x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

My Bike: Two decades on two wheels

Michael Brown, an avid motorcycle rider since his first bike at age 25, loves the roads of the UAE – and the ability to easily avoid Dubai's traffic jams.

Michael Brown upgraded from a 1,200cc bike to his 1,300cc BMW, but these days he rides for pleasure rather than thrills. Satish Kumar / The National
Michael Brown upgraded from a 1,200cc bike to his 1,300cc BMW, but these days he rides for pleasure rather than thrills. Satish Kumar / The National

The sight of a motorbike is still a relative rarity on UAE roads, delivery bikes notwithstanding, and the BMW K1200RS that managing director Michael Brown proudly rides around the streets of Dubai certainly attracts its share of attention.

"I have owned several bikes, Kawasakis and BMWs. I had two 1200cc bikes and this one is the upgraded 1300cc version. It is a far better bike in many ways than either of the 1,200s," says Brown.

Being a biker for a good part of his life, Brown has enjoyed whizzing along the open roads for more than two decades.

"It is a completely different experience from any other means of transportation. You are on the outside, so you see far more and experience the effects of the elements at varying speeds.

"The acceleration on a bike is much quicker than on normal cars because of the power-to-weight ratio, and as any biker will tell you, it is hard to beat the thrill of accelerating hard out of a curve after leaning over with your knee almost touching the road," says Brown.

Despite the unforgiving heat of a UAE summer, Brown says, the area is still one of the most beautiful countries to enjoy cruising around with a motorcycle.

"I have been riding in the UAE for around 16 years and I still love every minute of it. The route through Ras al Khaimah to Khasab, Oman, is the most exhilarating ride I have ever done, and must surely be one of the best in the world," he says.

"A big bonus is that traffic jams hardly exist for a bike, which saves a lot of time getting across town during the day, especially here in the UAE," he adds.

Brown initially bought a bike motivated by a sense of rebellion. He says it is "one of the things your parents worry about but your peers seem to admire". To this day, despite being 49 years old, Brown still retains his biker spirit.

"Now, it is for the pleasure of riding on good roads with great scenery, plus, of course, it saves a lot of time in traffic and it significantly shortens every journey. I don't think it is a midlife crisis, as I have been doing it for so long," jokes Brown.

After he obtained his motorcycle licence back in the UK, Brown chose the Kawasaki ZX10, a racy 1,000cc sports model, to kick-start his now lifelong motorcycling journey.

"It was the fastest production bike in the world at the time. In retrospect, I probably should have started with something slower, but I was 25 at the time so a bit more sensible than at 18," he says.

He learnt the hard way that, as a biker, he is much more vulnerable than car drivers on the road.

"I've had only one serious accident, on a backstreet in Bahrain when a car suddenly crossed the road in front of me. My headlight was on, the driver looked me in the eye before pulling out, and as I lay on the ground afterwards she kept saying 'I didn't see you'. I learnt an important lesson that day which I would like all young riders to hear: always assume you are completely invisible and ride accordingly.

"Bikes are more vulnerable and less visible than cars, which means [bikers] have to be much more aware."

As a father of three daughters, Brown is particularly defensive of his kids from other bikers.

"I trust myself completely, but would find it almost impossible to ride pillion. I would hate any of my three daughters to go on a bike with anyone except me.

"My then-girlfriend, now wife, used to come out with me but hasn't done since we have had kids - which is sad in a way but I understand why," he said.