DUBAI // Venturing into the desert in anything less than a fully loaded 4x4 was pretty much impossible – and more than a little foolhardy – until now.
An invention by three Emirati friends means people can now tackle the dunes on two wheels. The university mates have designed and built the UAE’s first electric desert bike, the Saluki.
Named after the dogs beloved by the Bedouin, they can be fitted with large tyres that allow them to tackle dunes, while also reaching up to 93kph on more stable ground, over a range of 80km.
Fahad Hareb, who designed and built the bikes with Saoud Khoory and Ali Al Madani, says the silent electric motor makes them ideal for seeing wildlife while on desert treks.
“I was riding through the desert and I saw a fox, an actual desert fox – you only hear about them,” says Mr Hareb, 33, a mechanical engineer. “I also saw a couple of desert rabbits and skinks. I’ve been coming here all my life and I’ve never seen wildlife like this.”
The friends founded eBikes UAE in March, offering five models of electric two-wheelers, from the rugged Saluki to the sportier Stealth, as well as choppers and cruise bikes that can cost up to Dh38,000.
So far 50 bikes have been sold, each built and assembled in Mr Hareb’s living room.
“It was my wife’s idea,” says the father of three. “She knows I will spend all day working on these bikes so she said I should do it at home. At least then I’m still with the kids and family.
“I use my eBike all the time now. It’s great for getting around and good exercise too if you don’t just rely on the motor, and there is no noise or air pollution.”
The eBike, which is officially classified as a bicycle so no licence is required, also has regular 18-speed gears and pedals.
“I guarantee you I can get across the city quicker on an eBike than you could in your car or motorcycle,” says Mr Hareb. “I don’t have to stop for traffic lights, I can just hop on to the side walk.”
The bikes have been displayed at outdoor sports exhibitions including the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition, or Adihex, and the Xtreme Sports Expo in Dubai.
“We had more than 60 people try out the bikes at the Xtreme Sports Expo. They all loved it and we got nothing but great reviews,” says Mr Hareb.
“As soon as we tell them it’s made in the UAE they stop being interested in the other bikes.
“We met a guy at Adihex who was raving about it. He said he could keep up with the horses he trains without spooking them.”
The Saluki runs on the same batteries Tesla uses in its cars. Mr Hareb says battery technology has come a long way.
“We are always improving the design of the bikes. New battery technology is coming out every day and we are trying to stay up to date with it and offer upgrades to all out clients.”
eBikes UAE have designed a special prototype they plan to present to Dubai Police.
“The bike is ready, we are just waiting for the police lights to arrive,” says Mr Hareb. “It’s designed for patrolling crowded areas where a car or motorcycle wouldn’t be able to go, like JBR on the weekend.”
For more information, go to eBikesUAE.com.