By Serpil Kadirlar
One of the rules of journalism states that reporting must use language which is both impartial and articulate. However, in this article, it is almost impossible not to disregard this rule, as it is only by using informal and emotional language that I can truly portray the story behind Cyprus’ Harley Davidson Riders Club in a way which will do them justice.
It was a chilly yet bright December afternoon, and I was sat at Kyrenia Post HQ, based in the Nostalgia Hotel close to the old Kyrenia Harbour. I have seen many guests come and go. I have had the pleasure of meeting interesting characters from all over the world who have brought their stories, background and culture quaintly packaged in a whirlwind of fascinating energy. And on this day, I had been informed that a group of ten were due to arrive at the hotel. However….
It was something quite different on this particular day. The soulful sound, the deep roaring of which can only be heard from the machine of a Harley Davidson came like a melody- one, two, three, four, five… at this point I jumped out of my seat, almost toppling my desk tray in the process, and rushed to the door. What a sight to behold!
Now, even those who have never so much as sat on the seat of a motorcycle cannot deny the beauty of a Harley Davidson. The intricacy in the craftsmanship can only be described as a work of art. Every bolt and belt gleams as though proud of its individual task which works with each component, resulting in a masterpiece – an elegant method of transport and an icon of freedom and brotherhood.
A woman jumps off of the back of one of the bikes. Liz Bull removes her helmet. A stunning smile envelopes her face; “I think you’ve been expecting us”. I politely replied “yes- yes of course!” while inside I was thinking “No, no I weren’t… but thank god you arrived!”. THIS, was that party of ten!
One by one a total of people- seven men, one woman and a very handsome young boy filter into the reception area. Their leather jackets, gloves and various other accessories required for their travel captivates me, only turning my face away as I become conscious of the fact that I’m probably staring and probably starting to appear a bit odd. Personal memories of when I would once wear similar style came to mind- a memory only upheld by the tattoos I wear on my skin beneath my clothes.
After the receptionist had them all checked in, Fergy Ferguson strolls towards me, “Any chance of a drink?”
I replied “Yeahhh- I suppose so!”.
Eventually, the rest of the group joins Fergy- Lee Theossell, who initially booked the group trip, appeared a little more reserved than the rest of the group- until we began speaking- and a relaxed, charming character came to light. Martin Clive- who I saw as a bit of a dark horse, with his articulate vocabulary and dry humour. Maz Harley- who told me (within minutes of meeting) that he had a tattoo of a ‘W’ on each of his buttocks (imagine if you will…) was like a supernova- I couldn’t recall having laughing as much as I did in the brief time I had the pleasure of his company. Jon Bull (Liz’ Husband), is just as warm and friendly as his lovely wife and Dean Ferguson, the bubbly Scotsman, had banter that could rival Maz’s. Mikkel Morch and his young son head off out, and I realise that the group was a few people short, which I am told is due to illness.
I begin to ask questions. The Harley Davidson Riders Club, founded in 2014 by ‘Mem’- a Turkish Cypriot local from Kyrenia- are actively involved in fundraising and charity events in order to support Animal shelters, welfare charities, orphaned children and pretty much any cause which helps those in need, man or beast.
When I approached the group about the possibility of introducing them to our Kyrenia Post Readers in Cyprus and abroad, they tell me that the best person to speak with would be the catalyst of it all- the President of the club, Mem.
I am told that he will visit the following day- and judging by the friendly nature, joyous banter and brilliant humour of everybody, I knew it would be an interesting conversation.
The next morning, I arrive at the office- mesmerized (again) by the line of Harleys parked neatly outside of the Hotel.
I enter the breakfast room and noticed very quickly that only half of the group are present. With the exchange of cheerful morning greetings, I soon learn that the group had engaged in a “sensible tea party” until 4am, and therefore the other half of the group hadn’t yet woken up…
Later on, Mem came along to the Hotel. We sat together- the group, Mem and I. Mehmet explained in further detail about the group, what they stand for and the events they organize at least 3 times a year.
Mem explains; “The objective of the club is to expand and develop motorcycling culture and introduce it into the public mainstream. We embark on weekly drives through the country, and we hold a minimum of three annual charity events for various organisations, particularly those surrounding social welfare, children in need, elderly homes and animal sanctuaries.”
Intrigued by how the club was formed, Mem says “we were friends and knew each other a long while before we actually formed the club- and of course, the club has brought us closer together. We welcome people irrespective of their background- race, creed, colour and religion is irrelevant- everyone is a brother and sister, and we do not tolerate racism of any form”. He continues, “Our club has strict rules and guidelines- owning a Harley Davidson does not mean automatic membership of our club. We carry out a background search on those who wish to join- those who have a history of irresponsible driving are not accepted, neither are those who have a reputation of anti-social behaviour or drug use- especially as we support the fight AGAINST drugs”.
I ask the group if they find that people approach them in an untoward way due to their appearance, Liz tells me “you do get people who assume that you’re mean because that’s how Harley riders are portrayed in popular culture. So I suppose this is part of the purpose of the club- to introduce the concept of charity, brotherhood and acceptance- and hopefully in time, the pre-conceptions will melt away.”
The Harley Davidson Riders Club is also supported by the VAKIF foundation, and remains steadfast in what they stand for, the work they do, and their admirable love, respect and unity between them.
Although it’s common for Biker clubs to consider one another rivals and enemies, the group tells me that such rivalry does not exist in Cyprus, and that all motorcycling clubs come together during events.
This club is so much more than impressive bikes, leathers and tattoos. To not recognise their efforts and contributions to society would be a travesty. I would like to express my gratitude for the work they have put in to helping the most vulnerable among us, and to offer our support.
Check out the Harley Davidson Riders Club Cyprus on Facebook, and we will keep you up-to-date on upcoming events. If ever there was a club deserving of public support, THIS, has got to be it.