This vast sparsely populated country the size of Western Europe has just a few asphalt roads, but is connected by a constantly changing network of rough tracks with occasional bridges over the biggest rivers. It is the ideal place for off-roading as you can ride in any direction from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, across steppe, mountain and desert landscapes. The motorcycle is far and away the best means of transport to explore the dramatic and beautiful wilderness and to experience the nomadic culture of the Mongols.
Being in the centre of the Asian landmass, south of Siberia and north of China, the climate is extreme with winter temperatures falling to minus 30°C, so the best time to visit is between June and September when the days are warm and the grass is green. Accommodation outside the city would be in traditional gers (Russian word: yurts), where you stay in round white felt tents like the homes of the nomadic people you pass along the way. The camps have restaurant and shower facilities, but if travelling in the most remote areas, wild camping in tents with the luxury of solitude is the only option.
Maps of Mongolia are poor and signposts are rare, so it is really very easy to get lost if travelling alone. Far better to go with a tour company who will show you the way, loan you a bike, fill it up with fuel when it runs out, feed you and carry your stuff. There are a few companies in Ulaanbaatar running motorbike tours, with bikes available ranging from Chinese 125cc Mustangs to old BMWs to the newest KTM 450EXCs. You get what you pay for.
Some off-road riding skills and stamina are required; terrain will be hard-pack, loose gravel, volcanic rock, mud or sand, depending on where you go. Typically cover 1700 kilometres on an 8-day round trip to the Gobi Desert. Distances between sites of interest are great and for those who wish for rapidly changing scenery, best stick to Europe. To be able to escape from the crowd and see emptiness in every direction is Mongolia’s speciality. It is a tough challenge, but an unforgettable experience and a unique riding destination.