When I saved for and purchased my road bike a few years ago I was content to dream of the roadways and bike paths near my home I’d soon be traversing. Looking back on an excursion I took just this weekend it dawned on me just how far I’ve gone with this beautiful instrument and how easy it really is to make biking part of your travels.
Exploring the United Arab Emirates / Saudi Arabian “Empty Quarter”
Liwa is a very old part of the UAE. It is where the ruling family have their origins from the Bani Yas tribe. Most tourists to the area stay in one of the resort hotels and take various daytrips around to the picturesque dunes, the date farms or to see some elements of local culture. Cycling races take place here from time to time and the roads are just deserted enough to leave you with serene views, beautiful climbs and rewarding panoramas. It is best to ride after the hottest part of the day as it is cooler and the shadows of late afternoon make these dunes come alive.
There are several routes that connect the small towns of the oasis but the one which you really ought to explore is the road to Tel Moreeb, the highest sand dune in the UAE and a true wonder. There are some facilities and a small grocery store here to have a picnic lunch or stock up on supplies. It is best to bring cash for everything out here.
At this point I was as close as public roads will take me to the Saudi border and I wandered off road to see the dunes in person. It was truly a side of the desert I’ve never seen before, the sand was so fine and soft, even cool on my feet. The silence was surreal, literally noting was audible, not even the wind. Sitting and watching the sunset on the dunes was as mesmerizing as contemplating a waterfall or a redwood tree. For cycling and nature enthusiasts like me this is an amazing ride and an example of how biking can take you places you might not have ever dreamed you’d go.
Flying with your bike
You’ve probably looked at someone hauling a big sports case off of an oversized luggage belt and figured they are a pro or semi pro athlete or someone with loads of time and money to do such a thing. I found out that many airlines (mostly non U.S. carriers) have very good rates for transporting sports equipment. Some will even check your sports case for free as part of a baggage allowance either with a weight restriction on all routes or on select routes. I used Turkish Airlines and paid a reasonable fee. I opted for the heavier case to really protect the bike, for a couple hundred extra I’d rather not have to repair the bike.
Getting to a remote spot
Once you’ve made it to your accommodation from the airport you’ll likely have the challenge of getting your bike to the natural scenery that’s a bit away from the landing city. This was my case being in Abu Dhabi and wanting to explore the Southernmost part of the United Arab Emirates, the sleepy Liwa oasis on the border with Saudi Arabia. A car rental wasn’t logistically possible, so I got creative with the local bus system. I took the X60 bus which takes around 3.5 hours between the two areas. It’s possible to fit a bike under the bus by removing one of the tires.