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.