Dubai: For many people the word biker usually conjures up an image of a burly, gruff man. However, a group of 22 women living in Dubai are busy breaking the stereotype as they conquer the streets on their Harley-Davidsons.
The group is known as the â€˜Queens of the road.'
The leader of the group Christelle Hares from Lebanon, 32, said riding a motorbike for the past nine years had become part of her identity.
"To me, it represents freedom. It feels dangerous, and at the same time there is something very liberating about riding and feeling the wind in your hair," said Hares. The Dubai resident said her love for motorbikes started at a very early age when she lived in her hometown of Jounieh in Lebanon.
She said it was a time where the idea of a woman riding a motorbike was frowned upon in society.
"I used to confuse a horse and a motorbike as a child, and would keep telling my parents that I wanted to buy a horse and would buy one when I grew up," said Hares.
Fourteen years ago, Hares' dream began to come true. Upon her arrival in the UAE, Hares applied for a motorcycle licence from Al Ahli Driving Centre, and bought her first bike.
"Riding a bike has its own fashion, represents its own lifestyle and clothes, and makes you forget where you are and just focus on enjoying the moment."
Purchasing a Sportster SuperLow Harley-Davidson three years ago, Hares said the experience is one that she encourages more women to try. Riding her bike, which she calls "Tinklebell" almost daily during the winter months, Hares usually goes out for a spin with a few of her friends at dawn to avoid the sun during the warmer months.
The streets of Hatta, Oman and Al Ain are among the group's favourite spots during the weekends.
A new discovery
Discovering the country's picturesque scenery and hidden views on her motorbike, another group member and frequent biker Yara Karam, 29, from Lebanon said she bought a Sportster 883 Harley-Davidson three years ago.
"I discovered areas that I would never have known existed, and really got to know each emirate by taking different routes," said Yara.
Having started her journey after riding pillion — a passenger on a motorbike for several years, Yara said buying her own bike was one of the best choices she had made. Driving it mainly on the weekends, and occasionally to work, she referred to her hobby as a stress-buster.
"After a long hectic week at work, there is nothing better than the feeling of air hitting your chest as you ride on your motorbike. It is like therapy," said Yara, who works as a producer at a media agency.
Also a member of the Hogs (Harley Owners Group Dubai), Yara takes part in group drives to different parts of the country during the weekends. "Group trips are a great experience because you get to meet a lot of lovely and genuine people from the international community, and the ride is stress relieving."
Sense of power
Another active biker, Shima Meheri, 34, from Iran, said riding a motorbike gave her a sense of power.
"There's a common image that women are too delicate and only care about doing their hair and going to parties, but it feels great to come out of the box that we are put in and do something different, something that feels powerful," said Shima.
The Dubai maths teacher said she made her childhood dream come true after she moved to Dubai in 2008.
"It all started when I was five years old and living in Austria." Getting her licence from the Dubai Driving School a year after she moved to the UAE, Shima finally bought her first bike, a Sportster SuperLow Harley-Davidson and joined the Hogs.
A cool mum
A new addition to the Hogs, Susanne Kruppa, 47, from Germany said she really enjoyed her first year of bike riding in groups across Dubai.
As a new biker, Kruppa said she is careful to follow all the safety instruction while on the road. From the special riding leather boots and padded jacket to the safety helmet, Kruppa is embracing the riding experience and enjoying the thrill of owning a Softail Deluxe Harley-Davidson.
"In group drives, the road crew usually take care of traffic and it makes it a lot easier for me to focus on riding and get used to the different gears," said Kruppa.
The Dubai resident and mother of two girls said she has also scored a few â€˜cool' points with her daughters.
"My daughters are very supportive and proud of me. I have heard them say: Mum is very cool, she doesn't only ride a normal motorbike but a Harley-Davidson!"
(c) 2015 Al Nisr Publishing LLC . All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers