Given By Mountains

Share This

others did. Support us and pass it along...
Facebook 0 Twitter Pinterest Google+

In the summer of 2016, four of us pedaled across Kyrgyzstan from Lake Issyk Kul to Bishkek. Our several weeks in the Tian Shan —the celestial mountains — gave us much. This movie is about inspiration and the hope of returning the sustenance we receive from a place by putting beauty back into the world. Watch and find Joe’s thoughts on the film here, plus a new photo gallery and more on the route…

Words and film by Joe Cruz, photos by Logan Watts

On August 1, 2016, Lucas Winzenburg, Joel Caldwell, Logan Watts and Joe Cruz set out on a 23 day trip across Kyrgyzstan. They rode fat bikes over marshes, through valleys, and atop high passes. This is a film about the beauty of this place and how it remains with them. Watch below, and scroll down further to see Joe’s thoughts on the film as well as a new photo gallery…

  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

All three of my travel companions are artists and makers: Joel Caldwell is a professional adventure and conservation photographer whose writing and photos have done so much good in addition to being beautiful. Logan Watts is a graphic designer and is incredible in his own right behind the camera. He is also a writer, and the loveliness and functionality of this very site, bikepacking.com, is an expression of his vision as a publisher and editor. And Lucas Winzenburg is a storyteller, Leica film photographer, and cartographer; many of you will know him as the publisher and creative director of the cycling journal Bunyan Velo. I had a chance to see Joel, Logan, and Lucas draw in Kyrgyzstan and its people and I know that they’ll someday boomerang those soaring heights in their work.

Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

Travel on bicycle is, in my view, a powerful catalyst for inspiration. The pace, the exhaustion, the vulnerability, and the cyclical cadence extended over time open us to creativity. We connect to sublime landscapes and the kindness of others in order to be refracting lenses for beauty itself.

Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

We found exuberant mountain herders, grass tracks unfurling into the horizon, craggy breathless 14,000 foot passes… we also found inspiration.”

  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

Our 613 mile ~20 day route followed a stitchwork of grass carpet single and double track, rocky scree fields, and gravel roads. We rolled through seemingly endless river valleys between 5,000 meter snow covered ranges and crossed countless delirium inducing mountain passes with the clack and rattle of scree under tires. And all the while we encountered friendly and outgoing nomadic horsemen herding sheep and cattle. Kyrgyzstan soars to every superlative and defies you to invent new ones. It’s beautiful, culturally compelling, and physically challenging. See the full route guide here.

  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film
  • Given By Mountains, Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan Film

For related reading, check out Logan’s story, Don’t Whistle Indoors. Also find our Guide to Mountain Weather Preparation and Joe’s Rider and Rig, showing off his Seven Treeline that accompanied him on this trip. You can also read Joe’s story with Joel’s photography in the latest Bunyan Velo, as well as find Joel’s photos in print in Wilderness 04.

14 Comments
  • ??

    Breathtaking. But I’d expect no less from the likes of this crew.

  • Beautiful photos as well!

  • Kevin Machtelinckx

    Nothing short of fantastic. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Thanks!!

  • stefanrohner

    beautiful. missing the images of the 55 years birthday vodka encounter ;)

  • Rob Grey

    as usual, top-frickin-notch

  • Spectacular scenery and filming. Loved it. The narrative is a bit heavy on US hipsterspeak and a bit light on cycling and logistic technicalities. Note for linguists… Kul means lake in Kyrgyz and butt in French. Loved the whole movie.

  • If any video is going to convince my girlfriend to get on the bandwagon, it’s going to be this one. Both super impressed.

  • bjorn olson

    The terrain, respect for culture and place, natural and non-contrived reflections, casual but intimate conversations, and the atypical, unhurried yet deliberate pace of this trip are so fantastic. Congratulations on a great trip and film.

  • Robert Thomson

    Beautiful! In September 2006 I did a similar route through the mountains from the lake to Naryn, but I took one valley to the north of where you guys were: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/26459034. It was not ideal terrain for a fully-loaded touring recumbent, but the almost-200km downhill was something I’ll never forget.

  • Roman

    Nice footage. Brings up the good memories from my bike(packing) trip through Central Asia which I finished in September. I rode parts of your route (Baetov to Karakul) from east to west. Kyrgyzstan is a great country for any kind of outdoor sports. I would love to go back there in winter and explore some of these valleys near Issyk-Kul on skis… ;-)

    Oh and thank you guys for publishing this route. Was a great help to me. If you ever return to Central Asia, make sure you go into Tajikistan. Whole different ball game, beautiful and remote places (off the popular Pamir Highway) to explore there too.

  • Robert Thomson

    On skis, yes! That would be amazing.

  • Roman

    For anyone who is interested in Kyrgyz culture, lifestyle and the everyday struggle to make a living in this harsh environment… I found this very interesting documentary on Al Jazeera’s English Channel. Enjoy!

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/riskingitall/2017/10/dangerous-dash-kyrgyzstan-harsh-winter-171018143133186.html

  • mebaru

    Incredibly inspiring!