Serious Bicycle Trails Beyond Tel Aviv

If you have a car with a bike rack, or take the train, there are satisfying routes from the Galilee to the Negev.

Tel Aviv is a bicycle rider's heaven, with wonderful weather, bike paths along major boulevards, and of course the Tel O-Fun bicycle rental service. There are terrific paths within the city itself, not least along the boardwalk from Jaffa all the way to Herzliya, and down Ganei Yehoshua. And for those looking for a longer and more challenging ride, there are popular routes outside the metropolitan Tel Aviv area as well.

Near the Franciscan monastery in Latrun is an area known to cyclists as the Triangle, because of the shape the course covers between three junctions (Nesher-Nachshon-Latrun). About 45 minutes from Tel Aviv, this is bikers' country, and hundreds of cyclists make a weekend pilgrimage there. The roads are in fairly good condition, there is very little traffic, and police cars patrol the area, giving cyclists a sense of safety. The course itself runs through a landscape reminiscent of Tuscany, along rolling hills and rural areas, surrounded by several wineries and orchards.

Most people park at one of two gas stations near Nachshon Junction – Beit Shemesh, so it's best to get there as early as possible to make sure you get a spot.

The ride from Einat Junction (near Petah Tikva, about 20 minutes drive from Tel Aviv) is another cyclists' favorite. This course follows Routes 444 and 443 and can take a cyclist to Modi'in or even Jerusalem. It's relatively flat to start, with a few good hills to get the blood flowing (particularly at the turnoff to Beit Aryeh - Halamish) and culminates in a nice climb up the 443. Traffic is light here, too, but a bit busier than in the Triangle. Most people park at the junction, but it's a manageable ride out of Tel Aviv too.

Mountain bikers can also find good singles with tough climbing in the same area in the Ben Shemen and Beit Shemesh forests, or can drive 45 minutes north of Tel Aviv to tackle the Carmel hills.

Anyone riding on the open road here must remember: Israeli drivers are not a force to be reckoned with. Be hyper-aware of traffic and keep on the defensive – drivers can be aggressive and sometimes unpredictable.

Weekends are the best time for cycling outside of the city, since traffic is as a rule much lighter, especially on Saturdays.

Anyone willing to add a couple more hours to their drive can find pleasant and satisfying rides in the Galilee and the Negev. Israel Railways also allows passengers to bring their bicycles aboard during non-rush hours and all day Friday, making it easy for cyclist to spin through the roads near Binyamina and Zichron Ya'akov, Haifa and Acre, and Be'er Sheva. Just remember that the trains stop running at around 2:30 P.M. before Shabbat.

City bikes can be rented at a variety of shops, and while it's a little tougher to find a decent road or mountain bike for just a weekend, some of the stores on Hashmonaim Street in Tel Aviv may be able to make a deal with an interested tourist. Travelers visiting for a month or more may find it convenient to buy a used bike at a reasonable price, to then sell again when their trip is over. English-language Facebook groups such as Secret Tel Aviv or Keeping Fit in Israel are also a good way to get the word out if you're looking to borrow or buy. If you do end up buying or renting, however, just remember: Israeli bicycle thieves can be just as merciless as drivers. Lock up carefully and bring your bike inside at night.
 

Eliahu Hershkovitz