More than a sport or a hobby: Cycling now part of city life in Dubai

Dubai - Cycling tracks are continuously being built and safety signs put up, making people more interested in hitting the streets with their two-wheelers.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Fri 27 Nov 2020, 10:48 PM

Last updated: Sat 28 Nov 2020, 6:25 AM

With Dubai growing into a more bicycle-friendly city, more residents have been pedalling their way in and around their neighbourhoods, especially now that the winter weather is here.

Cycling tracks are continuously being built and safety signs put up, making people more interested in hitting the streets with their two-wheelers.

Enthusiasts of all skill and fitness levels join groups and, together, they bike around not only to exercise but also to explore the sights of the city on a mode of transport with zero carbon footprint.

John Eapen, owner of a media production company, has been biking in Dubai since he was a kid. And he is amazed at how the emirate has been rapidly turning into a haven for cyclists.

“I’ve been cycling even before the Al Qudra track was built. A few years back, we only had the Nad Al Sheba track which was basically a narrow road in the middle of the desert,” the 37-year-old said.

“More recently, the city has developed some excellent infrastructure for cyclists and it has promoted cycling heavily. The recently organised Dubai Ride is an excellent example of the encouragement given to cyclists,” added Eapen.

“There are more events now, as well as cycling groups.”

This growing cycling culture, another expat said, brings communities together.

“It helps people make friends and share experiences. The more people learn about the cycling rides in Dubai, the more people get interested. That collectively aids in community wellness,” said Sam Whittam, business development head of Wolfie Bike Shop.

A lifestyle and a sport

Cyclists — both professionals and enthusiasts — agree that the public’s awareness of cycling as a lifestyle or as a sport has “definitely increased”, thanks to the exceptional infrastructure in Dubai.

Mike Burmingham, member of Tri Dubai, said: “In Dubai, the facilities are second to none. The city has dedicated cycling tracks with showers, parking and other amenities.

“Over the past 7.5 years, my wife Diane and I have participated in a lot of triathlons and cycling events like Ironman 70.3, Spinneys Riders, Liwa Race and Hatta Ride. I feel the cycle paths around the city have really developed over the years.”

Indian expat Arijit Nandi, who pursues it more as a hobby, said the numerous events got him interested in cycling.

“I did quite a bit of research on the Internet, spoke to a few people who know bikes and finally invested in a road bike that cost me around Dh4,000.”

The Al Qudra cycling track then became his go-to place every weekend. “Sometimes, I even cycle to the nearby grocery store. It leads to a great outdoor experience and helps burn calories,” Nandi said.

Good bikes as an investment

Joelma Fernandes, a Brazilian resident, said she got into the cycling habit during the pandemic.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends and taking up the habit has also helped me lose some weight.”

She added: “More than road biking, I enjoy mountain biking. I ride to biking spots in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and other mountainous areas.”

Joelma noted that mountain biking could be an expensive hobby, for which one would have to spend a minimum of Dh10,000 to Dh12,000 to get a good-quality bike. “The really good ones cost Dh30,000 and above.”

Commenting on the cost of bikes, Eapen suggests that people invest in a good bike frame instead of buying a brand-new one. “You can buy more affordable bike parts from the UK and the US, where cycling is very common,” he explained.

Whittam of Wolfie Bike Shop said they do see a lot of takers for bikes as temperatures drop. “We have observed a surge in sales especially for road bikes.”

Other businesses find ways to take the cycling experience up a notch. Pedal, a firm specialising in custom-built bikes and a store for accessories, said in a recent statement: “We have updated our popular in-house café menu with a range of nutritious winter dishes perfect for cyclists.”

Pedal around town without buying a bike

>> Rentals are available at cycling tracks around the country, such as at Yas Marina, Mushrif Park, Al Qudra and Nad Al Sheba tracks or Dubai Autodrome

>>You can also grab a ride for city use from a cycle-share scheme, which loans out bikes at an hourly rate

• In Dubai: Downtown, Marina and the Palm have cycle shares run by NextBike, which start at Dh15 for 20 minutes

• In Abu Dhabi: Cyacle has over 50 stations around town, including one on the scenic Corniche

• In Sharjah: You can use Byky rentals around Al Majaz

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