The moment is pure magic. With the crank of a dozen kick starters, gleaming chromed-out American motorcycles rumble to life under the pre-dawn darkness at a gas station near the western end of Al Wasl Road.
The mission for this early-rising handful of motorcycle enthusiasts is simple: Take to the desert highways for a Friday morning tour across the sandswept barrens that lie beyond the glitter of Dubai.
“There is nothing like the open road,'' says American Don Decker, 59, road captain and director of Dubai's Harley Owners' Group (HOG). “This is a good chance to get sand in our face. We must leave by 5am to get in a few hours of cooler riding. If we aren't back by 10am, we just cook in our gear.''
With a groan of thumping exhausts, the pack rolls down the road single file into the rising sun. The group will log almost 200 kilometres on their run.
Formed in the early ‘90s, the Dubai club of Harley-Davidson owners has grown to more than 100 members, self-admitted Harley addicts who ride to live and live to ride – but at great expense.
Harley-Davidson bikes often cost Dh65,000 and more, not including tens of thousands more for accessories and apparel.
Dubai riders range from professionals to tradespeople with pockets deep enough to raid the storehouses and showroom of the Harley-Davidson dealership.
After their desert tour and a tyre blowout on one of the bikes, club members gather back at the spacious 4,000 square-foot villa of Boeing executive Decker. They swap stories and talk motorcycles.
It feels like a family reunion.
Canadian Serge Brouillet, 54, CEO of Express Print Publishing in Dubai, recalls a close encounter with a camel on one group ride through the desert with Decker and himself at the front of the pack.
“This camel came running out from behind a sand dune,'' said Brouillet, “It ran between the second and third bike. I got a rush. If we had hit that creature, it would have been game over. That's part of the thrill, through. There is a sense of danger on two wheels, rather than four.''
Patrick Schelfhout, 38, owns Pevac, a security company. He grew up surrounded by Japanese racing style bikes but when he moved to Dubai, he bought a Harley Sportser because he wanted the real thing. The group routinely ribs him for buying the smallest Harley road bike and he responds in jest that it has “training wheels''.
“Harley-Davidson is like Coca-Cola, it's original. I've learned that it's not only a bike but a lifestyle,'' Schelfhout said.
“We're not out to race each other, it's not a competition. We ride together,'' said Canadian expat and real-estate executive Brett Schafer of Dubai's Al-Futtaim. "Owning a Harley and belonging to this group is about getting out, enjoying the fellowship. You won't find a better group.''
New Zealander Kevin Smith, 53, a senior drilling engineer for Noble Denton, bought his first Harley only three years ago, and then bought a very rare 1930 Harley (one of only 12 left in the world) recently from a Dubai resident who was using it as a decorative ornament. Smith plans to spend up to $25,000 (Dh91,797) to restore the antique.
“This is probably the oldest Harley in the UAE. It's definitely worth the money to fix it. My plan is to have her running for Dubai Bikeweek in 2008,'' Smith said.
Australian Bill Bayley, a metal tradesman, 42, said: “When I'm riding, I'm in my own little world. It's not about where I'm going, it's about enjoying the ride.''
The Dubai Chapter
- The Harvey Owner's Group in Dubai was founded by Geoff Stringer and officially registered with HOG International in 1994.
- The first official charity run was held in 1993.
- The Friday morning desert run (open to all motorcycle riders) from the ENOC gas station at the west end of Al Wasl Road is a weekly event supported by HOG.
- The HOG Dubai chapter is officially known by Harley Davidson Inc as Chapter #9266.
Harleys For Hire
Dream of climbing aboard a raw, rumbling road hog but can't afford the cost?
Harley Davidson's Dubai dealership has a solution – rent a bike for a day or the weekend for a fraction of what it costs to buy a similar dream machine long-term.
Dubai dealership offers a variety of reasonable rental rates for an array of models.
- To rent the smaller Sportster, the dealership asks for Dh295 per day or Dh440 for the weekend.
- In the midrange, a Softail Harley will cost Dh400 for a day and Dh600 for a weekend.
- The top-end VRod will set back wannabe riders by Dh500 a day or Dh750 for the weekend.
So what's included in the rental fees?
- Riders can log 250km per day.
- Things like taxes, helmets and insurance are provided by the dealership.
- Riders will be charged Dh1 for every kilometre racked up on the odometer over and above the 250km cap.
The small print:
- UAE residents under 25 are not allowed to rent the bikes.
- Those who are older can take out a machine if they have a valid UAE driver's licence with a motorcycle classification.
- Visitors to the UAE must hold a valid AAA international permit, a credit card and an original passport.
- For details, contact the Dubai dealership on 04-339 1909.
Dubai Bike Week Begins
The Dubai Bikeweek will rumble into town today to the roar of up to 1,000 motorcycles and Hummers in what's being billed as the kickoff Thunder Parade.
The procession begins at 11am from the Burj Al Arab parking lot and wraps up two hours later at Dubai Media City, for three days of Bikeweek concerts, exhibits, fashion shows and a giant motorcycle love-in by more than 6,000 attendees.
“This is a new and renovated Dubai Bikeweek,'' said spokeswoman Sara Pillon. “This will attract a lot of people. It's about three days of just having fun.''
One of the leading attractions scheduled for the event will be former drummer of Motley Crew, Tommy Lee, who will take to the stage tonight at 9pm.
Post-grunge sensation Puddle of Mudd will be the main act tomorrow evening at 9pm.
Don't miss the Dubai Harley Owners' Group (HOG) booth where members will fill you in on the latest two-wheel action.
The HOG members will also offer charity bike rides at Dh20, said Don Decker, club president.
“We're here to let people know how great it is to own a Harley,'' Decker said.
Attractions for ticketholders will include a stunt performance by Craig Jones, Harley-Davidson show competitions, Harley-Davidson Bikers ball gala, a barbecue, best accessorised Hummer competition, a Hummer testdrive facility as well as a Hummer fashion show.
This is great. I would love to ride with these guys.