Dubai is not often thought of as a cycling destination, but cycling in Dubai and the UAE is really popular. People are often surprised by quite how popular!
Each weekend thousands of people take to the dedicated cycling tracks, which are some of the best you will find anywhere in the world. There are also incredible facilities like the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit - motorsports tracks that are made available for cycling on a regular basis. The crowned prince of Dubai H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is reportedly a big fan of cycling and has been driving forward development of the UAE's cycling infrastructure.
If desert cycling tracks are not your thing, then within 1.5 hours’ drive of Dubai there are mountains to be explored whether on a road bike or mountain bike.
So, despite first appearances, Dubai and the UAE are not just all about flat desert cycling tracks. There's a variety of terrains that can be explored with a group or solo throughout the year. It's a particularly good bet if you're looking for somewhere to cycle between October and May (i.e an autumn/winter cycling training destination for those in the northern hemisphere).
By Carl Jauncey
Carl originally comes from Hertfordshire in the UK, but moved to Dubai, in the UAE, in 2015. He is a keen member of the Desert Rouleurs Cycling Club (DRCC) and has kindly agreed to share his insights on cycling in Dubai and the UAE.
Cycling in Dubai (and the UAE)
Tell us more about the cycling tracks in Dubai and the UAE
The majority of cycling in Dubai/the UAE is done on these 100% dedicated cycling tracks. They are wide enough to ride two abreast in either direction, and tend to be pretty flat so perfect for fast riding.
The cycling track surfaces are a real treat to ride on compared to my old home roads in the UK! All track & road surfaces are really smooth with hardly any ruts or pot holes.
As they are dedicated to cycling, these tracks are a safe way for people to enjoy their sport. The tracks attract everyone from beginners to families and seasoned racers. My only word of warning would be that when they’re wet they can make you feel a little nervous if you’re not using 25c + tires.
Another amazing facility is the Dubai Autodrome (motorsport racing track). Every Wednesday we can fly around the Autodrome for free! This is also the case at Yas Marina Circuit, which annually holds the F1 race in Abu Dubai (TrainYAS every Sunday and Tuesday).
Here is a list of the main dedicated cycling tracks:
Cycle tracks in Dubai
District One (DXB) (also known as Meydan cycle track or Nad Al Sheba cycle park) – Located near Meydan Race Course. 8km loop with views to Burj Khalifa. Changing facilities. The course is lit at night for night riding.
Al Qudra cycle track – Over 160kms of cycling track heading out into the desert. Very popular at weekends. Bike shop, café and changing facilities.
Dubai Autodrome – 2.5km racing circuit. Free every Wednesday. Mobile bike shop and changing facilities.
Cycle tracks in Abu Dhabi
Yas Marina F1 Circuit – Just over 5km of pristine racing circuit tarmac. Free to ride every Sunday & Tuesday. Mobile bike shop, café and changing facilities.
Al Wathba Cycle Track – 30+ km of dedicated cycling track in the desert just outside Abu Dhabi. Weather can change quickly so stock up in the shop before setting out. Bike shop, café/shop and changing facilities.
Al Hudayriat Cycle Track – 5km & 10km cycle track. Busy at weekends with organised group rides. Yas Cycle shop on-site.
Cycle tracks in Al Ain
Al Ain Cycle Track – 23km long cycle track near the Al Ain airport. No shop or changing rooms, but there is a mall close by.
What are the roads like?
Main UAE roads are wide six lane highways and it’s not a good idea to ride these, in fact it’s forbidden.
There are smaller dual/single carriageways with wide run-offs, which with a bit of route planning, can be connected to travel say from Dubai to Al Ain (177km). However, these are not typical routes and generally only undertaken by organised groups or ultra-endurance riders; there is a growing community of ultra-endurance cyclists whose routes include Dubai to Muscat (Oman). These routes will be primarily on roads.
A few cycling groups also ride on roads in and around Dubai and Abu Dhabi on a weekly basis and it’s best to join these groups if you want to experience riding away from dedicated cycling tracks. For example the Dubai Roadsters head out on Dubai roads every Friday with support vehicles in place for extra safety. In Abu Dhabi, Raha Cycling Club organise group rides that take to the roads.
Further afield, Jebel Jais (Ras Al Kaimah ("RAK")) and Jebel Hafeet (Al Ain) are both mountains with fantastic ribbons of smooth tarmac to the top. Both of these summits are used in the annual UAE Tour and are accessed by cyclists regularly. Riding on or off road is a delight in Hatta/Kalba. An abundance of smaller roads can be linked to create challenging routes with a decent amount of elevation. Riding in Hatta is great fun and the perfect place for punchy riders to attempt Strava KOM on the numerous small climbs.
There’s more info on my favourite places to ride below.
What are driver attitudes like towards cyclists?
One of reasons that dedicated cycling tracks were created was to provide a safe place for cyclists to pursue their sport. It’s not encouraged to ride on the roads, especially on roads with an upper speed limit of 60kph.
However, in quieter areas of Dubai/Abu Dhabi and smaller cities/towns such as Al Ain, Hatta and RAK, it’s possible to ride on roads without problems. I lived in Al Ain for two years and I never once had an issue with drivers when out riding on roads. I would actually say it felt safer than riding in UK.
Outside Dubai, where else have you cycled in the UAE? What was it like?
Apart from Fujairah on the east coast, I have ridden in most areas of the UAE.
In RAK you have the Jebel Jais climb which is used in the UAE Tour. This climb is similar to those found in the Alps with a length of 20km (25km if allowed up to the military check point) at an average gradient of 4-5%. It’s the country’s highest peak and has stunning views (see the two photos above).
In Hatta (one hour from Dubai) you can find some cracking lumpy roads with short sharp hills averaging 10%-17% including the famous Hatta Dam climb (17%) used in the UAE Tour.
Al Ain has an abundance of quiet roads on the outskirts of town which can be linked to climb Jebel Hafeet (12km at 7% - see banner photo and below). There’s also a small, but thriving and friendly cycling community in Al Ain.
Then there is Abu Dhabi which can lay claim to two dedicated cycling tracks (Al Wathba and Al Hudayriat), Yas Marina racing circuit (used for F1, but open to cyclists and runners every week) and several roads which are safe to ride on, especially heading out of the city beyond Yas Island.
What's your favourite cycle route in the UAE?
Although I am now based in Dubai, my favourite UAE ride would be around Al Ain.
The route takes in Jebel Hafeet (the mountain used in the UAE Tour) and local roads towards a place called Sweihan and back. The GPX file for it is here.
This is a brilliant route due to the variety of terrain, the towering sand dunes and smooth roads I thoroughly enjoy tackling this ride either solo or as a group.
Where to stay in Dubai
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Do you have any tips for the best hotels for cyclists?
Dubai (and the UAE as a whole!) is famed for its incredible hotels. Picking just one can be tricky and a lot will depend on your budget.
The places below are the ones I've heard are good. While I've not stayed at them myself, my feeling is that most hotels will be accommodating to cyclists.
Hotels in Dubai
Jumeirah Beach Hotel (five star)
Jumeirah Al Naseem (five star)
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort (five star)
Studio One Hotel (four star)
Other Hotels in the UAE
JA Hatta Fort Hotel (four star hotel)
In Abu Dhabi, you might want to consider staying in the Yas Marina area as this is next to Yas Marina F1 track and the Yas Cycles bike store.
Here are some hotels that I've heard are good:
Ras Al Khaimah (RAK)
In RAK, I'd consider checking out the following hotels:
In Al Ain, these would be my choices:
Bike shops/hire in Dubai
There are plenty of cycle shops/stores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
They all sell a diverse range of bikes and cycling accessories but also promote cycling in other ways – for example weekly group rides tailored to different abilities, competitions and even special guest Q&A sessions (for example Wolfi’s Bike Shop Q&A with David Millar).
If you’re visiting the UAE then its advisable to get in touch with one of these shops to jump on a group ride.
Some of the shops also offer bike hire. Where I am aware of bike rental being available, I've mentioned it below.
Dubai Bike Shops
Airwerks Cycles - 55th St - Al Safa 1 – Dubai - +971 04 338 6147
Bike Shop Dubai - Al Ameri Tower - Al Barsha - Dubai - United Arab Emirates 20th Floor,2006 – Dubai - +971 058 297 9780
Revolution Cycles - Shop 5 Apex Atrium Motor City، Dubai Motor city – Dubai - +971 04 369 7441. Also offers bike hire.
The Cycle Hub Dubai - Motor City – Dubai - +971 04 425 6555. Also offers bike hire.
Trek Bike Store Al Qudra - Al Qudra Lakes – Dubai - +971 04 832 737. Also offers bike hire.
Wolfi’s Bike Shop - Sheikh Zayed Road (between interchange 2 & 3), Al Qouz 4 – Dubai - +971 04 339 4453. This Aladdin's cave of cycling was set up by Wolfgang Hohmann who's known as the "godfather" of UAE cycling. It's a very cool shop with a huge range of stock and a lot of staff. They also offer a small range of rental bikes.
Abu Dhabi Bike Shops
Yas Mena Cycles - Al Zeina, Block C,Unit 4,Al Raha Area - Abu Dhabi - +971 02 634 1084. Also offers bike hire.
BeSport Bike Shop - Al Wathbah - Abu Dhabi - +971 050 311 6677. Also offers bike hire.
Adventure HQ - Adventure HQ, Dalma Mall - Abu Dhabi Industrial CityICAD I - Abu Dhabi - +971 02 445 6995
There are also plenty of bikes to hire at Yas Island Race Track on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Best time to visit Dubai
Can you ride throughout the year?
Yes, you can!
The best time of year for bike riding in Dubai is October-May where average temperatures will be early 30c and below.
During December-March morning temperatures can drop to 10c (or lower if foggy) and it’s quite a sight seeing cyclists in arm warmers & tights!
Summer temperatures (June-Sept) can reach 40c + by 8am, but many people do still ride. It just means starting earlier or going out at night.
What cycling events take place in the UAE?
If you want to time your visit with one of the big organised cycling events, the main even from the professional cycling perspective is the UAE Tour, which is part of the World Tour calendar. It’s the only World Tour race in the Middle East and was first held in 2019 (when the Abu Dhabi Tour and Dubai Tour merged).
Other than that, there’s the well-known Dubai Cycle Challenge (full name is Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge). It’s the largest event in the region and at the 10th anniversary event in 2019, 2,500 cyclists took part. There are different routes and categories including a kids category and corporate challenge.
The Urban-Ultra Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge is a 215 kilometre cycling challenge that crosses the UAE from Sharjah to Fujairah. It's due to take place in November 2020.
Tips and articles
Are there many cycling clubs in Dubai and the UAE?
There are numerous cycling clubs within the UAE that cater for all standards of riders.
Most if not all bike shops will run a club that is associated with it.
These clubs are very well supported. For instance support vehicles will follow groups to provide refreshments, mechanical assistance or, if you bonk, a ride back to civilisation.
There are also many independent cycling clubs that are formed through friends or colleagues.
All of these clubs will host weekly group rides that will take in city cycle tracks or the more mountainous regions of the UAE.
Along with many others, my club (DRCC) organise trips abroad that have included L’Etape Du Tour and Il Lombardia.
Popular cycling clubs in Dubai: Dubai Roadsters, Cycle Safe Dubai, Velo Vixens, Emirates Road CC and Desert Rouleurs CC.
Popular cycling clubs in Abu Dhabi: Raha CC.
What are your tips for someone cycling in Dubai/the UAE for the first time?
If you’re thinking of cycling in the UAE for the first time, I would encourage you to reach out to one of the many friendly clubs/groups and look to ride with them for your first few outings.
The desert is not a nice place to be if you get lost, bonk or suffer a mechanical far away from cycling hubs - even on dedicated tracks.
So as with any ride, but especially here, always carry; two bottles water/electrolyte, multi-tool, spare tubes, sun cream, pump/CO2, some form of identification (drivers license), money and mobile phone. Also make sure you use a rear light day or night (flash mode) - even on the track.
And finally, it is the law to always wear a helmet in the UAE. You should also avoid cycling on the major highways or dedicated pedestrian paths – otherwise you could be in for a fine...
A big thank you to Carl for sharing all of these fantastic insights on the cycling Dubai has to offer. We hope you've found them useful!
Have you been cycling in Dubai?
We'd love to hear your experiences. Please comment below!
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