So, this is what the world’s most expensive bicycle looks like. Colourful. Covered in blue, pink and orange splodges like it had been left in the corner of Jackson Pollock’s studio and accidentally became one of his works.
It’s standing, right now, in a squat building on the Dubai shoreline. The city’s media are looking at it. They are photographing it. Even though it’s stationary, some are filming it.
This bike is worth a whopping Dh7 million and is to be auctioned off in the city this month.
There is a hushed silence as the ranks of reporters pay respects to it. Which means it’s sort of awkward when someone whispers a little too loudly, “I thought the world’s most expensive bike might be diamond-encrusted or something.”
The Dh7 million bike has no diamonds. It doesn’t have a gold-plated frame. There’s no rocket-powered engine ready to kick in when you start pedalling. It doesn’t even come with a water bottle or a crash helmet. Which, let’s be honest, are essentials in Dubai.
The world’s most expensive bike – the Cosmic Star-Cruiser Artbike to give it its full title – is, rather, a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind, luxury piece of concept art created by Jack Armstrong, the internationally renowned one-time protégé of Andy Warhol. It is a regular bike in every way but it’s is also, despite its lack of jewels, astonishingly beautiful.
Imagine riding that around, someone breathes.
“Oh no,” says Anna Ouroumian, the Lebanese-born president of the Academy of Business Leadership who has brought the two-wheeler to Dubai. “You can’t ride it. It’s not for that. We’re not even allowed to roll it. We have to carry this bike everywhere.” Welcome to the world of the super-rich playboy. That bike is just one of roughly 100 luxury items set to go on show at a new exhibition called – appropriately – Big Boys Toys in the UAE this weekend.
Super-fast motorbikes, super-long limos, super-exclusive computers and super-stunning watches will be among the gadgets, gizmos, vehicles and artworks on show during the three-day event at Skydive Dubai, Palm Jumeira.
Look to your right and see an off-road buggy capable of accelerating from 0-100kmh in three seconds. Look to your left and witness what appears to be a robot having what appears to be a conversation with someone who appears to be interested in buying it. And look in the water and – perhaps for the playboy who has all his land-based wants taken care of – admire a personal submarine. Yours for as little as Dh50 million.
Mind you, prices at Big Boys Toys aren’t always discussed. It’s the kind of gear that if you have to ask the cost, you probably can’t afford it, Sir. One of the highlights last year was nothing less than a fully operational vehicle, worth an estimated Dh1 million, that mirrored those in the futurist movie Tron.
Yet tickets to the three-day exhibition – running from today, October 3, to Sunday and organised by Dubai events company Artaaj – are relatively cheap. Some residents can look and touch (and perhaps dream about owning) these items for just Dh100 for the day.
“Big Boys Toys gives people the opportunity to witness today’s most extraordinary innovations and allows people to experience and feel such products right here in Dubai,” says exhibition director Atif Malik at a preview launch where a handful of those products are on show.
“The fifth Big Boys Toys in the UAE brings together more than 100 exhibitors from various countries including America, Europe, the Far East and Middle East.
“The show is set to draw interest from around the world and is expected to attract some 40,000 visitors from all over the globe.”
It’s perhaps little wonder it’s so popular. The exhibits on show today are the sort of man-stuff that would give Jeremy Clarkson palpitations.
Take that bicycle. It might have an opening price at auction comparable to a small island (and, yes, it might look, to a cynic, like something knocked up for a school art project by a kid) but that price tag is something of a bargain, according to experts.
“Previous Jack Armstrong works have sold for Dh22 million. A Harley-Davidson he painted in 2010 became the world’s most expensive motorbike when it was snapped up for Dh11 million.
“We project that the Cosmic Star-Cruiser will sell for up to Dh55 million within a few years, much like Andy Warhol’s works,” says Ouroumian.
“So this makes the Dh7 million sound cheap.” Erm… quite.
An altogether different two-wheeler also on show is the world’s most powerful mass-produced motorbike, the Triumph Rocket III. “How fast can it go?” ponders Jay Lawrence, manager of the Duseja Moto showroom in Al Barsha. “On Shaikh Zayed Road, no more than 120kph, officer. But if you opened it up somewhere it was legal to do more, you’re looking at 200kph comfortably.
“But the beautiful thing about this bike is that, for all its power – and the 2,300cc engine is the biggest standard produced engine in the world – for all that, it is still a bike. It’s not a car on two wheels. It’s a lovely ride, easy to handle. I always tell people it’s the opposite of Dr Who’s Tardis. It looks huge but when you climb on, it fits lovely and snug around your body.”
At Dh85,000, it doesn’t – as you would expect of something exhibited at Big Boys Toys – come cheap. But then Triumph is a motorcycle make that has been favoured by the likes of Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood and Brad Pitt. “So it has pedigree,” says Jay.
At present there are only about 30 people in the UAE who own a Rocket III. And that doesn’t, as it goes, include Jay himself. “But I have one at the showroom I can ride whenever I want,” he says. “How often is that? Well, look how beautiful it is. It’s not quite every night but let’s just say it’s pretty often.”
For the gent who prefers his toys to come with four wheels the Rage Comet may be more his cup of fuel.
That’s the off-road buggy capable of doing 0-100 kph in just over three seconds. To put that in context for non-petrolheads, a Formula 1 car can only achieve that speed in a little shy of two seconds. “In fact,” says Robert Flenley, dealer with Rage Motorsport, based in Motor City, “this is what a Formula 1 driver might take out if he wanted to have some off-road fun.
“Colin McRae [the famed world rally champion] said it was the most fun you can have on four wheels and he knew a thing or two about these things.”
This exhibition will be the first time the Rage – top speed 190kph, four-way suspension, built from seamless steel to exceed international safety standards – has been shown off in the Middle East. It comes in at Dh200,000.
“But I’m confident people will like it,” says Robert, who moved from the UK last year to set up his rally buggy company. “Previously, I used to be a Ferrari dealer and this is the vehicle those guys would drive in their spare time. They absolutely loved them.
“The handling is so good and the gravity so low it allows you to hit speeds you never could in other all-terrain vehicles.”
He asks a small group of onlookers – all male – if they’d like to take it out to the desert for a spin. There’s not a hand that doesn’t shoot up.
If even four wheels isn’t enough, however, perhaps Sir would prefer the Mercedes Benz G63 – an 18-seater limousine with built-in Wifi, TV, Bluetooth, iPod connection, privacy divider, leather interior, strobe lighting, lasers and sound system.
Today, it’s 40 degrees outside but the inside of this vehicle, it might be said, is cool in every sense of the word. The pièce de résistance, according to our guide at least, is its ice storage and glasses. Proof, perhaps, that no matter how technology advances, your average human being will always be left in wonderment by a car with somewhere cold to put the drinks.
But perhaps one of the real show stealers at this preview event is the VGo. What’s that? It’s the aforementioned sort-of-robot: a next-generation audio-visual communication system that makes Skype look positively 19th century.
It stands 152cm high, has wheels at its base and a screen and camera up top. Users from anywhere in the world can log into it through a tablet computer and take control of the machine. They can then see through its camera and move it about via its wheels, with their face on screen.
“So to put it simply,” says Dunsten Sebastian, of AP Medical Innovations, which is to distribute the American-manafactured product in the UAE, “a VGo not only gives you the ability to speak face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world, it also gives you the ability to look and move around that room with the person.
“The potential uses for something like this – in health, education, business and the home – are huge.”
Ali A Hashemi agrees. He’s the director of Amana Healthcare, which runs an 80-bed hospital in Al Ain – and he’s already introduced five of the VGos there. “They’re incredible pieces of kit,” he enthuses. “I recently spent a couple of months in the US but I couldn’t afford to be away from the hospital for that long.
“By logging into the VGo I could walk around the hospital every day, talk to the staff, have meetings.”
He pauses for a minute.
“The only problem at the moment is it doesn’t go up or down steps – but that’s no issue really.
“We actually had an Emirati patient in hospital in England recently. The doctors felt he should be transferred here but he wasn’t so sure. He’d never been to our hospital. He didn’t know the staff. He wasn’t convinced our care would be as good as he was already getting. So we logged him into the VGo, and he could take a look around himself. He spoke to us, saw the facility and eventually he said ‘OK, I’ll go’.”
They’ve also had leading American surgeons use it to look at patients in the hospital; and had families visit patients remotely through it.
But the machine has more applications than just in health care.
“There’s hardly a business that couldn’t benefit from one,” says Ali. “Schools could have guest teachers, project managers could visit sites. You could have a managing director who had five different meetings in five different countries and he could attend – and have a mobile presence at – all of them. If you’re a businessman who spends three weeks out the month away from the family, having one of these in the home would be ideal.”
A guest mentions his wife lives in the UK. “With this,” notes Ali, “she could keep an eye on you.”
Starting at just Dh35,000, it’s also one of the more affordable things set to go on show at Big Boys Toys.
For now, though, the preview is starting to wrap up.
Organiser Malik is speaking again. “Skydive Dubai is going to be an amazing venue for Big Boys Toys,” he says, glancing around.
And, looking at this little stretch of coast, it’s difficult to disagree.
When the supercars, the submarines, the Swiss-made watches, and the jet skis join the buggies, the limo, the bikes, and the robots, it’s going to be little short of a big boy’s playground.