Cycling has surged in popularity over the past few years, and that trend has unfolded here in the UAE just as much as elsewhere around the globe. The health and wellness industry as a whole has grown dramatically and cycling is a very accessible sport that’s great for overall fitness. You can start slowly and build up your endurance, which makes it suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Plus, there’s a real community culture that connects cyclists. With that in mind, the industry was already performing well and then came 2020; a year no one could have predicted. And it has made people turn to cycling more than ever.
The Covid effect
In places like Europe and America, there’s still a reluctance to use public transport, so people have turned to bicycles to get around. The European Cycling Federation reported that cycling levels in France increased by 27 percent after lockdown, compared to the same period last year. In Germany, cycling was the most-used means of transport after walking in April 2020. It’s an easy activity to enjoy on your own or with a small “bubble” of others, without contravening social distancing guidelines. And unlike many sports, you don’t need a team, venue, or facility, which may currently be unavailable. The pandemic has also re-emphasized the importance of staying fit for a strong immune system, as well as the benefits to your general wellness of being outdoors.
In the UAE, most people who would typically take long summer holidays were largely forced to stay put and looked for new activities to keep themselves entertained. Especially as the weather cools and we move into the winter season, this has led to a rise in first-time cyclists as well as those taking it up again because they had more spare time.
One consequence of the unprecedented global demand for bikes has been a massive strain on the industry.
Manufacturers are finding it difficult to fulfill orders and catch up with the backlog after factories had their output restricted and struggled to source raw materials. There’s also a high demand for spare parts and labour to refurbish old bikes, which people want to get back out on and ride. We’re battling to keep customers supplied, and are very happy to see them discover – or re-discover – a sport that represents a sense of freedom.
Pioneering UAE initiatives
The UAE government has created an amazing cycling environment with more and more cycling tracks being built in specific areas, and plans to connect them to create the world’s largest dedicated cycling infrastructure. In August, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, reaffirmed his mission to make Dubai a bicycle-friendly city, supported by new road safety laws and a focus on bicycle culture. This was followed by a survey from the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority in collaboration with the Executive Council of Dubai, to understand cyclist needs. As a result, I think we can look forward to many exciting developments this winter.
Top cycling spots
We’re lucky to have lots of varied places to cycle. If you want a gentle ride with some sightseeing, then the track from Meydan down to Jumeirah and along the beach is excellent in the morning and evening. For a short training session in the heart of the city, Meydan District One is a 9-10km loop on a wide one-way cycle track. To experience the desert in all its beauty and put in some serious kilometres, head out to Al Qudra, where you’ll find almost 200km of tarmacked cycle tracks running in various loops around the desert; there are lots of options for longer or shorter rides depending on your mood. As these tracks all become linked-up, the possibilities will be endless, offering something for everyone. Many routes also include different spots to stop off and have a coffee or a bite to eat. This cycling/café culture is very popular in Europe and we’re seeing it a lot more here as well. One of our aims with Pedal was always to have an in-house café with excellent food and coffee that brings the cycling community together.
Buying a bike
Cycling is different from a lot of sports in that the choice of equipment can seem endless and the costs vary wildly. For anyone new to cycling, try renting a bike at Al Qudra or Meydan to see how much you enjoy it first. If you’re looking to buy your first bike, the main things are to make sure it’s the right size for you, that it’s set up correctly and that your clothing is appropriate. As the sport becomes a passion, you may want to invest in a more advanced bike or even build a custom bike. A custom bike is an investment, but it is a bike for life. Many avid cyclists are surprised to find that a custom bike is actually similar in price to a high-end bike you can buy off the shelf, and it’s entirely tailored to them. Providing a premium custom bike experience is what we specialize in at Pedal: understanding cycling habits, body compositions, cycling frequencies and overall goals to build the best bike for each individual – and it’s unique in the UAE.
- Ed Ross is the business manager for Pedal Cycling & Coffee in Dubai.