With a growing interest from those living in the United Arab Emirates in cycling and triathlons and because there is a lot of information about cycling options in Dubai but there seems to be a lack of online resources regarding Abu Dhabi, I decided to do a little digging and discover where could one get his daily fix over the two wheels. I asked my friend Justin “Danny” Dance, an avid cyclist himself based in the city, for a little insight and while there are other options, here are the top places for riding in the city:
Al Wathba Cycle Track
Located South of Abu Dhabi, and about 20-30 minutes drive away for those living in the city, it is a 24/7, open to the public, the dedicated cycle track in the desert. My initial thoughts when I first visited was that the track felt very similar to Al Qudra cycle track in Dubai. It is indeed a shade smaller in length but has good light conditions around the most common loops so one can come early in the mornings or enjoy it very late at night. If you have never been to Al Qudra either, it’s a similar dedicated bike path/track with good and smooth pavement, mostly flat that also stretches out through the empty desert but in Dubai.
The Al Wathba track is free of charge and parking is easy and open. Amenities include a bike shop, changing and shower rooms, pray room and a small groceries shop. This traffic free track consists of five anti-clockwise loops of 8, 16, 20, 22 and 30km, which all begin and end at the same parking lot, are clearly signed at the turning points and with distance markers. If you choose to take advantage of the track at night, beware that some of the amenities have closing hours (10pm for the groceries shop I believe) and not all loops are lit at night. Loops are all linked and as long as you keep riding anti-clockwise, you will end back to your starting location without much trouble.
During the day, mostly early mornings and late afternoons, it’s common to find multiple other enthusiasts riding a bike and between amateur cyclists, fanatic roadies or triathletes, you can surely find a partner for your weekly excursions. A popular ride is the “full Monty”, where you ride all loops consecutively for a total of just under 100 km.
Yas Marina F1 Circuit
This is probably the trademark ride when it comes to cycling in Abu Dhabi. Located on Yas Island, the F1 track, the same where Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton (and others like them) burn rubber riding their top of the line F1 race cars, you can both run, cycle and enjoy some of the free activities provided by the circuit on a weekly basis. While the F1 track is home for a series of events throughout the year, it is usually open for run/cycle every Sunday and Tuesday evening from 18:00 to 22:00 and again on Wednesdays for female only. As there are some other recurring events and special dates at the track, I strongly encourage you to check their website before visiting and see what days of the week the track is actually open for runners/walkers. From my experience, they do a very good job not just updating the website but answering to inquiries regarding the use of the track.
The track itself is a fascinating experience to do on a bike (or running/walking) – it consists of a 5.5km loop that you can do multiple times and for as long as you want during the opening hours. Because it’s open mostly late afternoon and night, you go through the same motions as the F1 race drivers go when they race the F1 Abu Dhabi Gran Prix – also held late in the afternoon/night – just, maybe, slightly slower! If you are just visiting Abu Dhabi and didn’t travel with a bike, no problem as you are able to rent one of the track’s bikes free of charge! Amenities include food vendors for a post-workout recovery meal over laughs and talks with friends.
While access to the track is free of charge, you must read the waiver regarding the use of the track and you must go on their website beforehand to register and enter your details for safety reasons. You will be provided with a code/card that you must scan/present at the entrance. The track is very popular among locals mostly due to accessibility and location, being just a short drive away from the center of Abu Dhabi, and it can get very busy during the winter time when is peak season for cycling and running in the United Arab Emirates.
Al Bateen Beach
Located on the West side of Abu Dhabi, the Al Bateen beach is an area that has grown in popularity among locals mostly due to the little traffic and good access for those on that side of the city. While there is no dedicated bike path/lane for cyclists and you are riding on the actual open to traffic road, it is a relatively safe and quiet, making it an option if you wish to get a quick (or not) ride in. If you go early mornings or late afternoons, it is very likely to find others riding along it as well. The beach itself is free of charge and it has become an appealing location for triathletes as you cannot just bike, but swim and run as well.
Parking is free, there is a coffee shop at the beach and the road where you can ride stretches for 10km, up and down for one lap. If you have never been there, I would suggest navigating to the beach location and park your car as you get there. The road where you can ride is the final stretch before you arrive to the parking.
Friday Group Rides
While I’m sure there are other groups in Abu Dhabi, there are two predominant ones: The Raha group ride and the Yas Cycles group ride. Raha Cycling is a road cycling club based in Abu Dhabi, established in 2009, when a group of about 6 riders got together and started riding from Raha International School on Khalifa City. Their group has grown massively ever since and they get together regularly for rides with the Friday (and Saturday) ones being the most popular.
Yas Cycles is a bike shop, also in Abu Dhabi, which provides local customers with the finest all bike related services. Not only that but they also have a cycling and triathlon women’s only team and while the Friday ride goes on the streets of Abu Dhabi and is extremely popular, they also organise group sessions at the Yas F1 circuit when the track is open.
Both these rides follow similar routes, and road bikes are encouraged, starting from Khalifa City heading down to Al Reef, Al Falah and then back through Al Bahia and Yas Island. While these rides tend to follow the same roads, beware that they change slightly every now and then and starting times also change. Therefore, I strongly advise you to find both on Facebook (Raha Cycling group and Yas Cycles page) and keep an eye on them for the latest news, updated routes and start times.
This is a rough guide for what Abu Dhabi has to offer for any cycling enthusiast. There is one particular route that I left out of this guide, but you can also explore, especially for an easy spin or for a stretch of the legs: The Corniche in Abu Dhabi has a dedicated bike lane that stretches out along the bay. The pavement is a bit rough and bumpy but it is extremely popular for running and walking, particularly among tourists, therefore not ideal for fast and steady rides or for those looking to get a hard workout in. Rather dust off your cruiser bike, ride along the Corniche at a chilled pace and enjoy the view. With the growth of the sport in the United Arab Emirates, I’m confident more options will pop up in the future and if you are ever tired of the options in Abu Dhabi, you can always drive a little South to Liwa oasis – still part of the Abu Dhabi emirate – for a taste of quite roads, a few punchy hills and magnificent sand dunes! ■
Words + Photos by: Pedro Gomes