Hell for leather: on the road with Abu Dhabi's Harley gang
The National torpedoes through all seven emirates in just 12 hours
It was a nerve-shredding, throttle-twisting blast in to the weekend.
A sprint across all the seven emirates – around 650km – on a motorbike flush with attitude and devilry. And all within the space of 12 hours.
Like any cantankerous bully, the savage-looking Harley Davidson Fat Bob oozes trouble and revels in attention.
Flick the ignition and the rider has a monstrous, even excessive, 1,800cc to play with. The sound of its 3,000 rpm engine rails against the eardrums.
“The connection you get with your surroundings on a bike can feel very powerful, said Gabbi Bou Rached, 33, director of the Abu Dhabi chapter of Harley Owners Group.
“You forget about work, your problems; you just focus on the now. It’s a very different experience and can be intensely liberating.”
Ms Bou Rached, a relatively recent fanatic of all things Harley, is a wide-eyed, tattoo-loving biker with a penchant for speed.
While her joie de vivre might easily typify what many would expect from a leather-clad, two-wheeler obsessive, her demeanour is rather deceptive.
The articulate rider, a former volunteer paramedic, is the first female director of a Harley Owners Group chapter in the GCC. Men have so far dominated the biking community in the Middle East – and indeed worldwide – but it is an antiquated hang-up that is changing fast.
Bringing more riders into the fold is something Ms Bou Rached takes very seriously. Earlier this year, The National was invited out on one of the regular weekend biker trips organised by the Abu Dhabi chapter.
A gun metal grey Fat Bob was duly handed over by the Harley Davidson dealership in the capital, with the promise it would be returned unscathed.
The motley gang in the emirate boasts an intriguing mosaic of nationalities, united by a passion for power, torque and long, empty roads.
As it stands, the group has about 85 members and includes everyone from Emirati police officers to Cypriot helicopter pilots.
But their number is also steadily growing as the appeal of blazing through parched desert vistas or steep mountain passes draws ever more disciples.
“Our chapter consists of members from every country you can imagine,” said Ms Bou Rached, who is originally from Lebanon but has lived in the UAE for 11 years.
“We’ve lots of Emiratis, Americans, Brits, Filipinos and Estonians. I’m relatively new, but joining [the Harley chapter] has been a life-changing decision.
“The community is very diverse and very welcoming. It’s about pushing your limits and discovering hidden, twisting desert roads.”
The weekend’s ride began fast and early on Friday morning in Abu Dhabi and headed north-east towards the town of Al Madam in Sharjah.
Next came the glorious, corkscrew bends of the Al Hakka mountains before a sharp drop down into the coastal town of Kalba.
Transfixed by the cruise, the pack continued on north to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah before flying through Umm Al Quwain, the emirate of Ajman and Dubai. Long after the sunset and weaving through streams of heavy traffic, the crew began its final 140kph sprint back to Abu Dhabi.
“People tend to have the wrong idea about Harley Davidson bikers,” said Ms Bou Rached, who rides a gleaming 1,800cc Road Glide Special in "wicked red denim".
“They think we’re somehow outlaws, that we get a kick from disrespecting people.
“But we’re not Hells Angels [a motorbike club] and our image is tarnished by these misconceptions.
“We’re doctors, police officers, pilots and government employees – we have every day jobs.
“People are sometimes intimated by us to begin with but there’s really no need to be,” she says.
Updated: July 23, 2019 01:50 PM