x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

RAK mountain bikers hit the charity trail

Cyclists raise Dh11,000 for breast cancer charity.

The Hot Cog mountain biking club’s ride in support of breast cancer month took place over trails in the mountains of Shawka.
The Hot Cog mountain biking club’s ride in support of breast cancer month took place over trails in the mountains of Shawka.

SHAWKA // A bike ride in the mountains of Shawka, near Hatta, yesterday raised Dh11,000 for a local breast cancer charity.

More than a hundred people swapped their usual Lycra for pink T-shirts at dawn in honour of the charity, before taking their bikes for an hour-long ride over rocky trails nearby Shawka dam.

The event was arranged by Andy Whitaker, the founder of Hot Cog mountain bike club, but cyclists from different groups across the country also took part.

"We were only really expecting 25 people to come," said Mr Whitaker, yesterday morning while around him a scores of people packed tents they had pitched the night before. "The news got out really fast and was circulated among lots of different groups."

The money was raised by cyclists purchasing T-shirts for Dh100, and it will be donated to Breast Cancer Arabia, which runs a free interactive portal to support cancer patients.

Mr Whitaker is one of the pioneers of the country's mountain biking scene, taking it up when he moved to Dubai 16 years ago.

Back then, there was only about six people participating in the sport regularly. Now there are about 250 people. Despite that, the sport still hasn't earned the same popularity as road biking, which has a significantly larger following, said Mr Whitaker.

"We did this not only to raise money for charity, but also to draw people's attention to mountain biking," he said.

"It's mostly ignored because it's in the mountains and therefore not so visible, but there's a growing number of people who are taking part in it."

Mr Whitaker and a group of about 16 enthusiasts have over the past six years cleared trails of varying difficulty in the mountains around Shawka.

"We found goat trails and we cleared them so we could use them for biking," he said. "So far we've cleared around 60km of trails in the mountains."

The group has also made a small wooden bridge over a valley. Despite its rickety appearance, Mr Whitaker said there have been no injuries yet.

The group meets every Friday in Shawka, an enclave of Ras Al Khaimah near Hatta.

On Tuesday evenings, the group goes biking in the dark, using little more than a head torch to light up the ground.

A member of the group, Adam Davidson, said it was the variety of terrain which drew him to mountain biking. "Road biking can get a bit boring because it's all the same," he said. "This is a lot more technical."

mcroucher@thenational.ae