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Pedal Power

Photography by Pedal

Interview with Edward Ross from Pedal

interviewTalking community, fashion and bespoke bikes with one of Dubai's top cycling destinations

As the UAE switches gears into cycling season, EDGAR heads to Pedal, one of Dubai’s top cycling and restaurant hubs, for a chat with business manager, Edward Ross. We cover the burgeoning cycling scene, the thin line between function and fashion and much more.

Started by three Emirati friends who shared a love of cycling, Pedal has quickly become a destination for cyclists to gather. A combination of great food, superb coffee and, of course, bikes and accessories, the Ras Al Khor hub is once again ramping up for Dubai’s cycling season and hoping to welcome back the riding community if/when Covid-19 restrictions ease.

We spoke to newly appointed business manager, Edward Ross about the shop/cafe hybrid, what the Dubai cycling scene has to offer and the rampant rise of cycling fashion.

Q.

Tell us a little about Pedal…

A.

The concept is to provide high-end customised bikes and an experience that wasn’t previously available here. Obviously, there are some well-established bike shops here that do a very good job, but they weren’t really providing the custom bike experience. The owners of Pedal are very keen amateur cyclists who had a desire for this type of custom bike experience and felt that it was something that other people could enjoy, too. Alongside this, they also wanted a cafe that could help bring the cycling community together with good food and coffee like you would find in Europe. They visited shops over there, like The Service Course in Girona, Italy, that have that kind of vibe. It’s high-end retail for bikes and even fashion. Customised bikes and world class coffee come together to create a community.

Q.

How has Covid-19 affected things?

A.

Well, the shop only opened at the beginning of 2019, and started to hit its stride just when the pandemic hit. That kind of shifted everything, and now we’re in the process of getting ready to welcome the cycling community back once group rides are safe to be back on. We had a group that used to stop here on the way past, but that has had to stop. So part of my job over the next six months, as the restrictions ease, is to try and bring the community back in. I’m hoping to initiate group rides of 15 people or more again if restrictions are eased by late December.

Q.

And how do you plan to bring them back?

A.

It’s two-fold really. There’s another bike shop – Wolfi’s – that run group rides that used to pass here, so once they’re back up and running they should be back. We have a good connection with Wolfi’s as we have a coffee shop that we manage in their store. Then I will start some group rides in Nad Al Sheba and Al Qudra. We won’t be visiting the store on the way, but it’s a way for us to promote the Pedal brand around the community and then start to bring them here to service their bikes or purchase products and bikes. Then hopefully we’ll start some road rides that will come past the shop, but that’s a little way off. One of the key ways to do this is through the Dubai Cycling Community on Facebook. We have a good relationship with the guy that runs it and although they don’t usually do this, we have been told we can advertise rides there. But we won’t abuse the goodwill he’s offering to simply sell our wares.

Interior shot of Pedal store.

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Supplied Enjoy the food and beverages, and the Tour races too.

Q.

What’s the competition like between bike shops in Dubai?

A.

There’s healthy rivalry, but there are a lot of connections in terms of brand distribution. So, for instance, if we refuse to sell anything that’s tied to another bike shop then we will really struggle. There are key brands, particularly when it comes to building bikes, buying components, manufacture and so on, that have dealers here. SRAM (US bike component manufacturer) at Wolfi’s is a prime example. And if I want to build a bike I need those components. So there’s more of a structured relationship between shops, and we get different parts at a fixed discount. There’s definitely a structure behind the scenes that might not be apparent to those who don’t know about it.

Q.

So what’s the process when a customer wants to build a bespoke bike?

A.

We currently look after five custom brands. Two of them do what we call ‘semi-custom’. By this I mean you would buy a standard sized frame from them and they would do a custom paint job for you, then we would put it together with the components of your choice. The process is slightly quicker than a full-custom bike, but the price is roughly the same. The lead time with a semi-custom bike from when you step in the store to when it’s delivered to you is two months. Generally, it won’t be the first bike for those looking to go for a full custom version. It’s often the culmination of decades worth of riding at which point they decide to invest [in a high spec bike]. Most people don’t realise that building a fully custom bike isn’t that expensive. Most of the ones we build are the same price as a high-end bike that you can buy off the peg. We take you through the brands and explain the different styles and materials they use and the ride feel you will get. The paint finishing and the like is very similar. You might like the look of a certain frame but then we check what type of bike you currently ride? What’s your favourite bike you’ve ever ridden? And what type of riding do you usually do? Every component that is chosen afterwards will fit the exact ride feel you want. Then it’s on to the ride specific measurements with one of our trusted experts. They’ll spend a few hours with you that creates a detailed report that will allow us to see what will be the best setup for you. We then send it to the manufacturer and they build it to spec.

Q.

It’s a lengthy process, then?

A.

Yeah, and it can be a challenge to persuade people to go down this route: “Pay us money now, and you’ll get it later”. There are some customers that think because they’re paying so much money that they can click their fingers and the bike will appear, but it doesn’t work like that. When I say it’ll be nine months until it’s finished, it will be nine months when it’s finished and nothing can change this. But like I said, this won’t be your first bike – you’ll already have some nice rides in your garage, presumably, if you want us to build a new one. But it’s a bike for life.

A coffee-cinnamon drink being poured by Pedal barista.

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Supplied Speciality Batch supplies the fresh coffee beans to Pedal

Pulled lamb croissants.

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Supplied Speciality Batch supplies the fresh coffee beans to Pedal

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Supplied Former sous chef of Common Ground, Malenya Evans, is in charge of the menu

Q.

What do you think makes Dubai so great for cycling?

A.

There are dedicated cycle tracks, which come with the safety aspect. On the flip side, we are sort of limited to these tracks and that can make it quite repetitive. This is why people here are craving for the group rides to return, that are sanctioned by Dubai police, as this means you can get back to riding on the roads. There are some places you can go cycling out in the mountains too, like out towards Hatta. But gravel riding I think is the next big thing for Dubai. It’s just starting to bubble under the surface and we’ve had a few people in asking about gravel bikes. However, these areas aren’t obvious yet, but a few people have been discovering tracks through the wadis. It will take a while for some pioneers to find all of these tracks and link them together. So this is another great part of cycling in Dubai – especially when you can get out of the city.

Q.

How do you feel about the ambitious plan to link all of the current tracks in Dubai?

A.

I think it will happen very soon. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there was a hurdle that needed to be cleared about a patch of land that could link them all. But I believe it has been resolved and a route from Al Qudra to Meydan has been agreed on paper. The rest are relatively easy to connect. It’s around 20km of track that needs to be laid in order to link all the tracks around the emirate and create around 400km of connected track. They could likely do this by the end of 2020. It’ll almost certainly be done this winter.

In Pictures. Pedal

Photos. Supplied

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Supplied It really is an impressive looking shop/cafe.

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Supplied It really is an impressive looking shop/cafe.

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Supplied Katusha, the high-end cycling brand exclusive to Pedal.

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Supplied You can get your bike serviced and cleaned.

Q.

Why do you think coffee and cycling are so synonymous?

A.

I think that’s something that’s come out of Europe. If you look at the historical cycling heartlands in Europe, you’ve got Italy and France – the homes of cycling. And so consequently, that’s really the heart of cycling worldwide in terms of the history of the sport, and the greatest riders of all time generally come out of that area, plus Belgium to some extent. And both of those cultures have a strong connection to coffee, particularly the Italians. I think it’s always been viewed as a riding fuel. So, you know, if you’re going to cycle early in the morning, what’s the first thing you want to wake you up? Something we don’t have here at the moment, which I think is going to grow is the cafe culture around cycling. In the UK or Europe, it’s normal to stop at a cafe halfway through a ride and have a piece of cake and a coffee, because if you’re a cyclist, you could afford to eat more calories. You get to enjoy the sweet things. So that’s part of the culture around that. I think that’s what we’re trying to develop here. It’s not something that Dubai has had before. I mean, we’ve got a cafe culture for sure, but connecting that to cycling, I think it’s something that we’re going to be able to grow over the years and then bringing in fashion to this as well.

Q.

Fashion?

A.

The brands that we deal with, they’re not just technical cycling brands. They are fashion brands in their own right. Creating technical garments is really just the first step in their process each year. What they mainly focus on is the fashion element of their collections for that year. So, yeah, a lot of the suppliers I deal with talk about ‘collections’ rather than just clothing. It’s all about style. There’s a definite connection between fashion and cafe culture and we’re trying to tie all of that together. Of course, all of our clothing needs to have a technical approach to it as it needs to be comfortable – you’re riding a bike. But we’re far more interested in the style of the brand, rather than the technical aspects.

Q.

So the lines between fashion and technical cycling garments are blurring?

A.

Well, ever since I got into cycling I’ve been into the more high-end and expensive brands. There’s a feel about when you put [that type] of clothing on that you only get from a higher-end brand. But there’s also the feeling about having a really nice bike and great clothing too, it makes you feel special. It’s not just about how people see you but about how the clothing and accessories make you feel – it’s a lifestyle. We’re even seeing ‘off-the-bike’ collections from some of the brands we deal with. They’re spending more time working on the look and feel of these pieces of clothing than ever before. It’s not just a logo on a cheap t-shirt anymore. It’s actually a tailored t-shirt or jeans that look really good and have a connection to the sport. I think this will certainly grow.

Q.

Which brands are you taking collections from right now?

A.

One of our new brands is Café du Cycliste. It’s like what Rapha was five or six years ago before they got huge. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rapha, but Café du Cycliste is still a boutique store. It’s designed in Nice, France and has an actual cafe there too. All of the gear has a Côte d’Azur style about it, and is very technical, but very fashion conscious. They have some excellent ‘off-the-bike’ stuff like t-shirts, jumpers and trousers, so I’ve started to curate these collections. I tend to do a men’s, women’s and a fashion collection for the store.

END OF INTERVIEW

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