Hop onto the back of a motorbike and see the city’s top landmarks
Sometimes all you need to spice up your life is a little leather. Just ask Dubai Motorcycle Tours or FlyBike – two local companies now offering guided excursions around the city. They’re part of the two-wheel train of thought that believes thrill-seeking tourists are not content with standard bus tours and desert sightseeing, and are forgoing four wheels to bring them closer to Dubai’s sights. There are more than 600 active members of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group in Dubai alone, and the emirate has a small but steady motorcycle culture, with expat biker crews such as FinnHogs often spotted in a convoy on Sheikh Zayed Road. With the weather averaging 29°C in late October and the launch of FlyBike’s new desert tour, there is no better time than now to ride off into the sunset.
And we plan to do just that… but not before strapping on our helmet at Russian-owned motorcycle tours operator FlyBike in Al Barsha. The company, which launched in February this year, specialises in comfy trips that cruise for up to three hours on their fleet of two and three-wheel Honda Gold Wings – the La-Z-Boy of motorcycles. As well as the option to customise your own tour, FlyBike offers set excursions including night adventures and the Old and New day tour, which buzzes through Dubai’s historical district in Bur Dubai and then on to the Burj Khalifa. The new culturally rich Sahara tour is a three-hour desert trip that stops at the Camel Racetrack, Camel Market, the desert cycling track and Bab Al Shams Desert Resort.
Having had some level of experience on the back of a motorbike, we have an idea of what to expect: lean into the corners, wear protective clothing and keep your visor down and your mouth closed unless you want to eat bugs for breakfast. But all assumptions go out the window when FlyBike’s friendly business development manager, Anna, informs us that a pair of heels could be appropriate attire for the 40-minute tour to the Palm Jumeirah. A creature of habit, we instead opt for jeans, a T-shirt and closed-toe shoes, and slap on sunscreen and shades.
Now ready to roll, we step out onto the street to meet the roomy Honda Gold Wing 1800 Tricycle that we’re taking for a spin. It bounces conspicuously around the corner to a loud beat with Filipino driver Johnny at the helm. Big and bold, this leisure bike puts all others to shame and boasts all the bells and whistles, including the option to play your own music. Helmets are fitted with Bluetooth and headset microphones so you can communicate with the driver and other passengers in the convoy. Now it’s clear why we could have worn heels.
As far as spectacles go, we’re the main attraction when we drift up to the traffic lights at Umm Suqeim to join Sheikh Zayed Road. The lights flash green and before we know it we’re off, cruising at a reassuring speed of no more than 70km an hour, as is company policy on Dubai’s main artery, and Johnny cranks up the tunes a notch. The music is cheesy (think will.I.am’s ego-inflating ‘Feeling Myself’), but it’s the perfect soundtrack to the adventure we find ourselves on. As we cross onto Palm Jumeirah, Johnny imparts little titbits of insider Dubai facts, telling us that David Beckham and Shah Rukh Khan were gifted villas on Palm Jumeirah when it first opened, to help promote the iconic island. We’re not sure how accurate the information is, especially after being told that Saudi Arabia is across the Arabian Gulf, but we’re having such a good time, we’re able to brush it off. This is an undeniably cool way to see Dubai whether you live here or not, and gives you some new material when desert safaris are wearing thin. And if you’re too busy dancing to the tunes on the back, you can relive every moment on video afterwards, with Go-Pro cameras fitted on the bikes to capture the entire adventure.
Next stop is Atlantis The Palm, where we attract a couple of bystanders and find ourselves at the centre of a third-party photo shoot. We pose politely giving the ubiquitous thumbs up and move on, as there are more sights to see and places to be seen. The ride itself is super cruisy and we feel secure and safe throughout. Drivers on Sheikh Zayed Road slow down by default to simply stare and Johnny is an excellent driver, chatty and always keen to know how we’re doing ‘back there’. The only downside to these big bikes is that they’re very stable and relatively slow, so there are no adrenalin-pumping moments or hair-raising shrieks. But that’s also what makes these tours so attractive. After all, you get to see Dubai like you never have before. From Dhs360 for a one-hour tour with a driver on the Honda Gold Wing 1800 Tricycle. FlyBike, www.flybike.info (04 360 6867).
Dubai Motorcycle Tours The company offers passenger or solo-rider tour packages along various routes including a Hatta/mountain scenic tour, which includes the motorcycle, lunch, a tour guide and photos and video. Dhs1,590. www.dubaimotorcycletours.com (055 953 2064).
The Dubai outpost doesn’t organise tours per se, but licensed riders can rent out their bikes for the day, weekend or week. They’re also able to put you in touch with HOG members to join their Friday rides, whose routes include Fujairah and even Oman for turtle-spotting. From Dhs500 per day. www.harley-davidson-dubai.com (04 339 1909).
Just Gas It
These off-road dirt bike tours offer two-hour desert trips for newbies with zero off-roading experience as well as more advanced half-day and three-day tours through the emirates’ sand dunes, mountains and wadis. Riders must have a manual motorbike license to participate. From Dhs700. www.justgasit.net (050 682 4963).
Bike Track Days at Dubai Autodrome
Dubai Autodrome kicks cars out at least twice every month so bike-owners can take over. Newcomers are occasionally welcome to the bike track meets, but they’re mostly open to intermediate and advanced riders, where groups get four sessions of 20 minutes each. Those who don’t own bikes can rent them outside for use at the track, but they must hold a motorcycle license. Motor City, www.dubaiautodrome.com/bike-track-days (04 436 1327).
Get Your Guide Offers four-hour desert dune buggy and half-day quad bike safari packages which involve a trip to the Dadabhai Travel Desert Camp for sand-boarding and camel-riding. From Dhs735. Various locations, www.getyourguide.com.
Experienced guide, desert rider and Red Bull Motocross Champion Mohammed Balooshi not only leads small group tours for riders of all levels, he also shows riders how to read the desert, find the best path and master tricks. Those just starting out can sign up to the two-day Motocross School for in-depth coaching and instruction, which should see you popping wheelies in no time. Various locations, www.mx-academy.ae, firstname.lastname@example.org (050 951 1151).
In a spin
More motorsports to get your teeth into in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Zoom around the Dubai Autodrome in an Audi R8 V10 – a car capable of taking you from 0-100kph in just 3.9 seconds. Your session will start in an Audi TT 2.0 turbo to help you learn the racing lines around the track, before plunging you into four exhilarating laps in the R8. Dhs1,295 per person. Dubai Autodrome, Motor City, www.dubaiautodrome.com (04 367 8700).
It’s cool enough to hit Dubai Kartdrome’s outdoor track again, which offers a thrilling 1.2km circuit to whip around. Open to everyone aged seven and older, times and laps are recorded, so once you’ve finished your race you’ll be able to see which of your opponents you’ve beaten, and how thoroughly. Dhs120 per 15-minute session. Dubai Kartdrome, Dubai Autodrome, Motor City (04 367 8744).
Learn to handle a 4x4 on the dunes with a desert driving course. Several operators offer this schooling, including Emirates Driving Institute, which offers a full-day course of both practical and theory lessons, during which you’ll learn about the topography of the desert and situations you’re likely to find yourself in. From Dhs1,100 per person, Dhs600 per person for two-person course. Emirates Driving Institute, www.edi-uae.com (04 263 1100).
Formula Yas 3000 driver experience Feel what it’s like to be a professional Formula 1 driver and get behind the wheel of a 3000cc V6 engine on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. Before you get strapped in, however, you’ll be given a thorough technical briefing and conduct a few familiarisation laps around the circuit in a Renault, during which you’ll be shown how to approach and take each corner. Bring friends and family along to watch you in action. Dhs1,300 per person. Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.yasmarinacircuit.com (02 659 9800).
Simulated racing Check out this little-known gem. Xxtreme Simulation offers simulated racing games for a range of vehicles, from go karts to V8 supercars, and promises to deliver an experience that feels as close to the real thing as possible, all from the safety of its Oud Metha shop. Host team-building events and birthday parties. The centre also offers ladies-only hours on request, plus discounts when you sign up to be a member. From Dhs100 for 30 minutes. Xxtreme Simulation, Oud Metha, www.xxtremesimulation.com (04 396 7230).