The Jordan Trail (Video)
Tristan Ridley is on a 100,000 km bikepacking trip around the world. He recently rode most of the 650 km Jordan Trail, where he put together this short video overview of the route. Watch it below, along with a Q&A about his time riding across Jordan and beyond…
Words and photos by Tristan Ridley (@tristanrid)
Tristan Ridley is on a 100,000-kilometer bikepacking trip around the world, riding through 100 countries to raise money for Build Africa, an English charity organization that works to fight poverty through education in rural Kenya and Uganda.
He recently rode most of the 650-kilometer Jordan Trail, where he put together this short video that offers an overview of the trail. Nearly all of us on the BIKEPACKING.com team have spent time riding in Jordan, so Tristan’s video caught our attention. Watch his full video below, then continue on for a Q&A about his ride across Jordan and his larger journey, along with a handful of still photos from the route.
How would you rate Jordan as a bikepacking destination?
Jordan makes for an interesting place to bikepack, but it’s definitely not for everyone. The Jordan Trail is very physically demanding, and the landscape can be harsh – very cold and windy in the winter and painfully hot in the summer. I probably wouldn’t recommend it as a destination for a first-time bikepacker. But for someone looking for something different and a solid physical challenge, the Jordan Trail is perfect. The fact that it takes you through Petra, one of the modern wonders of the world, as well as the spectacular Wadi Rum, make it one of the most memorable routes I’ve cycled.
Tell us about your bike. What are you riding?
I ride a Surly ECR, with 29 x 3.0″ tyres. Overall, I think 29+ was just about perfect for this route. It’s an amazing platform for intercontinental bikepacking where you know there will be a mix of dirt roads and tarmac. I wouldn’t have wanted to go any skinner with my tyres in Wadi Rum, which is all sand tracks and was definitely my favourite part of the route. The Jordan Trail would have been doable with a standard mountain bike tyre, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun. A full-fat bike would have been ever better for certain bits, but I think a plus bike hit the spot.
Can you share a highlight and a low point of your time on the The Jordan Trail?
Wadi Rum was utterly, ridiculously spectacular. Being able to freely explore such an incredible place and to wild camp in the desert was an enormous privilege. It easily ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had in over two years of cycling around the world. Petra, of course, was another amazing place to visit. It was particularly special entering through the ‘backdoor’ route via Little Petra. For such a small country, Jordan is full of highlights.
In terms of low points, there was one section where I was riding into heavy rain and a freezing headwind, inching along in my bottom gear on the flat. I was cold, my legs were tired, and I was fed up. But I kept going, and two days later I was standing in front of the Treasury at Petra. You have to take the bad with the good.
Your ride through Jordan was one leg of a larger journey around the world. Tell us about that trip.
I’m aiming to cycle 100,000 kilometres around the world through 100 countries to raise money for a British charity, Build Africa, which works with severely disadvantaged kids in Kenya and Uganda.
After more than two years of cycling, I’ve only covered 43,000 kilometres, so I still have a long way to go, but I’m not in any kind of rush. I could jump on a road bike and hit my target in another year or two, but it’s much more worthwhile for me to take it slow, stick to the dirt, and spend my time exploring the wild places of the world. I’ll also have to stop and work again before I’m done, so I have probably another four or five years still to go.
How’s traveling alone? Any unique challenges or benefits?
I’ve cycled alone for almost all of the two years of my ride so far. I’ve had company for a few sections, though never for more than a few weeks. It’s interesting, the experience is very different with a partner. In a way, riding with companions is more fun. It’s certainly easier. But on the other hand, I find I learn less and push myself less, and so overall I do prefer riding solo.
I really like the fact that everything is on me – when I have a problem or things get tough I have to deal with it; there’s no one to moan to or share the burden. And I think riding solo for so long has made me a much stronger person. Of course, there’s also a lot more freedom when you’re riding by yourself. You don’t have to compromise with anyone and answer only to yourself.
I think it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. It’s good to mix it up! I have several friends who have said they want to join me for certain sections, so I’ll certainly have company many times again before I’m done.
Any advice for bikepackers who are planning to visit Jordan?
Culturally, Jordan is a fairly easy place to visit as it’s pretty well developed. It’s a Muslim country, so a degree of modesty is advised, though you can get away with shorts and a t-shirt.
I wild camped almost every night, but accommodation is also available for certain parts of the route. It’s extremely mountainous and the gradients are often brutal, so good fitness, low gears, and a lightweight setup are a must.
To get the most out of the Wadi Rum section, I’d also suggest having enough capacity to carry food and water for two days, which can be tricky (at least when it comes to water) with a bikepacking setup. I carried 10 litres, which was enough to get me through in winter (January). But if you go in the summer it can get extremely hot, so you would need a lot more! When I was there, nights were dropping to below freezing, so if you go in winter make sure you take enough warm clothes!
Lastly, what’s next?
I’m now in Kenya, cycling south through Africa on my way to Cape Town. After that, I’ll be heading over the Atlantic and down to Patagonia to ride the length of the Americas.
Build Africa, the charity I’m riding for, have several projects that I’ll be visiting over the next couple of weeks here in Kenya. I’m excited that I’ll be able to see some of the amazing work they’re doing with local communities.
There are also some fantastic BIKEPACKING.com routes coming up in my next few countries. Most immediately, the Trans-Uganda and the Congo Nile Trail. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming months!
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