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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 January 2021

UAE

Coronavirus: bike sales spike as Dubai cyclists take advantage of near-empty roads

Rental stores report high demand as residents look to get out of their homes
Stephen Finnegan and Tara Powderly (L-R) from Ireland shop for bicycles and accessories at Revolution Cycles store in Dubai's Motor City. With quieter streets and roads, some residents have swapped their gym routines for a leisurely bike ride instead. Pawan Singh / The National

Bicycle shops in Dubai have reported a rise in sales and hires over the past few weeks, as coronavirus health restrictions eased across the emirate.

As more people find ways to keep active at a social distance, many have turned to pedal power to keep fit during the pandemic.

With quieter streets and roads as people follow government stay-at-home advisories, some residents have swapped their gym routines for a leisurely bike ride.

At some of Dubai’s most popular bike and rental outlets, store managers said sales of "hybrid bikes for general purpose" have soared recently.

The growing demand has resulted in a weeks-long waiting list for some bike rentals, too.

Customers are having to schedule bike hire up to two weeks in advance and we have been fully booked every single day

Trek Bicycle Store, Al Qudra

“We have strict Covid-19 guidelines in place for those wishing to hire, but we have been really busy over the past two weeks,” the duty manager at Trek Bicycle Store in Al Qudra told The National.

“If you compare it to this period last year, the demand has rocketed.

“We have more than 120 bikes for hire on our rental operations side, but we are limited to hiring out just 30 per cent of our capacity – that’s about 40 bicycles a day – due to the pandemic.

“Customers are having to schedule bike hire up to two weeks in advance, and we have been fully booked every single day.”

Under the direction of the Dubai’s Supreme Committee for Crises and Disasters Management, stores that rent out bicycles have introduced “strict sterilisation measures” to ensure customer safety. Those renting bikes have also been instructed to wear gloves and face masks at all times while riding.

Bryan Manila, bicycle mechanic from Philippines working at Revolution Cycles store in Motor City. Pawan Singh / The National

Cyrus Sucaldito, from The Cycle Hub in Motor City, said it has seen a "big increase in bike sales over rentals in the last two months".

"More people are turning to cycling as their daily exercise,” said the sales manager.

"Cycling is a great way to get out, exercise and explore the local area while still socially distancing."

Since May 21, he said, all of its full suspension mountain bikes were out on rental during the Eid weekend and 50 per cent of its road bikes were hired.

At Revolution Cycles in Motor City, owner Stewart Howison said his business has recorded a “120 per cent increase” in cycle hires since the lockdown restrictions were eased this month.

As more people take to the streets for their daily dose of exercise in areas like Jumeirah, Town Square and Al Barsha, the bicycle has become their transport of choice.

“During the weekdays, we have dozens of people hiring bikes every day because they have more time on their hands as they're working from home and not commuting,” Mr Howison said.

“We have had to increase our rental fleet by 50 per cent.

“A lot more people are buying bikes, too – they’re looking for something they can use in the community or on the dedicated tracks around the city.

“Our most popular sellers at the minute are hybrid and mountain bikes. They start from about Dh1,500 upwards, depending on what features you want," he said.

“It’s a total mix of buyers, but we are seeing a lot more mothers and middle-aged women coming to the store and it’s really encouraging to see people being more proactive about their health."

Mr Howison said his store has sold "a lot of children’s bikes" because families are not taking their usual summer holidays and staying at home because of the pandemic.

While there are many dedicated cycling tracks across the city including District One near the Meydan Hotel and the popular Al Qudra track, cycling enthusiast Andy Fordham said he has seen a surge in “community and indoor cycling”.

“Up until recently, cycling and exercising outdoors was not allowed. It has only been permitted again in the last few weeks,” he said.

“Because of that, there was a five or tenfold increase in people doing indoor training with smart trainers.

“Now the restrictions have been eased and people can exercise outside, I’ve seen more residents out cycling in the community.

“Overall, it’s one of the positives that has come out of the pandemic, and I hope those that have picked up cycling will stick to it.”

Michael Philip Vazquez , store manager at Revolution Cycles in Motor City.  The store has reported a 120 per cent increase in cycle hires since the restrictions were eased earlier this month. Pawan Singh / The National

While some riders still need to be aware that “wearing a mask is compulsory”, Mr Fordham said it has been a “healthy and sustainable transition” seeing fewer cars on the roads and more people opting to exercise on two wheels.

Living and working in the UAE for more than 18 years, Wolfgang Hohmann, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop in Dubai, said he has seen a “big interest in cycling” over the past few months.

“Gyms have been closed, so more people have been looking for ways to exercise while keeping a social distance,” he said.

“We have seen bike sales increase by about 15 to 20 per cent over the past month or so.

“What is encouraging is that we are seeing new customers come through the doors that are interested in taking up the sport.”

He said more families were choosing to “cycle more together in residential neighbourhoods” as they have more time to spare in the mornings and evenings.

At his shop, hybrid bikes have generated a lot of interest lately, with customers paying "upwards of Dh2,500 for a bike".

“I think most people want to change their lifestyle because of the current health crises,” he said.

"They want to get fitter and enjoy the outdoors more. Biking is great for that.

“I think more people are keen to buy something like a bike because it's a long-term investment.”

Updated: May 26, 2020 05:18 PM

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