Sunday, February 15, 2009

my ZOOM folder

Few years ago, I was working in a remote Iranian island in Persian Gulf. There was a big project on that island at that time, and there were about hundreds foreign workers, working on rotational basis.
Kharg island, where we were in, is not too big, it has an airstrip, and tanker loading terminal. The Iranians using this terminal to load the oils to big ships for export.

As strategic island for Iranians, it has special rules for foreigners; we must stay in a special camp, away from the locals, and we are not allowed to drive any car.
After work, our life was rather boring, gym and recreational room inside our camp were too small, and we could not going out of the camp easily because the driver was not always available.
One of my colleagues there got an idea to buy a bicycle to explore the island, and once he showed me photos of his bike trip around the island, I was sold.
Casual cycling ride is always one of my interest, and it was also good to do some kind of outdoor activities after work.
So not too long after that, I brought a bicycle into the island, ZOOM folding bike, a typical low end folder, with 16 inch wheel and 5 speed.
This Zoom folders I bought in a shop close to Changi road, Singapore. In that time, on every trip to Iran, I made a few hours stop over in Singapore, and another stop overnight in Dubai.
Going from Spore was not a problem, bike was inside the box, tires being deflated, and SQ check in staff handling and labeling it quickly and efficiently as usual.
On terminal 2 arrival in Dubai, I have to wait almost 15 minutes since it was cleared through special bagage section. However, once it came out, Dubai custom officers did not even give any looks.
After staying overnight in Dubai, the next day I took another flight to Iran, this was a charter flight, chartered by a company that hiring us.
On transit in Busher airport in Iran, we have to check out all of our baggage and Iranian custom officers checking them in a long table. All of the passanger baggage must be opened and examined by the officers. Some items need special clearance, like western magazines, discs, and electronics. They checked my bike, exchanging few words with our translator there, laughing, and passed the bike on. Our translator did not even translate officers comments to me, he just gave me a big smile and continued his job. In short, I have no problem to bring the bike all the way from Spore to Iran.

As typical low end bike, it's frame was so flexible and filmsy, the brake was poor, and it's 5 speed freewheel was over geared. The seat post was also slipping, and I have to insert a piece of rubber to avoid it slips further.
I adapted my ridding style for this bike, pedaling gently, no push-pull on the handlebar, and braking lightly.
But for the price, the bike served me very well. At first I used it to run around our camp during lunch break. Once I was familiar with the bike, then I used it to visit working sites too. Instead of calling the driver and waiting for a car, I just biked and got to the site myself. It took more or less the same time, but the greatest thing was a feeling of being free and independent. And it is also released me from being bored passing the time in front of PC at work and television in my room after.
I did not install cyclometer on this folder, but by counting and timing my cadence, I estimate that I can maintain around 16-18 km/h with easy riding style.
My colleague who used MTB, at full pace, could cycling around the island for 2 full laps during lunch break. I did try with this folder, and I made one lap with enough spare time to take shower before going back to work. From my timing, I thought the distance that I took was just slightly more than 20km, mostly along the coast. Here we could see remainings of old tanker that was hit by Iraqi bombs during Iran-Iraq war long time ago.

Several weeks later, few of other colleagues started also to cycle around. Most of them bought low end MTB available at local bike shop in the island. So on few occasions we were having group riding around the island on the lunch break.
This Zoom bike served me for several months, and during the time it was almost trouble free except few flat tires. But then it ended so sudden in rather bizzare circumstances.
One colleague came from Dubai but he could not do his job right away and he must wait the others to finish. I saw him waiting for long days, and as courtesy I allowed him use my bike to go around.
He just used my bike for 2 days, but apparently he pushed it just hard enough to break the steering post, just below the post hinge.
Strangely, for me it was not a big loss neither, since it happened just when I was about to be transferred back to my home country. So finally, at the end of my 3 years assignment there, I have one less baggage to take home, my broken ZOOM bike.

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