Tuesday, September 8, 2015

FreeRider Almaty

Having picked up the new shock absorbers in Almaty, we had to find a place to sleep and fit them. We had heard about a hostel called FreeRider from a fellow traveler, offering a secure place to park the bikes and a possibility to work on them. Sounded too good to be true... All we had though was a phone number, which we tried to contact but there was no answer. Kazakhstan's friendliness helped out though when a total stranger contacted a friend, who came over especially to show us where it was!

Arriving there we were somewhat surprised that it is in fact a motorcycle shop... and were told by the guy operating the workshop that the hostel was closed...! He was in fact on his way home and about to close the doors of the workshop. Good start. Turned out what he meant was there was no-one here but him. He made a few phone calls and then showed us the rooms... To be fair, we were somewhat disappointed. The rooms are small, very small, but we were too tired to look for something else and as we could park the bikes secure and work on them the day after, we took it anyway.

Assembling the existing springs on the new damper units
We dragged our stuff up, as there is no access to the bikes at night - being in the locked workshop - and called it a day. The bunk beds are made from solid construction timber with a quite thin mattress on top, which we improved upon by putting our Thermarests on top of them. FreeRider can also be found on Booking.com, where the site promises air-conditioning, a TV in each room, a 24 hr front desk and an on-site restaurant... the air-conditioning is in Lada style (i.e. a window which you can open), there is no TV (which we don't want anyway) and the restaurant isn't built yet (it is planned though and will be a biker style bar). For the time being there is a small but good shop nearby and a brilliant pizza place just two blocks away.

The day after started good as the guys in the workshop are very friendly! Not only could we fit the shock absorbers, service the bikes, fix a broken top box rack and even wash them(!), FreeRider also turned out to be a quite extensive bike shop with quite a bit of stock. They claim they are the biggest bike shop in Kazakhstan. As the promised on site restaurant wasn't there, we looked for an alternative and found a very good Pizza place two blocks away at the corner (N43.21909° E76.89730°) and a small shop nearby as well.

There is wifi, which works well, a good shower, washing machine (for a fee) and the bathroom is nicely done. While the bikeshop is closed at night, there is a separate entrance for the hostel (do not forget to take the key with you when you go out at night as the door has both an electronic lock and a manual one... 

The charge per person for the hostel is 3,000 Tenge, which we found a tad on the high side. There are hostels in Almaty which are considerably cheaper according to booking.com, but being able to work on the bikes, having the bikes securely parked and being allowed the use of workshop tools as well is of course priceless. 

FreeRider can be found at freerider.kz and N43.21582° E76.89832°