Motorcyclist Anne Al Zayani talks facing her fears and the liberation of the open road.
Anne freely admits that the first time she went on a bike she was “scared to death’. It was October 2010 and she had taken part in the Think Pink charity ride as a passenger with a good friend whose husband had cancer.
Less than 12 months later she had got her licence and bought her first bike, a Harley Davidson Sportster. Her husband feared she would be one of those people who buys a bike and just parks it in the garage but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Anne explains: “That summer, Harley Davidson had a points for mileage promotion. Between June, July and August, 2011, I clocked up 5,500km despite it being the hottest months of the year. I was crazy about it.”
Anne went on to become an active member of the Bahrain Harley Davidson committee which saw her undertaking the HOT, Harley Officers Training, course in Milwaukee, the home of the iconic brand, followed by a 10-day trip around the USA.
Anne says: “It was my first experience on a bike outside Bahrain, it was winter and very, very cold. But it was a great experience.”
These days Anne rides with Bahrain Bikers and she recently did a trip with them as the only woman in a group of 10 riders travelling 4,000km down the California coastline in the USA taking in the Grand Canyon and San Francisco. And in September she will be heading back to America for another long ride – though this time there will be other women in the group.
She says: “To be honest, when I’m on the bike in my jacket and helmet, you wouldn’t even necessarily know I’m a woman and people are sometimes surprised to find me travelling with a group of men. Culturally some people might have a problem. But the guys I ride with treat me like a princess and it’s an absolute pleasure to travel with them.”
She adds that the group travels quite a lot and a trip to Oman presented one of her most scary moments on the bike. “We were in the mountains and there was a storm coming in, the guide told us we needed to leave straight away but within five minutes there was a flood and we were riding through thigh-deep water. We had to keep going, if we’d stopped who knows when we would have got out.”
But despite the risks, Anne no longer feels afraid. She continues: “The other day I had a bit of a chuckle to myself. I had the urge to take both hands off the controls and I did it. It was just for a few seconds, but I thought to myself it was a tremendous achievement for me to have come so far. I started off scared but eventually riding becomes so comfortable that it’s second nature and you don’t even think about it, you do it naturally.”
And she would very definitely urge other ladies to take a turn in the saddle saying: “What I’d like to tell other women, particularly in this part of the world, is that it’s liberating and exhilarating. There is nothing quite like the feeling of riding fast down an open road.
“One of the best things I have found about biking is that I’ve met some amazing people along the way.”
Perhaps the final word on Anne’s two-wheeled journey should go to her 14-year-old son Ebrahim, who regularly rides as her passenger. “It’s a very cool thing to do and she’s a very cool mum.”