Trip Details – Social Cycles – Mongolia Cycling Tour

‘Do it! Mongolia offers a unique experience on the road less travelled. The countryside is diverse and the local people welcoming. Visiting the NGOs gives greater exposure into understanding the real issues experienced by locals which are often missed when travelling for a short period of time. You leave with a greater insight into the country and the people. The cycling, hiking, nights in the gers and company were all fantastic.’ Deb, Social Cycles

Social Cycles Mongolia mountain biking tour

  • Start Date – May 22nd 2022 and Sept 7th 2022
  • Duration – 12 Days
  • Maximum Group Size 12
  • Accommodation – Local hotel, Family ger camps, small ger camps

Rider Social Cycles Mongolia

In our adventure, we learn from three to four different NGOs that are all connected with the reality of life, faced by Mongolia’s herders in the 21st century. In tourism, Mongolia is frequently sold as a stereotype (nomads and a way of life untouched since Ghengis Khan). This idealised, or even romanticised view is far from the harsh reality and challenges faced by local herders.

Social Cycles will take you on a journey to interact and connect with local Non Government Organisations (NGOs) to find out more about this lifestyle, the opportunities they have and the challenges they must overcome. Research what really happens on the ground and out in the rural communities with Social Cycles in a holiday that carefully balances ethical research and local impact with cycling and site seeing.

  • Easy to Moderate mountain biking
  • Variable distances
  • Minimal elevation
  • Mostly off road, compact, gravel roads, mountain areas
  • 15-18km/h average

  • For every Social Cycles tour, all riders are requested to contribute a nominal sum for the purpose of a donation. Usually AU$200 per rider.
  • During the course of the tour, you are given the chance to engage with, and learn from, local NGOs. We visit no less than three NGOs during the Mongolia tour and spend some time learning about their projects, strategies and challenges.
  • At the end of the tour, the riders are then empowered with new found knowledge and have the opportunity to combine the allotted donation money and make an impact towards a project of their choosing.
  • In addition to building a profile for our impact partners, Social Cycles also pays each NGO for their time and resources. We spend 1-2 hours with each NGO.
  • Social Cycles operates in 6 countries. You can see how much money has been donated to local NGOs in the 6 countries here – https://www.social-cycles.com/about-us/#donation

We specifically avoid the tourist based ger camps, as they’re generally overcrowded and impersonal. Instead we support locally and family run smaller ger camps, where the experience is so much closer to reality and personal to the life of a herder. The ger camps can sometimes share small groups (think up to 6 people) but we will endeavour to keep sharing to two people. This is the true local experience of Mongolia and one to be savoured!

The bikes are Giant XTC 800 with lightweight alloy frames, Shimano components and front suspension. If you bring your own bike, please make sure it is a mountain bike, preferably with front suspension, and that it is in good mechanical order. Each van has Thule bike racks.

Support Vehicle Social Cycles Mongolia

When we embark on an 85km day, the distance can seem quite daunting. However, an early start and an ETA of 4pm arrival gives us 9 hours to get there. There is always a support van with us on this ride, so the amount you want to cycle on riding days is totally up to you. Travelling by bicycle is not about the destination, but the journey.  When we are moving, the average pace is about 15km per hour but that is flexible depending on the confidence of the group. Our small group policy means it’s easier for all of us to stay together. You don’t need to be super fit for this ride, you just need to be positive.

Trip Breakdown

Day One – Arrival day and welcome dinner

Mongolia One Day Tours

Welcome to Mongolia! Check in to the hotel is any time from 2pm. If you’re flying in to Ulaanbaatar today, we’ll arrange your airport transfer for you. Spend your day exploring this great city at your leisure until the group arrives and we’ll meet up in the evening for dinner.

  • Optional Activities:   Genghis Khan Statue Complex,  Choijin Lama Temple Museum
  • Cycling: None
  • Meals: Dinner
  • Transit: Airport transfer
  • Sleep: Dream Hotel (or equivalent)

Day Two – Ulaanbaatar – Baga Gazriin Chuluu: City walk, Asral NGO & family lunch

Baga Gazriin Chuluu in the Gobi Desert - Mongolia

After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll begin a walking tour of the city, taking you to the Monastery district. From there, you’ll visit Asral NGO, which works in partnership with community leaders to develop self-sustaining options through education, training, medical care and family support.  The afternoon is dedicated to getting you to Baga Gazriin Chuluu for the evening to send the night in your first Ger!

  • Included Activities:  Guided City Tour, home-cooked family lunch
    NGO presentation- Asral
  • Cycling: None
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: 235km
  • Sleep: Tourist Ger

Asral NGO Ulaanbaatar

Asral is the Mongolian word for ‘care’ and Asral NGO (https://www.asralmongolia.org/) was founded by High Tibetan Lama, Ven. Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche. In 1994 Rinpoche was invited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to assist with the plight of Mongolian people after the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus Asral NGO was created. Since its foundation, Asral has helped with the ever-present levels of poverty and social problems in Mongolia – specifically in the Bayangol ger district – one of the largest ger districts in Ulaanbaatar.

Day Three – Bagaa Gazriin Chuluu – Mandalgovi: Our first cycle and a rock temple Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

We’ll depart by bike and head off to explore the rock formation. Baga Gazriin Chuluu is characterised by extensive granite rock formations and surrounded by steppe and semi-desert habitat.  The amount of cycling is up to the group and can be very dependent on the direction of the wind. In the evening, we’ll get to the home of the Gobi Oasis project, a small, family run, non-profit conservation project that has been operating since 1975. Their main conservation work is the planting of seedlings and nurturing them into established trees. The trees that are planted help bind the loose soil and thus help against erosion, help reduce wind, dust and desertification.

  • Included Activities:  1 hr hike
  • Cycling: 40km to 60km, gravel roads on small jeep trails
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: 20km
  • Sleep: Ger camp 

Day 4 – Mandalgovi – Erdenelai: Guides home town, CAMDA well project Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

Solo Travel Mongolia

Erdenedalai is Mongolian for ‘Jewel Ocean’ and although far from the ocean this small town located in the middle of the Gobi steppe provides a genuine insight into everyday life in Mongolia. It is also the hometown of a majority of the SC team and a very tight knit and traditional community.

CAMDA NGO is dedicated to supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders.  One of their most important projects is their well-refurbishment project. By the refurbishing old wells or constructing new wells, herders can access the wells in the winter when the streams and rivers are frozen.

  • Included Activities:  Visit the wells and meet the herders via CAMDA NGO
  • Cycling: Up to 80km, gravel/loose dirt roads
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: 30km-50km
  • Sleep: Family Ger

Streams, rivers and lakes are only prevalent in certain areas of Mongolia such as the Khangai Mountains that stretch across the central heartland. Elsewhere, access to water is severely limited due to geography. Climate change is now always making an impact with the average temperature in Mongolia having increased by 2.1C since 1940 (UN Environment Programme) –   more than double the rise of average global temperatures.

That’s why wells (either deep engineered or shallow bore and drawn from aquifers) are so essential.

CAMDA is a UK based NGO dedicated to supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders. It was formed in 2000 following a countrywide severe weather event in Mongolia known as a dzud  – a weather event unique to Mongolia.  CAMDA provides support not just by providing financial aid, but real practical help, the sort that makes a long term difference to Mongolia’s semi-nomadic herding communities – helping to sustain their vulnerable way of life. Part of their essential work includes the restoration and replacement of fresh-water wells.

Day Five – Khogno Khan Nature Reserve | Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes | Central Heartland 

Drive to explore this sacred granite mountain. within an area of secluded valleys, fresh water springs, open steppe and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Khogno Khan Nature Reserve was taken under state protection partly due to the specialised taiga and steppe plants that grow in this area. The small but vital Tarna River provides an essential water source for the herders in the region.

  • Cycling: None
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: 240km
  • Sleep: Family ger camp

Day Six – Khogno Khan Nature Reserve | Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes | Central Heartland Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

Khogno Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

Once we’re in the heart of Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, there’s an option to explore the hidden interiors of the mountain on an easy 2-3 hour hike to the small working temple of Erdene Khambiin Khid and the ruined Ovgon Khiid Monastery. A birch bordered path leads to this location and offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the region. There’s also an option for for a camel trek along the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Davaasuren is a at his happiest on showing off his home landscapes of Khogno Khan. He’s a bit of a entertainer as well and his camel treks can include sand sculpting, impromptu wrestling matches and singing. And of course, this is a spectacular region to explore by bike with its mix of landscapes.

  • Included activities: Three-hour hike to temples and monastery, camel treks along sand dunes
  • Cycling: Optional, tracks are all off-road and mainly hard-packed dirt.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: None
  • Sleep: Family ger camp

Day Seven – Tsetserleg: Markets, museums and temples Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

Drive through Arkhangai Aimag to the provincial capital of Tsetserleg where there its vibrant local market. On the slopes of the Khangai Mountains, the town is is dominated by the 1953m Bulgan Uul mountain with the Galdan Zuu Temple providing a viewpoint out over this alpine town. We’ll also visit Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative.  The cooperative works with local yak herders in Arkhangai Province to help sustain and improve their livelihood through Yak hair fibre export.

  • Cycling: 40km to 80km
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Transit: Up to 220km
  • Sleep: Hotel

Day Eight – Tsetserleg and surrounds: Yak herders, streams and lush valleys Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

A Mongolian herding family

The bike route now changes from the gravel plains of the vast semi-desert steppe to the foothills of the Khangai Mountains – dominated by dome shaped mountains, mixed woods, clear streams and lush grassy valleys filled with yaks and herders that receive abundant rainfall compared to all other parts of Mongolia.

  • Cycling: Up to 60km
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: None
  • Sleep: Hotel
  • NGO: Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Co-Op family beneficiary

The Ar Arvijin Delgerekh Cooperative was created in 2010 with the main objective to support the life of yak herders in Arkhangai Aimag in Mongolia’s central heartland. The cooperative implements the following activities that help to sustain and improve the livelihoods of the member herders as it allows them to diversify and increase their income:

  1. Developing the value chain for the soft down fibres from 2 and 3 year old yaks. This includes the purchasing of raw fibres directly from the herders (the herders being paid the full value of their harvest for a higher price than the local market). The raw fibre is sorted and cleaned and exported.
  2. The spinning of the down into yarn. This is predominantly done by the female herders and women that are unemployed. The yarn is then sold nationally and internationally (sold under the Baby Yak label)  – creating an income for the women and generating employment for them.
  3. Providing support to the herding families through fair and responsible tourism and therefore helping to generate a supplementary income to the herder members.

The main reason for the development of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative in Mongolia is that after decades of Soviet control, in the 1990s, Mongolia adopted its own democratic constitution and freed its economy from state control. But as state-owned cooperatives disbanded, widespread unemployment pushed people into subsistence herding with the number of livestock skyrocketing into unsustainable numbers.

In many – arguably most – areas, these unsustainable numbers, especially of goats, are often blamed for their contribution to Mongolia’s growing desertification. In addition, the climate crisis has hit Mongolia harder than many other countries: Temperatures have risen at twice the rate of the global average, surpassing 2 degrees Celsius since 1940, according to the Ministry of Environment, and rainfall is less consistent.

Working together with the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative helps the herders to better protect their local ecosystem against overgrazing, improve animal health and welfare, and maintain a lifestyle on the land.

Day Nine – Kharkhorin and the Orkhon River Valley Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

Kharkhorin is the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century. From Tsetserleg, we’ll take the van out of town towards Tsenkher and start cycling on the dirt roads towards Kharkhorin. The beautiful valleys provide a great undulating ride. The remainder of the ride will be finished by van as we make to the home of Tumee and Jargaa, where we’ll spend the next two nights.

  • Activities: Cycling the Orkhon valley
  • Cycling: Up to 80km
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: 150km
  • Sleep: Family Ger Camp

Day Ten – Orkhon River Valley & a traditional Mongolian BBQ Mongolia Mountain Bike Tours

Mongolia's Orkhon River Valley

Spend the day with Tumee and Jargaa – a herding family we work with located close to the Orkhon River. They are modern-day herders, a strong part of the local community and move up to six times a year. There is nothing pre-planned as everyone is different in what they like to do. But there’s plenty of flexibility and options. Ideas include exploring the area on a horse trek, taking the bikes out to explore the Orkhon Valley, experiencing the way of life of Tumee and Jargaa – or more. The day will finish with a traditional Mongolian barbecue enjoyed with your hosts and the Social Cycles team.

  • Activities: Cycle, horse ride and BBQ
  • Cycling: Optional
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Transit: Minimal
  • Sleep: Family Ger Camp

Day Eleven – Ulaanbaatar & the Great Donation Debate

After we say goodbye to Tumee and Jargaa, we’ll head back to Ulaanbaata, but not before we go to visit Erdene Zuu – Mongolia’s oldest monastery.
On our last dinner together in UB, we’ll take the opportunity to reflect on our journey and discuss our opportunity of support. As a group, we’ll make a decision as to how we’ll divide the total money. It’s your money and your experience. It can, and will, go to whatever NGO touched you the most.

  • Cycling: None
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner
  • Transit: 355km (all day)
  • Sleep: Dream Hotel (or equivalent)

Day Twelve – Departure Day

It’s time to say goodbye to your new found friends and riding companions and head out on your own. Whether you’re off to the airport or sticking around for a bit longer, we’ll help you get to where you need to go!

  • Cycling: None
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: Departure transfer
  • Sleep: None

The Small Details

For all of our small group trips we offer a sliding price scale. We appreciate your holiday funds are precious and so the more people that book so the price comes down and everyone benefits.

Group Size – Minimum of four. Maximum of twelve

From US$ 2850 PP

Where Does Your Payment Go?

  • In our experience, how people choose who to book with usually comes down to the cost. Budget is a very personal thing and everyone is different in what they want to pay.
  • We’re a registered Mongolian business and registered social entrepreneurship. We are not a luxury tour operator. We’re a small business that receives around 150-200 bookings per year. We can’t compete on price with our budget competition that don’t pay sustainable wages, or with the international companies that use agencies to run their trips and receive 1000s of bookings per year. We also can’t compete with individual guides or drivers that offer cut-price trips.
  • To help you see where your payment goes, we’re very much driven by our philosophy of making a positive difference in Mongolia through tourism.
  • We focus on community-based tourism – working directly with local people, communities and projects – slowly building up relationships and what we call long-term local community partnerships with them. We work side by side with each and our experiences are put together in a way that benefits and support each family or project, rather than disrupting their lives or work. We also run our free long-term training school for Mongolian women that want to work in tourism – providing training and then creating long-term flexible employment opportunities for them. 
  • Your payment remains in Mongolia and goes back into the communities through which you travel. We are committed to providing honest and ethical business opportunities for the local people we work with, at fair rates, as well as providing long term support.  We also focus on making sure our impact is as positive as it can be. I am the only westerner (the rest of my small team are Mongolian) and we don’t work with any outside agencies or ‘buy’ services from other in-country operators.
  • We are also a member of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency – a collective of travel organisations who have declared a climate emergency and are coming together to find solutions. We accept our responsibility to tell the truth, work together, and help build a new, regenerative tourism.
  • 11 nights accommodation in hotels (4), family ger camps (6) and tourist gers (1)
  • Full Bicycle hire (Giant 24 speed mountain bikes)
  • Local guides, support van driver and mechanic
  • Full support vehicle for the ride with water and fruit
  • Minimum three NGO presentations with local staff across Mongolia
  • Multiple field trips to villages and communities
  • Meals as indicated on the itinerary
  • Airport transfers for arrival
  • International airfare to and from Mongolia
  • A$200 donation to NGOs (pay locally, optional)
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips and Gratuities (US$0 to US$100)
  • Drinks with meals
  • Travel insurance (mandatory) 
  • Airport departure transfer
  • Visas (if required)

Let us know your nationality at the time of booking and we’ll confirm whether you need to apply for a Mongolian visa. It is a relatively easy process depending on your nationality and we can help with some of the formalities.

All the essential information you need for your Social Cycles Mongolia cycling tour – https://www.social-cycles.com/mongolia-holiday-essential-info/

We are members of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency which requires us to publish an annual Climate Action Plan. As part of our plan we carbon offset all domestic flights.

Although carbon offsets are far from imperfect and not the whole answer, they make a difference. Emissions per kilometer for domestic flights are always much higher because such a large proportion of the flight is spent taking off and landing. With this in mind, as a company, we will be calculating the offset for all domestic flights used by our guests and paying the offset to buy Plan Vivo Foundation carbon certificates which are used to support the Plan Vivo Mongolian Nomad Project – working in partnership with the Mongolian Society of Range Management. 

Learn more about travelling with EL and Social Cycles here – https://www.social-cycles.com/mongolia-may-2019/
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