It started with a chance encounter – stumbling across some second-hand BMX bikes from the U.S. in a shop in Nigeria. After throngs of young Nigerians watched some internet videos of their American counterparts performing tricks, a 1980s fad has spawned a burgeoning bike scene in the city’s capital, Lagos, that is helping to transcend socio-economic backgrounds.
Six years Star Boy, aka Matthew Temitope, a mechanic in Lagos, stumbled across some vintage 1980s freestyle BMXs in a market in Lagos. After watching videos online with his friends on mobile phones and in internet cafes, they began to try some of the tricks for themselves. An American craze, with its heyday back in the 1980s, was back – changing lives in Africa.
“We were all inspired by watching the professionals in their videos,” says Star Boy. We were all amazed, like ‘wow!’ If it wasn’t for this we’d be out doing sh*t, going to clubs, getting drunk and causing trouble. Now we have our bikes to express our feelings. When I feel upset, I just get my bike, hit the streets and do some tricks.”
There are no skateparks or bike tracks at which to practice, instead Star Boy and his friends simply use what they have at their disposal on the streets. The riders come from a variety of backgrounds. KK Money, aka Ibrahim, works as a teacher and sees parallels between his career and a passion for sport. “I love imparting knowledge. If I could teach a student one lesson that BMX has taught me, it would be: If you fall off a horse, climb back on. Once you get that right, it’s forever. It’s taught me commitment, that yes, I can do it.”
SKing, whose real name is Segun Adosu, says that BMX saved him from a life of gangsterism and is grateful for stumbling across his new obsession almost by chance. “My new bike had BMX written on it and I wanted to know what it meant, so I searched Google. I saw a ton of videos and I’ve been in love ever since.”
Bikes and parts are not available except from international mail order which makes it too expensive, but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm. BMX has become life to these guys and they’re not afraid to let it show. They are riding for the purest of reasons and the scene has brought people together from the heaviest of slums to the upper middle class.