Cycling in Ramadan

Each year, for the 29 or 30 days of the month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims are required to forgo food and drink between sunrise and sunset. Yes, you read that right, not even water!

There are some exceptions but the general idea is to distance yourself from day-to-day life and materialism to focus on the spiritual. Staying hungry helps us to empathise with those less fortunate and there are extended evening prayers to renew our connection with our faith. 

You might be wondering, where does cycling come into all of this?

Cycling in Ramadan - Sarah, a Muslim woman wearing a Hijab under her bike helmet, cycling a cargo bike with a toddler in a rear child seat, next to her older daughter who pedals her own Islabike

Well, if you’re a habitual cyclist outside of Ramadan, you don't need to give up during Ramadan. Fasting doesn’t need to mean leaving the bike at home, just as you wouldn’t refrain from walking if you skipped lunch. I cycled as a child for fun, but came back to it as an adult as a way to get around town without the hassle of traffic and parking.

As such, though I do think of myself as a cyclist, it’s more of a lifestyle than a sport. I cycle at a very slow pace, wearing my normal clothes, with my belongings haphazardly piled into my front basket and more than likely with a child chatting away on the back. Is it streamlined and lightning fast? Absolutely not. But it is tremendous fun, and can be maintained even when going for hours without food or water.

For the last few years I have continued cycling during Ramadan, and cycled with my children too. If you’re so inclined, then InshaAllah — a Muslim phrase that means ‘God willing’ — you can too.

Cycling in Ramadan - A headshot of Sarah Jassat, wearing a hijab under her bike helmet, standing in front of a building and smiling at the camera

About the author

Sarah Jasat is a cycling mum from Leicester. Her love of cycling is fuelled largely by her fear of driving and inability to sit still.

She won Coolest Cycle in the 2023 Leicester Cycling Awards for her lovely No Probllama bike, named Persephone, and she organised Leicester’s first ever Kidical Mass the same year. She is the Safeguarding Officer for the grassroots cycling group Ride on Sistas and hopes to inspire lots of families to cycle.

Sarah is also a writer and is currently curating a collection of writing about the cycling experiences of BAME women in Leicester. When not cycling she works in the hospital labs with colleagues that avoid telling her where they live, for fear of being hounded to start cycling in.

Fasting as a child and cycling as a parent

I began fasting during Ramadan when I was around ten years old. Ramadan is a month of the Islamic calendar which is based on the movements of the moon rather than the Gregorian calendar used in most parts of the world. As a result, it moves through the seasons, shifting by about ten days each year.

When I was a child it was short, cold winter days that Ramadan arrived in. Fasting was little more than an early breakfast, skipping lunch, and an early dinner, given that sundown was around 5pm. I was proud of those first few attempts at fasting and liked to boast about them in the school playground, but in actuality they required little effort.

As the years passed though, Ramadan moved steadily out of winter, then autumn. The days stretched out and the temperatures began to climb. At the same time I was growing up. My daily responsibilities had once been limited to setting the table for iftar, the meal to break fast at sundown. Now an adult and parent to small children, my to-do list stretched on almost as long as the fasts did.

Cycling in Ramadan - A Muslim woman wearing a Hijab under her bike helmet, checking her phone on a park bench surrounded by her family's bikes

They don’t tell you when you start a family, how much mental strength it takes to get them to the variety of places they need to be, at the precise time they need to be there. If I was afraid of being late to school while I was a child, it’s nothing compared to the anxiety I feel as a parent getting a child to school on time.

Cycling the school run helps. It takes the same amount of time each day, there’s no fighting for parking spaces with the clock ticking, and the act of pedalling calms even the most frayed nerves.

However at odds I may have been with my children during the breakfast-brush teeth-put on uniform daily war, we feel connected as we cycle together in the fresh air. Sometimes my daughter will reflect on something that happened at school, a small concern about the coming day or a regret about a playground spat. Sometimes we’ll practise lines for an upcoming play or recite times tables or just remark on nature and the changing seasons, but it’s very much our protected time.

We have reached that point in the life of a cyclist where not cycling feels less convenient than cycling; different situations just call for some slight adjustments and Ramadan is one such situation.

Spot the difference

Here's Sarah's bike setup year-round, vs during Ramadan. Can you spot the difference?

Cycling in Ramadan - A pink cargo bike with yellow front and rear racks, and a basket loaded up with luggage, parked in front of a wall. There's a bottle in the bottle cage.
Cycling in Ramadan - A pink cargo bike with yellow front and rear racks, and a basket loaded up with luggage, parked in front of a wall. The bottle is now missing.



Answer: It's just the water bottle that's missing!

Getting to grips with cycling in Ramadan

There is the obvious to contend with. If you’re going without food and drink during the day, not to mention staying up at night in prayer, you need to avoid overexerting yourself.

While Ramadan isn’t the best time to take up increased physical activity, as long as you listen to your body, you should be able to continue with the same level of activity that you do outside of Ramadan. If you’ve cycled with your children to school for most of the year, you’re well positioned to carry on.

Indeed in Ramadan with the additional commitments that I’m juggling, time with my children becomes all the more precious, and cycling together to school is a great way to fit it in. Over a few years of trial and error I’ve found that as long as I allocate more time, slow down, and dress on the cooler side, I actually gain energy from the ride rather than losing it.

It may be that when you’re fasting you push the bike up that particularly steep hill rather than cycle it, or you take it in a lower gear than you usually would, or even turf off any passengers for tricky stretches. Options that allow children to contribute their own efforts such as the FollowMe Tandem or tagalongs can be really helpful, but if this isn’t possible, consider switching to a calmer route so they can cycle independently.

If your children are of conversational age it’s worth arranging a family meeting before Ramadan starts to discuss how your journey might need to change. You might be surprised with the solutions they come up with. If they’re on their own bikes, kids could offer to take a more proactive role getting their helmets and outdoor gear on so you’re not tearing around looking for it all on your own. Or they might have ideas about less arduous routes that avoid tricky inclines.

Most of all, if children have a say in the decision making process, they are much more likely to comply at 8:30 on a Monday morning! Sometimes one partner is responsible for drop offs and pickups, but the other parent can still get involved with other aspects of the routine to take the pressure off. I tend to take my kids since my route to work is close to school and nursery, but my husband gets my little one into her coat and clips on her helmet, and it makes everything run so much smoother!

How we adapt over the years

Cycling with children is an ever-changing beast and we’ve been through many iterations.

When the little lady first started school we had a lot of tearful goodbyes as she went into her classroom. It was around that time she was gaining confidence on her balance bike so we tried taking her on that and the anxiety of separation was replaced by pride and excitement as she wheeled through the gates in style.

Since then there have been times she’s not been feeling well and she’s requested the child seat, but she’s also enjoyed cycling side by side through quiet streets with her school bag stowed in her front basket. We’ve even done hybrid rides where she perches on the back until we get to her friend’s house, we all walk from there with me pushing the bike with everyone’s rucksacks dumped in the basket, and once I wave them in at school I race off to get to work for my 9:00 am morning meeting.

This Ramadan the little lady who once fell asleep in her rear child seat at any opportunity will have to give up her place once and for all: her younger sister is the new freeloader, surveying everything as we pootle along and imperiously insisting I go faster.

For me, I need to consider will fasting impact our cycling set-up? Our youngest is still very light and I don’t usually find cycling with her taxing, though I may opt to push up some hills. In previous Ramadans I’ve requested my eldest to cycle herself when I’m fasting, especially as she was reaching the upper weight limit of the rear seat.

I also know that in the first few days I can be snappy, so I try to use the time I save not eating breakfast to ensure we give ourselves enough of a buffer to get out of the house without tempers fraying.

The last thing you want is for your children to one day look back and think ‘my parents were always grumpy in Ramadan’! 

Sarah's Flux No Probllama

Cycling in Ramadan - Sarah Jasat's pink Flux Probllama utility bike with a large front basket and rear child seat

Persephone is my pride and joy and brightens up the bleakest early morning commutes. It’s the perfect bike for hauling kids,  along with all their luggage and it’s got a load of thoughtful extras that you need for urban cycling. When my car died a few years back I used the money I got from scrapping it, along with what I saved in insurance, MOT and road tax to pay for it. And I got to choose the colours.

What to eat and drink, when you can eat and drink

Another big issue is food. There is a somewhat unfortunate tendency for Muslims observing the fast to somehow make the month of Ramadan — which is supposed to be a month of spirituality and self-discipline — a month of gluttony.

In fact, in the preceding months when people talk about ‘being ready for Ramadan’ it generally means they have stocked their freezers full of samosa and spring rolls for breaking fast in the evening.

While this might make your mouth water, if you’re physically active during the month, especially planning to cycle, food becomes much more about nutrition than indulgence. Banana, oat and peanut butter smoothies have become a staple for my pre-dawn meal, while our family has the tradition of fruit salad and yoghurt at iftar time. 

Cycling in Ramadan - a pink ice cube tray with date energy balls piled on top
Cycling in Ramadan - A bowl of porridge seen from above

Other suggestions from fellow fasting cyclists include date balls made with dates, nuts and coconut to provide a high-energy sweet treat with natural ingredients or a hearty bowl of porridge with dates and seeds mixed in.

A lot of the tiredness in Ramadan comes from dehydration so fruit and vegetables such as cucumber and melon can help remedy this. Just as important is a focus on what not to eat.

Believe me, I know how delicious samosa are and have been known to come to blows over the last one, but too much fried food will only leave you feeling thirstier and sluggish. I do still eat those foods, but occasionally rather than daily.

By eating healthy, calorie-dense evening meals and breakfasts with plenty of water I find I can stay mentally strong during the day knowing that I have everything I need.

Getting out and getting stuck in

Many families — mine included — enjoy riding with their children on the weekend, whether that be popping into town, round the corner to pick up a few groceries, or swinging by the park to get some much needed break in screen time.

I’m not going to lie, taking care of children in Ramadan can be a challenge. I remember one year during the pandemic when my then two year old was cooped up in the house while I was at work.

I would come home exhausted and then take her around the block on her balance bike in the blazing sunshine. She would proceed to get off the bike every three metres and push it, then completely abandon it as she ‘clapped for the NHS’ in front of the neighbours’ drives. It felt at times like a Sisyphean brand of torture as after all my cajoling she would only bike another couple of meters before unmounting and starting the whole thing again.

Another year I had lofty goals of spending my evenings immersed in reading the Quran, only to find every single time I sat down to open it my children would see it as a cue to treat me as a climbing frame.

Cycling in Ramadan - Sarah's cargo bike and her daughter's Islabike locked up to a railing outside their local library

Although Ramadan asks us to step away from the worldly and focus on the spiritual, parenting is a 24/7/365 job, and raising children is considered a serious responsibility in Islam.

Compared to roleplaying as a member of Paw Patrol, taking your child to a nearby cul-de-sac to practise cycling, or going on a gentle family ride is a good way to keep them occupied without putting too much pressure on yourself and encouraging them to be healthy and active.

Additionally, cycling to community activities such as Ramadan litter picks or group iftars can create beautiful family memories and allows you to engage with the ideals of the month in a way that is more accessible for children.

Traditionally Muslims are encouraged to try and see the new moon which indicates the beginning and end of Ramadan for themselves. Some communities hold moon-sighting events in local parks or other open spaces. These are great fun for children and evoke a feeling of unity as Muslims from all backgrounds come together with one goal. What better way to get there than to cycle?

As you can see, fasting doesn’t have to mean a blanket ban on all cycling, but a more balanced approach, and there are a lot of benefits for the whole family. A punishing ride in burning heat when you’re not eating or drinking will help no one, so for Ramadan rides keep the focus on being together as a family, rather than great athletic feats.

Making it part of the Ramadan routine

Cycling is also a great option for getting to the mosque for evening prayers. The exercise helps you to digest and the fresh air will make you feel energised.

Knowing you will shortly be getting onto two wheels can also prevent you from overindulging on iftar treats. Just ensure you have a pair of the best bike lights and think about where to lock your bike. Lots of mosques now have Sheffield stand type locking facilities outside, but if not you might have to get creative, and always make sure to use a good quality lock (or two!) as your bike will be unattended for a few hours.

If your children are bringing their own bikes consider using one of the best kids’ bike locks to keep their bikes safe too. With the right preparation you can avoid the traffic and enjoy your prayers without worrying about how long the queue to get out of the car park will be at the end of the night.

As Ramadan takes place in Spring this year, evening prayers will be earlier, allowing children to join without disrupting bedtime too much. If you choose to cycle with children at night it’s sensible to take extra precautions for visibility, such as additional lights and reflective clothing, and opting for low-traffic routes.

Slinging a high vis jacket on the back of a child-seat will make it hard to miss, as will reflective stickers on bikes or helmets, which can be purchased quite cheaply.

Why cycling during Ramadan is important to me

Everyone’s circumstances are different, but to me cycling as a Muslim just makes sense.

Islam puts a lot of importance on community, and when cycling you are much more a part of your local community than a driver who is simply passing through. As a cyclist you can stop to give someone directions, call out a greeting to those you pass, or hop off your bike to clear some obstruction out of the road, the latter of which is considered an act of charity in Islam.

Islam also values stewardship of the environment and with this in mind, switching to burning fossil fuels to make fasting easier in Ramadan just wouldn’t sit right, when there is an alternative option. 

Ramadan is a time to show up as your very best, for your community, your family and yourself, and my very best self definitely cycles! I’m not perfect in this, but Islam demands effort, not perfection. Trying to live up to my ideals in Ramadan and year round is part of how I express my faith, and I want to continue to role-model that for my children and greater community.

If you’re considering cycling in Ramadan with your family, I hope this article has helped you along the way. Take a look at my tips on how to make it easier below, and good luck, InshaAllah you will achieve your goal.

Top tips for cycling in Ramadan

Be clear about your intention. 

If you know why you want to cycle, whether it’s to have a greener month, to engage more with your local community or to encourage your children to stay fit and healthy during the month, knowing your reasoning will help you stay firm.

Involve the whole family

Arrange a family meeting to discuss your cycling aims for Ramadan. However be aware that once you start fasting you may look at things differently, so consider reevaluating a week into the month.

Prepare ahead of time

Time is at a premium during Ramadan so do your basic bike maintenance including pumping up tyres and ensuring all the connections are tight before fasting begins. With kids it feels like every time I turn around they need their saddles raised or a bigger helmet, so get that done in advance too (check out this guide for measuring your child’s head for a bike helmet). 

Manage your temperature

Staying cool has been my number one rule during the hot summer fasts. You can always warm up again if you get cold, but if you get too hot and sweaty you won’t be able to hydrate again until you break fast. Depending on what your normal cycling gear is, try to have one less layer, such as forgoing a jacket or jumper, which will keep your core temperature from getting too high. If you find your hands get too cold, pop some gloves on to warm them directly rather than a whole extra layer.

Allow extra time for the journey 

The school run is often a panic but panicking when you can’t eat or drink isn’t setting you up for a great day or setting a good example for your kids. Give yourself a ten minute buffer so you can deal with any surprises.

Stick to familiar routes

Take a well known route so you can moderate your effort and pace yourself. If you feel like you’re still struggling, there’s nothing wrong in pushing your bike up a hill to conserve strength.

Hire an e-bike

If you have longer distances to go, steep inclines or multiple kids, an e-bike can take a lot of the strain out of cycling while fasting. Although it’s not feasible to buy one for the month, many areas are offering schemes where you can hire an e-bike which may be worth considering. Be warned, once you’ve experienced the support of a motor getting you up a hill, it’s hard to go back!

Enjoy yourself!

Ramadan is intended as a gift, not a punishment. The month has a sneaky habit of speeding past so make the most of it!

Before you go….. 

We hope you enjoyed this guest post from Sarah Jasat. Whether you're a Muslim yourself, considering how to continue cycling while observing Ramadan, or you're a non-Muslim reading out of interest, why not share this article within your own cycling communities? You never know, it might reach someone who can get a lot from it.

You also don't need to be Muslim yourself to get involved and support your Muslim cycling community. If you organise and lead local rides, why not set up a chilled-pace weekend ride for Muslim members of your cycling club, or connect with your community to lead a group Iftar ride?

There are plenty of cycling groups and communities for Muslims in the UK that you can follow:

  • Ride on Sistas - an award-winning community cycle training and cycling group
  • Cycle Sisters - an award-winning charity which inspires and enables Muslim women to cycle
  • Evolve - the cycling network for Muslim women
  • Fasted 500 - the annual Ramadan cycling challenge
  • Al-Imaan Cycle Club - a Muslim friendly cycle club organising charity rides in the UK and abroad

You could also find your local Kidical Mass group and meet some likeminded folks.

And if you have any suggestions of your own, let us know in the comments.


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