Words by Avraham Fried | Using The BIB since : May 2020
I'll start by saying I think you've created a superb product. Better than most companies, cheaper than most others. Comfortable, stylish and of high quality materials.
I just finished my first ultra endurance bikepacking race last week here in Israel, the HLC. It's a 1438 km race consisting of singletrack and doubletrack on rough terrain, much of it in the desert. I took just one bib, The Bib Stealth and wore it for the almost 9 days it took me to complete the race (I came in second).
When others were complaining of sore sit-bones, I had nothing to say. The padding was in the right place, in the right thickness and of the right quality to stay comfortable for 19 hours in the saddle a day. I experienced some chafing on the last days, but mostly from poor maintenance on my behalf, and only at the seams.
As for the material, it was super comfortable throughout the race and held up even when I crashed a couple of times. One crash tore through the leg, but the material held and didn't keep on tearing or widening in the location of the holes. I was riding in the desert in 35C weather and felt comfortable all through the day. I think it would have been nice at times to have more of a mesh back and straps, and I think a bib with more mesh might sell well in hot countries, but either way, the bib is great as is.
I heard about the HLC (Holyland Challenge) via the Israel Bikepacking facebook group and decided that was to be my challenge. I focused many hours a week on training, be it strength exercises, biking or reading. I was preparing to just finish the race, knowing the idea of going for a win was foolish and cocky. I spent many nights outdoors testing my gear, and still made gear choices down to the last minute. A huge help with gear was @steve_moatt from @spokeduk who graciously made bags for me to start me off.
The day I arrived in Majdal Shams was exciting, I was standing among the greats. Chanoch Reidlich who holds the route record, Vlad Ramkovitch who raced in 2016 and many others who set out on the route various other times.
We set off, I didn't know much about my capabilities. Over the next few days, I discovered I was able to ride great distances with little stops (~19 hours riding per day), sleep very little (2-3 hours average) and I was keeping up with Vlad who was in front of me. I set out to test myself, and that I did, doing everything I can to keep up with Vlad and hold my place in the race (2nd place)
By the time we hit the second half of the race, I was doing well, I was still the same distance behind Vlad, Bryan and Itai behind me weren't getting closer and I felt strong - boy was I in for a surprise.
The desert hit me unawares. I had never ridden the desert in Israel and didn’t realize just how hard it would be. Massive climbs with no shade, blistering heat (35C) and terrain that isn’t really rideable. I was doing everything I can not to ride in the heat, be it long nights, 24 hour rides or day breaks, but it wasn’t working, I hit the heat everyday and my physical and mental state was deteriorating. My riding and sleep patterns became erratic trying to outrun the sun.
On the last day I saw an opening, Vlad had gotten held up in front of me and was closer than ever, only 2.5 hours away. I decided to give him a fight and pushed hard after only half an hour of sleep the previous night. All was well until I was 2 hours from Eilat when the fatigue hit me. I started falling asleep on my bike and decided to take a nap, only to awake to hallucinations and vertigo. I made it to Eilat 2.5 hours later than planned, only 5 hours after the winner.
This was the hardest, most exciting and humbling experience I have ever done. I discovered a community of beautiful people who welcome anyone and everyone who want to participate. A sport where you are tested not just for your physical capabilities but also your mental preparedness and training. A race where it’s all about the long game, where every minute counts. A country whose landscapes are beautiful all throughout. A hobby for life.
I have to thank everyone who was there to support me while I was training and racing, be it by phone, messages, visiting and just watching. Thank you to the community for going ahead with the event despite the Covid difficulties, and thank you to organizers who devised the most sadistic route possible, in order to make one feel that much more proud in their achievement.
I don’t even know how to start wrapping my head around this experience.
- July 2019: I didn’t own a bike.
- August 2019: I bought a 175$ used bike and used it to bike halfway across the USA.
- September 2019: I bought a 800 Shekel road bike to exercise with.
- December 2019: I bought a mountain bike.
- October 2020: I came in second place in Israel’s hardest bikepacking event, possibly one of the worlds most difficult.