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How to Make a Motorcycle on Your Own and Get Out of the Moroccan Desert

Bird In Flight remembers the story of Emile Leray who, in 1993, found himself completely alone in the desert, but got out when he assembled a bike from the parts of his crashed car.

Emile Leray, a 43-year-old electrician from France, left a small Moroccan town of Tan-Tan with plans to cross a local desert in a miniature Citroën 2CV. He had about 40 liters of fuel, a set of tools, and food and water for ten days with him.

Soon after he set off, Leray was stopped by Moroccan soldiers at one of the checkpoints: they explained to him that a military conflict started in the area where he was headed and advised him to go back.

Leray wasn’t ready to change his plans, so he decided to bypass the conflict zone and not drive through the settlements, but get to his destination straight through the desert. He wasn’t driving for long: he lost control of the car and crashed it into a rock, destroying the front axle completely.

“I had travelled round Africa about 10 times, so I knew the region well and therefore had no concerns,” — Leray told The Daily Mail. — “I decided to do it in a 2CV because, although it is not a 4×4, it is tough. In Africa they call it the ‘Steel Camel’ because it goes everywhere — provided you drive it gently. I obviously was too rough.”

When he found himself completely alone in the desert, Leray had no idea where the nearest settlement was and which direction he needed to go. In order to survive, he decided to make a DIY motorcycle from the parts of the broken Citroën.

It took him twelve days to build a frame, install the engine and the gearbox, and create the vehicle that got him safely back to civilization with only basic tools.

Leray is now over 60, he lives in southern France and keeps the bike that saved his life in the garage.

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