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Mountain Biking in Bahrain

Mountain Biking in Bahrain

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I woke up early on Friday and promised myself to have a good day.

I was out of bed by 04:55 and left home by 5:20 with my mountain bicycle loaded into the car and happiness and good anticipation in my heart. I was going to meet new people and ride into new terrain, one that my bike was actually meant for. It was going to be a different type of cycling in Bahrain.

You see, my two regulars with whom I’ve been riding over the last few weeks were not available, but I wasn’t going to let Friday pass without having my ride.

The rides have become quite precious to me. They present a time where I get a chance to momentarily disconnect and recharge in the outdoors and continue on my health journey too. Knowing how much I enjoy riding with a group, I was determined to find one that I can ride with this Friday. So I trawled Instagram and searched the various Bahrain Cycling hashtags in the hope of finding one. Those searches resulted in a couple of WhatsApp contact numbers which I duly messaged to find more information about them and whether they had a program for Friday I could join. One responded with a suggestion to check out TriLife. That led to another Instagram search which ultimately resulted in finding an announcement of their scheduled desert outing. Great! That would do, thanks very much.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 10

I arrived at TriLife’s shop location in Zallaq at 6am. The ride was scheduled for 6.30am so I was quite a bit early. Their shop wasn’t open yet; however, a number of cycling enthusiasts were arriving at the location and setting up their gear. They were mostly road bikers, and serious ones at that too. Their heads were fully down to the task of setting up their bikes. It was nice to see people in industry.

At around 6.15 I noticed that someone was setting up bikes in front of the shop, and as I’ve already set my bike, I went over to that area to await the start of the mountain bikers’ trek. In the interim, I had a quick chance to look at the shop’s wares and noticed that apart from the good bike selection, they seemed to also have quite a lot of associated accessories. As I don’t have enough experience yet, I couldn’t judge the competitiveness of their pricing or the actual breadth of their product line. However, I think the shop is well worth a visit by any enthusiast. The feeling I had is that they offer competition to Skate Shack which is the incumbent on the island.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 04

By 6.30, there was quite a nice group of around 15 gathered ready for the fun ahead. Most opted to rent bikes from TriLife, a service that was just introduced by them that very day.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 01

After an obligatory group photo, we were led out by Corne Van Aswegen to the desert, passing the University of Bahrain then crossed the road to enter the area of the horse racing track and the beautiful small hills in the area. It was some of those that we were going to ride on. It was a nice prospect and far different from my usual rides which offer no elevation except for gentle gradients at the Bahrain Fort. It had rained the night before too, evidenced by several puddles in the area, as well as many muddy tracks along the route.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 02

The real ride started with a good climb of the old go-cart incline in the area. That alone was worth the day as it brought some happy childhood memories when my dad took us to watch those funny races. I could tell you that climbing was a sight harder than I thought!

Assembling at the top, we started the trek in earnest, riding through puddles, rocks, muddy paths, inclines and descents. A lot of those tracks were somewhat challenging to attempt, basically because my foot kept sliding off the peddles. The smooth surface of my trainers against the smooth and wet surface of the open peddles made those already challenging ascents even more so. I had to resort to pushing my bike up on a couple of instances rather than riding it to the apexes. Others faired better, and a few worse.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain - puddles after the rain in the desert

Mountain Biking in Bahrain - panorama - puddles after the rain in the sakhir desert

The scenery along the path was quite nice. I haven’t been to that part of the desert before. I have certainly not been to the top of those hills ever, so the scenery was very new. One that was enjoyed by all.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain - mud covered bike

The real enjoyment of course was for all to rediscover their childhood! Everyone was copiously covered in mud at the end of the ride, and happily so!

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 07

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 08

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 09

 

I look forward to join the rides in the future. I’m not sure whether they will continue in the summer, and doubt that they will in Ramadan, at least not ones in the daylight anyway, so I’ll treasure the remaining few rides before then and shall enjoy them as much as I can. I know I shall enjoy them more by sharing the experience with the many enthusiasts I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with on Friday.

Mountain Biking in Bahrain 11 - Panorama from the top of the hill overlooking the horse racing circuit

To join the Bahrain MTB WhatsApp Group, call Trilife on +973-77333777 and ask for Corne and mention that I sent you.

160415-FridayMorning-MountainBikeRide

Disclosure: I am not associated with TriLife or its personnel in any way and I receive no payments from them.

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Cycling in Bahrain

Cycling in Bahrain

My advice to any budding and experienced cyclist: Wear a helmet . Get up early . Ride defensively . Wear a helmet, seriously!

The extent of my experience in cycling is quite limited. I’ve only started a couple months ago. I bought it on January 27 on a whim when I noticed a second-hand mountain bike advertised for sale on a supermarket’s bulletin board and thought I’d like to try it. I had to contend with that incredulous look that came over my wife’s face though. I just retorted that she should be happy that what I’m thinking of opting for is a bicycle rather than a motorcycle. I’m in the right age-group of the latter, but was opting for the former, because I’m really young still. That didn’t do the trick.

My Kona Mountain Bike - MTB

In any case, I became a stupefied owner of a good mountain bike a couple of days later. I say stupefied because the last time I was on a bicycle was when I was twelve or so, and the first thing I did when I was evaluating the bike to buy it, was to crash off of it. Suit and all, onto the cemented ground.

I had no idea where people go riding, I didn’t know the rules of the road, I didn’t and couldn’t find a “dos and don’ts” list anywhere and I didn’t know if a cycling culture actually existed here in Bahrain. Nevertheless, I thought I’d just get on for now, and deal with all of those things as and when they occur. All in good time.

The first thing I discovered is that old adage of “it’s like riding a bike” isn’t actually true. A lot gets forgotten and the balance must be worked on again to re-acquire it. That and the many little things that must be understood and sorted out too; from the proper height and position adjustment of the seat, the height and orientation of the handle bars and the tyre pressures are a few. I’m thankful to all the people and companies who shared their knowledge on YouTube. Watching a few of those videos were an invaluable education and reduced the sharpness of the education curve, allowing me to expedite the start of this new adventure.

The Al-Nakheel Cycling Route

I live on the border between the villages of Duraz and Barbar on Bahrain’s north coast. One of the island’s most interesting and ancient routes – the Al Nakheel Highway, meaning the Palm Groves Highway – is just a stone’s throw away from my home. That road spans almost the whole breadth of the northern part of the island from Budaiya village on the west through to the Bahrain Fort on the Eastern shores. The road passes through several scenic villages and is quite navigable. As it is a single carriage-way and running through villages, it can get quite busy at peak hours and does get a bit narrow at the small shopping areas along that road; particularly through the villages of Barbar and Jannusan.

Panorama - the Bahrain Fort - (c) Mahmood Al-Yousif all rights reserved

The length of that route is 12 kilometers and a round trip if I start my route by going to Budaiya village and then double back I average about 25 kms and it takes me approximately an hour and a half at an average speed around 21 kph.

I normally ride early in the morning – around 6.30 or 7.00 – on Fridays and sometimes on Saturdays with hardly a car in sight and just a few people getting their early breakfasts from the Khabbaz (local baker) or one of the samboosa and sandwich shops which every village on the route has. I’ve not stopped yet to sample any of their fares yes but I do take the time – sometimes – to stop at the Bahrain Fort museum and enjoy the sights and sounds of the early morning.

The Early Morning Riders - Cycling in Bahrain

The ride has become much more of a please when joined by a couple of friends. Now Basim Al-Sai’e, Bader Kanoo and I have made it a habit to ride early every Friday morning. We’ve gone as far as Zallaq in the south of the island and of course as far east as the Ritz Carlton hotel and back.

It’s just been a couple of months since I got the bike. It would serve me well to remember that I’m a complete noob at this, rather than feel like I’m actually a pro. The latter allows me to have a sense of experience I actually do not have. At no time was this more apparent than the last weekend. The various cuts and bruises suffered when I fell off my bike on a main road last Saturday. I’m so fortunate to have had my safety helmet on because what broke my fall on the metal fence at the side of the road was that helmet!

Let me end by repeating my advice I opened this post with: to any budding and even experienced cyclists: remember that Bahrain’s road and drivers are very hostile to cyclists. The dust and sand on the roads will easily derail your bike. You will lose traction in a glimpse of an eye sometimes through no fault of your own and you’ll find yourself in dicy situations. Help yourself and save your own life by ensuring that you always wear a helmet, go on your rides as early in the morning as possible to avoid car traffic and get on less busy roads, and always ride defensively. Don’t take cars, pedestrians, other cyclists, children, youth, dogs and other animals for granted. And most of all, wear a good quality helmet, seriously!

With all that said, cycling on Bahrain is quite pleasurable. Go out and enjoy the limited nature that we have, and make it your own!

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