Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President of Khalifa University, explains how the KU-Strata project is making its mark on UAE cycling.
The UAE already has an eponymous cycling team (Team Emirates) and an eponymous cycling race (the UAE Tour) but could an eponymous bicycle be the next natural step? The KU-Strata (Khalifa University-Strata) project is aiming to make that dream a reality.
Last year, it unveiled prototypes of the first racing bicycle developed in the UAE – using 3D printing and composite materials.
Responding to the growing popularity of cycling in the UAE, as well as the Emirates increasing profile in professional cycling, the KU-Strata project is a jointly funded venture between Khalifa University, Strata Manufacturing, and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council
Work was completed in the university’s state-of-the-art Aerospace Research and Innovation Centre (ARIC) and Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President of Khalifa University, is proud of the institution’s contribution.
“There have been challenges but it is through them that innovation is made possible,” Dr Al Hammadi tells Sport Industry Insider. “The focus has always been on the outcome that eventually benefits the community in general.
“Cycling has caught the interests of both amateurs and professionals as both a sport and for health and well-being. As a research-oriented institution that focuses on driving community innovation, Khalifa University is now contributing to advancing the UAE’s interests in cycling.
“Based on the response during last year’s showcasing, we have come up with six fully functional prototypes, demonstrating our capability to manufacture pro-tour bikes. We may also have a spin off company to fill the immediate gap in the domestic market for locally produced bikes.
“At this moment, we are in the process of setting up a production facility within the University campus for pilot production.”
According to business intelligence firm Market Research Store, the composite materials market in the global sporting goods industry – also including golf clubs/shafts, hockey sticks, rackets, bicycle parts, skis/snowboards and fishing rods – is expected to reach an estimated US$579 million by 2023.
Composite makes for more lightweight and durable products, and is also seen as a more effective use of resources and more sustainable.
The KU-Strata project marries well with this global trend, using scrap material to engineer its bicycles. Its racing bicycle offers several advantages because of its computerized fitting, 3D printing of frame and fork, low turnaround time, off-the-shelf accessories, inexpensive process, design versatility and virtually no mold.
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Exclusive Tour Visit to the KU-Strata Lab The KU-Strata Carbon Bicycles Project is a joint project between Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Strata to develop state-of-the-art bicycle frames. The project uses aged aerospace carbon prepregs to manufacture carbon tubes for bicycles. Join Sanjeev Rao as he provides an exclusive tour of the lab and its work. Tour led by: Sanjeev Rao, Assistant Professor, Aerospace Engineering / ARIC, Khalifa University @flashentertainment @khalifa_university @muscosportslighting @wicked_uae @csm_retail @access_all_areas_llc @abudhabisc
The ‘Al Wathba 1’ was the first bicycle launched for road use and ‘Al Wathba 2’ for time trials. Both bikes were named after Al Wathba cycle track, the first one dedicated to Abu Dhabi’s cycling enthusiasts.
The formation of the professional cycling UAE Team Emirates in 2016 – after Abu Dhabi stepped in with financial support to rescue ailing Italian team Lampre–Merida – was a milestone moment for cycling in the UAE. And although still at a relatively early stage in its lifecycle, the KU-Strata project is aiming to make a similarly major contribution to the regional landscape.
UAE Team Emirates now has access to the KU-Strata bikes and it is hoped that one day UAE Team Emirates will ride UAE-manufactured bicycles in the UAE Tour – bringing a level of sporting synergy that has not been seen before in the Middle East.
That is just one of the project’s targets, with those involved at Khalifa University also harbouring global ambitions.
“We enthusiastically support UAE athletes and UAE sporting teams,” Dr Al Hammadi says. “Our project’s goal is to manufacture engineered, high-quality aerodynamic bikes and other sporting goods using composite materials for domestic and international markets.”
“We would hope for international teams to use our bikes and equipment at some stage.”
“That the bikes were developed by Emirati youth is certainly a source of great pride for Khalifa University and the UAE.”
The KU-Strata project is an extension of an increased focus on sport for Khalifa University in recent years. As well as championing a number of wellbeing campaigns to raise awareness and promote disease prevention, the university offers a wide range of health and fitness activities.
“Khalifa University believes that sports and academics are interrelated,” Dr Al Hammadi adds. “Sport does not only keep your body fit and healthy, it also stimulates creativity, develops leadership, self-discipline and better problem solving skills which are all important to grow academically.
“From a personal growth standpoint, sport is a powerful tool that brings people together.”
The KU-Strata project has become a real feather in the cap of Khalifa University and Dr Al Hammadi believes it is a great example of a higher education institution doing research that creates a tangible benefit for the community.
“By making hi-tech bicycles that are manufactured in-house and available for the local community to ride, we are promoting the role of sport to help people improve their own health and wellbeing. It confirms the position of Abu Dhabi as an active contributor to the sports field.
“That the bikes were developed by Emirati youth, working with our strategic partners in designing and launching the bikes, is certainly a source of great pride for Khalifa University and the UAE.”