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17th April 2018 by Yo-yo

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Biking glory

Elena de Quiroz,co-founder of the Abu Dhabi-based Exiles Motorcycle Club (Exiles MC), riding enthusiast and senior executive secretary with IPEDEX Production LLC

I have wanted to ride a motorbike since the time I was in high school (in the Philippines). But my family was fairly conservative and biking was strictly for boys. The first time motorbikes really caught my fancy was after I watched the movie, Easy Rider. It ignited my fascination for both motorbikes and riding. However, I was forced to make do with my bicycle; it was the closest thing I had to a bike. I have been in Abu Dhabi since 1986. In 2000, I met Martin McGuire, a mechanical engineer and activities officer with Abu Dhabi-based HOG (Harley-Davidson Owners Group).

Biking is a family passion.

Biking seems to be a shared familial passion. My daughter, Christine, 25, started learning to ride a while back, but doesn't have enough time to practise due to her work schedule. My son, Joel, 28, who is a nursing graduate in Chicago, also loves to bike.

Co-founding the Exiles MC was a life-changing event.

McGuire introduced me to HOG. I could have chosen the Black Eagles, the Desert Warriors, the Rough Riders, the Hell's Racers ... I could have even chosen to be a Free Rider (not to be a part of any biking group). Instead I chose HOG because it was the only riding club based in Abu Dhabi.

In 2001, Martin and I co-founded the Exiles Motorcycle Club (Exiles MC) with a few members. I was elected public relations officer of the Exiles MC that year and have since held that post.

The above-mentioned groups continue to be our sibling groups and often participate in our functions – charity, social or otherwise. As a member of the committee, I participate in the organisation and planning of events. It's very rewarding to see everyone enjoying themselves. It makes the time and effort that I spend worthwhile.

Exiles MC is multicultural.

We have more than 100 members. Our group is the only bike club that is open to riders of all makes of bikes. We go out on rides every week. We also organise and participate in many events throughout the year. We do charity runs, ride through the seven emirates, organise social events for our members and other motorcycle clubs around the UAE ...

Becoming a member of our club is easy. All you need to have is a motorbike licence and a 500cc bike. You have to attend at least three group rides to get used to our way of riding, get a feel of how the group functions as well as get acquainted with the other members.

I enjoy the staggered form of riding.

We ride in a staggered formation because our main concern is safety on the road. We instruct all our members to ensure that they maintain the proper distance between bikes and other motorists. During our rides, we have a designated road captain to lead the group as well as a 'sweeper' who makes sure that no one goes missing. Should there be a breakdown, the 'sweeper' will be there to provide assistance.

The Annual Seven Emirates Ride is not to be missed!

It is the best ride of the season and probably our biggest and most popular. It usually happens in February as this is the month when we get to enjoy the best weather in the year. Almost all our members try to make sure they are in town to participate in this ride.

The other motorcycle clubs join in as well. We ensure the ride is well-organised – from formation and safety on the road, rest stops, a recovery vehicle (thanks to Extreem Cycles) in case of bike breakdowns, and accommodation to spend the night. Even though most of us are certified to administer first aid, we do have a few designated "medics" in our group.

The ride takes place over two days. We start off in the morning, spend the night at a hotel to rest and socialise with the other riders and hit the road the next morning on our return leg.

We bikers are no different from motorists...

Don't go by our tough looks – leather clothes, ponytails and steel-toed boots. We are a bunch of softies! In fact what scares me about biking is the lack of respect from other motorists. They should know we don't race, we just cruise.

The Exiles MC practises road safety on every biking event, not just for our own safety but for that of other motorists as well.

Personally and as a member of the club, our charity events touch me the most. We recently donated Dh10,000 to a school for children with special needs. Clichéd as it may sound, seeing the looks on the children's faces and getting to spend some time with them means a lot. It makes us proud that we are able to help make a difference.

I'd never want a break from biking.

I see myself riding a motorcycle for as long as I can! Even if I retire to the Philippines I would still want to continue biking. Although I've only biked in the UAE, I guess our way of biking is pretty much the same wherever we go. I think the major differences would be the terrain, the views and the other motorists.

I also loved dancing. I still do.

Back in the '60s, my friends and I had a dance group. We called ourselves the Diamonds. Soul dancing used to be one of the most popular dances. We played guitars too.

I still love dancing. I use it as my form of exercise. I also love ballroom dancing and rock and roll. I am known for my dancing skills, and at biking-related parties, I am the first one asked to take the dance floor.

Preethi Janice D'Sa
Friday Magazine, Gulf News,