2 Mayıs 2013 Perşembe

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I am a Turkish guy 37 years of age. I live in Istanbul-Turkey. Turkey is between Asia and Europe and Istanbul is its biggest and most crowded city. Istanbul is around 6500 miles away from California, 1400 miles away from Paris and 1600 miles away from London. I was born in Istanbul. I have had many passions in my life, have played many sports, played musical instruments, have had many hobbies. There has been only one passion which has been a lifetime one, which sometimes faded away but suddenly came back, which I could never turn my back to. As if someone or something programmed a microchip and put it under my skin at the age of 9. It just does not let me go. Sometimes it lets me be a sleeper, but suddenly reminds itself. And passion comes back again. This passion of mine is called BMX.

I know I am not alone at all in this planet. Many years after sleeping, I realize how many old school riders woke up, started restoring their survivors or collecting the ones those they could never possess but always wanted to. It is amazing to see how iconic BMX has been, and I am only a simple proof of it - being born 6000 miles away from where freestyle was born and still being infected by this passion. There are thousands of examples like me all over the world. BMX Museum and Facebook is the largest source of evidence that people from all over the world are still into BMX no matter what their ages, religions, races or physical conditions are. Even this humble blog which I started keeping two years ago and which is only and specifically written about Old School BMX is read by people from a long list of countries of several continents.

It reminds me of the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". People from different locations suddenly start dreaming about one thing, wanting to be there and do it, they are simply obsessed. A mystic power driving them almost at the same time to the same target. A mystic power that makes these people friends and make them a member of a huge family...

Who would say I would be Facebook friends and exchange personal messages one day with Bob Haro? Who would say Rick Moliterno, Radical Rick Allison, Dave Nourie, Martin Aparijo, Woody Itson, Jose Delgado, Greg Hill, Alain Massaboa, Dave Voelker and many others those were my childhood idols would be my Facebook friends? Who would assume I would be chatting with a great and humble guy like Dominic Phipss on his book about history of freestyle bmx who is also project manager for Haro and I would be exchanging parts between a Serbian rider and a good friend Milos Mihajlovic? This is because BMX family is a humble family. Celebrities of this family are good people and they are friendly. You could be only member of a Holywood star's fan page, that's all. But BMX family members are real people and equal. To me, the magic, the mystical power is in the shared history and feelings of the riders no matter how they good were in freestyle, how famous they were or where they are from. These two wheels connected to each other with some pipes have this magic to bind anyone together who enjoyed it once in their life. I am happy and proud to witness this era and be a part of this family even from thousands of miles away and even I had no chance to have even a decent bike in my childhood. Long live BMX.

19 Ocak 2013 Cumartesi

In Pursuit of an Ancient BMX Story-Pink Haro

If you were a bmx rider in late 80'es, being in Turkey had some certain difficulties. Turkey was not still entirely open to the rest of the world, imports and exports were not a big deal and you had to pay a fortune to customs for your bikes or parts to get cleared. Although the sport was booming in mid 80'es and even had started declining by the beginning of 90'es in USA and Europe, there were maybe not more than 20 riders in Turkey in 1990 which did not make the business interesting for importers. 

Consequently everyone was trying to get a bike through a friend or relative living abroad or the ones with financially well off parents were basically ordering bikes which were reaching them in minimum 2 months' time.

I was coming from a middle income family, and had to save money for my bicycles and parts. I had a few Turkish brand bmxes with poor quality, basically made of nicely painted and welded iron water pipes. I had a Bisan Freestyle without a rotor or gyro, which was a popular bmx in Turkey at the time. Unfortunately I would like to put here a photo of a Bisan  Freestyle but although I dug deep on internet I was unsuccessful to find one. Although I contacted Bisan factory in Turkey I could not get a reply from anyone. That's another indication of lack of popularity of bmx in Turkey at the time. 

Sometimes somebody used to bring a bike from broad and sell it in parts, that day a lot of bargains used to take place. Even a single gyro cable was important (it was not available) and I remember we were fighting even over bolts and nuts, not to mention the frame&forks, stems, brake levers, etc.

Drooling on BMX Plus magazines and dreaming of having a GT or Haro one day, throughout that winter sacrificing from my lunch, I saved barely enough money to afford to buy a second hand bicycle. Sold my Bisan Freestyle and started waiting for a good opportunity to buy a second hand decent bike. Informed everyone that I had the money and any second hand GT or Haro would be welcome. 

Finally one spring day, my friend Kerim called me and said there was this Haro Sport for sale. It was one of the guys who lived on the other side of Istanbul. The bike was said to be in pink color and a weld under the seat post clamp,but honestly I did not really care about the color or the weld, so I happily accepted to buy the bike. Arrangements were made and we met in the Kadikoy port. There the bike was, 88 Sport, half pink, half chrome, haro freestyle handlebars in purple, pink GT seat post, Haro sprocket, 128 brake levers and a GT stem on it. It had the chrome frame standers on the original Haro fork which are difficult to afford now. That was love at first sight, paid the money shook hands and I sat on the white dominator seat.

The guy said he was reluctant to part the bike as it once belonged to a French ramp champion so the bike meant a lot to him. I was surprised and asked him to tell me the whole story. He said there was a bmx show in Gulhane park in Istanbul and one rider from France broke the bike under the seat post clamp on the ramp. The guy was one of the spectators in the crowd, so somehow the French rider gave (or sold I can't remember this part of the story)   the bike to him, he fixed the bike, rode for a year and then decided to sell it. What was the name of the rider I asked. Michel  he said, but he didn't know the surname... I didn't believe him much as these bikes were iconic those days and kids loved to deliver such cool stories. Anyway I recorded the story in my memory and kept it for years.

Haro Sport was probably heavier than the GT's or Mongoose's my other friends had and it had a way longer frame. But I was so happy having her, had my first wheelies, squeakers, cherry pickers and so on, and it was the coolest bike in my eyes.

I spent two summers with my Pink Haro and there I was 17, still loved my bike, but my friends were buying newer bicycles which did not have the wears and tears, no dents, dings welds and they felt free to try sickest jumps without the fear of breaking their bikes.  So I decided to sell her and buy a newer bike. That's probably something I would not even cross my mind today, but we appreciate the value of things we have after we miss them... I heard the bike was broken a few weeks after I parted it. I was still feeling so attached to her and felt deeply sorry to hear that. Then I bought my GT Aggressor which I still lovingly keep today, but my Pink Haro has always been a good memory and the cause of my today's obsession on Haro bikes.

And year 2011... 18 years after parting my Pink Haro, call it mid-life crisis or whatsoever, I started restoring my old bicycles and collecting old school bikes and started keeping this blog. Deep inside somewhere I always wondered if the French champion story was true. so I decided to investigate it...

I first asked my friend Ertan Uckumru-legendary BMX freestyler who is still riding at age of 44. He  told me that back in the time there was a French rider Michel Delgado who was said to come to Istanbul for a show. That was a good lead. Searched for Michel Delgado and came across with some BMX footage and links from oldschool bmx France. He definitely existed but there was no e-mail address so I could contact him and get the story confirmed.

I typed his name on Facebook found a few Michel Delgado's but there was no evidence any of them were veteran bmx riders. I almost gave up my search. At the time, I was searching old school riders on Facebook and adding them to my friends list. There was this guy Christophe Boul, a very talented illustrator and artist who had amazing illustrations on Bmx and other stuff. I added him up on Facebook. One day I realized he shared one of his illustrations:

An Illustration from Christoph Boul-
José DELGADO, un des 3 légendaires MBK "MAD DOGS" (Michel Delgado et Adolphe Joly)

That was it! I had eventually found the trace of the Delgados. Looked up on Boul's friends list, I found Jose Delgado. There was no sign of Michel Delgado, but Jose could be heplful! He was probably his brother and would know the story! I sent him a friend request and not long after he accepted it!

Jose DelgadoDenis LanglaisRon Wilkerson, Adolphe Joly and Martin Aparijo at Pony Park, Slagharen, Netherlands

It was a bit embarrassing and weird to come up with a strange question like that, but I could not help myself and started messaging Jose:

  • 20 Jan 2012
  • Haro Veteran
    Hi Jose,
    I am an oldschool rider from Turkey. I wonder if you and your brother Michel came to Turkey - Istanbul around 20-25 years ago. According to the myth Michel broke his Haro Sport from the seat post tube during the show and gave his bike to one of his fans in Istanbul. Can you confirm if this story is true? Because a few years later I bought that bike and they told me this was the story of the Haro Sport. If it is true do you have any pictures of the bike from those years? I spent wonderful years riding it. Thanks in advance.

3 days...No response... mmm... well, ok;

  • 23 Jan 2012

  • Haro Veteran
    hi jose do you speak english?
    • Jose Delgado
      Yes , i do speak english but i was quite busy these days ... And yes , as far as i can remenber , the story is more or less true ...
      I remenber those shows we did in gulhane park , i'm not sure about the name but it was really fun being there and meet cool people...
      I have to Check if i have some pictures from our Istanbul trip...
      Anyway , thanks for the memories...
      José .

    • 23 Jan 2012
    • Haro Veteran
      Sorry I didnt mean to push you for the answer, but thank you very much for your interesting message.
      Yes Gulhane park is the correct name-good memory. I bought the bike from the guy you or Michel gave it. I always knew it was welded from the seat post tube and rode the bike until it was almost broken again and sold it. I know regret having sold it although it was not usable anymore, therefore after years in that bike's memory I am collecting oldschool bikes. The ride with Haro Sport was wonderful and I had unforgottable memories.
      When you have time, I would very much appreciate if you can tell me more details about the story so I can mention it in my BMX blog. You can visit www.bmxveteran.blogspot.com The blog is yet only in Turkish soon I will make it also in English but you can just enjoy the pictures. I would also appreciate to have that bike's photos, that would be really precious for my memories and blog.
      Thanks in advance Jose, my regards to your family and Michel.

    One month passes but I can't resist my curiosity, and shoot another question;

    • Hi again Jose,
      Sorry for bothering you with this stupid obsession over and over but can you remember the original color of the haro sport michel broke in Istanbul?
      • 9 Mart 2012
      • Jose Delgado
        Hi , it was a black haro sport
        • Haro Veteran
          thanks man.

        Yes, that was it. Despite Jose's talkative(!) attitude, I had had the story confirmed by him. I had even learned its original color which proved the bike was painted in pink afterwards which was a surprise. I was truly satisfied but my regret had grown bigger that I had sold my Haro Sport... My next goal now is to try to find my bike. If only I could remember to whom I sold it. Yes strange but true, although I can remember many other details, I can only not remember to whom I sold my bike. I will keep searching for old photos, and try to find out to whom I sold it. I may never achieve to find it but who knows, one day you may be reading another story on this blog regarding how and where I found it...  

        28 Haziran 2012 Perşembe

        A Rescue Mission!!!

        "One year ago, if someone told me that I would be back in Libya, I wouldn't believe him...". That was exactly what I was thinking when the tyres of the aircraft touched the runway of Benghazi Airport. The weather was dry and dusty as usual when we got off the plane. When company had asked me to make a survey in our construction sites in Libya for a few days, at first I had hesitated to accept, but then thinking of the possibility to find my Haro Sport, I accepted the request and took the first plane ticket to Benghazi the day after ...

        It was surprising to see that the runway was completely repaired which was damaged by the rebels during the up-rise. The shuttle took us to the airport building and after the passport control I was picked up by one of my Libyan colleagues, Hassan. There were still some remains of the war here and there around the airport such as an anti-aircraft just after leaving the car park of the airport...

        Hassan drove me for around 160 kilometers to east, to the Green Mountains area where I had spent my 2.5 years. On the way he explained me that the place was now quiet and safe, only it would not be safe for expatriates to drive themselves especially at night time so a driver would be recommended.

        on the way to Al Beida

         It was a misty day, and rainbows were often visible.

        It was nice to pass across the Wadi Kuf through the suspended bridge again. After a stopover for a coffee break, we finally made it to Al Beida city after 2 hours.

        Wadi Kuf suspended bridge

        The city was quite and life was back to normal. There was no sign of teenagers with their AK-47s but I was pretty sure most people kept their guns after the revolution in their homes or were carrying them some place in their vehicles. Main road blocked by traditional wedding tents was another evidence to normal rhythm of life in Beida.

        Wedding Tents

        During this trip I was thinking about my Haro Sport more than any other thing in Libya but my primary mission was to see our construction site and make a status report.

        It was a very enthusiastic welcome from my friend Khalifa after 2 years. Khalifa and his brothers had looked after the site well and protected the place against thieves at all costs. Khalifa had been stabbed in the shoulder and one of his brothers was shot in the ankle by the thieves but the construction site was well preserved in general.

        Khalifa-protector of the camp

        Hangar and all the materials were in place, even our car was almost untouched. "We only turned on the motor  from time to time to avoid the battery run out" said Khalifa. The thick dust on the car was approving what he said.

        Camp Hangar

        The violent days had left their marks on our offices. There were bullet holes on the walls. One had gone through the ceiling of my colleague's room (probably fired from the hill behind) and changed direction towards his chair.

        The day was almost over, I had seen almost everything on site and it was time to go to somewhere to sleep. The surprise of the day struck me when I asked Hassan if there were any hotels working in Beida. He said I would not need one as the the house I was staying was available for me! That was wonderful news, at least there was a small chance the house was not vandalized and I would find all our belongings, most importantly my wife's shoes (!) and my Haro Sport...

        I, Osama and Adel

        The  neighborhood was quiet as usual and we met my landlord-Osama in the garden. He was a man of his word, he kept the house at it was, even had it cleaned the day before I arrived.  The garden had become a small jungle but inside the house was as I had left. Yes, that moment had come. I would now see if my Haro Sport had been given to one of Osama's naughty nephews or was it still in the living room... I slowly opened the living room door...

        Stepped inside,

        The dark living room finally showed its gift!

        There she was! Sitting there for 1.5 years waiting for me with patience...

        Free Haro Sport! Free Libya!

        My bike was as I had left, crank dismantled with a last hope of taking it with me to Turkey at the days of revolution. I quickly packed my bike and put it into the uncomfortable MTB carrying bag. The way back to Turkey would be tough as I would also be taking all my, my wife's and my parent's clothing, shoes, etc. At the end of packing, I ended up with 8 luggage, and one bike ready to depart!

        My friend Hassan took me to Benghazi Airport the next day with his pick up, and was kind enough to help me to carry the luggage to the counter where he was also able to convince the officer to let me take the plane without paying 140 kg of extra luggage which would cost around 1000 USD!!!. I must admit I like the Libyan way.

        The rest of the journey was pleasant as my wife and dad met me at the airport with a rented van which took us all the way home. My precious Haro Sport was with me now and hopefully forever...

        With two of my girls

        15 Ocak 2012 Pazar

        My Dear GT Aggressor

        Year 1990, I was at the age of fourteen . Everybody used to fall in love in spring, but all I cared was riding...At the time I had a pink Haro Sport which had a weld under the seat post clamp-the usual Haro Sport problem (story of which will be told later on). In the neighborhood Ertan had a GT Pro Freestyle Tour, and Kerim had probably something similar. And our long curly haired friend Vedat had a chrome Raleigh Super Burner bike. Those were the only freestyle bikes in the whole Asian side of Istanbul!

        1984 Raleigh Super Burner
        Vedat was the oldest member of the gang after Ertan and I would say he was the boldest rider of the team. His favorite trick was "bazooka" but in my opinion his most remarkable feature was to do peg wheelies, frame stand, bar stand and etc. in really high speeds, most of the time down hill which could hurt you badly if you fell. Vedat sold his Raleigh, saved some money and eventually ordered a nice chrome GT Pro Freestyle Tour from USA. The bike  came after an impatient waiting period. That was a big thing because not everyday a brand new bike came to the neighborhood. Aaand Vedat opened the box and guess what, it was a GT Aggressor which was released to the market only last year (and manufacturing stopped the year after)!

        1989 Kasım Ayı BMX Plus Dergisi'nden 1990 model GT Agressor reklamı 

        A strange looking bike with a welded bash guard on instead of a GT Pro Fresstyle Tour which was the most popular freestyle bike of the era, Vedat was deeply dissapointed but there was not much to do. Sending the bike back would probably mean to wait another couple of months or even never get something in return. The customs procedures were very tough and it wouldn't worth risking the bike. I remember Vedat grouching "if only they just had put a small   platform on the damn bike".

        After riding our bikes for two years I sold my Haro Sport to a guy in Fenerbahce and just after that Vedat sold his Aggressor to me. I rode the Aggressor for two summers with pleasure but with worn out tires, no gyro cables and cracked brake levers due to limited resources and mostly due to being broke. 90'es were a big fall on the popularity of BMX bikes and for me it was graduation from the high school and staring the college. We had moved to another city where there were no riders to hang out with and my Aggressor took her place in the basement...

        Year 2011... 17 years since I last rode a BMX. My sorrow for my Haro Sport which I left as P.O.W. in Libya was still fresh and I was in Istanbul. The first thing I did was to look for my Aggressor's frame&fork. Checked out my parents' basement, the small store room in our house but it was nowhere. I blamed everyone for trashing it and nobody confessed they did so. Then embarrassingly my wife found it stuck between a woodenbox and the wall in our store! (I am sure there are several old school bikes somewhere hidden like that)

        Long idle years have caused corrosion and a faded chrome...

        I contacted my friend Vedat after 20 years. He now owns a shop called MOTOSTATION on maintenance of motorcycles. It is nice to see him still attached to two wheelers. He gave me some good information on how to get rid of rust and I started working on cleaning.  

        A recommendation to those who want to clean their bikes off from rust. Although i tried three different rust removers Cif Kitchen Cleaner worked the best! Below are the pictures of Cif and SONAX cooperation after a big effort for 10 days and 1.5 hours a day:

        Yes myGT was ready for the restoration, but I was about to leave the country again for an overseas project. I left the frame&fork to my friend Hakki-owner of Kadikoy Bisiklet Evi after making the selection of parts. I really would like to put the bike together to the last screw but I had no time and I wanted myAggressor to be complete a.s.a.p. My decision was to have a combination of old school and and new school looks.

        Decals were designed in photo shop with the help of my sister in law-great artist-yoga master-art director Eren Topçu. I did not want to duplicate the original decals, my purpose to make something new from a 22 year old bike.There are still some decal designs in mind that I want to make for this bike,but this was what I could do in the short time I had.

        I sent the digitals to my restaurant manager friend Billy (Bilal Çelik) who had a friend who was printing catalogs for him. Next day the decals were in my office...

        And finally it was time to go for me. I had to leave before seeing my bike complete. I reluctantly left the country, However during its restoration I was involved and told Hakki what to do via msn and facebook.

        This period was not very important for me. At the end of the day when I returned back I was going to make my changes and fine tuning on the bike. By the way I must also say that Hakki did a great job. After 6 months of stay when I came back to Istanbul I made the fine tuning on the seat post and stem height and some brake adjustments. That was it. There are still some parts replacements that I am planning, but for the time being  I am sharing the pictures of my Aggressor's final status. Enjoy!