Psychedelic outfit on, knee pads protected, engine revving and raring to go: Just Gas It gives us a lesson in dirt biking.
Dirt biking – or motocross – takes motorbikes off the concrete and onto rougher terrain; in our case, the desert. Its popularity has grown steadily around the world since the 20s and now there are various forms of the sport cropping up from championship dirt bike races to freestyle Redbull X fighters’ stunt shows. It’s no wonder really. It’s a badass sport. This week we headed over to the aptly named Hobbies Club just out passed Dragonmart on the way to Hatta some 20 minutes from Downtown Dubai where the new Just Gas It tour company is located. They’re on Google Maps too which makes me love them more already. A dedicated dirt bike tour company, Just Gas It is the only legitimate one in the emirate right now. Not only do they organise day tours for tourists and residents but celebs make it a pit stop to visit here too, often invited by Dubai’s prime minister who flies A-listers in by helicopter to give this desert sport a whirl. “Dirt biking is a great social experience, bringing together adventure and extreme sport seekers” says owner Shadi Awad. The 35 year old Palestinian started the business about a year ago after persistent requests from friends to borrow his ‘toys’. Now he runs the company full time, except when he’s taking part in regional competitions himself. Yeah, he’s a badass biker too. Aside from bike tours for the more experienced riders, there are also ‘newbie classes’ available – a basic two-hour introduction to dirt bike riding.
What you need
The main stipulation for being eligible for the newbie course is that you either have motorcycle experience or you’re used to driving a manual car. Since I’ve dabbled in driving a three-wheeled manual automobile in the past, I figured I was eligible enough to give the newbie course a go. You’ll also want to bring sunglasses. Not so much to shield your eyes from the glaring sun but more for badass effect. I wore my gym kit and shiny Nike trainers and felt a little foolish when I arrived. Girls: all you’ll need is a tank top or t-shirt, dark leggings and long socks. Fellas: a t-shirt, shorts and long socks will suffice. They provided the rest of the kit, including psychedelic long sleeve tops and trousers, knee pads, boots, helmets and chest pads. You’ll look like a contestant on Gladiators, but roll with it.
My newbie class was a one-on-one session with Shadi. But there were two other groups out on a tour that day. Dina, my partner in crime, was having a one-on-one on
a giant yellow quad bike so it was very much a girl power day at Just Gas It and the mood was very friendly. There was no machismo, cussin’ or hardcore biker slang going on. Just plain fun.
Once you’ve got your gear on, you’ll head into the courtyard to check out the bikes you’ll be riding. Shadi had lined them all up like trophies. First impressions: They were huge. Well, of them except one. At the end of the row stood a little green Stomp 120cc bike – no bigger than a desert shrub – and this was to be my beginner bike. With that, we headed behind the courtyard to learn the basics of gears, clutch control, and steering. Shadi started out slow showing me how to sit correctly on the bike before going through the process of getting the engine running. It’s the same principle as driving a manual car; clutch in, then into gear, hit the gas, ease off the clutch and away you go. Except now the clutch is where your left handbrake should be, the gear box is a tiny lever next to your left boot and the accelerator is a throttle on your right handlebar. Shadi politely averts his eyes as I stall several hundred times. But finally, after what felt like an eternity I got it, and I was gently gliding 50 yards before coming to an abrupt halt. I did this a few more times in a straight line until I’d nailed it and then I moved onto manoeuvring around cones. After a quick drink it was time for round two, and, since I’d managed to stay alive thus far, Shadi moved me up a bike level. I hadn’t felt this much pride since Mrs Playford moved me up to the middle table at recorder practice. We continued on, now on a KTM 250cc before finally heading off on a proper ride. We grabbed Dina, who’d also excelled in her quad biking class and headed for the dunes – granted it was more gravely than full on undulating dunes, but there were a few soft sand parts which made steering a bit more challenging, but turning on the throttle harder helps to get you through the tricky parts. I practised changing gears from 1 to 4 and back down to get more comfortable and before long I was raised up and out of my seat riding high. It was staggeringly beautiful to be out in the desert riding a dirt bike at sunset. By the end, I just wanted to take my KTM home.
How much of your life will this take up
The newbie course lasts two hours. Factor in 30 minutes there and back and the whole thing lasts three hours tops. Once you’re experienced enough, you can try the half day, full day or multiple day tours.
How much does it cost?
Dhs.550 for two hours.