Exploring Abu Dhabi and Its Cycling Treasures

By Zach Nehr

When I first heard about the MyWhoosh x UCI Press Tour in Abu Dhabi, I could hardly believe it was real. Just a few years ago, I had never ridden on any virtual cycling platform. I didn’t even have a smart trainer at the time, and I had no idea what ERG mode was.

Fast forward to 2024, and MyWhoosh has taken the reins of indoor cycling after the announcement of a three-year partnership with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). I was now going to be joining the MyWhoosh team in person in Abu Dhabi for a three-day press tour.

Traveling to Abu Dhabi

I crossed 10 time zones in 13 hours to get to Abu Dhabi, but it didn’t take long to adjust to my new surroundings. The hotel I stayed in on Yas Island had 24/7 room (and coffee) service, plus the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen. We were right on the water looking out over Yas Beach and the Yas Marina Circuit, and I couldn’t help myself from smiling at the sun all morning.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world in recent years, and my trip to Abu Dhabi stood out in its seamlessness. Wherever you looked, you had someone to help you find your way, someone to answer a question, or someone to give you a ride across town.

After settling in, I met up with the MyWhoosh team for our first ride in Abu Dhabi at the Al Wathba cycle track.

Abu Dhabi’s Cycling Facilities

Al Wathba is a cycle track in the middle of the desert, roughly a 45-minute drive from the city. Pause for a second to take that in: a cycle track. This may be hard to comprehend, but Al Wathba is one of Abu Dhabi’s many cycling tracks. That means there are no cars, motorcycles, intersections, or stop lights. Only bikes – and it is beautiful.

I was taken aback when I looked over my shoulder, expecting to see American traffic driving up behind me. But there were only a handful of cyclists there, spread across the track, smiling as wide as I.

[Al Wathba Cycling Track]

Over the next few days, we toured two other cycling facilities in Abu Dhabi: Yas Marina and Hudayriyat Island. By the way, I have to mention that each of these cycling facilities is 100% free. Yes, you read that right, and there’s no catch. You can ride the cycling tracks at Al Wathba, Yas Marina, and Hudayriyat Island for free.

As a Formula 1 fan, riding the Yas Marina track was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I’ve ever had on a bike. My jaw dropped for the entire 5.2km lap, winding through turns that I had watched a thousand times on television.

My mind was blown even further the following day when we met up with Tadej Pogačar on Hudayriyat Island. The one-and-only Slovenian is one of the best bike riders in the world, and we got to see one of his Tour-de-France-winning jerseys displayed at the Abu Dhabi Cycling Club.

[TDF jersey]

Hudayriyat Island has five different cycling loops that offer breathtaking views of downtown Abu Dhabi, plus the Over Water Bridge, which is unlike anything else in the world. I snapped as many photos as I could as we rode around the island, pausing for a minute on the bridge that overlooks the Persian Gulf.

[Hudayriyat bridge and city]

Biking Culture in Abu Dhabi

During my stay in Abu Dhabi, I learned a lot about the biking culture in the city, and some of it was unexpected. Drivers gave cyclists meters of space when passing a cyclist on the road, rather than the centimeters I’ve become used to in many American cities.

The cycle tracks in and around Abu Dhabi were completely free, something my mind could hardly comprehend. I’d become so used to Western capitalistic views that I expected everything to cost this, and this costs extra, and this costs more, and this nice luxurious facility surely costs even more than all of that. But in just a few short days, I learned that the UAE loves cycling, and like many other public buildings and facilities, they want to share cycling with the world, not make a profit from it.

For one, the Yas Marina is open for cycling three nights a week from 5:30 to 10 pm, called TrainYAS. It is completely free, and you can ride (or walk or run) as long as you want during that time. The track is lit by some of the world’s best floodlights, so it is safe and bright, even with cycling sunglasses on.

One of those three nights a week, Yas Marina is open only to women, called TrainYAS Ladies, with activities unlike anything I’ve ever heard of. TrainYAS Ladies is a night at the track with an all-female staff, an open F1 track, and special classes like yoga and zumba.

The UAE’s initiative towards inclusion in cycling is unparalleled. Nowhere else in the world could you find free cycling facilities open to the public, women-only events, and car-free facilities so close to one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. It’s only been a couple of weeks since my trip, but already, I can’t wait to go back.

About the Author

Zach is a freelance writer, professional cyclist, and the owner of ZNehr Coaching. He writes about everything related to bikes and endurance sports, from product reviews and advertorials to feature articles and pro data analytics. You can find Zach racing the Sunday Race Club on MyWhoosh every weekend. 

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