The Toughest Challenge

“I think I’m being followed.”

Sovev Yerushalayim (“Around Jerusalem”) is a mountain biking event that was originally started as part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the Tachanah (“Station”) complex in Jerusalem, where the old Ottoman era train station was. It has continued each year since then, with a range of events – 8, 20, 40, and 50 km – to suit riders of all abilities.

Susan, Shosh and I have habitually done the 40 km event, starting and returning to the Tachanah, and feeling totally exhausted. Last year, Susan suggested we should aim to do the 50 km event in 2018. So, that’s what we decided to, though I was fearful that the extra 10 km was a bit too much.

Then real life interfered:

First, Susan had too many bouts of illness to properly train, so it was left to Shosh and me to live up to Susan’s suggestion!

Second, the event was postponed from 27 April (due to bad weather) to 11 May. It was bound to be hotter.

Third, they changed the route to keep us away from the Tachanah and the center of Jerusalem. Instead, we started and finished at the zoo. It was a much harder route even without the extra 10 km.

So, on the day, Shosh and I turned up ready for the 6.45 AM start we had in our welcome pack. Unbeknownst to us, the organizers had brought the start forward for the 50 km riders to 6.30 AM. As we were late, and ignorant of this, it meant we were caught in the much bigger mass of 40 km riders. The effect was to slow us down. Not that we would have been riding too much faster, but we would have avoided the stop-start delay at various choke points on the route, where the trails were not wide enough for everyone to pass at the same time.

The 50 km route included a circular 10 km add on to the 40 km route. When we eventually got to the start of that add on, many of the 50 km riders were finishing it. Needles to say, the add on was 10 km of hard, mostly uphill riding. And the sun was starting to make its presence felt.

Between gasps for breath and prayers for the pain to stop, I could admire the beautiful scenery: stunning views, fantastic panoramas, a glorious impossibly blue sky, and the buzz of a great biking event. Then back to the pain… Keep pedaling!

Shosh and I persevered, helping one another keep going until, eventually, we made it to the finish.

At the end, having long since drunk my water dry, I gladly accepted a bottle of water thrown to me by the staff at the finishing line. I took off the top and poured it over me. Unfortunately, the bottle had clearly been out in the heat too long, because it gave me a hot shower. Oh dear. Well, you cannot get everything you want, can you?

I was so exhausted, that I could not raise my bike enough to get it on the bike rack. I had to put it down and grab a five minute nap, to add a little charge to my drained batteries. I also drove home much more slowly than usual, conscious that I was not at my most alert.

“Five minutes rest, then I’ll put you on the rack.”

That 50 km event was the most physically demanding challenge I have ever faced. Immediately afterwards my feelings were along the lines of I’m never doing that again. In fact, I’m not doing the 50, the 40, the 20 or any part of the Sovev next year.

Of course, with the pain and effort slipping from my memory, I am not that sure what I will do. One thing is for sure though: next year, Susan is joining in, no matter what!

Biking catchup


On 20 May 2016, Susan and I took part in the Jerusalem biking event. Thousands of people of all ages and sizes joined in the fun. There were multiple distances, and we opted for the 40 km route because we though the 50 km would be too long for us, and the 40 km matched our training route length (from the house to Tel Aviv namal). This was the third time I had taken part, and Susan’s second. Shosh couldn’t be there this year, but we are hoping next year we will all be back together again. Both Susan and I managed much improved performances, making the complete run with no stops, and in much faster time. To say that we were flying high afterwards would be a bit of an understatement! The highlight of the biking year.

The next week we flew to the UK, and managed two Sunday morning sessions of mountain biking at Peaslake. It’s a rural area south of London, with one village shop, and one bike shop for rentals, essential purchases, and so on. The first Sunday we went with Richard, and the second with Liam. We rode the routes Yoghurt Pots, Telegraph Line, and Barry Knows Best, all of which reminded Susan and I of our Glentress riding experiences. The setting was exquisite, and the riding was fun. There are many other routes there and thereabouts. Highly recommended. But Glentress is still tops.

Now we are back home, I have managed one run out to the namal, and we both did a crappy spin class. It’s a bit tricky because of the heat, but hopefully over the next few weeks and months we will get some more biking in before the wedding. (And that’s all I am going to mention about the wedding for now.)

Getting to Tel Aviv

The power station at Tel Aviv port

The power station at Tel Aviv port

On Friday, Susan and I decided to go on a longer than usual bike ride, partly as a preparation for doing longer biking events, and partly as a continuing effort to keep fit and active.

We extended our usual ride from Ra’anana to Herzliya, by continuing on to the namal (port) at Tel Aviv. Up to Herzliya, it’s a mix of cycle track and pavements. At Herzliya, we needed to some rough riding along the coastline – rocky, sandy, uneven, and energy sapping – before joining on to another cycle path that took us all the way in to the namal.

It was a perfect day for biking: blue skies, a bit of cloud, not too warm, and the occasional wind to cool us down, and freshen things up.

It’s about a 42 km round trip, so we were feeling pretty good afterwards.We stopped at the namal for a coffee, and then had brunch in Ra’anana. As mentioned above, there are a couple of biking events later this year that we may try and do, so that length of run was a good confidence booster. It was tiring, but not exhausting. The biggest impact of the change to a longer ride was on our respective posteriors. We were saddle sore! Apparently, the only way to sort that is to keep riding long distances.

Riding in Ruhama


On Friday morning, Shosh introduced Susan and I to the cycle routes at Kibbutz Ruhama. This is located on Road 334, just east of Sderot, and features long, straightforward, flowing, and enjoyable singletrack.

There are two circuits; we rode the shorter 21 kilometer loop, but there’s a longer one that we have put on our to-do list. The weather was perfect, and the route added a bit of spice – but not too much – because the recent rain had let to some deterioration in the paths, and there were holes in the ground to keep you on your toes. We had to walk through a couple of overly muddy areas, but most of the time it was just ride, ride, ride. We managed to take in the scenery which was beautiful. There was lots of greenery, some chunky wooded areas, and bright buttons of flowers popping up all around us. It’s not what you might expect in Israel. Indeed, in places it was reminiscent of riding in Scotland.

A couple of weeks ago we had ridden a new route at Ben Shemen. That was too dangerous for my tastes, and a whole lot less fun. However, it had been good to get out and get some time on my bike. Ruhama was a much more pleasant, easy experience, and highly recommended for those just starting out in mountain biking. Unfortunately, there are no resources there, such as food, drink, or bike supplies. That’s probably one reason it was quiet. Another, is that many riders prefer Be’eri (which is just to the south of Sderot, off Road 25). Be’eri is much more rocky, and for my tastes is too dangerous to be enjoyable. So, nice and relatively easy was fine by me.

Susan rightly points out that the routes we used to ride in Scotland were harder, but we got used to them after riding them again, and again, and again. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just don’t fancy the Be’eri experience. Hopefully we will find something else that has an edge, but isn’t too much of dicing with death.

Be careful with that biking app

Biking apps can be hazardous to the security of your bikes. Especially if you ignore the privacy settings.

As the Register puts it:

IT bloke: Crooks stole my bikes after cycling app blabbed my address

An IT manager in Manchester, England, says thieves stole his bikes after a smartphone cycling app pinpointed the location of his garage.


Another snippet from the report:

His fears were confirmed by an organizer of a local cycling club who told the paper that he had lots of reports in recent months where bicycles had been stolen and the owners suspected it was due to their use of cycling apps advertising their location.

All of which is a timely reminder to people over why they should be careful about what apps they use, what information they share, and why it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time digging into the privacy settings that many apps now offer.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Why I need to get back on my bike

From the Scotsman:

Older cyclists are streets ahead in race for life

NOT everyone can emulate ­Sir Bradley Wiggins, but serious cycling may help keep you young, scientists have discovered.

A study of fit amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 found that many were physically and biologically much younger than most people of the same age.

The 81 male and 41 female participants underwent tests of their heart, lung, neuromuscular, metabolic and hormonal functions. Their reflexes, muscle and bone strength, and oxygen uptake were also measured, as well as mental ability and general health and well-being.

The results showed that among the cyclists the effects of ageing were far from obvious, with younger and older members of the group having similar levels of muscle strength, lung power and exercise capacity

Interesting stuff which accords with what Susan and I have seen in the mature cyclists we have been out cycling with in Israel. They definitely look a lot younger than their age.

I was interested in what standards they were using for their tests. According to the article:

The cyclists were recruited ­deliberately to exclude effects from a sedentary lifestyle that may cause changes in the body capable of being confused with those due to ageing.

Men and women had, respectively, to be able to cycle 100 kilometres in under 6.5 hours, and 60 kilometres in 5.5 hours, to be part of the study. Smokers, heavy drinkers and people with high blood pressure or other health conditions were excluded.

On a road bike, on a non mountainous route, that’s a standard I can match. However, I wonder how close I can get without a road bike? I can see a little experiment in the offing.

Read the whole article here.

Mad dogs and Scottishmen (and women)…

…go out in the mid-day sun.


Susan and I have not had much time for biking over the last few months. In fact, our exercise regime has also suffered. It’s probably just as well our gym membership ended several months ago, and we did not rejoin. (Holmes Place wanted a ridiculous amount of money for the renewal, and we were of the mind they were ripping us off.)

So, it was great to be able to get out on the bikes today, even if we were riding in the heat of the summer. A trip out to Herzliya Marina, with brunch at Cafe Neto back in Ra’anana as the incentive to keep going. It was tiring, but fun. We must get out more.

Cycling news

I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or get back on my bike.

First, the Telegraph reports here on a neurosurgeon who claims bike helmets are useless.

“I see lots of people in bike accidents and these flimsy little helmets don’t help.”

After you have read the article, however, you might wonder if it’s the surgeon who is flimsy. I’m going to continue wearing mine, for sure.

Secondly, there’s a report about the bike sharing scheme in Baltimore. Apparently some people thought that rather than share, they would keep the bikes. See here. Sad. I do wonder about the lack of security, but maybe that’s normal in Baltimore. It’s still sad.