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How Abu Dhabi became the world’s hottest cycling city

Cycling vacations usually conjure up images of pedaling across the French countryside, a baguette lashed to the handlebars, or perhaps a breezy ride along the…

Friday, Jul 15

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Cycling vacations usually conjure up images of pedaling across the French countryside, a baguette lashed to the handlebars, or perhaps a breezy ride along the flat and friendly bike paths that weave their way through cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.

They don’t usually involve the Arabian desert, where summer temperatures and intense midday sunshine can make it hot enough to explode bike tires.

A two-wheeled revolution is beginning to gather pace in Abu Dhabi, with huge investment propelling both residents and visitors into the saddle for cycling experiences that are like nowhere else on Earth.

Last year it was designated by sport cycling’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI, as an official "Bike City" — the first in the Middle East and Asia to earn the accolade. Those searing temperatures mean it could literally be the world’s hottest cycling city.

At first glance, Abu Dhabi’s cycling credentials aren’t immediately obvious. Built using oil wealth, the UAE’s capital city and surrounding terrain are the domain of the automobile. Gas prices are cheap, roads are wide, speed limits — outside of urban areas — are very fast.

Look closer and it’s a different story. The past few years have seen miles of dedicated bike paths spring up beside new highways as the emirate has steadily established itself as the UAE’s gateway to cycling, introducing international races and nurturing homegrown talent.

Along the way it’s cooked up some exhilarating cycling experiences that, when added to Abu Dhabi’s extensive roster of other attractions, could be a major draw […]

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