Cycling in Qatar - The Qatar Chain Reaction

One thing you will notice in Doha, the capital of Qatar, is the lack of bicycles on its streets. (In seven days in Qatar in November 2011, we saw a total of one bike on the streets.) This is understandable considering the erratic and dangerous Qatari driving habits. However, to those who worship the two-wheel wonder: Do not lose faith.

Valerie Renn is a dietitian at the Hamad Medical Corporation, but she is also an avid cyclist. Valerie is one of some 50 members of the Qatar Chain Reaction, an expatriate cycling club based in Doha. The group organizes rides into the Qatari desert and hosts several events throughout the year, including time trials, triathlons, and various rides ranging from 40 to 50 kilometres (25 to 31 miles) in length.

Valerie explained the benefits of joining the group, which range from staying fit to meeting other expats. (She also noted the travel opportunities available through the group, for races and touring to other Arab countries, Europe, and Asia.) And thanks to Qatar's more liberal outlook, Valerie says women can wear their regular tight-fitting, breathable cycling gear, as opposed to covering up.

However, according to Valerie, cycling in Qatar does have its drawbacks, the most notable being its lack of cycling supplies and repair shops. She said that besides one poorly stocked bicycle store in the suburbs of Doha, a cyclist's only method of acquiring a part is to order it from Europe.

Valerie also identified Qatar's roadways as a major drawback to cycling. In addition to dangerous traffic and lawless drivers, there are no bicycle lanes or paths. Furthermore, according to Valerie, due to Qatar's lack of roads in remote areas, many vehicles are forced to drive off-road into the desert to reach their destinations. Upon their return to the road, they leave a plume of rocks and dust in their wake, much to the discomfort and peril of cyclists.

Even though Qatar is not the perfect arena for cycling, Valerie is happy with her group. During her regular early morning rides, she enjoys racing against the clock to beat the hot desert sun, and she enjoys the friends she meets whilst doing it. To the health conscious expat, the Qatar Chain Reaction is definitely an option to consider.

For more information on the Qatar Chain Reaction, including contact information, visit their website.

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