x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Riding the crest of the heatwave

Some people who want to stay in shape during summer take to their bicycles, undeterred by the heat.

More than 200 people of different ages go to the Yas track every Tuesday to pursue they favourite two-wheeled passion.
More than 200 people of different ages go to the Yas track every Tuesday to pursue they favourite two-wheeled passion.

The summer's baking heat does not stop hundreds of cyclists from donning tight Lycra shorts, sporting racing jerseys and hopping onto their bicycles to stay in shape.

The bikers who hit the race tracks and roads in the desert take all the necessary precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration - packing plenty of water among other items - in order to keep on pedalling through the hottest time of the year.

Wolfgang Hohmann is one such enthusiast. The owner of Wolfi's bike shop, he organises the Dubai Roadsters' rides every week. The cyclists work around the heat, choosing night-time rides or very early starts. They set off every Friday at 5.30am, he says.

"Riding at 25 to 30 kph is like lying on the beach sunbathing, because there is a nice cool breeze."

The hour of the day can be just as important as the route.

Rather than rising at 5am as with the Dubai Roadsters, hundreds of people take their bikes from the boots of their cars and stick on their helmets every Tuesday night at Yas Marina Circuit. They pedal around the north circuit of the world-famous Formula One track.

Andrew Bailey, a 37-year-old lawyer based in the capital, says this is the only opportunity to ride safely during the week. He also takes part in organised bike rides in Abu Dhabi.

"You're taking your chances" riding on the streets, he says.

The main reason for getting on the bike during the summer, he says, is to keep fit. "You have got to take advantage of the opportunities and this is a very clear one."

Dr Stefan Saenger, a 52-year-old German, says that he tries to get around the F1 track every week on his bike. However, he does notice the weather getting stickier.

"It was really pleasant because there was a light wind, but increasingly more humid, which is becoming more of a problem," he says.

Before he leaves work, he loads up on isotonic drinks, which replenish ions and minerals that are lost from the body though sweating.

At Yas "there is water supplied, which is very good because we don't have to bring too much to the track", he says.

Jorgen Leundgren, a 33-year-old Norwegian, rides for an hour and a half on the track every Tuesday to keep fit. He brought his 11-year-old son, Tobias, with him for only his second outing at the track.

"The football season is over, so they have to do something," Mr Leundgren says. They are both used to Scandinavia's cooler weather conditions, he says, and were still coming to grips with the soaring temperatures of the UAE summer.

"I don't mind the heat," he says. "We are here one year already."

On this night, the track's asphalt is measured at 45°C, even though the air temperature is only 33. But the temperature does not affect the riding.

"It's very smooth and it's nice," Mr Bailey says. "We're riding on a grand prix track and don't think many cyclists around the world can say they've done that."

Mr Hohmann says that when he first moved to the UAE, people would always tell him how hot the summer was. He waited for it to get unbearable. And waited.

"Then October came," he says, and it cooled down.

He says he has taken his bike into the depths of European winters, where it is more painful and difficult to ride than in the summer heat.

"You have to train in minus 10°C, and the wind goes into your bones and freezes your elbows," he says. Cyclists here, says Mr Hohmann, have various tricks to deal with the heat, other than avoiding its piercing rays.

Drinking water while pedalling on a bike is easier than drinking while running or doing other exercise, he says.

"You're not moving up and down so much," he says.

Pouring water over the jersey has a good cooling effect when one is moving into a breeze created by cycling. There are also some neck-cooling devices used by cyclists.

The heat makes its presence felt when bikers are forced to stop at red traffic signals.

Mr Hohmann says that come summer, a lot of new faces always appear. A lot of runners, who train during the winter and want to stay fit year-round, take to the bike during the summer months, he says.

The Dubai Roadsters get about 140 cyclists every week during the summer.

"It's an accessible way to achieve a good level of fitness," Mr Hohmann says.



Where to train:

Train Yas at Yas Marina Circuit is open every Tuesday to cyclists and runners from 6pm to 8pm. Call 800 YAS.

In Dubai, the Autodrome allows cyclists to zip around its track every Wednesday night from 6pm to 9pm. Call the Autodrome at 04 367 8700.

The Dubai Roadsters set off every Friday morning at the Lime Tree Cafe at 5.30am for an 80km to 140km ride. Contact 04 339 4453.

In Abu Dhabi, the Tri Club sets off every Friday morning from Spinney’s in Al Khalidiya at 5.30am.

Contact Chris O’Hearn: 050 610 9506.

The Al Raha group sets off at 5.30am every Friday morning from the roundabout at Al Raha international school. Contact Kev Duell 056 108 7563.

The Hot Cog mountain bike club, for advanced riders beats, the heat by riding at night off road with headlights.

Contact Andy Whitaker 056 170 8087.

Check with clubs before going.