It’s worth waking up at 4am to catch the breath-taking sunrise from this desert dune circuit in Dubai
With opportunities to cycle in the city limited – and even illegal in many places – the near-100km Al Qudra Bike Track is a pedal power paradise for anyone from MAMILS (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) to SMS (Sunday Morning Strollers), and even rollerbladers.
There are two ‘start’ points. The first – arrived at when driving east out of Dubai, not far beyond Arabian Ranches and Studio City – is nothing more than a car park and changing facility. From there, riders head up ‘The Stick’, a long, straight track running alongside Al Qudra Road. The second, 18km up from the first, is a hive of activity by virtue of the specialist Trek Bicycle Store offering rental services and mechanics, a coffee shop and medical centre.
Most arrive at either base camp between 5am and 7am to beat the heat. A relative beginner can expect to complete the main 50km loop in around two hours, with an additional hour for the newer 20km extension. Alternatively, night riders are advised to take The Stick (36km round trip), which is street-lit almost entirely.
Should you choose that option, though, you would be robbing yourself of the chance to see one of the more dramatic sunrises the city has offer. On a clear day the unobstructed views are a joy – genuinely uplifting – and make the pre-5am alarm call utterly worth it.
The buzz and excitement created by ‘gangs’ of fully-equipped riders may be daunting to first timers and the speed some of them reach can indeed be intimidating out around the route. Sure, unless you’re a regular, you’ll almost certainly be hollered at that a group are “PASSING LEFT”, but ultimately, sheltered by dunes and miles from any traffic, it’s a tranquillity not easily found in the city.
It’s what really stands Al Qudra out from any other city cycling experience: the peace and quiet you feel as you make your way round it. Should you wish to take a rest, or even set up a picnic, you can do so at one of around ten sheltered rest points which are strategically positioned along the route.
The route itself is not particularly challenging. Some long, straight stretches (the longest being the final, tree-lined 17km home) can get monotonous, but there’s a couple of ‘hills’ that ensure some breezy downhill freewheeling, too.