Pedalling uphill: the rise of cycling in Dubai

A small revolution is taking place in amongst the desert metropolis – one that involves two wheels, lycra leggings, and a semblance of fearlessness  

Cycling may not automatically spring to mind when considering Dubai’s desertscape, but that didn’t deter Wolfi Hohmann when he came to the emirate from Germany to set up a bicycle shop. Celebrating their 12th anniversary in August, his shop and the cycling club he helped found – Dubai Roadsters – are as much a part of the landscape as the dunes themselves.

A fun, sociable way to keep fit, cycling has taken off in Dubai in the past five years, according to Hohmann. Dubai Roadsters has expanded from a small group of eight to up to 300 cyclists joining their rides. Now they meet at the Nad Al Sheba Cycle Park – a camel racing track converted in 2012 – before heading out on 50-70km rides on Sunday and Tuesday evenings, and up to 140km rides to Al Awir on Friday mornings.

“It’s a stunning location,” says Hohmann;“You ride right through the dunes.”

The tarmacked cycle park is free, equipped with shower facilities. The Dubai Roadsters take voluntary donations of AED200 from cyclists to cover the costs of a support car, an important safety aspect.  

For even more dedicated cyclists, Dubai Roadsters organises twice-yearly coast-to-coast rides from Dubai to Fujairah. “Riding 220km from the Arabian [Gulf] to the Indian Ocean is something special,” explains Hohmann. Taking up to 8 hours, cyclists pass through the UAE’s Hajar mountains, ending in a well-deserved BBQ or lunch in Fujairah. “It’s a very scenic road. We have people who come from all over the world and the Middle East to ride.”

Dubai’s cycling scene caters for the more leisurely cyclist, too. For those starting out, there are ‘Revolution Nights’ at Dubai’s Autodrome, which closes its track to cars for 3 hours every Wednesday, allowing runners, joggers and cyclists to take over the 2.46km circuit.

“It’s an ideal opportunity for anyone who wants to test out a bike or see if the sport is for them,” says Stewart Howison, managing partner of Revolution Cycles – which sponsors the event – and organiser of Cycle Safe Dubai (CSD). Now, up to 600 people attend the nights in the winter months.  

Other initiatives are encouraging people to get on their bike. The Jumeirah Corniche Project is due for completion this year, which will create a 14km stretch of path along the coast between Jumeirah Mosque and the Burj Al Arab dedicated to health and recreational activities. The project includes an extension of the Jumeirah cycling track.

CSD encourages people to get into cycling and do it safely. The group, set up 4 years ago, helps people work up their fitness levels, says Howison. Using the 100km Al Qudra Road, the group organises rides on Fridays – ranging from 35km to 120km. On Saturdays, CSD organises coffee mornings with a twist; members cycle 30km out to the Bab Al Shams hotel for coffee and croissants, before cycling back to the city.

CSD has 2,000 Facebook group members who will soon benefit from even more facilities at Al Qudra Road Cycle Path. A new 20km loop has been added and another 30km path is due at the end of October. “We’re going to have close to 140km of dedicated cycle path out in the desert, which is open 24/7,” says Howison. “So now we’ve got an absolutely perfect place to go and ride.”