Ask a longtime Dubaian what a bicycle is and they may describe a machine in a gym with no wheels. Suggest that a bicycle is a mode of transport and they may suspect you of witchcraft. But cycling is on the rise in this car-clogged city.
WHERE TO RIDE
Encouraging us to get pedalling is the RTA, which has recently completed over 100km of dedicated cycling tracks around the city, including along Jumeirah Street (23km), at Street No 7 up to Al Mankhool Street (1.4km) and Mall Of The Emirates station (1.6km).
And this is just the start. As part of the Dubai Bicycle Master Plan, the RTA aims to provide 850km of bikeways in central business districts and new localities. Seih Assalam Road and Al Qudra Road look set for 67km of track, while 11km around Bur Dubai’s Al Fuhaidi, Al Falah, Al Ghubaiba and Al Hisn Roads is also in the pipeline.
Making it fun for all the family is key, too, and The Cycle Hub is working with UAE Cycle Federation to promote cycle safety for children. The I-Bike-Right scheme aims to teach kids how to cycle safely in school workshops and sports groups.
Dubai Autodrome (Tel: (04) 3678700 dubaiautodrome.com) normally growls to the tune of sports cars and motorbikes, but for three hours every Wednesday, the ozone layer gets a rest. From 6pm to 9pm, cyclists who bring their own bike and helmet are invited to lap the 2.46km track under floodlights, without a motorist in sight.
BE A ROUGH RIDER
Cycling isn’t just confined to roads and tracks. Dubai is not famous for its mountains, with the landscape around us is somewhere between the surface of the moon and the less memorable parts of a quarry. Yet the UAE has rich pickings for mountain bikers.
If you’re new to the sport, The Cycle Hub (Dubai Motor City Grandstand, Shop B6. Tel: (05) 05528872 facebook.com/thecyclehub) is a great place to get acquainted. Every Monday night and Saturday morning, beginners and immediate bikers are invited to ride the 25km off-road loop near Motor City. Led by an experienced mountain biker, the route is adapted to the skill level of the group, and aims to build up riders’ fitness and technique.
Once you’ve proved your mettle on the Dubai trail, progress to the wadi trails of Shawka. About 80km east of Dubai, Shawka is a small settlement surrounded by wadis that make a playground for off-road fiends. Suited to confident mountain bikers, the Shawka region abounds in rough terrain including single trails cut by bikers, for bikers. You can even put a little Bedouin in your biking and camp overnight.
HIRE A BIKE
Back on firmer ground, you can, of course, hire a bike from one of the 16 Byky stations around the city. Prices start at Dhs15 for 30 minutes, increasing by the hour to Dhs80 for 24 hours. To register, visit bykystations.com, download the NextBike app (iPhone and Android) or sign up at a rental station. You’ll find five stations downtown, five in the Marina and six on The Palm. Once registered with your credit card details, you simply enter the number of the bike you want to rent and use a unique code to unlock the bike. Then you cycle ‘til your heart’s content and return the bike to any rental station. Easy peasy.
If you’ve ever watched cycling on TV and marveled at the speeding riders in their neon kit, why not get in the saddle yourself? The Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge (cyclechallenge.ae) on December 13 is the biggest cycling event in the Middle East, and welcomes all amateur cyclists. Now is the time to sign up and get training.
The 92km race is expected to attract over 2,000 cyclists from around the world paying Dhs270 to enter, with the Dubai Police and RTA ensuring everyone’s safety. The race route takes in Dubai’s most iconic sights, including the Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall and the Burj Al Arab. As an extra incentive, Revolution Cycles is giving away a LOOK 695 Aerolight bicycle, valued at over Dhs30,000, to one lucky entrant. To get you in shape for the race, build-up rides take place on October 4, November 1 and November 22.
For a day of cycling with the family, register for The Great Dubai Pulse Ride on November 8 (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details). In association with Dubai Sports Council, the community mountain bike trail includes a 5km route for families and children, as well as a 25km cross-country ride for the more intrepid – just bring your own bicycle and helmet. When the kids aren’t tearing up gravel on two wheels, they can hit the bouncy castle or get their face painted. A brunch barbeque provides the pedal power.
WHY IT’S A WHEELY GOOD IDEA
After five minutes spent talking to Wolfi Hohmann, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop in Al Quoz (Sheikh Zayed Road, between Interchange 2 and 3. Tel: (04) 3394453. Metro: Noor Islamic Bank. wbs.ae), you’ll want to buy a bike. And after ten minutes in his company you’ll feel like you could win the Tour de France.
“Cycling is magical,” he says with infectious enthusiasm. “When you ride a bike, after 15 minutes of pushing the pedals, something clicks in your brain. You suddenly feel different. The rhythm, it’s like meditation. I want to pass this pleasure on to as many people as I can. If more people used a bicycle the world would be a better place.”
This is especially important in Dubai, he believes, where the pace of life and work can lead many people to feel like life is passing them by. “When people move to Dubai they get a flat, a car, and they work long hours. Eventually they stop and think: where is the fun? Cycling is a fantastic way to relax. Without cycling I don’t think I would have survived Dubai.”
Having already set up a successful cycling shop in his hometown of Freiburg, Germany, Wolfi came to Dubai 11 years ago to set up an Al Quoz store. From a difficult start (“I was broke and ate only spaghetti with pesto for a long time”) it’s now considered to be the best bike shop in Dubai. Wolfi employs 25 knowledgeable staff, stocks a huge range of bikes and kit for children and adults, and has a high-tech laser machine that measures every part of your body so you get the perfect bike for your frame. They even have a gadget to test the pressure of your bum on the saddle. But don’t be intimidated – Wolfi and his staff promise to hold your hand every step of the way and won’t confuse you with jargon.
Wolfi’s is also the home of the Dubai Roadsters cycling club, now in its 12th year. “It started with a few friends,” explains Wolfi. “We’d meet at their house at 6am, have a coffee and go for a ride. More and more people joined and pretty soon the coffee machine couldn’t handle it.” The group moved their start point to Lime Tree Café on Jumeirah Beach Road and the Roadsters continued to grow. Today, Wolfi estimates, they have more than 350 regulars who join their three weekly rides. The club also organises social events and Wolfi is proud of the community that he’s helped create.
Incredibly, it’s free to become a Roadster, although a Dhs200 voluntary donation per year for regular riders is welcomed to pay for the petrol of the support car that accompanies the group on rides. “We have riders from age 16 up to 60 and people make friends very easily,” adds Wolfi. “When I moved to Dubai I was told there were no bicycles here, only camels. People think it’s a cycling desert, but it’s not.”