On a muggy Thursday night in Jebel Ali, a group of dedicated bikers are sweating it out in preparation for the upcoming season of motocross. Standing trackside, bike after bike whips past us, catching speed before coming hard onto a freshly flattened ramp, taking off and disappearing over the other side.
The Dubai Motocross Club reopened in 2009 with a new track design and something of a different ethos – the club is trying to open up more to spectators and potential newcomers to the sport.
‘We just want people to have a go at it without spending loads of money,’ says British motorcyclist Sam Sunderland, who has been giving newbies a bounce-by-bounce introduction to motocross. ‘Before, without actually buying a bike, it was difficult to have a go and get a feel for it.’
Despite a (very) basic understanding of handling a bike, Time Out asked Sunderland to give us a lesson and, soon, we’re sputtering along in first gear around the sandy car park. The most noticeable thing about riding one of these dirt bikes is the rawness of the machine. Sitting astride, there’s a heavy, visceral bang to the engine. First gear is a juddery, stop-start affair, while slipping into higher gears lets the bike roll into that deep, gutsy scrambler sound.
After a couple of circuits, Sunderland calls us back and explains that a single two-hour lesson should be enough to get a complete beginner riding on the track. We pull up alongside the first big jump as a pack of riders scream past us, each taking the ramp of packed sand hard and flinging over the other side. ‘I can get you taking the jumps in no time at all,’ says Sunderland. ‘It’s a bit of a battle at first, but as soon as you know what you’re doing with the clutch the world is your oyster.’
The redesign of the track is also to broaden its appeal to ‘desert warriors’ – riders who would otherwise go off-roading. ‘In the past the motocross track was very technical, and it scared a lot of people away,’ says James Watkinson, chairman of the Dubai Motocross Club. ‘It’s still technical but we’ve made it more fun. We’ve put in bigger jumps, but safer jumps, a rider will get more air time but we’ve made the landing areas quite long and easier to land on. At the end of the day anyone who rides a bike wants to see who goes fastest and in a desert you can’t see that, but on a track within five minutes it becomes clear.’
The DMX Club’s track is near the Jebel Ali Beach Hotel, next to the go-karting track. Bike owners can ride around the DMX track for Dhs50 a session. A lesson costs Dhs500. Group sessions are Dhs300 per person. For further details, see www.mydubaimotocross.com.