Harley_Davidson Cover
Riders of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group Dubai rumble through the streets of Dubai en route to Ajman. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

The roar of a Harley Davidson is unmistakable. Very distinctive. You hear the exhaust note long before the bike comes into view. It’s music to Harley enthusiasts. Gives them goosebumps and sets their pulses racing.

Harleys rumbling through Dubai roads are a familiar sight. The American motorcycle has a huge following in the UAE: the Harley-Davidson Owners Group Dubai and the Harley-Davidson Owners Group Abu Dhabi are very active, bringing together enthusiasts who share the passion of riding Harleys.

Anand Rodrigues is one of them. The head road captain of Harley-Davidson Owners Group has been riding with the Dubai community for nine years. “I’ve always been into Harleys. Because it’s a passion to ride a Harley,” he says.

That passion was echoed by Dino Varghese, who has been riding Harleys in Dubai since 2008. “Harley gave me all the reasons to pursue my passion,” he gushed.

Immense pride in owning a Harley is what motivates Jose John, Activity Officer of HOG Dubai. “I’ve been riding for nearly two years. It’s a passion.”

Shuja Jashanmal’s love affair with Harleys is one of longest in the UAE: around 23 years. “It’s absolutely fantastic,” says the safety officer of HOG Dubai, of his journey with Harley. “I’m on my sixth Harley. My customer number with Harley Davidson is 150, which means I’m their 150th customer since they set up their showroom in Dubai, which must be in 1989 or 1990.”

Passion is a recurring theme for Dubai’s Harley riders. A passion that impels them to go on two rides a week. So is the case with the Abu Dhabi Harley bikers.

Harley-Davidsons are seen at parades, rallies and awareness campaigns, riding ahead in formation. That’s not what Harley bikers usually do. They go on rides. Long rides. Twice every week, the rides take them to the Northern Emirates, Hatta, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and other places in the UAE. The groups also go on adventures and host parties.

The-unique-sound-of-Harleys
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News
Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

What’s a Harley-Davidson?

Harley-Davidson is an iconic American motorcycle brand. Made by Harley-Davidson Inc., the bikes have dominated the motorcycle world for more than 115 years. The designs and engines make the bikes so popular that they have become style statements worldwide.

Over the years, it underwent several ownership changes, but the appeal of Harley-Davidsons remained undimmed.

Birth and evolution of Harley-Davidson motorcycles

The Harley-Davidson bike’s origins are found in the work of Arthur Davidson and William Harley, who in 1901 sought to fix a motor on a bicycle in a shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Davidson’s brothers, Walter and William, joined them, and the first model of the Harley-Davidson was presented to the American public in 1903.

More versions of the bike were released with bigger and more powerful engines. Over the years, special models were made for girls and police. Harley bikes were also used during the World Wars. Harley-Davidson merchandise followed, and Harley-Davidson Owners Groups (HOG) sprung up in major cities worldwide. The chapters, formed by dealerships, adhere to HOG International Charter for Chapters.

The cult of Harley and the enthusiasts

Harley-Davidsons became a cultural wildfire that spread across geographies and generations. Their innovation on two wheels sparked a revolution and lifestyle that made Harley-Davidson the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world.

To a bike owner, a Harley is not just a motorcycle. It’s a style statement. A cool statement. High handlebars, tassels on handlebars, fancy front console and much more. Accessories, there are aplenty.

Without accessories, a Harley biker is no Harley biker. And they are not limited to bikes. A rider has to be kitted out in Harley-ware. Leather jackets and boots are a necessity. Then there’s the bandana. Patches and badges too.

Seyyed dela Llata/Gulf News

Why ride a Harley? This is what UAE bikers say

The Harley boys and girls ride their bikes with pride. Here’s what the HOG riders in the UAE told Gulf News.

I’ve been a HOG (Harley-Davidson Owners Group) member since 2018, when I got my first Harley Davidson bike. The passion started when I was shopping around for a bike with my wife, and she said there’s only one address to go to, and that’s Harley-Davidson.

- Simon Walter, Director, Harley-Davidson Owners Group Dubai

I’ve been riding since 2015. What attracted me to riding is the lifestyle of bikers, the community spirit, the brotherhood and the endless adventures that bikers have. You will not find the same community spirit and brotherhood among other bikers.

- Gabrielle Bou Rached, Director, Harley-Davidson Owners Group Abu Dhabi, and President, Harley-Davidson Owners GCC Council

I have been riding with the (Harley-Davidson) community for nine years. Always been into Harleys. Because it’s a passion to ride Harley. There’s a strong community feeling. We share a similar passion.

- Anand Rodrigues, Head Road Captain, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

I have been riding with the Dubai Chapter for about a year. It’s been my dream to ride a Harley, but being from an Indian family, girls on Harleys [are frowned upon]. …So I became a housewife, and when I hit 40, I said, Now is the time for me to take up what I always wanted. So I went ahead and took a Harley.

- Richa Toutchang, Rider, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

I chose to ride a Harley by [sheer] accident. I was riding different bikes, and [later] I bought a Harley. I love it. It’s a lifestyle. Harley –Davidson is not just about riding. It’s about the community, meeting with people. And I’m very happy with the Harley, and I’m not going to leave it for a long time.

- Anderson Alexandre, Rider, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

I have been riding for 14 years. Harley gave me all the reasons to pursue my passion. A Harley makes its own statement on the roads. And I enjoy every moment of it. I will ride it as long as I’m in Dubai.

- Dino Varghese, Rider, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

I’ve been riding for nearly two years. It’s a passion. It’s like an eagle. Like the birds, fly we ride around all over the place, enjoying the scenic views.

- Jose John, Activity Officer, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

I was born in Dubai, grew up in Dubai. My father bought me a 75cc motorbike when I was 13 or 14, and I started riding. It got into my blood, and I’ve been riding all my life ever since. I bought my first Harley in 1991 when the dealership first opened here. They had a very small store in Awir. Been riding ever since. I’m on my sixth Harley bike.

- Shuja Jashanmal, Safety Officer, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

When I bought a Harley bike four years back, I was not aware of the group, and then the members approached me. I’ve been riding with the group now more than two years. The road is never-ending. And I tell how happy I am when we ride together.

- Sujit George, Activity Officer, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

Harley-Davidson in Dubai and Abu Dhabi: The bike, bikers and their passion

Meet the Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

Every Sunday, the sound of Harley-Davidsons cuts through the morning calm as rider wind their way to Sheikh Zayed Road. They park their gleaming machines near the Emaraat petrol station, fist bumps each other and get ready for the ride.

The bikers, clad in leather Harley jackets, boots and bandanas, are members of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai Chapter. They ride together twice a week to far off places in the UAE, enjoying the ride and the camaraderie. There’s an Abu Dhabi chapter as well. The Sharjah bikers join Dubai bikers on the rides.

Harley bikers in the UAE come from varied cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. A shared passion for riding Harleys brings them together. They take immense pride in owning Harleys and find time for rides every week.

“Harley is a brand recognised as number one in the motorcycling community. And it’s a worldwide community. Every city has a chapter of Harley Owners Group. So [we are] a part of the larger worldwide group,” says Anand Rodrigues, Head Road Captain, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai.

No races, no stunts. Just enjoy the ride

Discipline is at the core of the Harley community: no racing and no stunts; just enjoy the ride. All bikers have to adhere to the rules strictly. The Harley bikers always ride in formations, which enable them to communicate with each other.

“We are very disciplined; we ride in a very organised manner. Basically, we are a pack riding together as a peaceful, fun-loving community, sharing the passion of riding together,” Rodrigues said.

The rides start with a briefing on the ride. And the head road captain harps on safety practices, formations, hand signals, and the importance of safety on the roads.

Harley-Davidson: Catch the fever with UAE bikers

Safety paramount during rides

As safety officer of HOG Dubai, Shuja Jashanmal inducts all the new riders in the group. “I make sure that they understand the riding skills. We use hand signals and foot signals to talk to each other. I make sure that all the new riders are aware of the signals and understand when we are talking about hazards in front of us. And understand how the group is moving.”

Jashanmal rushes to help if anybody has a breakdown or any difficulty or discomfort during rides. “I will always stop and be with them and make sure that their needs are taken care of first. If they are not able to ride, I stay with them and make sure they get home safely,” he added

The sight and sounds of Harleys riding in formations are exhilarating. Heads turn.

Jonathan Steyn’s love of Harley Davidsons carved out a career for him. This is the story of the general manager of Harley-Davidson in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “I used to slip away from school and spent time with a friend who worked in a Harley workshop. At the end of school, I had spent enough time with Harleys, and they offered me a position. I have been with Harley for about 20 years now, and I grew up with Harley in South Africa and then Dubai.

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Abu Dhabi Tour and Harley-Davidson Owners Group

The Abu Dhabi chapter, with 120 members, has an action-packed calendar. Besides the bi-weekly rides, they organise the Abu Dhabi Tour — the biggest Harley-Davidson event in the GCC.

Gabrielle Bou Rached, who has been the director since 2018, is also the president of Harley-Davidson Owners GCC Council. Organising the Abu Tour was one of her point points this year. It’s part of her efforts to make Abu Dhabi the motorcycle events hub in the GCC.

“After two years of pause, we came back this year with the Abu Dhabi Tour 2022 two weeks ago. We were able to bring to Abu Dhabi more than 200 bikers who rode from all around the GCC and even from places like the US and Europe. Hopefully, it will be a staple in the UAE motorcycling community,” Gabrielle said.

As president of the GCC council, Gabrielle wants to promote the HOG spirit and the sense of brotherhood that brings the HOG bikers together. “If you go anywhere in the world, and you meet any biker from any country, and if he has the HOG patch, you automatically feel like he’s a brother. And this is the spirit that brings all the HOG bikers together. At every HOG event around the world, you will feel the same spirit, the same brotherhood. This is what I’m trying to promote,” she said.

The joys of riding a Harley: What the UAE enthusiasts say

“What attracted me to riding is the lifestyle of bikers, and the community spirit, the brotherhood and the endless adventures that bikers have every single day...You need something different to spice up your life…I don’t think it’s easy to explain unless you have been on a bike and the feeling you get when you are on the open road.”

- Gabrielle Bou Rached, Director, Harley-Davidson Owners Abu Dhabi, and President, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, GCC Council

“When you see a person riding a Harley, people admire because they know what goes behind that to ride that beast… So when you see a person riding a Harley, you say wow to that person’s personality.”

- Richa Toutchang, Rider, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

“Riding gives you a lot of health benefits. It gives you balance. It gives you mental and physical support. It’s beyond riding. A Harley makes its own statement on the roads. And I enjoy every moment of it. I will ride as long as I’m in Dubai.”

- Dino Varghese, Rider, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

It’s absolutely fantastic. I ride to meditate; it gives me a great sense of peace and calm. You meditate by not thinking about the challenges of work…The six to eight hours on the road, I’m just thinking about only riding. When I come back from a long ride, I am full of energy, fully rejuvenated… ready to take on the week ahead.

- Shuja Jashanmal, Safety Officer, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

We are really, really blessed here [in the UAE]. We got the desert, we got the mountains, we got the sea, and we’ve got the sun. So you get everything in one day. It’s beautiful; it’s just amazing. I don’t want to call it therapy. You work hard during the week, and you come out during the weekend; that’s what we work for.

- Simon Walter, Director, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai

‘[Besides the rides], we also help a lot of charity organisations…we do autism ride, we do breast cancer awareness ride and prostate cancer awareness ride. These are some of the community initiatives we try to give back to the community by way of our riding.”

- Anand Rodrigues, Head Road Captain, Harley-Davidson Owners Group, Dubai
Cool facts about Harley-Davidson
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News