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Old 24th August 2016, 18:02   #16
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

Big toys for sand boys

Embarking on a desert adventure in a four by four is a rite of passage for many Gulf residents, but aspiring dune bashers would do well to take a word of advice from the experts. Jeff Keegan reports

Thirty Nine years old Shahid Ahmad has seen it all before. Wide-eyed expat with a spanking new four-wheel drive hits the desert with all the enthusiasm of a round-the-world explorer. Then he gets stuck.

In the worse case scenario, the unprepared dune basher puts more than just the mechanics of his vehicle at risk. The desert landscape is a hostile environment. Taming it might be fun, but it also requires commonsense and preparation.

Based in Dubai for the last 15 years, Ahmad is as at home in the desert as he is in the office of the local FMCG Logistics company he works for. His first off road adventure was at the age of 12 in India, and driving vehicles through rugged terrain has been a passion ever since.

“For me, it started driving hunting vehicles on my family’s land on the banks of the Ganges. During the dry season, we’d go into the river sand beds following the animals – dear, antelope, partridges. That’s where I learned the basics, including how to repair a vehicle. But it wasn’t just about hunting. We’d also bring medicine for the local villagers; we’d take something from the land when hunting but also give something back. I’ve always been an enthusiast for nature. I’ve lived in the Himalayas as a boy, at school in Dehradoon, surrounded by nature. So when I came to Dubai, it made sense to start driving in the desert, and it was a good way to make friends.”

An engineering and management graduate, Ahmad, an ex royal from the Indian state of Bihar sees the Dubai expat urge to explore the great outdoors in a four-wheel drive as a natural progression. The big boy’s answer to a Louis Vitton bag, the fancy off-road vehicle is a status symbol many successful professionals find hard to resist.

While the trend in Europe and other countries is to buy a sports car to display one’s growing cachet, here in Dubai, it is a trip to the four by four showroom. The heavy-duty tyres and four-litre engine provide that extra muscle for shopping trips to Wafi City. And even if you intend never to take your Nissan Patrol further than the tarmac of Sheikh Zayed Road, its elevated driver’s position is great for looking down on all those poor people shuttling around in their Toyota Corollas.

Says Ahmad, “With a four by four, people think they’ve arrived. It’s a prestige thing. They’re aspiring to be like the National drivers. Everybody’s going for it.”

Sarcasm aside, the bug for off roading may reflect superficial instincts but it’s bitten many people hard. Ahmad estimates that there are 70,000 Asian and European families in Dubai and Sharjah alone with a four-wheel drive brooding in the covered parking. But he offers a word of caution to the UAE’s growing band of Wilfred Thesinger wannabes.

“Everyone wants to go into the desert, but it’s not easy. You can get lost after driving just three kilometres in the sand, and there have been cases of people getting stranded after driving just 500 metres.”

And then there are the creepy crawlies. Poisonous snakes and scorpions lurk in the vegetation, making sealed tents a necessity for camping. But with a little homework and sensible investment in one of the many excellent off-road driving courses available, every four by four owner can enjoy a desert adventure in the UAE to its fullest.

Desert driving is a chance to see the country in a different light, its diversity beyond the rapidly growing cityscapes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The surprising variety of wildlife on view is a major attraction. Gazelles, oryx, rabbits and desert foxes abound, and there is even the remote chance of sighting an Arabian leopard, though Ahmad claims he is one of the few people he knows to have seen one.

A friend from Orient Tours taught Ahmad the essentials of dune driving, and nowadays he spends weekends taking large parties of enthusiasts into the desert on fun drives. The round trip to Al Ain, Hatta and back to Dubai, known as the Golden Triangle, is one of his favourite routes, along with trips into the Liwa desert in Abu Dhabi emirate for those demanding a greater challenge.

Desert driving is still a hobby for Ahmad, but talking to him you get the impression it could just as easily be his livelihood. “My groups can vary in size from 25 to 250, and we often do overnight trips. I do team building exercises for offices. We teach them driving techniques and navigation. The aim is to make sure everyone finishes the route and gets a real sense of achievement. Anyone can get stuck, but we carry all the equipment, and no matter where you head in the UAE, you’re never far from civilization!”

An experienced guide, a GPS and mobile phone, or better still, a satellite phone, are the basic requirements for off road beginners. Arabian Adventures offers courses in driving techniques and safety procedures, and a wealth of local clubs design routes guaranteed to suite your capabilities on the dunes.

The next step for the more determined off road aficionado is buying one of the many fancy vehicle upgrades available. Expenditure can range from AED2,000 to AED80,000, and Ahmad’s shopping list includes higher bumpers for greater ground clearance, special Toyo tyres, halogen lamps, bull bars, a winch (for all those rescue chores), engine and manifold changes to burn more fuel, platinum spark plugs to also increase performance, transmission and radiator modifications, and a snorkel linked to the air intake system to prevent water and sand getting into the engine. The ultimate big boys toy, of course, is a turbo charger, which is guaranteed to attract the girls but also expensive and liable to destroy the engine if misused.

Buying the right four by four in the first place will obviously minimise the expenditure on costly bells and whistles. Ahmad drives a Toyota Prado and a Land Cruiser. He also recommends the Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Pajero, Suzuki XS-7, Jimmy and Vitara, and the Jeep Wrangler. American SUVs, according to Ahmad, tend to be too heavy off road, while mechanical headaches are the downfall of the Land Rover Discovery. But regardless of your choice of wheels, a fulfilling life of off road adventure awaits the sensible driver.

Says Ahmad, “The best time to be off road is right now, from October to March. In the summer, the ambient sand temperature can be as high as 60 degrees Centigrade, so venturing into that is madness if you’re unprepared. But it’s still possible, with the right technology. Nobody has crossed from the Empty Quarter in Abu Dhabi to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. That’s 2,000 kilometres, harder then scaling Everest. You’re up against massive dunes, sand storms, shifting sands. But it can be done.”

Shahid Ahmad can be reached at ahmadshd@emirates.net.ae
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Old 19th October 2016, 18:25   #17
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

Shahid Sb, any relations with Ahmad Parvez in Dubai? From ME offroaders and now Dubai offroaders?

Last edited by Aditya : 22nd October 2016 at 08:06. Reason: Deleting quoted text - not needed
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Old 21st October 2016, 19:48   #18
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Originally Posted by desertfox View Post
Big toys for sand boys

Embarking on a desert adventure in a four by four is a rite of passage for many Gulf residents, but aspiring dune bashers would do well to take a word of advice from the experts. Jeff Keegan reports
the

Reminds me of my time in Dubai

Every weekend after dune bashing, Air Filter had to be blown clear. Yet a little of Sand that finds way pass the Filter does a good massage of the Cylinder / Piston and in no time, the Exhaust turns blackish indicating that Engine needs care. Cameras capturing the moments of Sand Shower while pushing vehicles out of Sand are a part of History.

But when reading Pros and Cons, Fun always outweigh the losses.

Socially, you become friendly with most of the Mechanics and the inner of Garages.

Fond remembrances now !!!
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Old 19th December 2016, 19:40   #19
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

Experienced all the feelings and blowbacks mentioned in the thread courtesy the Weekend Off Road trips. Add the Force-Bachelorhood status, it becomes woeful! However, the fun-factor has no bounds. Moreover, the addition of likeminded enthusiasts, and new friends is continual!
CBM (Confidence Buliding Measure) is a great after effect!
As if the weekends werent enough, we started doing it at nights after work!!! Night Offroading to nearby sand and rock quarries!!! It was risky as we realised later, not due to terrain, but the possible presence of the mafia!

Last edited by Unavowed_X9 : 19th December 2016 at 19:43.
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Old 26th December 2016, 18:35   #20
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

Possibly this question is offtrack slightly but how does the convoy communicate with each other in a offroad drive? Do you use walkie talkies and is this allowed?
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Old 20th February 2017, 16:04   #21
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

I hope this is not off topic but are there any spots around Pune to go for mild off-roading? I have recently bought a Thar and would like to expose her to some mud. No fancy stuff like the experts but just to have some fun in 4X4 mode.
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Old 21st February 2017, 10:22   #22
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Originally Posted by Tejas@perioimpl View Post
This is the first time i've heard about people being against weekend offroading.

Some other disadvantages of weekend offroading include (in jest):

- the weekdays are spent online ordering stuff for the weekend jaunts
Due to other work I could not order on Aliexpress for a full month. Withdrawal pangs set in.

- expenses rise: from the occasional weekend warrior you want to improve the offroad capabilities of the car and soon you buy offroad tyres, lift kits, winches, etc
Unfortunately SWMBO, who doubles up as CFO, has locked down all funds. So some hectic negotiations lie ahead.

- every time you are out with your family on a drive, you look at a field adjacent to the road and comment to your wife, i wish i had my jeep now, i could have easily done this obstacle and soon your wife gets bored of the this same conversation and soon starts identifying offroad obstacles herself (advantage maybe?)
Fortunately my wife has got bitten by the bug. So she proactively searches for trails and likely spots on Google maps.

- your friends start avoiding you because all you can now talk is offroading
They all think I am mad. And doing it at my age!! But I am slowly getting them infected with the bad-roading bug.
Pros & Cons of weekend offroading-img_20170219_090149.jpg
At the end of it all the beautiful views make it all worthwhile.
Pros & Cons of weekend offroading-varasgaon-lake_compressed.jpg

The friendships formed during these jaunts is really amazing.
Pros & Cons of weekend offroading-gv-owners-what-view_compressed.jpg


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Originally Posted by Ford_d_Kool View Post
I hope this is not off topic but are there any spots around Pune to go for mild off-roading? I have recently bought a Thar and would like to expose her to some mud. No fancy stuff like the experts but just to have some fun in 4X4 mode.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ex...shet-lake.html (2 Grand Vitaras go offroading - At Panshet Lake)
A moderately difficult piece. But you will need to have a backup vehicle.

Actually there are a lot of spots around the lakes in Pune. You need to keep your eyes open.
Road to Slope Of Hell is another good trail.
PM me your contact nos. You could join in on our outings.
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Old 21st February 2017, 12:51   #23
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Actually there are a lot of spots around the lakes in Pune. You need to keep your eyes open.
Road to Slope Of Hell is another good trail.
PM me your contact nos. You could join in on our outings.
Do ping us also for your SUV drives. Would love to come along.

We had done the slopes of hell way back in 2010 and just reading that thread again got back a lot of memories!

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ex...-rajmachi.html (22nd august OTR lonavala and slopes of hell(rajmachi) !)
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Old 22nd February 2017, 10:04   #24
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Originally Posted by Tejas@perioimpl View Post
Do ping us also for your SUV drives. Would love to come along.

We had done the slopes of hell way back in 2010 and just reading that thread again got back a lot of memories!

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ex...-rajmachi.html (22nd august OTR lonavala and slopes of hell(rajmachi) !)
I will definitely keep you in the loop for our next off-road. It looks like the next outing will be after the school exams.

We have a very enthusiastic group of 5 Grand Vitaras owners, but attendance at actual events is patchy.

3 of us had done the Slopes of Hell trail in January. We did not do the final climb to the plateau as we were told that the trail is now blocked by a landslide. Also the ladies refused to have their "sautens" subjected to further scratches.
Hopefully the block will be cleared by the monsoons.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/long-t...ml#post4134371

Our group has a mix of experience levels. There are 2 of us who have done some tricky trails. And some who have still to experience a low range climb.

I am searching for some suitable spots that could cater to all of us.
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Old 22nd February 2017, 17:11   #25
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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3 of us had done the Slopes of Hell trail in January. We did not do the final climb to the plateau as we were told that the trail is now blocked by a landslide.
Though trail is not blocked by landslide but last long incline ends at huge potholes with big boulders which might hit GVs bumper. Also stopping at that point means loosing traction. Did it few weeks back in two boleros though......

Regards,
Shubhendra
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Old 15th March 2017, 02:18   #26
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Default Thar vs Scorpio vs Storme vs Bolero vs Duster vs Gypsy

Posting a video of an obstacle attempted by several 4WD/AWD vehicles and a 2WD. Please note that this is not a hardcore off-road scenario. It is evident from the video that tyres played an important role as did ground clearance.
An Ecosport, a Brezza and an AWD XUV were also there but could not cross the obstacle due to lesser approach angle compared to the others. The front bumpers all these vehicles were hitting the first hump and we could not take the risk of damaging them.

The Scorpio with Continental Cross Contact AT tyres fared much better than those with stock Bridgestone Dueler HT tyres.

The 2WD Bolero finally made it after placing rubber mats behind the rear wheels but unfortunately I do not have the video.


Last edited by bblost : 15th March 2017 at 14:41. Reason: as requested
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Old 25th May 2017, 19:13   #27
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Though trail is not blocked by landslide but last long incline ends at huge potholes with big boulders which might hit GVs bumper. Also stopping at that point means loosing traction. Did it few weeks back in two boleros though......

Regards,
Shubhendra
Hello Shubhendra,

Is that route to slopes of hell still accessible via Bolero? I thought its so narrowed due to slide that only two wheelers can pass?
If that is still accessible via a 4x4 the its on my wishlist.


Thanks Sumitro da for this thread. The weekend offroading did teach me many things about usage of 4wd Low vs High range and cleared many of the misconceptions I had earlier.

Also with change in AT tyres, I can now do some stuff in 2wd which I had to do in 4H earlier in stock OEM tyres.


Planning for a nice weekend drive to slopes of hell (kamshet)


Thanks & Regards,
Raviraj

Last edited by offroad_maniac : 25th May 2017 at 19:20.
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Old 24th June 2017, 06:44   #28
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Possibly this question is offtrack slightly but how does the convoy communicate with each other in a offroad drive? Do you use walkie talkies and is this allowed?

Apologies for delayed response

In Dubai, we used Walkie Talkie, although the state telecommunication provider Etisalat, now boasts of Cellphone coverage at every nook and corner of the country.

Another mode was to keep an eye on the Vehicle following yours. If that Vehicle stops, you stop too and in chain the vehicle ahead of your vehicle stops too.
This way without even communicating, the entire convoy would halt at safe distances to probe the issue.
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Old 20th September 2017, 16:14   #29
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Personally, I do everything except drive through water - absolutely hate it. Water kills a long list of components (starter, alternator etc.) and is a sure shot way to rusting!
Even though the warning was there, could not stop myself from venturing into deep water as it was so enticing and the starter went kaput in my Bolero.
Strange thing is that it started giving trouble almost after a month from the offroad session. The vehicle is more than 5 years old, so can it be a failure due to regular wear and tear or was it due to water splashing? There was no warning before the failure. Good thing is that it was quite cheap to repair. Is there any way to waterproof the self-starter?

A video of the water crossing to give an idea -
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Old 20th September 2017, 16:25   #30
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Default Re: Pros & Cons of weekend offroading

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Even though the warning was there, could not stop myself from venturing into deep water as it was so enticing and the starter went kaput in my Bolero.
Strange thing is that it started giving trouble almost after a month from the offroad session. The vehicle is more than 5 years old, so can it be a failure due to regular wear and tear or was it due to water splashing? There was no warning before the failure. Good thing is that it was quite cheap to repair.
This is the worst problem I face. Water eating up starting motors. Yes, they won't immediately show problems, but gradually over a week or two. Dirt enters the starting motor and eats up the brushes and bushes. That's how water is an enemy. If it's crystal clear water, I guess starting motor will survive longer.
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Is there any way to waterproof the self-starter?
Depends on the type of starter. The Di Turbo starter can't IIRC.
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