It has now been a few years since women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to drive for the first time. While many have taken to the streets with their cars, some have chosen to learn how to ride motorbikes to quench their thirst for greater adrenaline.
Two Saudi women, trailblazing the path for other females in the Gulf country who are interested in biking, filled Al Arabiya English in on their journey into the world of driving Harley Davidson bikes.
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Saudi bikers Nour and Wedad said that riding their Harley Davidson bikes throughout the streets of Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh has made them feel “an unexplainable sense of freedom,” as they continue to challenge euro-centric stereotypes of Saudi women.
Both Nour and Wedad, who asked to be identified by their first names, are currently the only Saudi female bikers in the Riyadh chapter of the Harley Owners Group’s ‘Ladies of Harley,’ a program sponsored by the H.O.G. to support and encourage women motorbike enthusiasts to become more active in the bikers community.
The overall number of L.O.H members ranges between 50 and 60 and there are currently 2,000 members in the Riyadh chapter with the H.O.G in Saudi Arabia being the biggest in the GCC.
For each, the passion for bikes was rooted in different circumstances.
In Nour’s case, it was her father who ingrained this desire to own and ride a bike.
“The passion for bikes started when I was five. I was raised in a house where my father is a Harley Davidson rider and I used to be his passenger for many years. So, the first person to have given me a helmet was my father,” she said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
“As soon as we were allowed to drive cars I went to my dad and told him I still love bikes and he told me if you love it [get one] and I will be your supporter.”
A ban on women driving was lifted in 2018 as part of Saudi Arabia’s road to reforms ingrained in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
With these words of encouragement, Nour then bought her bike and officially became a rider in 2019, undertaking intense training before eventually joining the H.O.G community.
As for Wedad, who is a new joiner, it was her husband who encouraged her to start training and riding a bike.
“My husband has been a biker for four years and the idea of riding a bike was nice, but I did not think of owning one. So earlier this year he surprised me with a bike,” she said. “I didn’t believe it because for me it was enjoyable to be a passenger and so when I tried riding the bike myself it was a different kind of joy.”
Wedad is still training with her husband but said she can assure one thing: “When I am driving, I feel like I am flying. You feel that you are in charge, and you are in a different world.”
She noted that her husband’s encouragement played an instrumental role in pushing her out of her comfort zone to try this new experience.
“He doesn’t make me fear this. On the contrary, he supports me,” she said, mentioning an instance when her bike turned off at the traffic light when she first started training and he calmly helped her reset things. “If he had dealt with things in a stressful manner, I would have rejected this.”
Becoming a biker did not come without its challenges for Nour, especially at the beginning when she was making a breakthrough within the community. However, with the rules placed by the H.O.G, Nour underscored that the community made her feel protected and safe as a female rider.
“I was scared at the beginning. Riding this heavy engine was a challenge. I still remember the first time I started driving on the street, my legs were shaking,” she said.
Since then, Nour has toured different destinations in Europe on her bike, carrying the flag of the Riyadh chapter and is now a road captain leading tour rides and is responsible for the team she is guiding on the streets of Riyadh.
Nevertheless, reaching this milestone was not an easy ride. Road captain candidates, she said, have to undergo intensive training and must enjoy a set of skills.
“Some members were surprised at the beginning, like how are they going to follow a woman who was leading.”
In one of her first rides as a captain, and as the team was preparing to embark on their journey, Nour recalled that initially none of the members had placed their bikes behind hers as part of the customary manner of the ride.
She said that those who were at first hesitant to do so “now want me to lead,” underscoring the support she received from the directors and other team members at the time.
Wedad also reiterated Nour’s stance on being welcomed and supported by the community, with both sending a message of encouragement to other women who want to join and become bikers.
“Those who don’t try will not know how this really feels,” Wedad said.
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