I waded across to the other side where the river was met by a steep wall. I could make out a general line down and kept following it until I saw the exit. It was on the same side as our bikes, but we would have to cut across the river, ride down and cut across again to reach it. With lower water levels there may have been a road but now everything was just a rapid. I signalled the line to Juha and he attacked it immediately. I admired his commitment and attitude. There was no need for discussion and no room for doubts. This was our line and we had to take it or stay there forever. True adventure enduro in a remote setting. There would be no help from anyone if we failed.
Juha made it across and down the line, while I waded back up to my bike. I started the 690 and attacked the line. The traverse was tricky with water pushing me downstream hard and the tyres had very little grip on the smooth boulders. I tried not to look further than two metres and focused on each problem at hand. I made it across and started down the line towards the next traverse. I hit a boulder and put my foot out for support and found nothing. I fell down helplessly with my bike, which got propped on a boulder and didn’t drown. Juha waded to me to give support as I made my way down to his bike. The traverse back to the other side was between a waterfall and a deep pool. Crossing it was pretty daunting but we made to the track.
The trail was immediately washed away and we made our way down the bank on boulders and rocks. It was exhilarating in a way. Pure action and focus on the task at hand, moving forward, no matter how slow.
I knew that the river would end up in a lake a few kilometres further down so this couldn’t go on forever. We just had to keep moving. The trail disappeared into a narrow channel of large boulders wedged between steep walls. There were no more indications of a trail or a line of any kind. It was just a rapid without an exit line in sight. Juha scouted it by foot and indicated that the exit line was a hundred metres further down. He came back up and then rode down the right-hand side of the river. I was amazed that he was on the bike as there was no way to see what was below. His luck come to an end and he went down. I saw him struggling to get up and immediately waded into the river to give assistance. I was surprised to find the bottom being only large boulders with wide gaps of deep water between. I fell in once and went down to my chest in the icy water. I reached Juha and backed him up the last section, which he tackled in good form. Juha, true to his style, commented dryly that he didn’t recommend trying to ride it.
We went back up to my bike and power walked it down the rapid. Juha had memorised the route and guided us through. It went pretty well, except that I missed a step and fell deep between the boulders again. I ended up in a pit with the bike standing on the boulders next to me. The handlebars were at level with my head. It was insane, but we made it through. We now had both bikes on the trail again, in working condition. Unfortunately, we were still on the wrong side of the river.
A bumpy trail of boulders and rocks took us to the final crossing of the Sramnaya River. It was an easy perpendicular line across the river and gave us no trouble. The trail continued down the rocky western bank of the river. Little by little dirt crept between the boulders, puddles formed and streams rushed across the trail. It was still technical but felt luxuriously fast after battling the river. It was still close and visible through the trees, but I knew that our business with it was done.
We stopped briefly to eat whatever we had left of our trail food. I had one chocolate bar and then I was out. The BAM Road was still over seventy kilometres away and there were several rivers on the map. The terrain around the lake was a big question mark. I was hoping we would make it to Novi Uoyan before nightfall to avoid another wet and cold night of camping. The riding also kept us warm, so I was eager to hit the forest trail.
The rocky road in the forest spat us out into a wider muddy trail. It was churned out by 6WD trucks and was extremely slippery. We reached the lake where the Sramnaya River ended and suddenly we were on a dirt road. Not like the dirt sections of the 110 but a proper dirt road. Wide, level, hard and full of potholes. I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting the 110 to go all the way to the BAM, but 65 km earlier than I expected, it was all over. We had made it through the 110 unassisted. As far as I knew, there had been two Russian parties on motorcycles through the 110 in 2009 and 2013. We were most likely the only crew in 2014 and perhaps the first Westerners ever.
Jussi Hyttinen AKA The Rolling Hobo
The Auther and Photographer
I’m a Finn in Berlin, working in a creative industry. I ride to see the world at its emptiest. To visit the dark corners of Earth where time stands still. Places that leave room for imagination, that is my adventure. I share my experiences of building bikes, selecting gear and riding adventures on my website; www.therollinghobo.com. I hope it inspires people to ride out their adventures, just as the adventures of others urged me out of the door and into the saddle.
Juha Tapiola AKA The Walrus
Likes: Performance machines, mussels
Dislikes: Poor workmanship
Interests: Enduro, ice swimming and fishing
Achievements: Finished Paijanneajo 2009 and 2010
Ambition: Perfect hydrodynamic appearance
Dzherginsky Nature Reserve
The Winter Road 110 winds through the mountains and splashes through the rivers of the Dzherginsky Nature Reserve. The reserve, which is spread out over 238,080 hectares, lies to the east of Lake Baikal (the deepest lake in the world which holds 20% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater) at the meeting point of three mountain ranges; the Barguzin, Ikat and South-Muya mountain ranges. More than 75% of the reserve is covered by forest and wildlife includes park elk, musk deer, roebuck, wild boar, Siberian roe, reindeer, wolves, foxes, brown bears, lynx and skunk bear.
The Bikes: KTM 690 Enduro R K13
I originally decided to go with the KTM 690 Enduro R because it’s light for its class, it runs on 80 octane fuel, has reasonable service intervals and is capable of long rides. It’s still in production and in my region parts are widely available. Having said that, it does need some work before it can be taken on long adventures.
Here are my (Hobo) key modifications to the KTM 690 Enduro R to make it suitable for such an intense ride:
Extra protection on wiring
Shindengen FH008 MOSFET regulator rectifier
Rally Raid aluminium engine with a tank for engine oil
KTM EVO-1 cover with Unifilter
15/16:50 final drive gearing
LED rear indicators
Short tail fender with a small show plate
Rally Raid 300mm Tractive Rallye Shock
Rally Raid 50mm Fork Extension Kit and custom valving
Rally Raid soft luggage racks
Adventure Spec Magadan panniers
Giant Loop tank bag. Fandango on ‘Hobo’, Diablo on ‘Walrus’
Rally Raid filler neck and Acerbis breather cap
Rally Raid lower tank mounting bolts
Rally Raid subframe bolts
Rally Raid 4.5l tail tank
Rally Raid EVO-2 front tanks
Extra filters in fuel lines
Rally Raid Injector Hex screw kit
Rally Management Services universal mounting clamps and RAM mount for GPS
Garmin Montana 600 GPS
Baja Designs SII LED spotlight
Rally Raid Radiator Protector and Radiator Screen
Rally Raid 88C fan thermostat switch
Rally Raid Side Stand Dummy plug
Rally Raid Side Stand Foot Extender
OSCO, the One Second Chain Oiler
TM Designworks chain guidebooks
Rally Raid Billet Sprocket Guard
Rally routing on the front brake line
Custom mount on the rear brake line
Haul loop in the fork
Single folding mirror
Gear we’d recommend
After finishing the long ride we devised a list of the best performing equipment on the journey.
Klim Dakar In the Boot pants
Rally Raid 300mm Tractive Rallye shock
Sidi Crossfire II MX boots
KTM 690 Enduro R
Nikon 1 AW1
Pelican 1070CC Hardback Case for 13” Macbook Air
Five tips for a successful river crossing
Prep and know your bike Make sure all breather hoses, throttle body boot etc. are lubed and clamps tightened to seal properly. Get the airbox intake as high as possible and know how deep you can go.
Scout the crossing on foot and find major hazards The obvious track is not necessarily the best line for bikes. It can be deep, so always check for alternate lines.
It’s a team effort Have your buddy guide you through the line and back you up in tough crossings. If you’re riding solo, identify key features for navigation or use wands to mark the line.
Aim upstream In fast current the front tyre may slip on the river bed turning the bike downstream. Compensate by adjusting your target a little upstream of the exit line. It will be easier to correct your line downstream than upstream.
Be in charge There is no turning back in the middle, so you have to take the bike across no matter what. If you are confident, you can do almost anything.