November 2010. More than a year ago... I was in charge as project manager for a construction site in Libya at the time. As known by those who spent a part of their lives in Libya, social life is quite limited for expatriates. Especially sports activities are not really interesting if you are living in the Green Mountains which is the eastern part. Only sports activity I witnessed was some table tennis in confined spaces full of heavy smokers and football games in artificial turf. Not to mention BMX, I probably saw not more than 3 bicycles in the 24 months I spent in the country. Actually that was quite normal because it was quite possible to be sent to bicycle hell by a 14 year old driver driving like a lunatic! Under the circumstances cycling was one of the things I missed most-especially BMX became such a desire after 20 years being away from it. So I started surfing through the net to update myself and see who were riding, what were the new BMXs like, etc.
It was quite a shock to see how things changed dramatically in these 20 years… Bikes of our times with platforms, chrome-powdered colors and special shape of frames are totally out of date now which are called “old school”. Back in 20 years ago I was able to tell the brand, model and even the year of the bike only by looking at the frame but now bikes look very similar to me and if there is no decal on them I wouldn’t be able to tell what brand they are. Now they also manufacture specific bikes for specific disciplines like vert, dirt, flatland and street. I remember trying a bit of everything from these disciplines with the same bike!
|Old School v.s. New School|
Also the parts dimensions changed, therefore parts of old school bikes are no longer usable for the new bikes, moreover our old school bikes are now exhibited in BMX Museum or Vintage BMX. This gave me the feeling that now I also belong to a museum!!!
|A BMX from BMX Museum|
As much as I don’t like the new school bikes, from the videos I watch now I am sure these bikes are extremely light and comfortable to ride. Young generation riders are doing incredible tricks. Since I was never a superb talented freestyler, and since I know my body will not handle many tricks, these new tricks really don’t bother me at all. I mean I wouldn’t really be disappointed with myself if I couldn’t make a double back flip into a tail whip before landing. Well anyways, it is great to see BMX is not dead and a lot of young and talented people are riding in Turkey. Yes let’s continue with our first BMX story…
|2006 Retro Haro Sport|
I literally fell in love when I saw during internet surfing that in 2006 they made a limited number of retro version bikes of 1988 Haro Sport. I had to buy one! First contacted with Hakki-founder of HKK BMX Team and owner of Kadıköy Bisiklet Evi.
His answer was that it wouldn’t be possible to find one in Turkey, the only option was to import one from abroad. My dear friend-a 41 year old rider Ertan (a.k.a. Martin Aparijo) confirmed the information so I went to e-bay straight away.
There is no address or postal system in Libya so I had no chance to order the bike to Libya. Then I decided to check e-bay.uk. The company that I was working for was a British company and I would be heading to UK for a meeting after about a month. Who knew, maybe I could organize in a way that I could collect a second hand bike in UK and bring to Libya. My stay was going to be a short one and the a few bikes I could find on the net their owners were not posting the bikes. After some time of search I finally found Robert Flann’s-a former British freestyler’s ad who was parting his son’s 2006 retro Haro Sport to make some more space for the new coming baby. He was living very close to our head office and he accepted to bring the bike to the hotel I was going to stay. But… I had a small problem. I had cancelled all my credit cards before coming to Libya and pay pal was not accepting my debit card. Numerous exchanged messages but Rob did not accept to give his bank details phone number or anything due to risk of digital theft. I even remember asking him to stop the auction and hold the bike for a few weeks and I would pay 100 pounds extra when I went there but he refused again. As a result I lost my hopes. Just one weekbefore flying to UK I checked the bike on e-bay and it wasn’t sold! With a last drop of hopes and sent a last message. His reply contained his phone number telling me to send an sms when I was in UK and the bike would be mine! I was happy as a child. But next question arose, how would I be carrying the bike?
Google again, keywords bike carrying bags etc. and I realize that now almost everything are for MTBs. Quite frustrating. I found a nice Chinese BMX bag, which was available neither in Turkey nor in UK.
Only possibility was SCOTT’s gigantic MTB bag and was available in Ankara. My accountant’s dad was working in Ankara and he was kind enough to buy it for me and airfreight it to Libya after a couple of phone calls and money transfer.
The day after I received the bag, I flew to UK. Had a meeting in early hours but honestly my mind was occupied with the bike, not at all with the project costs, budgets, and progress of the works. I secretly sent an SMS to Rob under the table. When he replied telling me that he would bring the bike at 18:00 to the hotel I slightly hopped on the chair with the feeling of victory!
Rob came with his cousin to the lobby with the bike at 18:00 sharp. It was in mint condition! Had a couple of beers and he told me about freestyling in UK 20-25 years ago and I told a few things about Turkey. He admitted that he was quite confused to receive a message from a Turkish guy from Libya and he suspected it was a fraudulent act attempt. We laughed about the strange purchase conditions. His son almost never used the bike and he was going to build a Skyway Streetbeat which was laying in attick for some time. With the comfort of leaving the Haro Sport into good hands Robert left the hotel and I was alone with my new bike.
|White Horse Hotel-Dorking|
Now it was time to dismantle the bike to put it inside the bag. Allen keys and the wrench I brought with me helped a lot to dismantle the 3 piece crank, sprocket and the wheels. Fortunately I was wise enough to ask Rob to dismantle the pegs for me and bring them separately. It was almost 8 o’clock in the evening and I still had no plan how to avoid scratches on the bike. I rushed out of the hotel and the answer was just across the street-an All Sorts Shop!
|All Sorts Shop Across White Horse Hotel|
I was happy like a treasure finder when I saw the bubble wrap rolls among plastic buckets pots, glasses and other stuff which I had no idea what they were for. I also bought a box cutter, scissors and some tape.
Packed the bike as seen in the pictures. Now my Haro Sport was ready to fly to Libya...
After a 5 hours flight, problems with the oversized bag not fitting into X-Ray, Libyan officials’ treatment to the bike as a nuclear weapon and difficult handling of the bag, 2.5 hours of driving I finally came to my house in the Green Mountains. My wife had a big surprise when she saw the bike since I carried out the whole operation at utmost secrecy. But I will give that to her; she is quite understanding and tolerant to my strange hobbies…
Without losing a second I started putting the bike together. It felt a bit smaller and heavier than my old Haro Sport which I rode 20 years ago. Or was I much bigger and heavier compared to 20 years ago? Which one do you think? :)
Long rainy days followed the day I brought the bike home. There was no sun at all and I wasn’t able to ride my bike. Busy construction schedule and entertaining my parents who came to visit us in Libya did not let me ride the bike except for one sunny day spent in the garage trying some old tricks.
The day of 16th February, fierce demonstrations started in Libya against the government. I halted the works in construction site and told everyone not to go out just in case. We heard a couple of gun shots and some squeals which did not sound too bad. When next day we heard that 10 people were killed on the streets, we came to the conclusion that we should leave the country. Although we wanted that, the nearest international airport was 2 hours to the west and nobody accepted to take us there because of the road blocks, armed forces and shootouts. But we had to leave the country with my 11 months old daughter, wife, father mother and aunt and 70 staff and workers.
Days followed days, shootouts became nearer and constant. Fortunately we were wise to store water and food enough for a few weeks. We were afraid to stand up in the house against the risk of being hit by bullets. It was time to take a decision. If were not able to head west to Benghazi , then we would have to head to east, the Egypt border which was 500 km away. We found some drivers who accepted to take us by small buses. We were going to head to the border with a convoy of 7 small buses and an escort with armed men. We were short of money and short of room so I allowed everybody to take only a small bag each. This was especially applicable for me as I had to be an example for the others. My wife was not happy at all for leaving her shoes collection behind but I was deeply saddened to leave my Haro Sport…You can replace the shoes but not the old school bikes.
And I parted my Haro Sport the night before we left the house. I whispered to her bar;” I will be back for you” Maybe I would never come back to this country who knows. Her chance of being taken by good hands who would appreciate her was almost none. I had my last picture taken with her and next morning we hit the road…
Taking shelter in a restaurant for two days by armed men with bazookas on the way with the expectation of being collected by ferries sent by the Turkish government, seeing the ferry from a few miles away and changing hr route to Benghazi, losing hopes and then again hitting the road to Egypt, another 24 hours of waiting on the border for procedures and then being collected by Turkish embassy officials, being taken to Alexandria by buses and a flight to Istanbul by evacuation planes. We were finally home.
Despite the ones we left behind, we were now safe...
Coming soon: A rescue operation...