Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ride4Reform: Days 1 and 2

I'm more of a road-biker. In fact, before this year I had never been on an off-road trail since I was 12 or 13. Yeah, I'd been out on my mountain bike a little this year to train for the ride itself, but we didn't do any actual trail riding.

As we got started we hit a hill or two. I really quickly got the hang of not pushing down on the handlebars, since that's just wasted energy. But that shock-absorbers in the front of my bike really came in handy once we started to get out onto trails. About an hour or two into the ride we came to Tel Gezer, an amazing view of an ancient settlement. And that wasn't the only thing there.

Lunar Park is the term that Israeli Bikers use for a trail that's set up like a roller coaster path. Short, steep climbs followed by short, steep descents and some nice embanked turns. I was really nervous at the start of it, I'm not a huge fan of roller coasters, but it was totally worth it once I dove head first into the first descent.

We finished the 55km of the first day and ended up at Kibbutz Galon sore and exhausted, but it felt awesome to roll into the gate of the kibbutz. And if I thought I was sore that night, that was nothing compared to the pain I felt in the morning when I hopped back on my bike. After spending about 4 and half hours in the saddle the day before, I wasn't really happy sitting in the exact same position the next day.

That soreness became numb after the first twenty minutes of biking (and slowly but surely, I stopped noticing that pain every morning when we hopped back on the bike).

It wasn't more than 10 minutes or so into the ride on the second day that we ran into a real obstacle. There was a tunnel we needed to go through, but there had been some rain and combined with bad drainage, it was flooded!

Can't go over it. Can't go around it. Gotta go through it!

It took us a very long time to get everyone through this mess. We could only really go one person at a time and many people didn't want to get themselves that dirty. We tried different tricks, but in the end, there was nothing you could do. You just had to get muddy.

Then came something I was really excited for: Rolling Hills! Slightly steep, but short climbs followed by quick descents only to go up another hill. There was going to be a series of four of these in a row and I was really excited to get after them. But there were a few problems I ran into.

There was mud all over my derailleur (derailleur: the device that changes the gears on your bike) and it wouldn't let me shift quickly. On top of that, I was coming at this ride with the mindset that I ride my road bike with. My deraileurs on my road bike are much nicer and it is a lot easier to shift. So to my shock, I couldn't climb!

I love climbing and I couldn't do it. I was so bummed that I just couldn't get my bike to respond to me the way I expected. By the time I got up to the end of the last climb, after dropping my chain two or three times (dropping my chain: when the chain falls off the gears). I was really frustrated. Sharon was there, so I staged a nice picture showing my feelings for my bike. Don't worry I didn't actually kick it.

By the end of the second day, I had performed a little road-side maintenance with the help of our guides and I was able to finish in good spirits. Especially after our last few kilometers.

Single Track was an amazing way to finish the day. At the widest, the patch was the width of a tractor tire. At the narrowest it was as wide as a bike tire. Complete with quick turns, hills and descents, rocks and trees in the way. Single track was so much fun and took us almost to the end of ride.

It was a quick finish to Kibbutz Ruhummah. One of the most satisfying things was leaving through the gate of one kibbutz and riding almost to the door of our room at the second kibbutz.

Check back soon for day 3.

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