« The Jordan Bike Trail »
The Jordan Bike Trail (JBT) is a 720 kilometers mixed surface route that crosses Jordan from Um Qais city to Aqaba. With 20,000 meters of elevation gain and one of the steepest terrain I have ever experienced (23% walls are frequent). This is a serious adventure for your legs, your spirit and your bike.
Last February, I went accompanied by my friend Jonas Deichmann (German extreme athlete) to attempt establishing the Fastest Known Time on the JBT. It normally takes between 10 to 12 days minimum to complete the journey and enjoy the magnificent Jordan landscapes. We managed to complete it in 120 hours after enduring rain, cold and beautiful hike-a-bike sessions.
Sharing about this story now, with the COVID global context, feels like I was riding next to the Dead Sea 10 years ago. However, some stories must be shared to keep our love for extreme gravel rides vivid.
Jordan geography can be divided in 3 main elements:
- The Jordan valley, which follows the course of the Jordan river, from the Sea of Galilee, in the north, to the Dead and Red seas,
- The central mountainous region, with all major mountains and the famous paved Kings Highway which crosses the entire country,
- The eastern desert plateau, part of the Arabian desert, which is undoubtedly a “no bike’s land”.
The JBT follows the ancient trade road and has been inspired by the hiking trail to offer a cycling alternative. This is the place on Earth where you can ride your bike below Sea Level. On paper, it doesn’t make any sense. When you’re out there though, this is speechless as you go down these massive canyons (wadis) and climb up again on the other side of the mountain.
Based on my previous gravel expedition, my gravel setup was more aggressive this time with 47mm byway tires to attack the trail as fast as I could. It is mostly packed gravel and some sections are on tarmac but the steepness of the trail is the real challenge. You climb sat on the bike and pray to hold on until you reach the top of the hill. The grand final of the JBT is the Wadi Rum desert where Star Wars movies were filmed.
Regardless of the tires you’re bringing, if you cross that desert by night like we have done, the experience is so punishing physically and mentally that you will surely meet C-3PO on the way!
The JBT has been cycled and mapped for the first time by the English adventurer Matt Loveland, who then worked hard to share his experience with maps and advices on the official Jordan Bike Trail web portal (https://jordanbiketrail.com). Be prepared if you dare one day to ride it !
The full route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31907063
My Strava ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/3147533573
Text by Axel Carion
Pictures: David Styv