Standing next to a humbling-sized dune I found myself with a childish smile. Holding some sweets and a cold drink. I am surrounded by a dozen smiling faces and their E-bikes. This moment perfectly summed the overnight trip we made for the season opening event with the crew from “Desert Riders Eilat”.
When I first biked around this area, about 15 years ago, I was wishing for a service that could help with the endless list of logistical headaches that come with a MTB ride in the desert: route planning, technical support, food and water or even lodging that accommodates riders and their specific needs. Since then, Eilat has undergone a full transformation and now the vacationing cyclist is able to choose from a plethora of MTB specific services. One of those is provided by the guys from “Desert Riders Eilat” in close partnership with the “Camel Ranch Eilat” camping\glamping site.
Desert Riders Eilat- 2022 season
This venture entails much more than a group of desert-riding entrepreneurs. The financial backing of the “Dan” hotels, the 35 years of logistical experience from the Camel Ranch management and the technical support from Amin’s bike shop in Eilat, provides a powerful collaboration and a complete support service. This year, it seems they are stepping up their game by implementing all the previously learned lessons from last season.
The entire fleet of rental e-bikes has been updated to the new version of the “Whistle” e-bike model and with direct cooperation of Amin’s Bikes, every technical issue is quickly resolved. The bikes are in great condition and available in a complete size range, with a dedicated technician and tools that are available on-site. The lodging area has been reimagined and upgraded as well. The crew is focused on the guest’s wellbeing allowing you to just purely enjoy your vacation time without any bike-related worries.
For more details: desertriders
What a MTB vacation in Eilat looks like
Last year I read, with much eagerness and some envy, this article about a similar event organized by the same crew. This year I was lucky enough to participate in the relaunch of the services and experience the many improvements they made over the past year. The service concept is similar to that of ski vacations where you can choose the level of services to use. You can choose to bring your own bike or rent an e-bike on-site.
You can choose to ride solo or with a group and whether to use a shuttle to\from the ranch. You can also hire a professional guide that knows the lay of the land and will take you to the best local trails. For us, a group of MTB journalists and enthusiasts, a tailor-made premium experience had us convinced this is going to be a BIG season for the “Desert Riders”.
With no scientific validation or authority, I’m about to drop some space-time truths about Israel. You see, time moves slower in the desert than in the rest of the country. Within a few hours’ drive you are transported into a special time zone and by the time of arrival, clocks and mindsets are floating in a slow-motion parallel universe.
After listening to a few podcasts and gulping a big cup of coffee while driving south, I arrived at the meeting point and got myself ready for the ride. I chose to accept the organizer’s offer and recommendation to use one of their e-bikes, a familiar looking Whistle B Rush that we recently reviewed.
Unlike me, others from our group brought their own e-bikes and a few courageous riders used their own “Analog” bikes. There’s a certain charm to starting a sports vacation with minimal gear and then renting all the big parts – it allows you to have that “don’t worry be happy” attitude. After some quick adjustments to the rental’s suspension system, brakes and fitting my own pedals, we gathered for a short introduction on the route and general plan, and then headed out to hit the dirt.
Electricity flows under your feet.
The single trail starts south of Kibbutz Yahel, next to the palm plantation. We are talking about the new Israel bike trail up to Wadi Ketura. After crossing route 40, we ride new trails and singles that have not been marked on the official maps yet (but they are already shown on the Israeli hiking trail website). Tal, our local group leader, rode like the wind up ahead with a few other members of our group breathing down his neck.
Every once in a while we had to stop in order to give the non-electric bike riders the chance to close the gap. The single was as fluent as a flood in the desert, the planning and building of this trail was super intelligent and professional, the creators have used every natural aspect of the ground in order to create a natural, exciting and fluent ride throughout the trail. It felt like a never-ending trail. You cannot find such long single trails anywhere else in Israel. In the desert, everything is infinite.
Tomer’s got the goods
An essential part of our ride and really the whole event was a huge cooler filled with magic and goodies, placed in the trunk of Tomer’s (head of logistics) pick-up. Upon arrival at the meeting point he offered us some original southern tea and alluded to the generosity to come later during the ride. I couldn’t have imagined what would come next. I think the only thing missing in that cooler was ice cream, because literally everything else was there. A variety of cold beers, sparkling water, soda, juice, fruit, nuts, dried Majhuls, all perfectly cooled to help deal with the desert heat. Sweet or savory, it was all there.
The best snacks-related moment was during a break we had next to Kasui’s Dunes, when Tomer declared a surprise, and took out a hard-shell black box filled with- Krembo! And in all flavors, just to make sure everybody’s happy. Tomer made sure to be at every possible crossing point to greet us with his cooler. Sometimes I saw him from far away while I was still full from the last snack break… Outrageously generous and precise logistics.
Recharging at the Camel Ranch
With a few daylight minutes to spare, we finished our first day of riding in Yotvata. Some of us shuttled back to the cars at the meeting spot while the staff was taking care of getting the bikes back to the ranch. A quick hour of driving south past Eilat and on to a short dirt road between the mountains brought me to the Camel Ranch main entrance.
We stayed in sturdy canvas tents equipped with AC. Each tent has an outdoor table, chairs, and a very relaxing hammock. Inside, you’ll find two single-sized beds and one queen bed. The interior is clean, roomy, and appealing. The tents are made of quality insulated fabrics, they’re quite big and, frankly, I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else. The showers had hot water and great pressure. While the group was hanging out and schmoozing, dinner was being set.
Dinner exceeded all expectations and was even better than the cooler’s mid-ride snacks. Food was flowing endlessly from the chef’s (Ohad Levi) kitchen over to our tables. Creative fresh salads, wines, endless variations of smoked meats and poultry, and za’atar seasoned breads. Evidently, the chef’s smoked meats are locally famous and well known all over the country.
Smoked meat enthusiasts make the journey to Eilat just to get a taste of Ohad’s creations. On that night, I even found myself second guessing my decision to be a vegetarian. Despite looking jealously at the faces of the others as more meat was put out onto the table, I was not unlucky at all since a variety of cooked, smoked or roasted vegetarian dishes were also served. Any space left in my belly after the ride’s snacking, was now occupied by dinner.
Early next morning, a part of the group went for a quick ride before breakfast while the others rested. At 8 we all met for a bountiful breakfast that included soft and hard cheese, fresh bread, homemade condiments, orange juice, and granola with local goat-milk yogurt. This meal’s highlight was the tiramisu cake, which is actually pronounced “TARmisu” by Eilat locals. Fortunately, we had the e-bikes to help us out after that breakfast.
The local pronunciation of “berm”
To get to the riding starting point we either drove or shuttled to K’tora Junction and the crew took care of loading up and shuttling the rental e-bikes. We cycled next to the Arava highway up to K’tora wadi and followed it north until we reached the big climb out of the wadi. E-bikes allowed us to ride fast on the techy-flow single-track, handling uneven terrain like it was asphalt.
The single-track on the big K’tora climb is beautifully built and completely achievable on any bike, except for two short stair sets that most riders walk up. We gained 150 vertical meters over about 1 kilometer, quite a steep climb. Riding this on e-bikes is especially exciting for those who remember how it feels on an “analog” bike. Thankfully, everyone indeed used an e-bike. Tomer was waiting for us up top, with his treats. We took a short break, a few pictures with incredible views from K’tora’s (dry) waterfall and continued toward Neot Smadar and Shizafon junction.
From Shizafon junction we rode fast on flowy trails that maxed-out the e-bikes engine. The occasional berm came-up, and I heard one of our local guides joyfully scream- “braaam”. Yes, apparently the Eilat dialect is strong and here berms are called “brams”. Helpful dialect to remember on your next trip to Eilat.
The rest of the ride utilized a wide double-track in the open desert which didn’t take long thanks to the e-bikes. We finished the ride late afternoon in Yotvata.
Eilat Desert Riders- Who is it for?
A successful vacation lets you completely escape the daily grind and switch-off. That psychological state is perfected when combined with satisfying experiences and adventures and even more so by the beauty of the desert. Our southern holiday with the Desert Riders was exactly that. It felt like we were abroad although only a relatively short drive was required. These guys will adjust services to basically any type of rider. Come solo or with a group of friends and get a taste of the excellent single-track that is constantly evolving and renewing around Eilat.
Services are tailored to each customer. Between bike and protective gear rentals, logistical operations such as – shuttles, food & water supplies, motorized extraction, and knowledgeable bike guides. The Desert Riders have got you covered. Routes are carefully chosen to compliment guest riding ability and any requests. The bike-friendly lodging area also provides amazing food and many activities for kids and family. Bring your family and hop on a Camel’s back for a ride, hire a carriage dragged by a donkey or venture to climb all the way up in the dedicated rope-park. Even roadies (god forbid) should find the Desert Rider’s services helpful when riding in the area.
For more details: desertriders