Ploughing about the dunes on a motor is a lot of fun (especially when you race friends) but it can get a bit hairy. It’s generally considered easier to drive quads than motorbikes, since on four wheels, you don’t have to worry about bogging down in the sand.
The trick is to take everything sideways. ‘You cross the dune crest, you don’t go up and over. If you’re going sideways then you can look at what’s on the other side,’ says Mark Miller of Desert Rangers.
You’ll need to wear a helmet and goggles to protect your eyes from being sandblasted, and remember to keep a good 20m or so of distance between other riders.
The dangers associated with these fast-moving machines has resulted in some recent crackdowns by the government, though they largely relate to driving on the road, residential, paved and coastal areas (1,143 bikes were confiscated last year). But out in the dunes of Hatta and Al Ain, where the enthusiasts tend to head, it is relatively relaxed (well, as relaxed as petrol-fuelled mayhem can get).
One of the best places to head to is Dubai’s most famous sand dune known as Big Red (which gets its name from the deep red colour caused by the high iron oxide content in the sand). This gargantuan 300ft high dune is only around half an hour out of Dubai along Hatta Road. There are numerous places set up alongside the road where you can rent a quad bike by the hour. Prices vary, but get your haggling hat on – don’t accept the price you’re initially offered without a challenge.
Desert Rangers offers quad biking excursions for Dhs325 (45 mins), Dhs425 (one hour).
The Dubai Motocross Club has carved out a very sociable and welcoming niche to meet, greet and let rip with other riders who have been through the mill in desert motocross riding.
Assembling at a purpose-built dirt track opposite the Jebel Ali Free Zone, the course is open and available every day except Sunday and offers a good place to meet others who regularly head out on motocross routes around the country. The club also organises six-leg Desert Baja championship events, with cross-country races taking place in each of the emirates.
A number of riders who meet at the club are regular entrants in the UAE Desert Challenge and it’s not a bad place to find and join a team.
For anyone looking to brush up their riding skills, the club often brings in professional riders from overseas who host dedicated tutorage days. Beyond this, it’s the perfect platform for getting to grips with riding a motorcycle in desert terrain.
You need your own bike and gear, but everything else (aided by the fact there are plenty of gearheads and die-hard riders around) is in place to help you get confident.
Put in enough hours on the track and it won’t be long before you’re launching yourself over the dunes.