Trial bike world champion Kenny Belaey is no stranger to Lebanon. In fact, the Belgian Red Bull athlete recently completed the spectacular Lebanon Mountain Trail, cycling from north to south. We hear more about his incredible journey.
What made you decide to complete the LMT?
Before this trip, I had been to Lebanon at least four times, and I can safely say I fell in love with the country from the get-go. I felt that my trips to Lebanon with Red Bull were always too short. During my last visit in the summer of 2018 — before filming the Border-to-Border journey — I was in Faraya for a show, and I met Stephanie Audi (trail and outdoor expert). She told me all about the Lebanon Mountain Trail and showed me pictures. That sparked my interest in exploring Lebanon differently: its landscapes and culture. As a trial biker, I always look for the most challenging terrain to ride my bike on, and when I heard about the 470km-long hiking trail, I knew I had to go for it. A year later, I was in Lebanon again making happen it with: Stephanie; her partner Guillaume, who helped with the creative direction of the video; my brother Wesley, who filmed the project; and Red Bull, who organized the whole thing.
How long did the journey take you?
The Lebanon Mountain Trail is primarily designed to be a hiking trail, so there were some areas that I couldn’t ride along. Months before our journey started, Stephanie and Guillaume went on a reconnaissance and marked the areas that were the most interesting in terms of food, culture and landscapes. We worked on the schedule accordingly and visited around 40 villages over the course of 10 days, sleeping in a different guesthouse every night. I wish we could’ve done the whole trail, but it simply wasn’t possible. We were on the move throughout the day and only rested for a couple of hours before continuing our journey.
What was the most challenging part, and what was the highlight?
Being creative in my riding while moving quickly from one spot to the next was a challenge, particularly once fatigue kicked in. My brother and I managed to keep our cool and kept working hard. The highlights throughout the trip were the times we got the exact shot we were looking for and found a spot where I could do some tricks on my bike. I really enjoyed going down a steep mountainside in Tannourine as well as jumping on the rock in the Qadisha river.
Which town/village stood out for you, and why?
I loved the whole trail. Every village and town had something different to offer. It didn’t feel like I was in the same country; we experienced different weather conditions, landscapes, cuisines, cultures, etc. However, the place that stood out for me the most was Qemamine in Akkar — one of the most remote areas, which is located in a valley surrounded by four hills. That’s where I met Abou Moustafa — an 85-year-old guide whose life revolves around the trail. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever met, and that’s what made it so special.
Did you enjoy the regional specialties? What was your favorite dish?
Oh yes! I love Lebanese cuisine. My favorite dishes are fattoush, hummus, halloumi and falafel. The generosity we experienced at all the guesthouses we stayed at was beyond belief. There was absolutely no chance that I was going to go hungry!
What advice would you give someone who is interested in completing the LMT by bike?
That not all parts are easy to ride, so plan your trip wisely. Ensure you talk to someone who knows the trail, and make a selection of the best, most bike-friendly trails.
Check out Belaey’s epic adventure along the Lebanon Mountain Trail in his “Border to Border” video.