There is a certain magnetic appeal, maybe even an athletic apeal to the guy who whizzes past you on a fixed gear bike (Black Mamba), using nothing but muscle power without the benefit of multiple gears, often having to push his loaded bike uphill and is overtly confident on a bike in cycle-unfriendly Nairobi.
He hurtles down Haile Selassie avenue, coat flapping behind him in the wind into the city, no peddling, on his pimped out blue and white or grey or green Black Mamba. Negotiating the roundabout as if he is a motor car, shoulders slightly hunched, no hand signals.
Totally dig that!
Then there is his amateur cycling enthusiast counterpart, who dares to make cycling part of his daily way of life in this city. One thing is for sure, he is fitter than the average Nairobi chap, dependable chap at crunch time… he can keep going, and going, and going (*insert catcall*). Need I say more? *wink*
She digs that he doesn’t pay heed to old wives’ tales about the link between male cycling and low sperm count, but is smart enough to alternate between cycling standing up and sitting when cycling long distances and for long long hours… He balances like an acrobat at the traffic lights just rearing to go.
She digs the bike repair guy who can sort you out in a minute in an emergency, using tools that should really be for plumbing or carpentry; a hacksaw to scrape the tire inner tube in readiness for patching, hammer to release the rusty fork for servicing, a chain whip improvised from a wooden block and old bike chain…
She digs the professional cyclist who does not have the benefit of a special training regime or tailored diet plan, yet he wins the race, or at very least makes a good showing.
There is this guy I used to admire back in Uni, mostly for his cycling ways as we hardly spoke. He cycled everywhere, his long curly hair chasing after him in the wind. A true renegade. He was almost always fully kitted out – cycling pants with the padded crotch, spiked cycling shoes, fingerless cycling gloves, cycling shirt, cycling goggles sometimes and a cool aerodynamic helmet… and that disarming smile.
His bike was one of those light-weight aluminium road bikes that look like you can lift them with your pinkie.
We would acknowledge each other from a distance, and he never went by on foot or on wheels without a wave. In retrospect, I was never quite sure if he was in Uni or not. He always seemed to be on the go. A guy in cycling gear and a bike has that effect on people, they seem always ready to leave. Not a good impression on girls I am afraid; we see you that way and we fear we can’t keep up with you.
Sometimes he would zip through my hood leaving me wondering if it was serendipity or on purpose that he just seemed to be everywhere I happened to be… Even then, we never really exchanged more than a “Hi.” or just a wave.
I settled for the harmless thrill of watching his tight behind ride off into the sunset once in a while… I could not keep up. I could never keep up, not on in-line skates.
Wonder where he is nowadays.
Happy Valentines!! Happy Cycling in Nairobi!!
This post is dedicated to all the HeCyclesNairobi out there: The fixed gear bike rider going about his business, the amateur cyclist cycling to and from work for the heck of it, the professional cyclist who lives to race and the industrious, dependable bicycle repair guy on the corner in your neighbourhood.