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For Travelers to the UAE Hunting for Sand

For those that travel to Dubai regularly, or are simply passing though, you may want to escape the city and head out to the desert to explore the sand. I contacted Big Red ( and organised my first ride with them as a two hour session that is designed to get you used to sand if you haven't had a lot of experience. For context I am new to adventure riding, and my only efforts to date have been on gravel exploring Banks Peninsula with my one foray down a beach somewhere in one of those bays not making me an accomplished sand rider.

My first two hour session started in the evening in a flat bowl where the guide puts you through some maneuvers to see how comfortable you are before taking you off into the larger dunes. This isn't mandatory, but worth it for me given my lack of experience. At the end of this you take off into the dunes proper, and after two hours out there I had had lots of experience at picking my bike up as I figured out that the windward side of a sand dune was the harder/firmer side, and the leeward side was super soft. That said the experience was great and I really enjoyed the session and looked forward to returning the next day for a four hour ride through a larger part of the desert.

The next day was an early chauffeur pick up from my hotel, like the day before, with the 45 minute drive west of Dubai to the Big Red base. My guide the day before was Alex, an ex motocross competitor from the Philippines, and today I had Alex from England, who was another motocross expert. We started our four hour trip on another route into an expanse of sand, and for the first 30 minutes everything was fine until I hit a bump and got airborne, and landed without my bike on what seemed like concrete.

That incident brushed aside we took off again, and about 45 minutes later a similar lack of aerial skill had us stopping again to sort me out, however this time the heat, now at about 43 degrees C was winning and it took a while for me to sort myself out and get moving so that the breeze could help cool me down. Our next stop was another rider's bike getting stranded on a sand ridge and the bike eventually cooking itself in the heat with multiple failed attempts to get it unstuck.

It was now that we all decided that it was simply too hot and with a blown engine and a puncture occurring 10 minutes later we took the option of discretion over valor and called the ride over at the two hour mark.

The team at Big Red were excellent with good riding gear all provided (helmets, armor, boots, pants, goggles, etc...) and the KTM bikes were in excellent condition, my ride being a KTM 450 EXC on both days. For those with families or friends not into bikes there are other activities to keep them busy while you are out adventuring, and the largest adventure is a full eight hours, which will be my goal to work up to (but for in the cooler months around Christmas).

Photo 1 of UAE Sand Hunters
The first day on the two hour session.
Photo 2 of UAE Sand Hunters
The desert is an fantastic place to be on a bike.
Photo 3 of UAE Sand Hunters
My guide Alex on the first day's two hour session. Getting lost out here would not be good.
Photo 4 of UAE Sand Hunters
The first day was great for understanding how to ride in sand, and learning to pick my bike up!
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Picking my bike up from its upside down position on this slope wasn't easy.
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The first day route for the two hour session.
Photo 7 of UAE Sand Hunters
Still entusiastic on the second day's aborted four hour session before the heat broke through 40 degrees C. It is about 08:30 in the morning.
Photo 8 of UAE Sand Hunters
The desert is a very beautiful place.
Photo 9 of UAE Sand Hunters
The second day, with the temperature at 43 degrees C and enthusiasm for the heat gone, by now it was about 09:30 in the morning.
Photo 10 of UAE Sand Hunters
The half way point on the second day where we decided to be practical and call it a day. Another adventurer on an eight hour session took one of our working bikes to continue their trip, which left us with two punctures and no sense of humour left.
Photo 11 of UAE Sand Hunters
The route for the second day, which we stopped at the half way mark because of the heat, a puncture and a cooked engine.
Author of this article: Guy