Pedaling Through the Desert

What is it about morning in the desert? There is something magic about being out in the middle of seeming nowhere, seeing nothing but sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Then, of course, comes the posse of Lycra-clad cyclists wooshing past… then once again the stunning silence.

The Qudra cycling track is not far from Dubai; about a thirty minute drive from downtown. We arrived at 6:30am on a recent Friday and already there was a hubbub of activity – in fact, the parking lot at the track’s start was packed full. Since we had left our bicycles behind in the United States, we needed to drive past the full parking lot anyway and make our way to the Trek Bicycle store to rent bikes. The bike rental store is at Last Exit Qudra, about 17 kilometers in from the initial parking lot.

It was a beautiful morning of riding. The shortest loop is 46 kilometers, so that is what we did. Our original plan was to do less; like 20 kilometers or so, but the ride was so beautiful we just kept going forward. The track is mostly flat with just a few small hills, so it was not a difficult ride at all. My favorite part is about the eight to fifteen kilometer section, where all you see are sand dunes and the road is far from the cycling track (some long portions of the track run alongside the road. There is not a lot of traffic at that time of morning, but it was still much nicer to be away from the road, of course).

Despite the hundred or so cars parked at the initial parking lot, we saw relatively few riders along the route itself, presumably because the track is so long (and there are so many loops, turnoffs, and choices, and riders of such differing speeds) that riders tend to end up far apart from each other.

It is a great way to spend a morning in the desert. Safaris are great, but you get to those in a motorized vehicle and end up spending the afternoon or evening with a lot of other people. Cycling in Qudra is magical, mesmerizing, and meditative. A great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai.

The particulars: I only recommend going to the track if you are in relatively good shape. We cycled 46 kilometers and loved it, but if you are only planning to 6 to 20 kilometers you won’t get away from the main road – and getting away from the main road is the best part of it. If you need to rent a bike, the Trek Bike store is at the Qudra Last Exit food truck park – make sure you know how to get there if you are planning to rent bikes. Google Maps took us instead to the bike path parking lot and it took us a while to realize that we needed to drive 17 more kilometers down the road to the bike rental place. Cycling the path is free, and the cost to rent bikes varies – check the Trek website for current rates.

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