Ramadan, when the Quran was first revealed, is the ninth month in the Islamic (lunar) calendar and therefore moves backwards by 12 days annually. Muslims increase their worship and abstain from food or drink from dawn until sunset. It’s a month full of blessings and a spiritual reset – a special time that Muslims look forward to with anticipation.
But can cycling in Ramadan also play a role in deepening our connection with God? As Syeda, Redbridge Cycle Sisters ride leader says, “When I cycle on my own, it gives me my own space and time to do my adhkars (remembrance) and have those personal conversations with Allah.”
“When I cycle on my own, it gives me my own space and time to do my adhkars (remembrance) and have those personal conversations with Allah.”
Cycling during a spiritual fast is a very different experience from just going for a bike ride and forgetting to take any food or water with you! The intention of fasting in order to strengthen one’s spiritual connection is key, and I find that my energy levels increase at the beginning of Ramadan. It feels like having a superpower!
Observing Ramadan helps to increase our wellbeing by heightening our gratitude for the things we may usually take for granted. Fasting can also heighten our senses. Cycle rides in nature like this one can be a sublime experience, as we appreciate the blessings of God’s creation more deeply.
“Cycle rides in nature can be a sublime experience, as we appreciate the blessings of God’s creation more deeply.”
In my local networks there has been a shift in attitudes towards Ramadan cycling over recent years. Women new to cycling were initially concerned about having enough stamina to cycle during fasting hours. As an instructor and ride leader I used to recommend opting for shorter rides and then building up gradually.
Our relationship with cycling during Ramadan might be different depending whether we are cycling for sports, leisure or utility. The time of year and weather are also factors. Those who commute by bike will most likely continue to do so during Ramadan, but may find they need to allow more time for cycling home after a day’s work and also make more effort to keep focused on observing conditions when cycling in traffic.
If you enjoy road cycling for sports and endurance, you’ll find plenty of tips online about nutrition and adapting training plans, such as this recent interview with Evolve Cycling in Cyclist Magazine.
“In my local networks there has been a shift in attitudes towards Ramadan cycling over recent years.”
Social cycling clubs like JoyRiders and Cycle Sisters usually continue their group bike rides during Ramadan, although distances might be shortened. Instead of the usual cafe stops, a pause for chat in a park is more inclusive for those who are fasting, and those who are not can bring their own snacks.
During the Covid lockdowns of Ramadan 2020 and 2021, many people had altered rhythms such as working from home and online schooling. The additional appeal of the fine spring-summer led to an increase in leisure cycling among local Muslims. I found that going out on weekend family bike rides along the Lea or Roding Valley was a lovely way to connect with my family and get us all outdoors.
The wonderful sense of community and solidarity is even stronger if you are part of a Muslim cycling community, either in real life or online.
“The wonderful sense of community and solidarity is even stronger if you are part of a Muslim cycling community, either in real life or online.”
The Fasted500, launched by Zahir Nayan in 2020, inspired many Muslims to cycle 500km during the month of blessings, with a growing online community undertaking the challenge. This year’s Fasted500 badge references a remark that may be familiar to many Muslims: “Not even water?!”
Growing social media networks such as Fasted500 and Strava’s Muslim cycling networks undoubtedly help to create a space for solidarity and peer support. I hope that this will continue to grow with each Ramadan.
Fatima Patel, a Hackney ride leader for Muslim women’s cycling charity Cycle Sisters, highlights the sense of personal achievement she gained from cycling in Ramadan:
“Last year was the first time I cycled whilst fasting and completed the Fasted500 challenge. I took it slow and felt great! I found I was able to do zikr (remembering Allah) whilst cycling. I was happier and felt more connected – as opposed to feeling like a zombie. A few short rides with my three children helped distract them from hunger. Being outdoors enabled me to teach my children gratitude for Allah’s creation and enjoy nature. Alhamdulillah it felt like the best Ramadan after many years!”
“Last year was the first time I cycled whilst fasting and completed the Fasted500 challenge. I took it slow and felt great! I found I was able to do zikr (remembering Allah) whilst cycling … Alhamdulillah it felt like the best Ramadan after many years!”