Meet the Hard-Riding Grit Girls – News
A UAE dirt bike group wants to create a safe space for women cyclists
It’s quiet on the Dubai-Al Ain E66 highway right next to the Al Lisali desert. With the exception of a car or truck languidly winding to or from Al Ain, all is quiet on the road that connects the two emirates.
Suddenly, the calm is shattered by the roar of a KTM SX-F 450cc four-stroke and the low, menacing growl of a Husqvarna Edition Rockstar FC 250 motorcycle.
But these aren’t your usual speed junkies to spend their weekends in the off-road riders’ favorite haunt. This is the all-female group of cyclists from the United Arab Emirates who call themselves the
Grit Girls – a group of amateur and semi-professional women who have taken the less ordinary path – mountain biking.
The group, founded in 2018, is an open community of cyclists that encourages women to experience the thrilling adrenaline rush of riding in the sand.
Every weekend, at least 20 women of all ages and backgrounds, including CEOs, gather to pursue their passion for off-road motocross and enduro riding at MX Ride Dubai, a favorite haunt of off-road bikers next to the Inflight Dubai indoor skydiving center.
Centered on determination, inclusiveness and fun, the Grit Girls are a group of sisters who say that rolling gives them a sense of release, accomplishment and joy that cannot be “explained in simple words”.
Over the weekend, Khaleej Times caught up with the group on the off-road race track. As it was summer, the women had gathered there at 4:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Martinette Van Vuuren, the founder of Grit Girls, said: “I used to go home to Australia, and when I came to Dubai almost three or four years ago, I realized that there were only two or three women who practiced this sport.
“My first race here was with a group of male runners, and as soon as I was done with that race, I was like – you know what, I don’t like this, they’re not expecting me. I decided I wanted my group of friends to do this with him,” she said.
Van Vuuren launched the Grit Girls group by hosting a “trial day” for interested women, with the support of ANB Automobiles, KTM distributors in the UAE, in 2018. She quickly launched the group by hosting more than 30 new female bikers for individual encounters. basic training.
“We have grown a lot since then and we ride a lot more in the winter. We are more than a community, we come together and forget about all the hardships we go through in our lives when we ride together,” Van Vuuren said. who is responsible for human resources and culture in a human resources technology company.
The group organizes trial days for interested riders during the winter months. “Anyone and anyone is welcome to give it a try,” she said.
Veteran riders Michelle Christie and Sandra Lazar, who are recovering from non-riding injuries, said while all women are welcome, basic balance skills are needed before riding the dunes. “You have to be able to keep your balance and you can’t ride a bike if you don’t know how to ride a bike,” she said.
A South African expat, Christie caught the horse riding bug from her daughter, who started riding aged four. “She learned to ride with her father and rode an electric bike. She rode quite often, but lost interest over time,” she said. After just one day of trying with the Grit Girls, she was hooked. “It’s fun and a great community,” she added.
Lazar, on the other hand, first discovered horse riding when she was three years old. “My dad and uncle love racing, and when I turned 40 a few years ago my husband gave me a bike, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said. The Croatian expat is the CEO of a school group in the Northern Emirates.
The women said that while there aren’t many dirt tracks to practice in the UAE, the abundance of desert sand makes it easy to learn driving skills. Italian expat Martina Mozzicato said: “I think it (the abundance of a desert) encourages the sport. It’s so easy to get out and find a seat. You don’t have to find a track, and anyone can go out and learn. This is what helps to expand our community.
“The loss of a friend was a wake-up call”
While Van Vuuren admits the sport is risky, they say the idea behind the group is to create a safe space for women who love to ride. “Security is essential for us. We’ve all had our fair share of accidents and we lost a very dear friend at the start of this year,” Van Vuuren said. Roxi Franks, a 40-year-old South African expatriate, died in a dirt bike accident in Dubai on January 2 this year.
“We never think this will happen to us, until it does. Since then, we have given paramount importance to safety. We only go on organized rides with our friends, and we do it because we love it, and we want to keep doing it for a long time,” she added.
“Especially when it comes to boots and helmets, you can’t go for cheap stuff because it protects your head,” Lazar explained.
British competitive runner and runner Faye Knowles said: “It’s the good thing about the whole community because everyone takes care of each other. If someone falls, they come back and help each other. Riding with people you feel safe with is so important.
Are women riders treated differently?
Van Vuuren said: “That (perceptions) are changing as more and more women ride. In the beginning, we had a lot of men who didn’t take us seriously, and they can be condescending, and we would almost have to prove ourselves.
British runner and competitive runner Elisha Dessurne said: “Sometimes they (the men) would be more encouraging if the guy (the runner) wasn’t good. That being said, girls act differently around a large group of men. The jokes are different and the general atmosphere is different. You can’t help isolating yourself. It’s not intentional… but the more girls you have, the easier it is to operate.
Rae Chase, another British expat, said riding with people you feel safe with is what’s important. “The men ride very fast, and if I felt safe with them, I rode with them in a group. However, it’s not about men, but about the people we ride with whom we have to trust. You need to trust who you are and trust that they understand your abilities and meet your needs. It’s not about going as fast as possible. »
Some of the women in the group have also started competing in motocross championships in the United Arab Emirates with sponsorships from major motorsport brands in the country. “It would be a lot more competitive if we had more women competing in this sport,” said Dessurne, who recently won third place in a DMX championship in Dubai.
“Horse riding is a family affair”
While many couples in the group ride together, some also take their children with them. Take the case of Marie Diab, a German expatriate: “I started riding in February 2022. The bike was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband. He gave me a different kind of roses,” she laughed.
Marie is often joined by her 20-month-old son Leo on her walks. “Although it is too risky to take him to the desert, he accompanies us on rides near our house. He has his baby carrier. We also take our dogs on the rides, ”she said .
“I love riding with the Girls Grit group. They are very welcoming and I learn a lot from them. Learning from men is difficult because they are not as patient,” Diab added.