A Night Cycling Around the Autodrome Race Track in Dubai

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On Monday when I posted that I was heading to Dubai for a few days, a reader suggested I check out the Wednesday night ‘open track’ at the Autodrome.  Each week they open the track to just cyclists and runners (and any other non-motorized creation), allowing folks to go round and round on the race track.

So I headed down this evening (after a run…and a swim), to check things out.  You enter the facility by car via a tunnel that goes under the track – taking you directly into the infield.  It’s here that you arrive at a long building that houses the garages for what would normally be cars.

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From there you head into an open bay that allows access to the track.  Here you’ll find a local bike shop setup with every bit of gear you could possibly need (even Garmin Edge 510’s and VIRB’s).  And more importantly for me: Bike rentals.

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The company rents a range of carbon road bikes for what was almost nothing by bike rental standards: $5US/hour.  Thus, $10 for my evening there.  Here’s my bumble-bee themed stallion:

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They would have happily installed pedals on the bike for me, but I didn’t really have any more room in my carry-on luggage for both bike shoes and pedals.  So I just went with the flats and my running shoes.

After that I went down and found a spot along the long row of garages.

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While I was certainly here to enjoy a bike workout – it wasn’t entirely my focus.  I actually had brought a few mounts down, as well as a pile of action cameras that I wanted to test out.  The track was ideal because I didn’t have to worry about cars, and, I was able to get some good low-light footage for my upcoming ‘Spring 2014 Action Cam Recommendations’.  I’d end up doing 2-loops (5K) for each camera set.  Rinse and repeat.

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In addition, I brought along the Wahoo RPM cadence pod.  This is precisely the reason I like it – perfect to put on bikes I temporarily use.  I was able to quickly install it on the bike in the matter of about 60 seconds.

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In case you’re wondering how I got it off later, I had astoundingly remembered to bring along the little minibar tool from the hotel, which had a rather impressive saw.  I do suppose I wish there was a rubber-band way to install the pod though.

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So after getting everything all settled camera/mount/cadence sensor-wise, I was ready to head out.  I made note of the following sign however.  See, even it wasn’t paying attention – and look what happened to it.

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Once underway I pedaled probably a quarter of a mile to just get out of the pit area/lane and merge onto the track:

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From there you make a large swooping downhill descent into your first corner.   The track is most definitely not flat.  You can see a runner in the below photo as well, working her way along the inside of the track.

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Along this side there’s a new seating area that appears they’re just putting the finishing touches on.  It’s massive – extending out beyond both sides of the frame of the photo.

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While the facility is open for cyclists on Wednesday nights, it’s actually not the entire track that’s available to cyclists.  The open portion of the track is 2.46KM (1.52mi) long.  Other portions normally used for other events are blocked off.

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As you made your way around the track, there were markers counting down the distance until any turns.  Obviously as a cyclist this meant very little – given I wasn’t going 100MPH.

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The below section had a bunch of sharp back and forth turns heading uphill for what was the only major climb of the course.  It’s here I really wished I was riding my own bike that is fit to me, as the frame I was on was perhaps a touch small, and the seat about as high up as it was going to go.

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Upon cresting the hill you got the choice of heading down into the pits, or staying on the main track.

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The pit area is completely isolated from the main track – so once you’ve made your decision you’re pretty much stuck with it for a good half-mile, or rather, until the next time you come back around again.

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Assuming you didn’t exit to the pits, you’ll come down the home stretch under the start/finish banner and then to your right would be the pit area.

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As a cycling facility – it’s freakin’ awesome.  It’s perfect for workouts since there’s nothing to worry about.  In my opinion it’d be ideal for any sort of sustained hard-effort type workout, or intervals.  For just straight long-rides, there’s better options out into the desert that aren’t quite as repetitive (or, time-limited at 3hrs).

I saw everyone from roller bladers to roadies and triathletes out there.  The vast majority were definitely more competitive than not.  But I did see both youth cyclists (with and without parents), and a small boy on a tricycle with his dad making his way slowly around the track on the inner running portion.

Here’s a short time-lapse of the action I quickly put together with the VIRB.  I simply set it on the wall and hoped nobody would mess with it.  Given it’s a white VIRB on a white wall hidden by a white-ish fence at a facility where most people seemed to have $2,000-$8,000 bikes – I figured I was probably OK.  And I was right, worked out just fine:

At its peak around 7:45PM, I’m guessing there were a few hundred people out cycling or running.  But, as you got closer to closing time (9PM), things got much quieter.

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When you decided to come into the pit area, you’d approach down this road that passed the bike rental locale, as well as an ambulance standing by, and even a massage table.

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From there you hit the garages where triathletes had bikes and shoes lined up doing brick workouts.  Most appeared to be repeating bike/run over and over again.  Though some were just doing full bike periods followed by a finishing run.

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After getting my fill of loops in, and then taking care of a bunch of product shots – I disassembled everything and returned the bike.  Then I headed on back to the hotel to clean-up before bouncing off to the airport for my flight back home.

Thanks for reading (and a huge thanks to reader Stuart for the suggestion)!

Side note: You can view all my past Dubai adventures here.  Or, all my past Middle East adventures here.  Enjoy getting distracted!

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40 Comments

  1. Jason

    Looks like tons of fun!!

    Reply
  2. Julien

    Thanks for the tip - will be in Dubai next week and will try to go.
    Sounds lots of fun and a good change from Longchamp :)

    Reply
  3. AUH Expat

    There is a similar track night held every Tuesday (Open to all) and Wednesday (Women only) at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Much the same as the one in Dubai but the full circuit (5.5 KM) is normally open and if you want to get out for a run/cycle on an actual F1 circuit it is definitely worth a visit. It is about a 1 hour drive from Dubai.

    Reply
  4. Chmouel

    The montreal f1 track is open as well on week-end to cyclist/runners.

    Reply
    • Wawan replied

      Actually in Montreal, the F1 track is open everyday (at least in Summer when I was there) as long as it's not F1 week.

      Reply
  5. Lieven

    Less sexy, but in the same category: the ex-F1 track in Zolder, Belgium is open every tuesday, wednesday and thursday night for cycling. Cost: €3.

    Reply
  6. Stuart

    Glad you enjoyed it Ray!

    I was there earlier in the evening for a quick w/o, didn't spot you and wondered if you would make it. Looks like you did. Join us for one of the desert rides next time you're in town.

    Reply
  7. Nick

    For the cadence pod, have you looked into removeable zip ties? There is a type that has a little tab connected to the locking tooth, so when you press the tab, it lifts the tooth and allows you to remove and reuse the entire ziptie.

    Reply
    • Gretchen replied

      I use these on my hybrid for keeping my bike lock securely attached to the back rack. You just cut the extra length to the size you need and go. I probably replace them every six months when they finally snap (cold weather makes them snap faster 'cause plastic, obvs) but I'm using them every day.

      Reply
  8. Lars

    The Nürburgring incl. the even more famous Nordschleife opens on 4 dates from 19:30-21:30 just for cyclists and runners (besides the great 24h race "Rad am Ring", which I only recommend).
    See more infos here (unfortunately available only in German)
    If you're preregistered online (so you loose no time at registration) you can do 3 full loops, since the cracks fly the track in sub-1-hr and the last entrance is allowed at 20:45, most riders (like me) need about 1 hr+ and can go two rounds.

    Reply
  9. That looks amazing! Here in Philly it's hard enough to find a running track that's open to the public! Great pictures too!

    Reply
  10. Winchester

    Wow, I am heading to Dubai next week,, tis will be my goto for bike training. Great report!

    Reply
  11. Hu3ain

    Perfect place for a hard workout. The time-lapse vid. Is cool and first shot of Dubai's skyline is beautiful.

    Reply
  12. Alberto

    In Italy starting from april to jul, mon-fri 18:30-20:00 you can cycling around the Monza circuit free of charge.

    Ciao

    Alberto

    Reply
  13. Eric

    You should buy a pack of releasable zip ties at the hardware store. Saves having to cut anything off.

    Reply
  14. LK

    So glad you covered this. I was in Dubai in Feb and just missed being able to do this (got in late Wed night :( ). I will make a point of checking it out next time. I did get to do the Hatta ride with the roadster group while I was there and that was amazing!

    Next time you're in Austin, TX (because I'm sure you're there so often) you should check out the best F1-track racing on the planet
    link to drivewayseries.com

    Beats most weekend crit races. The same race promoter also does a once a year race at the main F1 facility
    link to tourdeaustin.com

    Reply
  15. Chris Brown

    Very cool- we have a Time Trial series here in Charlotte at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (yep NASCAR track) - I think its a great use of the facility

    Reply
  16. Chris

    That is awesome indeed, thanks for sharing it. Not that I have an opportunity to be in Dubai...

    Reply
  17. Dave Lusty

    The "minibar tool" is called a sommelier knife or waiters friend. I usually read your site and think I don't exercise enough, but this time I thought "Ray doesn't drink enough" :)

    Reply
  18. Attila

    Looks like a great time, thanks for another great write-up.

    Do you have an ETA on the "Spring 2014 Action Cam Recommendations"? With recent price drop I'm debating virb or waiting for new model to be released.

    Reply
  19. Alfie

    Looks like a really great place for a change of pace!

    Just as a note, you have a typo in the line that says "I saw everyone from roller bladders to roadies and triathletes out there". Damn those Roller Bladders as they always stop to go to the bathroom! I like Roller Bladers better!

    Sorry, couldn't resist as it added some humor to my day!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Actually, one of the roller bladers (;)) looked rather nervous going down hills - like a giant flying wedge on skies. He might have emptied his bladder going down it once or twice trying to figure out how to stop.

      Reply
    • Alfie replied

      Awesome line! Made my day with that one!

      Reply
  20. Ralf

    Which gear did you use to mount the Sony action cam at the handle bar which is seen on the 7th foto?

    Thanks, also for your greate page!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      K-Edge outfront mount. It's universal, so it works with basically every action cam out there that has a tripod hole (or, a tripod adapter).

      Oddly however (adjacent note), the ION action cams tripod adapter is all wonky and a hair bit larger than any other tripod adapter I have (and I have a crapton of tripods).

      Reply
  21. Artur

    Ray,
    Please advise what mount are you using for Sony Action cam?
    Thx.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      K-Edge outfront mount. It’s universal, so it works with basically every action cam out there that has a tripod hole (or, a tripod adapter).

      Reply
  22. Joshua McLaughlin

    Nice music choice for the time lapse. It seems made for it. I only wish I could travel to some of these cool places you frequent so I could see them first hand.

    Reply
  23. Andrew G

    I have my Wahoo RPM attached to my crank with a rubber band. Works great! Of course my bike is always hooked up to the trainer, but still, the RPM has stayed attached after dozens of hours of cycling.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Good to know!

      Ironically enough, today the new Garmin cadence sensor came in, kinda like the Wahoo not requiring any magnets. It uses a nifty rubber band setup. Though, really wish it was dual ANT+/BLE.

      Reply
  24. Joe

    I remember a post by you some months back that you put the wahoo cadence sensor in your shoe vertically and it works just fine. You don't seem to be doing that anymore. What happened to that idea?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Completely had brain-farted and forgot about doing it that way...

      Reply
  25. Thanks for the great review, was fantastic to have you visit Revolution Night at the Dubai Autodrome.

    For anyone that is planning a visit to Dubai and would like to Cycle / Run / Jog or walk at one of our Wednesday Revolution nights, best check out our Facebook page just to make certain there has not been a postponement or a time change from the regular 6pm - 9pm.
    link to facebook.com

    We love Cycling
    Revolution Cycles Dubai

    Reply
  26. Stuart Mccormack

    Hi Ray,

    I wish I had known you were coming. I live in Dubai and am a keen cyclist and budding Triathlete and couldve met up!! The autodrome is a good facility and cycling is really taking off here. Not far from there is the Dubai cycling Course which consist of a 18km stick joining up to a 49km loop. Its a dedicated cycling track that is by the side of a road for some part and then into the desert from the remainder. Great facilities being built here.

    Were you also told about the Nadd al Sheba track? Concentric 8km/6km/4km loops of cycling track near enough in the city. Also floodlit at night which provides good training out of the summer heat.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

    Reply
  27. 40k Time Trial today. Target was to beat last years time of 1:02:24 - ended up at 1:02:26 but much worse conditions than last year.

    Reply
  28. TIm Churchill

    Riding laps of any race circuit is always a treat when compared to open roads.

    I'm a mechanic for a race team over in the UK so spend many a weekend at various tracks round the country. They make for interesting training depending on where you are. Silverstone is awesome for time trails as it is nice and flat but Brands hatch is brutal hilly so good for hill repeats.

    I'm slowly working my way round most of the circuits in the UK.

    Reply
  29. Daniel

    Glad you enjoyed the experience. It's a great facility. Not sure if it has been mentioned previously but the local timing company Premier Timings now offer the ability to time your laps there. They time many event in and around the region and if you own one of their timing chips, (able to be used at all their events and offer added time info like transition splits and lap splits) they will publish your times in real time absolutely free. Not bad for a free venue with free timing facilities. We are headed down their tonight! As for leaving your camera, Dubai is one of the safest place in the world. You could have left the keys to your white Lambo, your wallet and your passport on the same wall and it would all be there when you got back. 10,000 pound bikes sit car mounts in car parks all over town with little fear of them going missing. Despite the severe heat in Summer, I do enjoy living here. Thanks for the constant stream of info. Keep it coming!

    Reply

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