By: Chanoch Redlich
Every rider knows the feeling. Saturday morning and it’s time to pack the bike on the car. Coffee in one hand – helmet, gloves, goggles, and riding shoes in the other. Most of the attention is focused on not spilling the coffee. Reach the main road and start driving. While it might be disgustingly early for you, for the dozens and even hundreds of road bikers it’s the middle of the day.
You’ve got to understand, bicycling on roads in Israel is no picnic. Not one of the road bikers gets up in the morning (be it Saturday morning or Tuesday morning) and says to himself: “Today I feel like a leisurely ride on my road bike”. Each road bike trip is carefully rationed down to the hour, and is planned exclusively in special areas with restricted-access roads and side roads. Early Saturday mornings are a tiny island of sanity and tranquility for the courageous race the calls itself the “Israeli Road Bicyclists”.
Any attempt at road biking in the middle of the week is a calculated risk with little chance of survival. Excuse me for my shallow populism, but what we’re discussing here is tantamount to a suicide mission.
Israel is well-known as a country with a high ratio of cars to roads. Add to that the heat, the Israeli temperment, a horrid driving culture and impatience and what you get is a country that has very few road bikers that take out their road bikes for “leisurely rides”.
The ones that you do see on Saturday morning are using every moment that the roads are empty to try and squeeze in an extra hour of painfully satisfying road bike training sessions.
You might not believe me but this experience is not the same the world over. There are some places where the “road bikers” are normal people, who simply want to see the countryside from their bikes. These are places where people can simply take a day off of work, get on their bike seats and travel to the neighboring town. By bicycle! On roads!! In the middle of the week!!!
There are places where it is possible to ride the roads, and the other people using the road will actually recognize your existence. They even slow down when approaching from the rear, and don’t honk their horns from a kilometer away to make sure that you get off of “their” roads.
There are even places where there are asphalt paths which are separated from the main road and which connect neighboring villages and towns to each other. These paths were built for bicyclists and for road bicyclists in particular.
Places where you can ride twisty roads which climb up the mountains without fearing that some angry driver will come along and push you out of the lane. Places where road bikers are appreciated.
I know that Israeli awareness for bikers and road biking is slowly increasing. I also understand that one day it will be possible for “leisurely travel” by road bike.
However until that day comes each time I ride on roads it will be a “training session” and will take place at unconventional hours in places which I’d rather not mention.
When I want some “leisurely travel” on my road bike I’ll got to Switzerland. Or Italy. Or France. Or Spain.
I need a vacation!