Lab Rat Run - Mongolia cycling holidays banner

Lab Rat Run - Mongolia

PaintedRoads’ Lab Rat Runs are intended as annual events where adventurous regulars with a keen sense of humour are invited to join a first time tour in a beautiful far flung destination.

The concept is kicked of this year with two weeks exploring the steppes and mountains of Mongolia. Camping, jeep tracks and yak herders.

At a Glance

Total Days: 13

Cycling Days: 9

Difficulty: 8/10

Daily Average: 0km

Off-Road: 100%

Max. Alt.: 2800m

2017: 10 Jul - 22 Jul: £1800.00


Please be aware that this is an inspection ride.
Usually I explore a route alone, but I though it would be fun to share this experience with like minded adventurous folk. I have not personally seen the route but am working with an experienced agent in Mongolia and using a description provided by him. I am providing as accurate information as I can, but this ride is for those with a spirit of adventure and a sense of humour, those who, for example, chuckle at such occurrences as the rest day cropping up on day 8 rather than day 7.

It is for these reasons that I have contacted only people I think would enjoy and appreciate this ride, and have classified it as the very first PaintedRoads Expeditionary Ride - hopefully the first of many to come.

There will be the usual full support one would expect on a PaintedRoads tour, we will have support vehicle/s, support crew including a chef (cook?), and a local English speaking guide. Our accommodation will be split between hotels, tents and gers, the latter apparently the Mongolian version of glamping, or, one may say, a guest house in traditional tents.

The majority of nights will be spent in comfortable tent camps erected every afternoon upon finishing the day’s biking. The camps provide all the amenities of a good wilderness camp, including a tent for dining, another for showering, and one tending to natures call, as well as tents for slumber of course. Our meals will be cocked by our expedition chef.
All you need bring is a sleeping bag, although we will go into further details of what to bring closer to the time.


This classic adventure cycling expedition is a south to north traverse of the Khangai mountain range that covers nearly one fifth of the country’s territory. This region is dominated by dome shaped mountains, mixed woods, clear streams and grassy valleys, and receives abundant rainfall compared to all other parts of Mongolia.

The Khangai mountain range is an immense mountain biking playground with fantastic packed soils, diverse terrain and spectacular landscapes. The riding is almost entirely on unsealed tracks and trails, mostly jeep tracks. At times smooth and at times rocky, the route is described as non-technical off road riding. The difficulty level is described at ‘intermediate to challenging. The nomadic culture here is authentic. Almost every day you see flocks of grazing yaks, sheep, goats and horses, meet hospitable herdsmen and stop at their homes for a bowl of milk or a slice of yak butter.

Print Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar.

Arriving in Ulaanbaatar, you will be met at the airport by a driver and transferred to the group hotel. Time permitting you may have a chance to have a look around the city centre and get a feeling of the recent development of Mongolia.

D - Hotel

DAY 2: Transfer to Arvaikheer town

Following breakfast we will board our 4WD expedition van/s and drive west from Ulanbaatar. The journey will take us across rough tarmac traversing vast open steppes with hills rolling into the distance. The flocks of sheep, goats, horses and cattle grazing here are tended by nomads, and their traditional homes, known as ger, are a common sight.

Around late afternoon we arrive at the provincial capital and settle into our hotel. For those with energy and enthusiasm an exploration of the town is worth while. For those still feeling the ravages of jet lag your tour leader will be on hand for convivial conversation and rehydration in the hotel bar.

BLD - Hotel

Day 3: Bike to Asgat valley (40km)

A Two hour transfer brings us to foothills of the Khangai mountain range where our cycling adventure begins. Our first day aboard the bikes allows us to acclimatise to the adventure ahead as we cross the Mongolian grasslands with a gradual climb across grassy valleys where small streams flow to the arid plains of the Gobi desert, visible in the far distance. A few homes of nomadic herders and their enormous herds will come into view during the afternoon’s ride. Always curious about bike travellers these Mongolian cowboys may well abandon their daily chores and come to greet us. We establish our first tent camp soon after crossing the day’s highest point at 2450m.

BLD - Tent

Day 4: Bike to Shargaljuut valley (40km)

Throughout most of the day we will gradually gain altitude on well established tracks cut around the mountain side, with views of a lush river valley teeming with yaks and horses. The great scenery hopefully serves to distract us from some rougher rocky sections encountered as we ride to Shargaljuut mineral springs. A massive soviet era health spa dominates the mountain side here, gushing with hot mineral water famed for medicinal properties widely used in traditional Mongolian medicine.

We should have time to stop and try the soothing effects of the water before embarking on our final hour of pedalling along the valley, where civilisation feels to be a long way off. (Editors note: make of that what you will - beyond here there be dragons!?). We camp tonight at a pretty riverside location near the gers and tents of herding locals and their many animals.

BLD - Tent

Day 5-8: Crossing of the Khangai mountain range (45km, 45km, 40km)

Day 7 is scheduled as our rest day (allegedly, according to sources).

During these days we cross the Khangai watershed that separates the southern and northern basins. The whole route explores the least travelled and hidden corners of the range. It is a delightful journey where we see the stunning landscapes slowly morph each day.

The ascents, which at times can be somewhat challenging, invariably bring us to a panoramic highpoint followed by a breathtaking downhill. These exhilarating descents are often followed by a level stretch allowing a leisurely pedal where one can absorb the beauty of the unspoilt Mongolian nature. Local herders and their immense flocks and herds will be our silent spectators during these days of unforgettable adventure cycling.

Invariably our campsites will be located in the vicinity of the homes of these families of nature, allowing us opportunity for interaction and cultural experience.

BLD - Tent

Day 9: Bike to Tsenkher hot springs (90km)

Having made it to the northern side of the Khangai a series of short but steep passes with excellent descents lead us on hard-packed surfaces to the valley of Tsenkher, famed for its hot spring baths. Upon reaching the springs we can bathe or shower in the hot spring water, with the option of a massage also on offer.

Tonight we will overnight in a traditional Mongolian felt tent known as a ger.

BLD - Ger

Day 10: Cycle to Orkhon river valley (80km)

Another fast day on great soil takes us to the Orkhon river valley which is littered with spongelike volcanic rock. A UNESCO historic heritage site, Orkhon contains many hundreds of ancient burial mounds dotting the landscape. We set up our tented camp tonight beside the river, where the hardy can take a dip in its cool waters before dinner.

BLD - Tent


Day 11: Bike to Karakorum - medieval capital of Genghis Khan (75km)(40km)

Riding downstream along the Orkhon river we slowly loose altitude throughout the day. Our destination is the town of Karakorum - the would be capital of the Mongolian Empire during the thirteenth century. Largely an experiment in city building by nomadic people, Karakorum never became a fully functional capital before it was destroyed by invading Chinese armies in late 14th century. Today the main attraction is the monastery museum of Erdene Zuu, established in the 16th century by a Mongol khan as part of the introduction to Buddhism as the main religion. Alas the monastery suffered almost total destruction during the anti-religion campaign of the 1930s, with just a dozen or so temples surviving. We visit the monastery and the local museum to take a glance at a few surviving aftifacts of the old capital before heading to a ger camp to celebrate our wonderful Mongolian cycling adventure.

BLD - Ger

Day 12: Return to Ulaanbataar, farewell dinner

We load bikes up and drive to Ulaanbaatar today, stopping for a picnic lunch at some scenic spot along the way. Upon arriving settle in your hotel before meeting for beverages and a farewell feast.

BLD - Hotel

Day 13: Departure.

The tour officially ends after breakfast when you will be transferred to the airport for your journey home.


What’s included is pretty much the same as any other PaintedRoads tour: all accommodation, meals, crew, support vehicles, wonderful tour leader, etc.

I think you know the drill, but if not please let me know.

Rental bikes are available for £120. They are Front suspension 27.5 Giant XTCs, 30 speed, hydraulic brakes, Shimano components. As always I recommend bringing your own machine. I expect that a mountain bike with at least 2” tyres will be best, but as usual I expect I will be using my gravel bike with 700x40mm tyres and drop bars.

Final price to be confirmed depending on how many we get along, but I am hoping it will be no more than £1800 on a twin share basis. Full tour price in the future will of course be significantly more.

Single room/tent/ger occupancy £170 

Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.

Dates Price Availability

2017: 10 Jul - 22 Jul
Will run

*Single Suppl.: £200.00


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*Single Supplement.

The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.