TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Samia Sbeity paid attention to even the smallest details before she started her bicycle ride along the Mina Corniche in north Lebanon’s Tripoli with a group of friends. Sbeity, in her mid-50s, is usually the first from the group to arrive in the morning, inspect the air pressure, the breaks and her tricycle’s balance, among other things.
She is famous around the city for her love of cycling which she rides all around the city daily, greeting passersby as she goes.
“I used to be captivated by all the bicycles in countries like Indonesia, China and Thailand and how they are used as an alternative to cars, buses and trucks although they aren’t as fast,” Sbeity said, explaining that she developed a fascination for bicycles following her travels around the world. “Despite this negative aspect, there are numerous positive things for people’s lives.”
Sbeity stressed that she doesn’t pay much attention to the remarks and comments made by some of the more conservative residents of the city given that she is a single woman who tours the town alone. Rather, she said, she feels she is living her childhood now.
However, she has even managed to make a business out of her passion by selling bicycles to her friends.
She said the passion she has for riding goes beyond the health benefits but are also practical. As well as riding for pleasure, she said she bikes to the shops, to buy groceries or even just to get some fresh air.
“I worked in different professions ... but since I stayed true to my hobby it was the main constituent for the uniqueness of my personality that made me famous around Tripoli.”
Her love for cycling prompted Sbeity and her friends to create a riding group to tour different areas, visiting restaurants and guesthouses. Like Sbeity, her friends share the same enjoyment for riding bicycles.
Noha Sankari is a business woman, but focuses a lot of attention on health and sports. “There’s nothing better than practicing yoga and riding a bicycle if a person wants to get away from their daily concerns,” she told The Daily Star. Her friend Maya Minqara echoed her sentiment.
Minqara said she sees riding a space for her and her friends to find peace of mind.
The women are among a growing group of people who have become increasingly interested in cycling. The Youssef Felful garage, which specializes in selling and maintaining bicycles, is filled with bikes and parts.
“There are several kinds of bicycles and different usage for each,” 22-year-old Felful explained. “But the best in terms of quality is the Japanese, and then come the French, Belgium, English and German makes.”
Felful has been in the business since he was 8 when he inherited his love for the profession from his father and grandfather. He explained that the prices for a bike range between $50 and $15,000.
Nevertheless, he lamented the perception that some Lebanese people still have about bicycles that see them only for sports.
“We don’t have bicycles that are used for transporting products [like in other countries] and that might be the door for changing our bad habits by using relatively cheap transportation that doesn’t require fuel and is ecofriendly,” he explained.