Lions and ❁SheCyclists❁

27 Mar

Spare moments in February were spent scouting for a central spot that the ladies could meet without much hustle. The Sunken Car Park in the Central Business District of Nairobi seemed like a nice enough spot. I had initially considered the Nyayo Stadium parking lot, but the weekend soccer games schedule would have clashed (probably literally) with our activities. I also considered the Central Park Processional Way and dais area.

This past Sunday I left home for the Sunken Car Park in the centre of Nairobi, not knowing what to expect. I had no confirmations from any of the ladies; the lady security guard was not picking her calls, neither was my potato lady from Wakulima Market (Farmers’ Market) and my stylish used clothes dealer had text messaged saying she had unexpected guests. I will follow up with both of them and show them the other videos of the learners (which I did not post at their request) to psyche them up for the next clinic in April.

On different occasions, I observed how the car park was being utilized by Roller Skating Kenya learners and tutors; the Harambee Avenue corner was used by a crew of in-line skate hockey players; the section close to Kenya Re building was for the little ones learning to skate around obstacles; and the vehicle path was for the pros and advanced learners.

Incidentally, I also skate. However, I would never dream of commuter skating to work. I lack the amount of combined skill, leg power and control required to skate, not to mention the mainly unpaved or dug up paved side walks, no designated “propelling lanes”, and the Nairobi City Council By-laws that prohibit propelling on any foot path.

Roller Skating Kenya have been using this park for more than 6 years every Sunday. I know Mwas, a Kenya Pro Skater and skating team leader. I was sure I could convince him to share the space. He and my pal C pretty much introduced me to skating almost 7 years ago.

After circling the parking area, I settled on the width closest to the Kenya Re building.

My first learner was a young skater. She was a little small for the huge Ironman, but determined to give it a go despite unsuitable foot wear – slip on sandals – on metal mountain bike pedals.

Samson Gichuru arrived on time and gave the ladies some pointers. As I caught up with Samson, my phone rung. It was Juliet letting me know that she had just returned from her ride from Nairobi to Thika, fifty plus kilometres away, and back! She had been inspired by our ❤TheMightyA2 ride. Though she and I have never met, I know that she commutes to and from work daily.

Samson Gichuru ready to roll.

The second learner, Z, was quick off the bat after changing at the nearby Iko Toilet (public toilet). As she worked out how to stay the bike upright and pedal, Kinja and the entire Safari Simbas cycling team from Kikuyu arrived in a blaze of wheels and vivid color. Kinja had mentioned that he was going to come along with the Safari Simbas team from Kikuyu, but I did not believe him until they showed up fully kitted in their cycling glory.

At this point I should mention that we had expected to have four bikes, but ended up with just three; my heavy Ironman and two light racers from the Safari Simbas. My cycle pal with the fourth bike could not make it. The program relies fully on volunteers and their bikes. We hope that as the ladies get confident, they can purchase their own used bikes and we can hold the lessons on rotation in the neighbourhoods where they live. Hopefully, I can convince them to stay on and teach other ladies.

The parking lot circuit was too small for the Safari Simbas fast pace, but I figured a brief display would draw in the crowd of curious people. A quick chat with Mwas, the Roller Skating Kenya team leader, got the Safari Simbas cyclists doing a 20-minute chase-around.

Kinja stood by barking out directions in Kikuyu as usual, and Samson joined the team. The beautiful spectacle the racers created was being undermined speed-wise by the tiny parking circuit. See the video.

As the beautiful Safari Simba’s display ended, my third learner arrived. Once again, both Samson’s and my bike were too big for the  young, confident teen. But she mounted and did her best after I lowered the seat post to the maximum point.

AG, a cyclist and photographer of note, on his way to a photo shoot for a local artiste in the CBD, dropped by to raise morale.

I will keep using the corner of the Sunken Car Park for the rest of the year, to get these four or five women ready to confidently navigate Nairobi on a bike.

The skater guy in this video entertained us by skate-jumping over my Ironman. Impressive! He requested that we bring a bigger bike for him to jump over next time. Funny chap.

In Pictures:

These agile skaters zipped around the parking lot as I waited for the ladies and Samson to arrive.

The Safari Simbas on arrival from Kikuyu to Nairobi city centre.

Safety first. David Kinja in the back (left) chatting up a cycle buddy. Samson in the back (right) giving learning tips to one of our lady learners.

The youngest leaner mounting the old formidable Ironman Triathlon Pro.

The main challenge, as with any propelling sport, was balance. With swimming, you have to learn to stay afloat first, and then propel.  The second challenge is convincing the new rider that the best way to stay upright is to pedal forward (not backwards) as this article has tried to explain, albeit technically.

The youngest learner almost working out the balance part of cycling. Still looking at her feet on the pedals as most first-timers do. Look up and ahead. A young skater in the background.

The determined ladies on the Pro-Lite bikes from the Safari Simbas team. Haya twende!

My intention is to have these ladies navigating Nairobi before Christmas, if they will stay the course. Hope to have more bikes to teach at the April clinic. We may move the clinics to their neighbourhoods once they get their own bikes.

The Safari Simbas get ready for the brief display around the parking lot.

David Kinja (Right) watching the Safari Simbas circling the Parking lot, as the skating tutors set up the obstacles for the tiny skaters. Thank you Roller Skating Kenya for letting us share the parking lot with you.

Happy Cycling in Nairobi and beyond! ❤ Nairobi! ❤ Cycling!


14 Responses to “Lions and ❁SheCyclists❁”

  1. Birthe March 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Awesome Velma, Kinja et al.! Please announce a bit earlier next time so I can also get in more ladies. There are quite some on my list 😉 Thumbs up!

    • shecyclesnairobi March 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      Great! And if they have bikes they can assist run this. Let’s get Kenyan women on bikes! Thanks for the support Birthe. 🙂

  2. mmnjug March 28, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Building the talent is always great…… never know we may get a team for the Olympics or even Commonwealth games.

    Good work.

    • shecyclesnairobi March 28, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Indeed. The next event is on 29th April. I hope to get more bike volunteers by then and more ladies learning. There’s a cyclathon coming up in Nairobi later this year and one lady wants to learn in time to enter.

  3. aika-grace wangwe April 19, 2012 at 6:42 am #


  4. aika-grace wangwe April 19, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Just awesome!

  5. Waithera May 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I can’t believe I didn’t know about that. I want to learn, so am anxiously waiting for next time.

    • shecyclesnairobi May 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Next month, on the last Sunday of the month, we hope you can join us. For now we are limited by the number of bikes available. I hope to inspire you to get your own bike. Karibu Waithera!!

      • Waithera May 31, 2012 at 8:13 am #

        Thanks! I’ll be there!

  6. Sue October 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Just found your blog! Very nice of you to teach others. I’ve heard removing the pedals and lowering the seat can help older learners figure out the balance. At least the pedals are not there to hit the legs. Not sure if this would help but it’s worth a try.

    • shecyclesnairobi October 14, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      Interesting about removing the pedals to teach older learners… I suppose getting your shins banged can be discouraging.

  7. sinji March 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Shecyclesnairobi.

    I have also just found your blog and i am quite impressed. I did not know so many ladies cycle to work in Nairobi CBD (two is many enough for me. *grin*).

    Haya, I am thirty many years old chick; never learned how to ride a bike while growing up; now teaching myself how to on my son’s bike (ouch! yes). Bike New York a non-profit has a few youtube videos on how to teach someone how to ride a bike and they seem to learn in a very short time. I have only gathered enough psyche to try thier method out in our court’s front yard for two nights( i figure noone will see me falling at night! ha! must admit that the watchmen are very helpful. teehee). My target is to be able to cycle by easter!! what a celebration that will be.
    I’d love to cycle to the supermarket and to town eventually. my workplace is a 30minute commute by car in no jam….. so…… maybe not to work yet….. babysteps first right?
    apologise for the complete hijack of post …. however just wanted to say i am tres impressed and quite inspired to go forth and conquer this bike thing!!

    Good stuff!

    • shecyclesnairobi March 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Good for you. One of the ladies on SheCyclesNairobi is self taught. I have been trying to get her to post about her trials and triumphs learning… Good on ya for trying! May be once you feel confident you can join North Nairobi Cycling Club and try for the amateur category.

      All the best!! 🙂

    • shecyclesnairobi April 18, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Would be happy to post your self-taught riding experience on ShecyclesNairobi. Hope you are progressing well.

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