Okay, we admit Dubai’s steamy summers aren’t conducive to cycling (or any other outdoor activity, for that matter). But during the winter, the city is a great place to explore by bike. It’s flat, for a start, and as long as you steer clear of Sheikh Zayed Road, there are plenty of routes that are ideal for navigating on two wheels.
Want to cut your daily commute by riding to the metro station? Read on for our two-part bike-buying guide (more next week).
Most of today’s bicycles still employ the classic diamond-shaped frame invented by Essex-born John Starley in 1885. To the untrained eye, one bicycle looks much like another. It’s only when mounted that the rider can feel the differences between models.
Mountain bike By far the most versatile of bike breeds, the mountain bike (aka MTB) runs on 26-inch wheels, has a robust frame, fat knobbly tyres and low gearing to cope with off-road excursions. Depending on the angle of the handlebar mount (or stem), it may require the rider to adopt a slightly tucked position. Nevertheless, the MTB is by far the most versatile type of cycle: it can be adapted for commuting by swapping its knobbly tyres for slick road tyres.
MTBs are divided into two main categories: hardtail (which have front suspension only) and full suspension. Avoid buying a full-suspension bike for commuting: even the expensive models are heavy; the cheaper ones are made out of plumbing materials.
Choose an MTB that fits. You’re looking to get at least two-and-a-half inches of air between the top tube and your crotch. Any less and you risk a rather painful reminder that you’ve bought the wrong size. Most manufacturers build 14-, 15- and 16-inch MTBs to fit smaller cyclists.
Trusted brands: Scott, Kona, Trek, Specialized, Marin, Cannondale, Giant. Hybrid With large wheels and more speed, the hybrid was developed as a sort of halfway house between an MTB and a road bike. The wheels are larger, providing more speed with less effort. All hybrids are shod with slim, semi-slick road tyres for minimal rolling resistance and, as with road bikes, the outside front chain ring is super-large for a natural cadence when riding on the flat or downhill. Hybrids have a similar geometry to road bikes, the main differences being the flat handlebars and high-rise stem (the metal clamp that joins the handlebars to the headset). The ride position on a hybrid is usually much more upright and comfortable than that of a road bike or MTB.
Correct size is important, although here you’re able to get away with less standover height than on an MTB: an inch will usually suffice. Hybrids are capable of cruising along cinder tracks; they are not suitable for hammering across construction sites or other rugged terrain.
Trusted brands: Ridgeback, Specialized, Scott, Trek, Marin.
The cheapest bikes can be had for about Dhs900, but bear in mind that these will be made from heavier, lower-quality materials. For a more reliable, comfortable ride, look at spending around Dhs2,000. If you can stretch to it, Dhs4,000-plus will get you a top-end bike with high-quality components that should last for years. Check out next week’s issue for more bikes and detailed price info.
The Bike Shop
(04 339 1333) Sheikh Zayed Road, next to BMW showroom A wide range of brands, including Cannondale and Marin.
Wolfi’s Bike Shop
(04 339 4453, www.wbs.ae) Sheikh Zayed Rd, between 2nd and 3rd interchange Offers everything from specialist racing bikes and triathlon gear to family-style cycles.