Conquering Jebel Jais on a bike
Words by Nathan Irvine
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With less than twelve months in the saddle, EDGAR's Nathan Irvine decided to take on the UAE's tallest mountain. Here's what happened...
2020 was the year I got into cycling. I finally embraced my midlife crisis, bought the tightest gear I could find and set out to Al Qudra cycle track with the rest of the MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra). The feeling of freedom did wonders for reducing the daily build-up of stress. I did my first group ride and I was hooked. Not just by the sense of speed you can achieve in a fully flowing peloton, but by the community around the sport.
This latter part is how I found myself wheezing my way up Jebel Jais – the highest point in the UAE. See, I’m in four different cycling WhatsApp groups. Three of them are on perma-mute because once you’ve seen one cycling meme, you’ve seen them all. But one is just me and two others, formed because, no matter what, we can always count on each other to arrange a ride and actually show up. The others? Not so much.
Anyway, the idea of riding up Jebel Jais was floated and within hours, hotel rooms were booked, routes planned and – for my part – a Dodge Ram 1500 Limited (review coming soon) was arranged to get us all up there.
We set off from Dubai at 5am and reached the mosquito swarmed car park in Ras Al Khaimah at around 7am. One last check of our equipment and the three of us were away. It was only about 30 minutes in when I realise how woefully unprepared I was for the feat.
I usually ride around 200km per week on a mostly flat surface. This has undoubtedly improved my endurance, but definitely didn’t make the Jebel Jais climb any easier. The very first small incline had my quadriceps screaming at me. As things started to get steeper they were begging for mercy, not that my fellow riders knew. I had a poker face on and was still involved in the riding banter.
By the hour mark, the quads had been silenced… only to be replaced by a stitch in my side that was making staying upright even trickier. Add to this the mental battle of trying to figure out exactly where the top was and how much further we had to cycle, and it was about as fun as a flat tyre.
But then something great happened. All of the aches and pains were forgotten as awesomeness of the mountainous region came into full view. Stopping to look back at the winding roads that we’d already conquered was uplifting. Chatting to fellow cyclists making the climb and being waved at by people in passing cars and motorbikes made the whole ride feel even more epic.
We were amateur riders who stupidly decided to ride up a mountain, but to those watching we were doing something huge. It even felt like the goats were sounding their appreciation along the route – although it may have been more to do with wanting the bananas we were eating.
By the time the top was in sight, every kilometre completed felt like a 100km ride. But cresting the hill to the small downhill finish gave me a buzz that I’ve not had since seeing the birth of my kids. It was a real sense of achievement that. Would I do it again? Absolutely. If only for the speedy descent through some of the UAE’s most impressive backdrops.
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