Abu Dhabi (CNN) — Cycling holidays normally conjure up photos of pedaling throughout the French countryside, a baguette lashed to the handlebars, or maybe a breezy journey alongside the flat and pleasant bike paths that weave their means by way of cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
They do not normally contain the Arabian desert, the place summer time temperatures and intense noon sunshine could make it scorching sufficient to blow up bike tires.
But that would quickly be altering.
A two-wheeled revolution is starting to collect tempo in Abu Dhabi, with big funding propelling each residents and guests into the saddle for cycling experiences which are like nowhere else on Earth.
Last 12 months it was designated by sport cycling’s governing physique, Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI, as an official “Bike City” — the first in the Middle East and Asia to earn the accolade. Those searing temperatures imply it might actually be the world’s hottest cycling city.
At first look, Abu Dhabi’s cycling credentials aren’t instantly apparent. Built utilizing oil wealth, the UAE’s capital city and surrounding terrain are the area of the vehicle. Gas costs are low-cost, roads are huge, velocity limits — exterior of city areas — are very quick.
Look nearer and it is a completely different story. The previous few years have seen miles of devoted bike paths spring up beside new highways as the emirate has steadily established itself as the UAE’s gateway to cycling, introducing worldwide races and nurturing homegrown expertise.
Along the means it is cooked up some exhilarating cycling experiences that, when added to Abu Dhabi’s in depth roster of different sights, could possibly be a significant draw for each cycling fanatics and anybody seeking to strive one thing very completely different.
Ricky Bautista, far proper, and a workforce from Dubai’s Beyond the Bike cycle store at the Al Hudayriat cycle monitor.
Taking half can contain some unsociable hours although. In winter, milder climates are excellent for daylong using, however from May to September, with temperatures typically peaking round 48 C (118 F), the greatest time for using is earlier than solar up or after sunset.
Which is why buddies Andy Coleman and Dan Baltrusaitis could be discovered shortly after 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning pulling on their cycling footwear in a car parking zone on Al Hudayriat, an island south of the city that is dwelling to seaside resorts and a gorgeous purpose-built cycle monitor.
“Why I do it, I don’t know,” laughs Coleman as the pair wheel off onto the clean asphalt to start out their session.
Despite the early hour, they are not alone. Dozens of different cyclists are flying round the community of circuits, which vary from three to 10 kilometers and embrace an exhilarating over-water monitor. It’s largely flat, however ferocious onshore headwinds can add to the problem.
“It’s a great experience,” says Ricky Bautista, considered one of a gang of uniformed riders who’ve been blasting out laps since the first glimmer of daylight. Bautista’s workforce all work at a cycle store in Dubai and have ventured over the border to check out the free amenities at Al Hudayriat.
“I’m a beginner, but all of my coworkers are cyclists and they told me, ‘try it and you’ll have fun’,” he says. “It’s really challenging today because of the wind, but then you change direction and you feel like you’re flying and it’s more enjoyable.”
Numerous different golf equipment are additionally out chasing one another’s wheels on the circuit. Men and ladies of all ages could be seen blurring previous the distant skyscraper skyline of the city’s monetary zone. Some arrive by automobile and a few journey from dwelling. There’s additionally a motorcycle bus.
Healthy way of life
Established in 2017, the ADCC says about 1.7 billion dirhams ($460 million) has been poured into cycling with 445 kilometers (277 miles) of cycle monitor below building. On the means are a brand new indoor velodrome and a motorcycle path that can hyperlink up Abu Dhabi with Dubai.
The objective is to get as many locals as doable to take up cycling as a part of a wholesome way of life, but in addition to lure guests. “One of the main objectives is to have more tourists come and have a bike vacation in Abu Dhabi,” ADCC Executive Director Al Nukhaira Allkhyeli tells CNN.
A eager bike owner himself, Allkhyeli can typically be discovered coaching round considered one of the greatest highlights of the Abu Dhabi cycling scene — the Yas Marina Circuit. The racetrack loop that hosts Formula One occasions is frequently opened as much as the public for night or morning cycling.
Even for non-F1 followers, tackling the Marina circuit is a thrill, with gigantic grandstands looming up on both aspect of the seven-kilometer loop, plus the occasional superyacht moored with a view of the monitor. The roar of the absent crowds can nonetheless be felt echoing over the venue.
First-time riders will probably be torn between the want for velocity or selfies as they swerve round the blacktop (avoiding unintentional turns into the pit lane).
Surreal and satisfying
The Al Hudayriat monitor consists of an overwater part.
Departure of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi
There are extra sedate — and certainly extra excessive — cycling experiences available in Abu Dhabi.
Hardcore cyclists will wish to head to Jebel Hafit, Abu Dhabi’s solely actual mountain, the place a brutal switchback highway to nowhere affords superb views over the emirate and the probability to show legs into jelly.
Another spotlight in the desert is the Al Wathba cycle monitor, a clean, purpose-built cycleway in the center of nowhere that maybe affords considered one of the most surreal and satisfying bike adventures in Abu Dhabi.
About an hour drive from downtown, the entrance to the monitor sits in a bit huddle of buildings that embrace a bathe and bathroom block, a small grocery store and a motorcycle store that rents out drained however serviceable carbon racing bikes by the hour.
It’s a daily daytime race venue in cooler months however in summer time, the monitor comes alive as the solar sinks into the horizon. Solar-powered road lamps dimly illuminate loops of as much as 30 kilometers which stretch away into the desert night time.
Riding it solo is an thrilling if barely unnerving expertise. It’s quiet on the market amongst the dunes and, regardless of small swimming pools of electrical gentle, very darkish.
There’s nothing to cease you blasting at most velocity besides the occasional drift of sentimental sand throughout the monitor. Here and there a blown bulb creates a mini-blackout that riders might want to maintain their nerve to journey by way of with out slamming on the brakes.
Cycling headlong into the inky unknown of a scorching desert night time would possibly look like an excellent metaphor for Abu Dhabi’s big-spending pursuit of a sport seemingly at odds with its local weather.
But says Isabella Burczak, UCI’s advocacy and growth supervisor, the emirate is on a clearly lit path to success having demonstrated a dedication and powerful political will behind its imaginative and prescient to encourage and develop cycling for leisure, transport and sport.
Its Bike City standing, she says, ought to assist encourage it to maintain attaining these objectives in addition to sharing data and abilities with a community of 20 different Bike Cities from Bergen in Norway to Wollongong in Australia.
And — if cyclists adapt by using early or late, and provisions are made like employers offering showers for sweaty commuters — that warmth will not harm it a bit.
“In all cases, hot weather, cold weather, I think solutions can be found to ensure that people can still take advantage of cycling for whatever reason,” she tells CNN.
And can it actually rival the basic cycling locations like France, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands?
Thanks to that relentless desert sunshine, it already does, says Aditya Bhiwandkar, a cycling fanatic and gross sales assistant at Wolfi’s.
“In Europe you have snow and rain,” he says. “But in Abu Dhabi you really can ride 365 days a year.”