Photo essay: Grit Girls take dirt-biking to the dunes of the UAE

Group of almost 20 amateur and semi-professional riders say the freedom, community and challenge of the sport are its main attractions

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Grit Girls, a community of women dirt-bikers, have made a name for themselves on the dunes and trails of the UAE.

The group, founded by Martinette van Vuuren in 2018, has grown to include more than 20 amateur and semi-professional riders.

Citing the freedom, community and challenge of the sport as its main attractions, the women meet for group rides at the weekend, with members of the team frequently taking part in rallies and competitions.

"There are two things I love about riding; the physicality and the mentality. Mentally it is just a really nice escape. There's a sort of freedom, the exploration side where you go out and you are sort of treading uncharted territory and you are just feeling completely free and out of your life. You have to, of course, focus on riding so it's hard to think about the normal daily stresses when you are there," says Elisha Dessurne from the UK.

"But physically it can be difficult. If you don't train and you don't improve, you are putting yourself at risk. So it's nice to focus on improving and seeing progression in the sport."

Dessurne has been riding for six years, and says the camaraderie of the sport is a highlight.

"Even though you are on your bike riding by yourself, it's a solo thing, you don't ride alone. You never go out riding alone, you always have other bikes around you. That community side of the sport is really fun. Sometimes you are out there just pumping adrenalin and finding new places and then there is just a wonderful spirit after that ride with the community, which is so nice."

Although the UAE is a veritable playground for off-road riders, with the expansive desert to explore, many of the riders have their sights set on going international, listing Europe, Australia and the US as potential destinations.

Mai Hamed from Egypt, who has been riding for almost three years, tells The National: "I'd love to go ride in Mongolia one day. The terrain changes, it's got every kind of terrain you could possibly imagine. So you could ride in a forest, you could ride in the desert. It's just a really beautiful country and it would be amazing to explore that on a motorcycle."

Updated: March 03, 2023, 6:01 PM