Getting Down and Dirty

13 Feb

Today we get a little, … well, a lot bike techie… A girl should know how to fix it when it’s broken or at least know what it takes to keep it running smoothly.

There is nothing easier on the gluts and thighs like a freshly serviced bike. Finding a trustworthy bike mechanic is not easy in Nairobi, even though every neighbourhood on this side of the tracks has at least one.

The best way to get one that works for you is through referral,  simply stop another cyclist and ask him or her where to go. Whenever I use my neighbourhood bike service guy, I make sure it’s a free Sunday afternoon so that I can perch on a rock next to him as he works.

However, it’s great to have that trusty mech who can pick it from your work place in the morning and have it back by 5pm. One of my cycle buddies, AG, introduced me to Samson Gichuru, a professional off-road cyclist. His slight frame befits his status as a former junior champion cyclist, now ranked top 3 in the off-road category.

Another cycle buddy SK, introduced me to the guys on Enterprise Road, in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, adjacent to Tetra Pak Industries Limited. They sell great used bikes too.

Samson owns a bicycle garage in Thogoto, Kikuyu Town. A man adept at anything bicycle-related, he comes in riding his own bike and cycles off steering mine alongside him. After handing my bike over to him several times for tune-ups, he indulged my curiosity in knowing how to fully service a bike.

Generally, Samson advises that you have your bike serviced every six months if you cycle daily on smooth urban terrain, and every two to three months if you cycle on rough terrain. If you do not service it regularly parts wear out unevenly, you will over exert yourself and the creaking will drive you nuts.

Between services, I scrub down the cassette and chain with soapy water after a dusty, off-road ride on Langata Road and oil it with light machine oil or mineral car lube.

In pictures:

Samson Gichuru and his tool box.

Unbolting the pedal arms with a box spanner and adjustable spanner and adjustable spanner.

Once the pedal arms are off, use the Bottom Bracket Spanner to remove the Bottom Bracket which houses the pedal arm axle.

Look! Pedal free!

Use paraffin/diesel and an old toothbrush to clean out dirt and grime from hub shell.

Use a clean cloth to clean out residue and dry it.

Grease the Bottom bracket thread only. The upper part should not be greased.

Return the components and fasten securely.


Depending on the type of wheel – Quick release or bolt type – remove the wheel from the frame:

With a chain whip to grip the cassette, and the adjustable spanner to turn the bolt, remove the cassette. Samson has fashioned his own whip with a block of wood and an old piece of chain.

Rear Wheel: Remove rear skewer and clean with diesel/paraffin.

Remove the ball bearings and clean them by rubbing them together in a cloth.

Rear wheel: Wipe away any grime with just a cloth, grease the bearing housing and replace the bearing. Keep them in place with lots of grease as you reconnect the parts. Do the same to the bearing set on the other side of the wheel.

The headset:

Head Set: Remove the headset lock.

Remove the spacers, clean them with a clean cloth and grease them. 

Head set: Beneath the spacers are the head set ball bearings. Remove the ball bearings and clean by rubbing together in a clean cloth. Wipe away old grease and grime. grease the housing and replace bearings. Detach the fork to reveal the second set of ball bearings and clean & grease these as well.


Chain: Mix some detergent in water and scrub up the chain and cassette, removing all the old grease and grime.Once dry use machine oil to lubricate both the chain and cassette,


The wheel balancing machine is mounted on the edge of the table. Spinning the rim, with the tire and tube removed, along the lower arm extension determines which spokes need to be loosened and which need to be tightened to allow the wheel to spin evenly along the arm.

The spoke nipple adjusting key. Note the four grooves to fit different spoke nipple sizes. LOL! @ “nipple” 

Wheel balancing: Using the nipple adjuster key to adjust the spoke nipple on the rim.


Worn out brake pads: Check your brake pads for wear. Bald brake pads can damage your rim or slip against the rim metal when you brake. When going down hill and you want to stop, stop peddling and use your rear brakes to stop to avoid flipping forward and off the bike.

Good brake pads: They do not need to be replaced often. Check level of wear at each service.

Banana break: Fresh ripe bananas from Samson’s garden.

Now I can safely say SheCyclesNairobi and SheCanService a b-b-bike!!

So next time you are in need of a tune up. Samson is your man.


You can build your own bicycle repair stand. I could not help noticing it would have made Samson’s work easier:


9 Responses to “Getting Down and Dirty”

  1. Space monkey February 13, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    *brake pads*

  2. bankelele March 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Nice post.. Another good mechanic is the dude outside Valley Arcade. His business name in Bumula Motors and he’s a quick-fixing, honest & fair-priced bike repair person.

  3. Charles August 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Great stuff, si you give me Gichuru’s number since I live around the area.

  4. Grace October 14, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Just got myself a bike and need to learn how to service it
    Also I live in the Ruiru area and not brave to venture onto the superhighway, wondering if Samson does home servicing?

    • shecyclesnairobi October 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      There’s a bike shop in Githurai fourty four. Give him a shout for more info 0721252517


  1. DHL Kakuzi Challenge « shecyclesnairobi - March 13, 2012

    […] We were worried that the type of car we had would not make it on the un-tarmacked Kakuzi roads, but were pleasantly surprised to find hard surface roads. Without a map, a wrong turn on the massive Kakuzi farm can lead you on an endless loop.  All I had were sketchy directions from Samson Gichuru. […]

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