You'll find Martin Kooistra riding his bike on the country's roads and tracks almost daily. The 32-year-old from Amsterdam who is the business development manager for mergers and acquisitions at Dubai's Supreme Group, says the roadwork keeps him sharp.
Why did you take up cycling as a hobby here?
I am cycling since I was 15 years old. I left it for 10 years while in university, but picked it up again when I came to Dubai in 2009. I wanted to do something outdoors.
How developed is the UAE for cycling?
In Europe, cycling is embedded in the culture. At traffic lights, people expect to see cyclists. Here, it is something new and is a bit tricky. But it is really improving. Lately, there is the new cycle track at Nad Al Sheba and the quarter loop behind Motor City [in Dubai].
How often do you get out on your bike?
I try to cycle five times a week. On weekdays, I cycle for two hours before work and on weekends, I ride for four or five hours, either in Dubai, Big Hatta or Jebel Hafeet. I used to ride with Dubai Roadsters, which has 100 to 150 cyclists, every Friday. For the last three years, I have been riding with Team Frankie's bunch, which has 20 to 30 cyclists and is a relatively fast, competitive group. We do the same loop - Academic City, Al Awir and Mirdif. During the UAE racing season that runs from September to March, I typically race on Saturdays, competing against local and expat teams during events organised by the UAE Cycling Federation. Races take place in various emirates, including Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai and races are 100 to 120 km. Competition is hard as the local cyclists are generally 'professionals', whereas the expats combine racing with a full-time job. End of November, I will race in the [Sharjah Cycling Tour], a four-day event where national teams from various non-Gulf countries are lined up.
Do you cycle during the summer?
Yes. As I typically plan two to three races a year in Europe in June or July, I start training at 3am or 4am to be able to do long rides of 150 to 200 km.
Do you ride in a group or alone?
I cycle alone on weekdays at Nad Al Sheba Cycle Track and in a group on weekends.
How expensive is this hobby? How much do you spend on it on average a month?
I spend Dh2,000 (US$544) a month on new bike parts and gear new accessories that you do not need, but like to have anyway. You can easily spend Dh10,000 on a pair of special lightweight wheels. But the hobby has a low entry. You can get a new bike for Dh3,000 and you would need a helmet.
Does the bicycle matter?
No; in the end it is the physical fitness that matters. I prefer a road bike from [the] Giant brand. It is good value for money.
How does it complement your work life?
I have a full-time job from 8.30am until 7.30pm. I wake up at 4.30am every day. If I cycle, I feel more fit, otherwise I feel too tired.