x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Not very likely to catch the bug

Passion for motorcycles is not exclusively a male domain. I know plenty of women who know the love of a power-laden, two-wheeled machine.

Passion for motorcycles is not exclusively a male domain. I know plenty of women who know the love of a power-laden, two-wheeled machine. As a motorbike fanatic, I must confess nothing compares with it. One sits comfortably at the helm of a motorbike and, with a click of a heel and flick of a wrist, begins to experience the power and the presence. You take to the open road. No extras boxing in your experience. Just the wind brushing up against your body. Looking ahead at a clear spread of tar, you up the ante and bring on higher gears. You lean closer into the tank, nestle further down onto your seat and let it rip. The adrenaline is unmistakable.

As you feel your body tense to cope with the headwind, your focus is set. Nothing compares with it. As a curve approaches, you shift your weight to the side and ever so slightly lean onto the road. If performed at the correct speed and naturally, without tensing up, you can feel the tar scraping at the knee as you fully take on the kerb. I miss my bike; a gorgeous 1,200cc Yamaha V-Max I owned in Portugal from 1994 to 1995. Though she wasn't a kerb-kissing roadster, she could still give me quite a run without scraping the exhaust pipes - it was always a pleasure to be out on the road. Over the years, happily, I also had the chance to try other bikes - the Honda VFR800 and CBR900RR Fireblade as well as an interesting ride on BMW's K 1200 GT.

A rather well-known theory among bikers is that, once you have caught "the bug", you will never be cured of it. As much as I know where they're coming from, I have to say that there may be certain places on this earth that provide the ideal vaccination against said bug. Case in point, the UAE. Nothing spells "no thank you" like sudden, inexplicable turns with no signalling. Nothing could render a biker more fearful than the thought that you are persona non grata on the road. Though the roads here are wide and usually intact, the idea that people are just not used to bikes does not inspire confidence.

The same thing that makes bikes exciting is the same thing that makes them dangerous. A sudden turn into a car door is vastly different than a sudden turn into your beloved leg. And then there is the unsavoury issue of spitting. While back in Europe I would not concern myself with this, here I might not be extraordinarily pleased with an unexpected glob of spit hurtled onto my arm as I try to make my way up the line between cars. I say this because I have had one stuck to my right window of my car once.

And don't even get me started on roundabouts. With the way some drivers tackle these delightful concrete Frisbees here, I fear I would be tempted to try to make a straight shot over them rather than enjoy a turn or two. I know that, as a biker, one is likely to startle drivers here, sneaking up beside them in traffic and breaking red-light daydreams. But fearful unpredictability is not exciting in my book. Last but not least, there are those mysterious bumps and gashes that can surprise you on the roads here. Get your front tyre stuck in one of those and say hello to a world of pain.

Sadly, I've been vaccinated. I'll be sticking to my Toyota Yaris while I'm here. Too bad, as there are quite a few exquisite biking road trips to be had in the UAE. psantos@thenational.ae