The Sinai MTB trip: Spring 2014 edition

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Story by Hassan Choucri

This trip was put together in a week at the most. Neal called me up:”wanna go to Sinai?” to which I answer with a casual “mmm…yes. let’s call up the others.” We do two conference calls and go through a packing list that Neal shared with us, and we agreed to meet at Sherif Taymour’s house at 8:00AM on April 9th. Sure enough the last of us (who will remain nameless) showed up at 09:15. We had 3 cars in which we had to fit 8 bikes, 7 riders and their gear. The inside of my car looked like this (note the 2 bikes on the spare tyre rack):

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Sherif’s car was also full on the inside while this is how it looked like on the outside:

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Mohamed’s car didn’t have much better luck: (Note the backpack practically sitting on Moe’s lap):

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We had an uneventful drive (save for the usual checkpoints) to the Sahara beach camp where we would be spending the night and meeting Mussallam who would be our guide for the trip. We pretty much relaxed our first night in preparation for what’s to come and checked up on our bikes.

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No amount of mosquito repellant could thwart the attacks those winged creatures launched on us. I could have sworn the mosquitoes were trying to buzz in harmony and at that point i figured that there is no point in sleeping in the hut. Slept much better on the beach.

The sun finally comes up, and we take our bikes apart so that they would be put in the cars arranged by our guide along with the rest of our gear, food, etc.… The happy bunch get in the car and spend 2 hours (give or take) to the drop off point where we would start our ride.

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Once again we put our bikes together and get ready to finally ride after an ass-numbing 4×4 drive.

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We finally start riding and 800 meters into the ride we get our first flat!!!! luckily we only had a total of 3 flats on this trip. Legend has it that on a previous trip, the guys had a total of 23 flats (editor’s note: true story). Did we feel lucky? we sure did.

Moe negotiating a technical descent.
Moe negotiating a technical descent.

The scenery we have seen on this trip is breathtaking. The riding we have done on the first day was very nice except for the occasional flat section that was garnished with soft gravel sheets. We covered about 32km in about 5 hours on the first day. we climbed 319 meters and descended 809 meters. But apart from the numbers there were endless sections of pick-a-line-through-the-rocks, very long switchback descents, and climbs to hilltops where you could feast your eyes on some crazy scenery that this no where else to seen in the world.

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We eventually reach our campsite where we rendezvous with the cars. Those who opted to sleep in tents put them up.

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We sit by the fire and our guides prepare a fantastic meal for us after which this was the inevitable result:

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Day 2 was a completely different story. it was an odyssey to say the least. It started with a 4×4 drive as well but not as long nor as painful as the one we had on the first day. But on day 2 there was more of everything: more climbs, more descents, more walking, more ass-crawling, more breathtaking scenery, bigger mountains, more colors, more valleys, way more heat, more hours on the bike. Need i say more? we rode 7.5 hours, climbed 460 meters and descended 1200 meters over a distance of 30km. A good portion of the descending we did was on foot or worse; ass-crawled.

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None of what we’ve seen in Degla (our home trails right outside Cairo) could have prepared us well for what we have seen on that second day. the terrain is much gnarlier than anything in Degla or Hof plus the “You’re in the middle of nowhere” factor. There were falls and some minor injuries. There were moments where i would ask myself:”What the fuck am I doing here?” or “Why didn’t I bring more water?”

It was a difficult day. it was the kind of ride that makes you discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. But once you are done with all the misery and hardship and get to the beach where you kick off your shoes, clean your injuries, drink water, and have that much-needed coffee spiked with a bit of whisky, you say to your buddies:”So when do we do this again?”

Riders: Neal Afifi, Moe Rabie, Mohamed Kandil, Sherif Taymour, Omar Sharkawy, Eissa Allam, and Hassan Choucri. Photo Credits: Moe Rabie, Omar Sharkawy, Neal Afifi, Eissa Allam, and Sherif Taymour. Words: Hassan Choucri