Curious to hear what others contribute. I’ll be in Dubai next February and am excited to ride the Al Qudra Cycle Track. I bet it is roughly an hour or so from where you might be staying in Abu Dhabi. Rent a road bike at Trek for about $35/day.
About Istanbul: I am not sure if you can find places to rent a suitable bike. traffic is usually very dangerous and if you don’t know the unwritten rules of this traffic i suggest you not to ride outside. If you are riding mtb, yes there are couple of options and it is much safer.
If you still want to ride in Istanbul I can try to contact couple of local people to find you a rental bike and maybe find a group ride (not promising anything as i am also not there for the last 7 years:) )
Abu Dhabi you can certainly hire and ride. Best bet is either Al Hudayriat Island or the F1 race circuit at Yas Marina is open to cyclists every Tuesday evening (I think). Yas Cycles have a shop and will hire at both locations - Bike Rentals & Storage – Yas Mena Cycles
They might also be able to suggest group rides you can join if of interest.
I took a road bike to Abu Dhabi during a work trip a couple years ago & found it worthwhile but far from straightforward. If you’re going to have access to a car to transport the bike then it’s a no-brainer and a great way to see more of the Emirate, but if you’re going to go cycling out the door of your city hotel then you’ve got to get pretty savvy pretty quick. Route choice & time of day can be really important.
I never feared for my road safety but was definitely afraid of getting ticketed or even arrested. I once got stopped by the police and told to ride on the sidewalk instead of the road (they were being kind and worried about my safety, but I was still frightened of them!) Then someone else (not police) told me off for being on the sidewalk shortly after…
I felt a lot better after going along to one of the Raha club rides where I got to ask questions of actual enthusiast cyclists about how to do things realistically rather than ‘by the book’. Most of them either ride really early in the morning before the city wakes up or they drive to either a cycle track or into a more rural area. There are a few sort of arterial roads in the city where cyclists are tolerated even if they aren’t catered for, and once I felt like I was ‘in the know’ a bit more I was able to plot a route from hotel to cycle track that used roads rather than the shared-use leisure rider’s cycle path. There are some places where the only way to get from A to B is on a motorway, in which case cyclists are allowed to use the hard shoulder, which feels a bit wild! I suspect there’s also a fair bit of ‘act like you know what you’re doing and nobody will bother you’ involved.
I hired a car for a day for the sole purpose of driving out to ride up Jebel Hafeet (and might have gone to Jebel Jais as well if the road there hadn’t been closed for major repairs). It was totally worth it, but there wasn’t much else to do there - I think I climbed the mountain 2 1/2 times and that was my ride. Sometimes the Raha club do it as an all-day out-and-back ride from the city in the winter, but timing never lined up for me to go with them.
I also had some time where I was based in a tiny little town in the desert - that would have been great training ground as things were pretty quiet and roads were flat or at least consistent in grade, but I was just riding recreationally so I found it a bit boring. I did ride out to the big sand dunes at Liwa, but even though I was relatively close it was still like a 100+ mile day in desert heat. Would have been much more fun if I could have driven to the start.
Renting from any location of Yas Cycles as mentioned above is a good shout. They’ll have decent stuff as they’re pretty high-end shops.
Definitely worth trying to link up with a club even if just for one ride to learn the ropes (side note: I learned a new hand signal there - they all smack their bum to signify there’s a speed bump coming up - never seen that anywhere else). Most of the clubs are primarily western ex-pats which wasn’t really my idea of cultural learning, but it did mean I got good tips framed in reference to the kind of cycling I knew from home. (Also it’s a lot of people with significant disposable income who are far from home, so there’s a lot of Pinarello, S-Works, and the like to ogle at )
Since posting this, I’ve done a bit of research and have basically written off the idea of riding in Istanbul for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned.
This will actually be my third time in Abu Dhabi, so I’m kinda familiar but never ridden there and can only remember seeing one or two cyclists during my visits. Unlike my last two visits which were consumed with work, I’ll have a bit of free time on this trip. After a bit of Internet research, I’m super impressed with the commitment by the Emirates towards cycling. Riding the F1 circuit seems like a must and hopefully, I can find a group ride or two where I can ride with some locals. I did see that Abu Dhabi is hosting their first ever Gran Fondo the week after we leave, which is a big bummer because that sounds like it would’ve been an awesome experience.
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