Cycling Al Jadaah, Saudi Arabia
Ride 7.7 miles gaining 5,820’ at 14.5% average grade.
This climb is undiscovered by the cycling world - no Strava segment and no cyclists during our climb. In fact, during my 11 days riding in the Asir Mountains (11-4-21 to 11-14-21) I encountered no other cyclists other than those in my group.
This climb is the second hardest in the world - and, IT IS! We rode this one in the Saudi winter in November, 2021. The weather at the start was about 90 degrees and just under 80 at the top - very manageable.
We had the great honor of riding with Saudi Arabia’s first women's national cycling champion, Ahlam Zaid (center of above photo).
What makes this the second hardest world bike climb? Gradient, pure and simple. Most of our climbs do not even include a 14.5% grade, much less for miles on end. This climb averages 14.5% and my Garmin registered 20% or above on many occasions throughout the ride.
As with all the top climbs in the Asir Mountains (6 world top 25), there were no Strava segments for this one, so we created our own 😊 (Al Jaadah (PJAMM World #2) which gives me the distinction of having created the first segments for the hardest bike climb in the world (Mauna Kea - 2013, https://pjammcycling.com/climb/1.Mauna-Kea) and Al Jadaah (2021).
I used a 34 chain ring with 42t cassette and still had to paperboy (zig-zag) on several occasions. My Garmin registered 26% at the steepest section.
That is a 25% grade.
It was a real struggle getting up this mountain.
The gradient makes this number 2 in the world, but the surroundings and scenery make it a true bucket list climb.
None of my usual cycling adventure partners were willing to accompany me on my Saudi trip. The state department in 2021 had what I consider (at least in November when I traveled to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) an inaccurate and unfair severe travel warning for Saudi -
Travel.State.Gov - Saudi Arabia
Look, I’m not with Homeland Security of the State Department, but I was in the Asir Mountains for 11 days in November 2021 and the biggest problem I had was wonderful and hospitable Saudis stopping me on steep grades to give me water or chat. I never had any trouble or threats while riding or traveling in the Asir Mountains nor did I hear of any from anyone before or after my trip.
What makes the Asir Mountain climbs different from most other climbs in the world (in addition to the steepness) is the unobstructed views back down the mountain to the general location of the start far below. You really get the feel of just how much you climb in such little distance on this and several other of the Asir Mountain climbs.
There was very little traffic on this ride, yet 4 people gave me water, one person stopped to interview me with his iPhone and one carrying sole gave me almonds during my 4 hours inching my way up the mountain.
While this is Saudi Arabia which is famed for its desert landscape, there was a fair amount of green in these mountains.
We had a fun time on this climb.
We call this Type 2 Fun - fun after you have achieved your objective.