Dubai residents are swapping their Mustangs for mountain bikes in a bid to get from A to B and keep fit.
Traffic jams and a lack of public transport means cycling is on the increase in the emirate, and in the past five years the number of people using bikes has more than tripled. “I have seen a 25 to 30 per cent increase in bike sales in the past five years and this is continuing to grow,” says Wolfgang Hohmann, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop on Sheikh Zayed Road and the man who, many believe, spearheaded the growth of cycling in the Emirates.
“With projects like the Palm Jumeirah and other initiatives, people feel safe to cycle and in the last year sales have increased by five per cent,” he says.
Hohmann set up the Dubai Roadsters four years ago – a group made up of anyone from businessmen and women to members of the ruling family who enjoy cycling. For them getting up at dawn every Friday to take part in a 70km, 100km or 120km round-trip into the desert is all part of the fun.
Hohmann, 37, who opened his shop five years ago, adds: “Cycling has definitely increased in the UAE in the past year. We used to meet at a house and 20 to 30 people would turn up. Now there are around 130 every week.”
“For some people sport is an important part of their life and we feel we add something to people’s lives that money cannot buy.
“We have millionaires and sheikhs come in to buy bikes and we make sure we get what’s best for them. They sometimes say we have changed their lives.”
Each year, Wolfi’s Bike Shop sells more than 400 bikes and its sales staff cater to road and off-road riders. They also advise customers on what is suitable for their needs. A novice will spend anything from Dh1,500 to Dh5,000 on a bike but a seasoned professional may hand over as much as Dh40,000 to Dh60,000.
As well as a chance to leave the city behind to experience a ride through the desert, cycling is excellent all-round exercise – and experts say a three-hour ride is a good way to burn fat and beat the stress that is built up in Dubai’s fast and furious business environment.
Rama Chand, a fitness manager who conducts 45-minute cycling classes in Dubai, says: “Cycling uses a large number of muscles and this in turn helps in burning a lot of calories.
“Cycling for such long durations would make the lungs more efficient and increase the size of the heart. In fact there are many benefits to cycling such as stress relief and releasing those happy endorphins, which lowers blood pressure.”
The growth in cycling as a hobby mirrors Dubai’s bid to create a city where it is safe to leave the car behind and climb on to two wheels.
In September, the Roads and Transport Authority announced plans to provide cycle lanes across the city, to encourage cycling to and from work and to lighten congestion on the roads.
Paul Oliver, owner of outdoor activities firm Absolute Adventure, says cycling has become a very popular pastime. “We offer four mountain bike routes, three of which are straight and show the highlights of Dibba, and another more technical one. Each week more and more people are joining up.”
For the latest on Dubai Roadsters or Wolfi’s Bike Shop visit www.wbs.ae or call 04 339 4453.
On their bikes
Faris Al Sultan, 29, from Germany, was Iron Man Triathlete World Champion in 2005 and since 1999 he has been spending the winter months in Al Ain. “I cycle up Jebel Hafeet and it is great.”
Bike cost: Dh45,000.
Ian Smith, 45, works in the construction industry. He has been cycling for four months. “I have always been a rugby man but an injury meant I couldn’t play so I was looking for something different.”
Bike cost: Dh12,000.
The hobby rider:
Elen Budd, 29, from the UK, is a banker and has been riding with the Roadsters since April. “I feel great after the cycle and quite smug having a coffee at 9.30am knowing that I have just cycled 100km. Most people will still be in bed.” Bike cost: Dh30,000.
Two wheels are the way forward