In Dubai, the car is king, which means there’s very little room for cyclists on the city’s roads. Aside from the brave (read: mad) few who commute by bike, the majority of Dubai’s cyclists have to get up at the crack of dawn to avoid traffic and engage in pedal-powered pursuits. But those averse to hauling themselves out of bed will be pleased to know that every Wednesday from 6pm until 9pm, the Dubai Autodrome is cleared of cars and motorbikes to make way for bicycles, joggers, and even the odd rollerblader.
This weekly event, known as Cycle Safe Dubai, was founded by Stewart Howison in 2009, and has proved increasingly popular with the city’s cyclists. ‘It’s a way for people to come and get fit, teach their kids to ride and for more serious riders to train,’ says Cycle Safe promoter Donal Kilalea.
‘We use the 2.8km track at the Autodrome, so there’s plenty of room.’ What’s more, thanks to sponsorship from Spinneys, the event is completely free – all cyclists need to bring is a helmet and a bicycle (Lycra cycle shorts are optional). Donal says that when Cycle Safe first started, a score of riders would turn up. Now, he says, up to 260 cyclists make use of the track each week.
With power in numbers, Stewart and Donal felt it was time to start reclaiming the streets for cyclists and, with the backing of the Dubai Sports Council, organised the inaugural Spinneys Dubai 92km Challenge. Donal is keen to emphasise that the event is a ‘challenge’ rather than a ‘race’, and is open to riders of all abilities, providing they’re over the age of 16. ‘The experienced riders will obviously look to get good times, but others will be happy just to finish… it’s a personal challenge.’
The event, they hope, will demonstrate just how popular cycling is in the city, with a grand aim of making Dubai a safer, more cycle-friendly place. ‘More and more people are cycling in Dubai,’ says Donal. ‘We are working with the Dubai Sports Council to raise awareness of the sport, which is low-impact, great for fitness and for tourism – cyclists like to travel.’
The Cycle Challenge will begin at the Autodrome and the course will treat participants to some of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks, from the Burj Khalifa to the Burj Al Arab. The early start on Friday December 10 will ensure that traffic will be at a minimum, although Dubai Police will oversee rolling road blocks to further ensure the safety of cyclists. At the time of writing, more than 200 cyclists have already registered, but Stewart and Donald make no secret of their ambitions for the event: they want to replicate Cape Argus in South Africa, which draws more than 40,000 cyclists every year. Of course, there’s a long way to go yet, but with the backing of their sponsors and the Sports Council, they’re hoping that someone, somewhere will take note. Maybe then, Dubai will become a safer, more cycle-friendly place.
To take part in the Spinneys Dubai 92km Cycle Challenge, register online at www.cyclechallenge.ae. Entry is free. On the day there will also be a 10km Fun Family Challenge starting at 7am. To get into shape for the event, join Cycle Safe every Wednesday at Dubai Autodrome from 6pm to 9pm. For details, see the Cycle Safe Dubai Facebook page.
Get some wheels
Want to get involved, but don’t have a bike? Fear not!
Rage Bike Shop
Better known as a purveyor of skateboards and baggy trousers to wear on said skateboards, Rage Bike Shop sells top-range cycling equipment, stocking brands such as Giant, Santa Cruz, Hoffman, Allay, Salt BMX, Eclat, and Fuse. What’s more, each of Rage’s bike stores are staffed by enthusiasts who are happy to impart their cycling know-how, meaning you can find the right bike for you – whether you just want something on which to tootle to the shops or are planning to hit the desert’s dirt tracks. You can also rent bikes from Rage at Festival City (04 375 0231) at a starting price of Dhs100.
The Dubai Mall (04 434 3807). Other locations: Dubai Festival City, Meadows Village, Oasis Centre and Mirdif City Centre, www.rage-shop.com
Wolfi’s is the beating heart of Dubai’s cycling community. The Sheikh Zayed Road store takes its name not from a wild dog-like animal, but from owner Wolfgang Hohmann, a long-time Dubai resident who has spent almost 10 years providing the city’s cyclists with great equipment and a focal point for their passion. Wolfi is also heavily involved in the Dubai Roadsters, Dubai’s premier cycling group. Wolfi and his team are on hand to administer expert advice for potential buyers, as well as having a small fleet of road and mountain bikes that are available for hire on a first-come-first-served basis. The rental fee is Dhs100 per day for alloy-framed bikes and Dhs200 per day for the carbon bikes.
Sheikh Zayed Road, between interchange 2 and 3, www.wbs.ae (04 339 4453)