Desert Delights for Two
Words by Anna Wilson
For me, touring should be all about comfort, and as we cruised along the Omani coast I had no complaints. I'd never even heard of an Ultra Limited before the Discover More Tour, but I quickly fell in love with its spacious and lavish pillion seat - Harley-Davidson should really think about rebranding it as the Ultra Luxurious.
You're probably wondering who I am and why I was on the trip? My name's Anna Wilson and my husband is a motorcycle journalist. We do a lot of two-up touring together and when he asked if I'd be up for heading out to Dubai with Harley-Davidson and himself, there really wasn't much persuasion needed - my bag was packed before his. Also my camera bag. That was the main reason for me going; to capture both the beauty and mystique of the Middle East.
was Another reason was the fact the Middle Eastnew territory for both of us, and probably not the most obvious place we'd pick to travel. The same can be said about Harleys. We're in our late twenties and had never really seen ourselves as typical see-the-world Harley Owners Group rider (H.O.G.).Not yet anyways. Some of our older friends have them, but no one our age. I guess that was the point in the Discover More Tour; to broaden our horizons.
To be fair, it didn't take much doing, with the first education being on the huge number of bikes Harley has in its range. There were so many different types and sizes of machines for us to switch between, including a Tri Glide Ultra trike, should we have fancied it. As it was, my debut as a Harley pillion kicked off on a Street Glide. It was low, looked mean and surprised me with its superb infotainment system.
Harleys look so retro, but the technology on board was better than any bike I'd travelled on before. The same can't be said about the bike's seat, which angled backwards and tried its best to launch me down the road every time I loosened my grip on Bruce to take a picture, but the later fitment of a backrest made life so much better. It was good to appreciate the bike with and without a rest, though, as I now know that in standard form the seat is just a perch for local trips. The smoothness of the engine was nice and I liked how I wasn't flung forward each time Bruce got on the brakes. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the bike, which had good leg room and wasn't cramped in the slightest.
Dubai is a mesmerising place, full of culture and amazing scenery. One of my favourite parts on the trip was the run up the Jebel Jais mountain road, which offered the most amazing views of the landscape. In a word, it was unique and proved the perfect place to get stuck into the local delicacies we had over lunch. The run back down the mountain was equally fantastic before we switched to coastal roads and started to head north towards Oman. There is only one route north, but despite what you'd think, the traffic was always light and the views always interesting. We passed through different sized settlements. Housing varied from mansions to huts. The rich-poor divide was pretty obvious, but most people seemed happy. Especially when they heard our Harleys rumbling through.
Crossing the border was interesting but took a lot of time. I reckon the best part of an hour. Thankfully, the Harley touring crew made the procedure as swift and pleasant as possible, getting us into Oman as hassle-free as they could. At the border, Bruce and I switched onto the Electra Glide Ultra Limited. I preferred it to the Street Glide instantly, being so much more accommodating and sophisticated for pillions. The wow factor of the bike from the rear perspective is the seat. It's the ultimate luxury in seating, being really supportive and made photography much easier. I even got my own speakers and volume control button for the music we were bluetoothing to the bike. The majority of the day's ride was over by this point, but the run up to our hotel in Khasab was breath-taking. The camera was never out of my hands to capture the beauty of the glistening Gulf and the meandering road we were travelling along. It was a real treat. Life got even better after we'd checked in and headed for dinner. The food on offer was to die for and plentiful, being mildly spiced and ridiculously flavoursome. Getting a henna tattoo topped off what was a truly magnificent eye-opening day.
The following morning kicked off with calls to prayers. Muslims have five a day, and the first was at 5:00am. That was our cue to get out of bed and prepare for the long ride back south. We left the hotel a little before the rest of the riders because Bruce wanted to video shoot on a remote beach. Everything was so peaceful and the scenery outstanding. By 8:00am it was already 25̊C. Back on the road, Bruce and I were still on the Ultra Limited, which proved just as endearing as it had been the day before. Life on a Harley is great. So relaxing and comfortable, I was really getting the whole vibe and began to question why people wouldn't choose to ride on one?
Border crossed, we backtracked along some of the same roads we'd travelled along the day before, eventually heading easterly and towards the opposite coast. The intended destination was the desert, but not before we'd taken in loads more amazing mountain roads and gained more insight into the Dubai way of life. It is massively different to the UK, but appealing all the same. You can understand why the majority of the nation's population are ex-pats.
Lunch was a really specially occasion, held at a reservoir where an experienced rider called Theo skilfully demonstrated a big Harley's agility on a coned course. It was impressive stuff; just like the food we got served. Lamb is so popular in the Middle East, and they know how to cook it so tastefully.
We switched at this point to an attractive looking Road King. At first I felt a little sorry to see the Ultra go, but the Road King offered a completely different experience. It was a much simpler machine, being the only bike we tested without the infotainment system. I learned to like it and found it to offer the best pillion view of the road ahead, because there was no dash to obscure the view. The big screen kept the worst of the buffeting from me, although the bike did feel a bit vibey. Comfort-wise it was on a par with the Glide, which was just fine. If I hadn't have known of the Ultra then I would have considered it pretty awesome.
The ride into the desert was fascinating. It sounds daft, but it just appeared out of nowhere. Massive sand dunes consumed us from all sides, sporting all different shades of yellows, purples and reds. You have to see it to believe it. It was so tranquil and the arrival of wild camels made the experience even more memorable.
The last leg of the ride was sobering. The trip had been so mind-blowing and I was sorry to think that it had neared its end. I'd discovered so much both culturally and geographically, but perhaps most importantly I'd discovered I loved Harleys. Why would you want to tour on anything else?