Sunday, December 20, 2015

Breaking Limits: From Lagos to Europe and Back on a Bike

Ogbonnaya Kanu is a biker. He is the kind of biker that rides from Lagos to Europe and back, in a total of 36 days and says: “been there, done that. Where next?”
His most recent trip is a 21-day road trip from South Africa to Lagos.  It is not an act ofdaredevilry, he tells me, it is about breaking limits. Discovering what hasn’t been attempted and doing it. He has been riding for 11 years and is a member of the Iron Butt Association (The Toughest Bikers in the World).
The aim is not to suffer through the process; he says: “I do not ride through deserts. There are people living everywhere. There are roads everywhere; you just find the route that serves your purpose”.
So he rides on roads and finds his way with the help of his map and on some nights sleeps in hotels. He has had issues with his bike sometimes and at times would wonder if his rear tyre would make it back to Nigeria, intact. There have been moments when the cloud hid the sun in its bosom, flung darkness over the earth and with it rain; but he had his rain gear. On cold, very cold days, his insulating air shell beneath his riding jacket would help.
Once, he thought of quitting “the whole crazy ride idea” but left it to his mood at dawn to decide. However, as the sun rose, so did his mood and he continued on his way to Europe, by bike. He has not stopped.
Do enjoy the conversation we had and then ask yourself: how much are you willing to pursue those things you are passionate about?
What sparked your interest for long-distance riding?
The desire to break limits.
Back to Lagos
How many of these long distance rides have you done? Where have you ridden to recently?
The most recent was South Africa to Lagos. I also went to Europe: rode to France, Austria, Germany and back to Nigeria in 36 days. (I was really going very fast!)
It all began with a ride to Ibadan; then to Abuja, then Sokoto and then around West Africa up to Ghana. Then a little further to Senegal. You keep extending your horizons.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in the course of some of these journeys?
I remember going into Senegal from Mauritania. Senegalese immigration said I needed a Visa and I was with a Nigerian passport which I believed I did not need because Nigeria is a member of ECOWAS. I told them that I was coming from Mauritania (which was across the river from where we were) but they said they needed to see the exit passport on my Nigerian passport. I was out of Mauritania already and I didn’t have the right to go back in. So I had to take the risk to give my passport to a tout I didn’t know before to go across the water into Mauritania to get it stamped and bring it back to me.
There was a night I also spent in front of a police station, but does it get any safer than sleeping in front of a police station?
Ogbonnaya Kanu 2
How much does it cost on the average for a trip?
For the South Africa-Lagos trip, only visas cost me about 1.2 Million Naira and there are other requirements for the trip — fuel and all of that. I was on the road for 21 days. Riding is something that is important to me, so I put money aside. I planned my last trip for about two years. Putting money aside, organising the logistics — what visas I need to get, what documents I need etc.
Do you go on these rides alone?
I went alone for the South Africa-Lagos trip. Nobody was willing to go with me at the time I was ready. People’s schedules are different. However I do belong to a motorcycling club (Ride Easy Motorcycling Club), which I co-founded with the man who taught me to ride — Segun Obagun. So my club members and I could go on trips together.
Ogbonnaya Kanu 3
What is the Inspiration for the Motorcycling club?
We want to be role models, an inspiration to others. When people think that something cannot be done, we need them to look at us and think otherwise, because we have broken limits. We are limit breakers; we push the boundaries, make statements.
We also want to change the image and perception people have about bikers. People do not always have the best impressions about bikers. For us, Motorcycling is so much more than the vices associated with bikers. It’s about improving our riding and changing the perception of who “A Biker” is as we do that. To be a light in our community as Bikers and show those around us and those who come in contact with us that there are other priorities that we subscribe to.
We train our members and at present we have an instructor in from Canada who would be around for two weeks. There are only three guys who are certified instructors in Nigeria — Segun and me inclusive. We are Pro Bike Trainers, UK certified.
Rainy trip
How does family, your spouse react to all of this?
It is a good thing I am yoked with someone who supports what I do. There are nights when my wife would get very uncomfortable, asking if I am sure that I needed to do a particular trip. I would get uncomfortable too. But then we would do checks of what I have done in the past, what measures I need to take for a safe trip, what things I would need for a particular trip and overall committing it into God’s hand; to assure her.
When is the next trip?
I do not know yet, but I am open — there is a whole world and continents out there to explore.
What would be your final words?
You set the limits. When you are faced with a challenge and you don’t seem to find a solution, it is not that there are none, it could be that you have put a limit to what you can achieve.  If you open your mind to it, you will always see opportunities.