With Heroes & Helmets, we’re inspiring people to live for bigger causes -Toyin Adebola, artiste/adventurer
Toyin Adebola is a man of many parts: entrepreneur, petroleum logistics services consultant, artist, biker and adventurer. He started riding motorcycles for fun about 32 years ago and bought his first adventure bike, a cruiser, in 2011.
The first of six children from a mother who is a nurse and first of 10 from a father who was a teacher, Toyin is the founder of Out of Nigeria, an adventure and social good organisation. He is an accomplished adventurer who has covered over 50,000kms on his adventures and undertaken a round-the-world motorcycle trip that covered 17 countries, starting in Nigeria through North Africa, Europe, North America to the Ice Hotel and back.
He recently shared his experience as well as provided insight into his pet project, Heroes and Helmets, which was put together to commemorate Nigeria’s 56th Independence anniversary, and to inspire a strong sense of patriotism among Nigerians at home and abroad. Enjoy it.
How did you come into biking?
I learnt how to ride motorcycles by observing my friends who already knew how to ride. This was mostly out of necessity because if you grew up in Kano, it almost became impossible not to know how to ride; it was almost cultural. Then, Vespa was common; there was the Honda CD 175, which was the road master and most prestigious; there was Kawasaki Z1000 and Yamaha 125. I rode a Honda CG 125. In 1992, I came to Lagos. Apart from work, what engaged me was church, where I was a member of the choir. I soon began to want something more distracting, more engaging, more exposing and more powerful than music. That was when I spotted a big, red motorcycle parked somewhere on Ahmadu Bello Way in Victoria Island, Lagos. It looked like the answer to my childhood fantasy of riding with the Hell’s Angels. For about one year, it was on the same spot until I made up my mind to buy it in 2011. That bike, a Honda Shadow 750 was my first motorcycle; it was a cruiser. I did not want a sports bike because I did not want to go very fast; you need very efficient health facilities to ride those motorcycles.
Initially, I just rode the bike from home to Victoria Island. But the more I rode it, the more I wanted to go farther to places like Epe, Abeokuta, Ilorin and Abuja. But I wanted to ride for a purpose, to pass a message. That was when charity events like visits to motherless babies’ homes and borstal correctional homes were added to my motorcycle adventures. As a gospel musician, I have released six albums, which were made into hundreds of thousands of CDs that I have given out free of charge. For more than 10 years, I have been organising a Christian musical concert, Worship Unscripted with Toyin and Friends; we now hold two concerts a year, in June and December, with more than 700 people attending each show. Because I also make music videos, I added filming to my bike adventures, which has now overwhelmed me to the point I am today.
But people believe that bikers are people who are up to no good…
My pull was towards responsible riding; giving other road users the respect they deserved; not riding very fast or making noise between vehicles or scaring people. I wanted bikers to be seen as mature, responsible people. This was against the background of the stereotype that only gangsters and rich, spoilt brats ride bikes. My point is that there are responsible, God-fearing people who ride motorcycles just because they love motorcycles. I am one of them. I have never been in any cult all my life and I have never had issues with drugs. I love motorcycles because I love adventures.
How did adventures become such a huge passion for you?
As soon as I bought the motorcycle, I started seeing bikes everywhere. This encouraged me to reach out to lone riders like myself so we could start a club. This gave birth to the Eagle Motorcycle Club. Not long after, however, I noticed that we all had different personal pulls and that the reason we rode was not quite the same. I discovered also that the larger a group, the more difficult it is to pursue a common objective. I pulled out. Today, I have a core of just three members consisting of my younger brother, Gbenga, my friend, Dele Bamidele and myself. This is the nucleus of Out of Nigeria, an adventure and social good organisation that plans all our adventures, particularly the upcoming Heroes and Helmets campaign that will come up on October 1 to commemorate Nigeria’s 56th Independence anniversary.
Heroes and Helmets, what is it all about?
Heroes and Helmets is an Out of Nigeria passion project of Toyin Adebola, midwifed, planned and executed by Patrick Row, a PR company that truly thinks outside the box. Out of Nigeria is an authentic Nigerian adventure dream. It is a unique platform that we developed to celebrate men and women of the Nigerian armed forces. Generally, they get more negative than positive reviews from the populace. Whilst some are genuine, we tend to forget that without the armed forces we probably would not have a nation; we would have no one to protect our borders or maintain law and order within our borders. They keep us safe. As private individuals, we have chosen to celebrate them on October 1, which is a nationally important day of patriotism for Nigerians.
Our primary event on October 1 is to recognize the sacrifices of Nigeria’s past and present heroes by honouring them with a selfie world record-setting attempt that will involve the participation of all Nigerians. Our goal is to set a record for the ‘Most self-portraits taken in 24 hours’. We are challenging Nigerians, anywhere they are, to take selfies that include armed service professionals, notably the Army, Navy, Airforce, FRSC, NSCDC, and post them on key social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) with the hashtag #heroesandhelmets on October 1, 2016. Just that day only!
While that is going on, my partners and I would be riding on and off-road around Lagos. We expect that at least one of our partners from the USA, Ron Grace, would join us for the adventure. We shall start from Victoria Island, then ride our dirt bikes along the coast from Tarkwa Bay or a little farther all the way to Badagry from where we shall ride other bikes to Ikeja all the way to Ikorodu. From there, we shall again ride off-road through the sandy areas to Epe, and then back to Victoria Island. It is a huge thing we are trying to do in one or two days, that is, take-off on Saturday, October 1 and finish on the same day or finish on Sunday, October 2, if we get too tired to continue by the time we get to Epe.
Why pursue the Guinness World Record?
It is like a good credential; very solid to say: ‘On October 1, 2016, Nigerians all over the world took selfies with members of the armed forces and they broke a Guinness World Record’. It will go down in history as a landmark achievement, and it would not be forgotten.
But why just Lagos for the motorcycle adventure on October 1?
Because Lagos is where we live, where we feel this is our home. It is important we do it here to show appreciation to Lagos State because we live here, pay our taxes here and love this state. I have lived in Lagos now for 24 years and I call this place home.
What is in all this for you?
The satisfaction that we did it. It is a personal goal that has personal fulfilment of having done it. We are not looking for anybody’s recognition. We are doing it just for patriotism, inspiration and education. We want to be an inspiration to someone. We want to challenge others to do causes bigger than them.
So what is your ultimate goal?
It is covered by a simple acronym, P.I.E, derived from patriotism, inspiration and education. These form the bedrock of why we do what we do with motorcycle adventure. We are doing this to show we are patriotic to Nigeria; if we are not, no one will come to build the country for us. If we do not celebrate the armed forces who would celebrate them for us? We want to inspire people to go outside of their comfort zone to live for causes bigger than them.
As a motorbike adventurer, how many places have you visited?
All the states in South West Nigeria; Edo, Delta, Anambra, Ebonyi, Cross River, Kano, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Nigeria is beautiful topographically; the only challenge is the quality of the roads to get to these places. Internationally, we have undertaken riding adventures to all the countries in West Africa, except Sierra Leone and Guinea. We have travelled as far as Morocco, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden to which we could not ride our bike because of heavy snow. We did the Nigeria/Europe ride in 50 days between March and April 2015.
How do you find the time?
It is my passion; if you have passion for something, you will make time for it.
Have you ever been involved in an accident?
Nothing serious; I am too gentle. I am a risk taker but one who is too calculating. I think of so many things, so I do not go fast, between 100 and 140kmph on a stretch of good roads; and 60 – 80kmph on not very good roads. I do not try things that I know are beyond my skill level. Accidents can happen at any time but I basically do not push the envelope.
What is your staying power?
God. I have been through pretty difficult periods in my life but because I have faith in God everything has turned out right. That is why when I am on the road I fear nothing, not because I am reckless but because I believe God has got our back.
Given a choice between a car and a bike, which would you pick?
Common sense says a car because I have a family; joy and happiness says a bike. But because of my responsibilities, I will choose a car.