The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Ride

Some thoughts about my recent bike ride in Israel:

Temparature. Every ride seems to bring different and unexpected challenges. During my first ride, in the south, we had to deal with average temparatures of 100 degrees. This year the temps were in the mid 80's. This made a huge difference. It was way more comfortable.

Winds. On the other hand, the winds were absolutely brutal on Tuesday and Wednesday. Over 120 miles of riding into powerful headwinds or excrutiating crosswinds. Many times I felt I would simply be swept off my bike (those were the times I envied the guys with bigger guts than mine). I can climb forever, but the winds killed me. With the exception of a moderate headwind last year as we climbed 40 miles up the Golan Heights, I had not experienced anything remotely similar. These winds were ten times stronger.

Climbing. If you ride a bike in Israel you need to be prepared to climb. The good news is that I love to climb and I can climb just about anything. And climb we did. I climbed over 17,000 feet in 5 days.

And, just when you thought you did the hardest climbs possible (Metzukai Dragot in 2004 and Ramat Raziel last year), another hill comes along to beat the last. This year's climb of Maaleh Akrabim (the Scorpion's Ascent), with its 31 switchback turns and 17 and 18 percent gradients, beat them all by far. For the first time ever, I had to get off my bike and rest in the middle of a climb. (I was not alone; a whole slew of riders walked substantial portions of the climb; I only walked 50 yards). I tip my helmet to Maaleh Akrabim. I will be back to conquer you.

Descents. This ride featured more insane descents than any of the previous rides. I normally don't mind descending. I have reached close to 50 miles per hour. I do hate descending in packs. There is nothing more dangerous and nothing that gets me more nervous. When you descend like that, too many things are not in your control and that makes me crazy. This year we started with an 18 mile drop from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea (in the rain) and ended with with an even steeper drop into Eilat. I am just thankful to have made it down in one piece. (The drop into the Machtesh Ramon (The Ramon Canyon) on Wednesday, however, which was not in a pack, was perhaps the single coolest part of the ride).

The challenge ride. I was a marginal rider in this group and should have stuck with the regular ride. Most of the riders in this group are certifiable lunatics. For them, it was ALL about riding (not that there's anything wrong with that; it just wasn't for me). I literally couldn't take a picture on Tuesday or Wednesday because I would have been dropped by the pack another mile. These guys were downloading their bike computers into their regular laptops every night and slicing and dicing their data in 50 different ways. I just like to ride my bike at a good pace. These guys look at asphalt all day and are happy. I don't regret having riden with them but they were killing me (I switched to the regular ride on day four).

My bike. (Warning: here is the part when your eyes are likely to glaze over if they haven't already).

MHW bought me a new Litespeed Teramo titanium bike for our 25th anniversary. I bought titanium because it is light yet much sturdier than carbon fiber. The big decision I made was to get a compact double chain ring rather than a triple. This makes climbing the very steepest hills more difficult but makes for much smoother shifting. All in all, I'm happy with the choice (although it certainly made climbing Maaleh Akrabim more difficult). The bike performed beautifully and the fit was perfect. I suffered no lower back or knee pain; the signs of a really good fit.

Although the accommodations were really low rent, I will probably do the ride again next year. I am quite certain the ride's organizing committee will react to the disenchantment with the places we stayed and it is much easier to find appropriate places in the North.

Only 360 days to go.



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