Tag Archives: bicycle

WaterWaterEverywhere _ Murang’a

22 Mar

Many times when you take a trip out-of-town you rarely get the view of the back-end unless you are visiting family in your home village. As a guest in a new town, you will most likely find yourself in the hub or the town centre. Close to the tarmac.

I have driven through Murang’a town a couple of times. This time I got a rare view of the countryside behind the township. This area is not only famous for the mighty Sagana River (Thagana), it is also the birth place of the tough, female Gikuyu colonial chief Wangu wa Makeri.

We crossed a little rope and wood bridge over the Sagana section of Tana River into Murang’a from Kirinyaga on light mountain bikes, hired from Savage Camp. The “Thagana” is the lifeline of this area of Murang’a; fishing, watering fish farms, watering livestock, washing, and water sports.

Just a couple of years ago, there were no farming activities in this particular area of Murang’a, just dust, occasional flash floods as water made its way from the Kiambicho Hills into the Thagana, taking all the rich soil with it and dumping the rest on the foothills.

Now with a community irrigation scheme up and running, families are now growing rice on previously un-farmed land. We cycled past the paddies where they were planting as the piped water from the Thagana lapped gently in a trench on the roadside.

The thirsty and dry countryside, roads covered in loose deep dust that caused the bike tires to lose traction, lie in high contrast to the green paddies. Water well harnessed makes a huge difference.

Today is World Water Day. As a cyclist water is the second most crucial item to have. The first is a bike puncture repair kit; pump, patches, adhesive and a tire lever. Even on a short commute to work. On long rides, a water pack is necessary. However, as K pointed out the other day, with mobile money you can “refuel” anywhere along the way these days.

My birthday falls in mid March. As a child I remember it would always rain or threaten to rain on my birthday. I would pray ( I was a deeply spiritual child and would say several Hail Marys and Our Fathers on the Rosary) that the rain would hold so that I could have the neighbourhood kids over for a floodlight party in the back yard. The last decade or so, no rain has fallen in mid March. The rain falls later, and later in the month. More in April than in March these days.

Since I began cycling, I take water consumption very seriously. Water plays a major role in regulating your body temperature and keeping you energized. Every morning when I wake up between 6:00 and 7 am, I drink at least 1 litre of water before breakfast. On arrival at my destination, I empty half of the one-litre bottle. In between I will take at least another litre.

At the end of the day, I take another two litres before dinner and bed time. It’s great for your skin and flashes out the lactic acid build up after a punishing ride. In the cooler weather I probably will consume half that. These are great tips on how to stay hydrated as a cyclist, especially in the dry heat of December to March, and some  hydration mistakes that cyclists make.

After along ride, I take up three litres in 4 hours, before dinner. Just sip slowly.

The path out of Camp Savage on the banks of the Sagana River (Tana River).

It’s rather dry now in Murang’a. A quaint little church.

The last El Niño rains ate a section of the road leaving this amazing formation.It’s like a mini Grand Canyon (USA).

Alone school girl on the way home. I offered to teach her how to ride. She said she is afraid to fall off.

The dry season. A view of the valley below.

A partially built red soil brick house.

The rice paddies of Murang’a.

The 2 inch deep fine soil made for difficult cycling.

Now if the woman on the left had a bicycle, she wouldn’t have to break her back carrying the firewood. The man was carrying hay in a sack. Hmmm…

The small canal running off water from the paddies.

Motorcyclist and cyclist.

Goats browsing along the road. The soil gets deeper up ahead as we leave this nice hard surface. Had to cycle close to the centre of the road to avoid slipping from loss of traction.

This section was more fine soil. Less deep than before though.

A lone cyclist pushing a fixed gear Black Mamba bike up a gentle climb. It was hot as hells kitchen.

Pushing through a technical section. Did not come up fast enough to take the rocky section. It got worse ahead. Narrow ridges and steep drops.

Battle wounds from Murang’a ride. I attempted a technical section on a bike I had not used before. Grazed my right calf on the crank chain. Ow!

Cycle Smart!

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


*iPant* up Thogoto

21 Mar

It’s easy to blame it on my eighteen-plus-kilogram, Ironman Triathlon Pro with its fixed suspension. The truth is that the Kikuyu-Thogoto climb was a testimony to how far from fit I still am.   Mak10 had said that the route was punishing, I did not take him seriously. Me, of the four-minute Mbagathi Way hill climb fame.

Just as you finished one climb another one came up on the bend.

We met at the usual spot in Westlands at 8 am. Lead by the garrulous, larger-than-life Shariff, we made our way down Peponi Rd to Lower Kabete and on to Gachie, and then up the long climb towards Kikuyu Township. This was the easy part.

Along the way I noticed different members took different roles; Shariff- The Sheriff the no-nonsense team leader, R – Mr. Fix It helped fix punctures quickly; N- The Yoda always hanging back to encourage the slow-mos; K- The Spokesman spoke up to remind us to keep the bunch to get more respect from motorists; Me- The Team doctor with nothing but a jar of  sun-melted Vaseline to  massage the kinks out of the thighs; J and B were the long distance pros on two of the heaviest bikes in the team, a sexy pair of black Travel Masters.

As we turned into long climb up Thogoto, we were joined by David Kinja’s team of DHL Boys in training. Jessie and Chi rode with the slow riders as the older boys went ahead. They said that the Thogoto uphills are amateur climbs for them. They train on the steeper Kiambu road climbs.

Where the tarmac ends at the top of Mangu Road in Thogoto we turned back and were joined by Kinja. He led the DHL boys in an up and down hill training session. Barking out orders in Kikuyu and the boys behind him getting into fluid formation.

Samson Gichuru also turned up and rode a short way with us.

The downhill was less hectic on my gluts. The heavy Ironman between my legs was finally doing what it was built for – downhill. Weeeeeee!

The ride in Pictures:

Meeting the team at Westlands in Nairobi. Shariff briefs us on the route.

Through green leafy Spring Valley. The roads were nice and clear for the Sunday morning ride.

Entering Gachie. The road is two way with little room on the shoulder enough for a cyclist to squeeze in.

Juma on the uphill towards Kikuyu Campus. The road in this section has little anti-skid bumps at intervals but on a busy traffic day the shoulder space is sufficient for a cyclist.

SK and Juma. in Kikuyu town. The road is a little wider with more room on the shoulder for a cyclist and a donkey cart.

Turning uphill into Thogoto. Cyclist pushing his loaded fixed gear Blackie. The entire road climbs up into the highlands,

Bus stop along Mangu Rd. in Thogoto... up, up, we go.

We are joined by the DHL boys on the climb...

We are in Donkey-pulled cart country.

Approaching a road-side goat & doper herder. It's the dry season but the well endowed Kikuyu highlands still still offer some brush for the small flocks of livestock.

On the uphill, a donkey-pulled cart loaded with napier grass and another carrying water in a giant drum. These donkeys are made of tough stuff for this uphill road.

Up, up, up. Just when you are done with one long climb another one shows up around the bend. It helps to look out into the horizon on the climb. Thank god it was a traffic-less Sunday morning. Lovely Kikuyu highlands are still green in the dry season.

This guy, perhaps in his fifties, flew by us on his Blackie with a wide semi-toothless grin.

David Kinja to the rescue to fix J's broken crank chain. Don't you just love his aerodynamic helmet. He looked like a comet riding effortlessly up and down with the DHL boys in an amazing display of colour, speed and team discipline.

A road side bike garage. there were three others along the way. "Sasa fundi!"

The Southern By Pass road is coming up pretty well. This will run from Kikuyu to Mombasa road via Ngong road & Langata road. From what I hear, it's not a busy road and thus not yet secure to use. Kinja's place is up ahead.

An interesting name for a church. Near David Kinja's home.

B's sturdy Travel Master. She and J have done over 2000 Kilometres of travel in Kenya. This bike is one hefty mama. Impressive!

N gets solicited by a Maasai elder selling Maasai wooden clubs. He and J each got one.

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

❁◕ ‿ ◕❁ SheIsSmooth

6 Mar

After my first fifty kilometer ride in the February heat, I noticed visible differences in my skin; mostly my arms and face. I had no helmet then and had worn a short-sleeved v-neck top. My skin is generally dry, and a little dehydration shows in patches. The cycle helmet, especially one with a visor plays a major role in protecting your face and eyes against the hot, bright sun.

Cycling pretty much exposes you to the elements; the rain, the sun and gritty sand-laden wind. With the sun having the most impact.

It helps to drink lots of water at intervals on a long ride and at the beginning and end of each short commute.

I know, I know, they say “Black don’t crack”. Trust me, your skin will thank you later for taking good care of it as you cycle. No point in being fit and toned with damaged skin.

Generally, a cyclist gets dirtier than the average Nairobi commuter; the car fumes, the dust and sweat. Freshen up at your commute destination, especially if your ride is long and up-hill, as any Nairobi ride is certain to be. I had not noticed how hilly Nairobi is until I became a commuter cyclist. I am looking forward to cycling in the cool of June-August.

Face: Your first protection is the helmet with a sun visor extension. If you can afford it, get your cycling goggles with UV/UVB protection too, they come in handy in the rain as well. The goggles mainly protect your eyes from dust and bugs. If you wear prescription spectacles keep them on, they are sufficient for short urban commutes.

A helmet with a visor. Not all helmets come with a visor.

If you wear sun lotion or a greasy facial moisturizer, be prepared to be covered in grime as it will catch the dust in the wind. It’s nothing a thorough cleanse won’t cure. I add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice to a gentle maize meal flour scrub after washing off the dirt with water.

After the Thika-Nairobi Highway ride, the skin on my cheeks was dry and mildly peeled from the gritty wind after two days. The boys probably don’t think too much of this. Girls know what I am talking about.

Remember to clean the removable the inside padding of your helmet between uses to avoid a pimple out break on your forehead. Remove the padding from the Velcro strips and squeeze gently in warm soapy water, rinse, put out to dry and replace. If I am in a rush, I use methylated spirit and a piece of cotton to gently rub off any dirt and grime on the helmet padding.

Gently take off the front padding. Ensure that you have some super glue or any other strong adhesive incase the rough patch of the Velcro attached to the helmet come off.

The five parts of padding from the inside of my cycling helmet. Wash them using a mild soap and warm water. I use a regular bar soap (Kipande). Rinse properly.

The helmet straps also collect a lot of sweat and dirt. they need to be cleaned regularly to keep you from breaking out on the sides of your face. The cotton and methylated spirit helps for quick cleaning.

Methylated spirit and cotton wool are good for that quick cleaning of the inside of your helmet between rides. It evaporates off quickly with no smell or residue.

This article too has some great skin care tips, I suggest extending some of them to your neck, arms and legs. My favourite are 1, 5, 6, 12, 14 and 16; they can be done at minimal cost with no side effects.

Use your regular shampoo, shower gel or kipande (bar soap) to clean the inside of your helmet. If you use an oily hair product you may need to clean your helmet daily.

Hands and Forearms: Finger-less gloves not only give you a better grip on the handle bars, but protect your hands from the abrasive wind and hot sun. The skin on the back of the hands is very thin and needs extra care.

The gloves also reduce the soreness resulting from the pressure of your weight on the handle bars. Trust me, on a long ride, you will feel every nerve in your palms being pinched against the bars. Get them gloves!!

The forearms bear the most brunt of the brute sun. I had scaly upper forearms after that first fifty kilometre ride in the February heat. On subsequent rides I added some olive oil to my usual body lotion before venturing out. I get the one litre bottle that lasts six to seven months. (It’s great for your pancakes too!)

Wearing long sleeves is the simplest solution. Make sure it’s cotton or at least a breathable fabric. Cycling jerseys are made using a special breathable protective fabric.

On the days following a long ride in the hot sun, I use a table-spoon of maize meal (Unga wa Ugali) or sugar mixed with a little olive oil for a gentle body scrub on the scaly parts of your skin. It’s gentle on the face. I prefer the maize meal to the sugar. It’s best done in the shower after a regular wash. It’s less abrasive with the flour if you have a sensitive skin.

Extra virgin olive oil and maize meal flour/ sugar. Do this in the steamy shower after your regular wash and cleanse for best results.

I got the same results using regular liquid cooking oil for the scrubs. If it’s good to eat, it’s good for your skin too. The olive oil is also a great plain moisturizer if you have a dry skin.

Neck: You can tell the age of a tree by the rings on its trunk and a girl’s age by the rings on her neck. A light scarf loosely tied around your neck reduces the winds abrasive effect on the sensitive skin there on the long rides.

Try to wear a round-necked top or tee, with the round collar as close to your collar-bone as possible, to protect your upper chest area from the abrasive wind.

Legs: I don’t own cycling leggings or shorts. I wear my regular trousers rolled up to my knees or mid-calf leggings. This exposes the skin on the legs to the same abrasion caused by the wind with particles in it, while any moisturizer you may have applied is dried off as well.

Adding olive oil or a thin layer of Vaseline before the usual body lotion straight out of the shower helps. The skin on the legs is tougher that the face, but the sugar-olive oil scrub in the shower helps keep them soft and sexy as necessary.

Having your bike fitted with rubber pedals helps. I started out with metal spiked pedals and got my bare shins banged up quite a bit.

Lips: The reality of cycling in this hot, December to March sun, is painfully chapped lips for a few days after a long ride. Just hydrate thoroughly on plain water before, after and during the ride. Use some Vaseline too.

Resist the urge to bite off the dry peeling skin on your lips.

If it’s not too painful after the ride, brush gently with your toothbrush as you brush your teeth before bed and use some Vaseline or olive oil as you go to bed. Wake up to soft kiss-able lips the next morning.

Take care! Stay looking good!

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


29 Feb

Saturday evening my cycle buddy SK dropped by my place for a chat. It quickly turned into a cycling trip to Thika Town, fourty-five  kilometres away from Nairobi, the following day.

This trip reminded me once more why I need to get a better saddle. AG’s voice advising me to get cycling gloves echoed in my brain as my sore palms tingled. With my upper body weight thrown forward supported by my hands on the handle bars, the trip back was doubly painful. I was sure I would have blisters.

I have used Thika-Nairobi Highway many times;  my parents and I used it when my father moved his practice to Nairobi from up-country, in my youth to visit family up-country and back, in a funeral convoy to bury my fallen uncle, in the recent past to “get a wife for my cousin” from Nyeri, to visit my uncle and his family in Thika, on the way to a hiking day-trip up Mount Long’onot… all by car.

As a child, I remember sitting in the back of the small family car with my younger sister counting cars as they whizzed past us on the two-way road. The floating feeling as we descended and climbed out of the Thika Road Drift, just before the General Service Unit Barracks signalled the Nairobi city limits. The king of the road was the speeding Toyota Hilux pick-ups, hauling khat from Meru to Nairobi. Only an accident could stop them. They rarely caused any.

“Yangu! Yangu” (“Mine! Mine”) We screamed in turns at the cars going in the opposite direction, until one of us fell asleep or we disagreed on whose car the last one was.

We would stop at the old toll station, pay and continue. Scream out of the window at the River Chania below. Stick our cheeky tongues at the road-side fishmongers. Admire the neat pineapple farms on either side of the highway. Stop in Thika for pineapples by the road-side.

As I grew older and more discerning, I noticed that each trip to and from up-country grew bumpy-er. The toll station was no longer there. Signs indicating that “This road is maintained from the fuel levy fund”  announced that, someone, somewhere had hung his coat on the back of his chair and left for the day.

The number of accidents reported on this highway grew as every year wore it down. The missing sections of dented railing along escarpments bore testimony to the deaths. Paint markings meant someone else had lived to die another day. The numerous Traffic Police roadblocks along the section between Kahawa and Jomo Kenyatta University (gangsters’ paradise) did not deter the armed highway robbers.

That’s the old Thika-Nairobi Highway.

The old two-lane highway has now been replaced by the much acclaimed six-lane “Super Highway”. Drivers have taken this seriously and cruise at equally super speeds”. This site documents the progress well and indicates someone is in-charge and present.

There are no rough road shoulders for a quick stop. If your car stalls suddenly the likelihood of being rammed is very high. It’s no wonder the  life saver triangle has been made a must-have for every vehicle in Kenya. There’s a hefty fine for not having a pair in your car.

As I descended into the Chania River Valley, a terribly strong gust wind carrying dust and grit, swept up and out of the Valley onto the road. Threatening to push me into the center of the road. Had to keep steering left to stay on the shoulder as cars whizzed past me. I could feel the wind catching on my helmet visor trying to yank it off. Shutting my left eye and squinting my right kept the gravel and dust from totally blinding me. Another reason why cycling glasses come in handy. Mental note.

The  drifts on Thika road are a lot less deep than they used to be. They have claimed many lives in the past. You don’t get the floating feeling in your stomach going down and up any more.

The Chinese tamed Thika Road for sure.

I found it’s safer to cycle on the outside side lanes to avoid getting hit by cars exiting onto or off the main-road. If you choose to use the main lanes stay alert and give your hand signals early.

While you were away, things changed.

In pictures:

Leaving the Central Business District via the Old Nation – Nairobi Fire Station roundabout. Not too busy and chaotic on a Sunday morning. It’s a nightmare for a cyclist on any other day. Use with caution and wear reflective gear. I am not sure if it’s that the building perimeter wall on the left it has eaten into road reserve or not, but it’s terribly flash to the road leading to the Globe overpass.

The view of the Globe Roundabout from the Globe overpass. On the left the the road leading up to University way. That U-turn spot is still operational. This railing is extravagantly used on all the overpasses. I suppose it has a lightning arresting property to it. Or perhaps to hold the concrete together better in case of an earthquake…?

A lone cyclist on the Globe Roundabout overpass. He smiled and waved back.

Though the traffic was thin, both lanes were in use and a cyclist could squeeze alongside the cars with plenty of room left. The traffic here on weekdays is not so fast, making it safe to cycle.

The Public Service Mini Bus had just stopped to pick up two pedestrians. Saw a couple of pedestrians approaching just as the mini bus took off and asked them if they knew it’s illegal to walk on the over pass. They denied any such knowledge. I suppose being a slow traffic Sunday allowed them to venture.

Ngara Market area: The paving blocks are high Keeping pedestrians same from notorious overlapping Public Service Vehicles, and a neatly paved side walk is coming along nicely. In some places the blocks are not yet properly installed and protrude dangerously onto the road.

The pedestrian walkway and drainage (left) look they will last a loooong time. Unless some “bright” soul comes along an digs it up to lay cables or something not fore-planned like that. This design beats those ugly bollards any day!! 

This section just after Ngara is very dangerous. I noticed that both sides of the highway were two way, drivers were making dangerous U-turns.

The road opens out. It’s safer to cycle on the outer lane (left) until it rejoins the highway.

It’s roomy on the left on the main highway. The  metal barrier is still intact and un-dented, for now. Unmarked lanes made for a lot of irritated hooting.

A motorist going the wrong way on the service lane on the left. Tsk tsk.

A pedestrian footbridge under construction. I noticed the gradient on the rump part is softer than the Mbagathi Way one. Will be back to check it out on completion. I hope the sides will be open with “No Posters” for user security.

Another pedestrian footbridge: It’s not immediately clear why all the steel is necessary. There are these large loopy ribcage-like steel extensions on either side of the landing. Perhaps the ribcage is to hold up the large directional highway signs. Let’s wait and see. 

It appears there will be a pedestrian bridge here judging by these strange obelisks sticking out of the earth.

We arrive in Thika. The shoulder has some cycling room.

Thika town has narrow roads and unpaved side walks. At this intersection we squeezed through the slow Sunday traffic.

Thika Town: An interesting feature in an intersection triangle island allows the cyclists to navigate the junction safely, like a pedestrian. Traffic moves very fast along the main Road entering the town.

Lots of cyclists in Thika Town. The one in front had a sassy Dutch style bike with a cute, front, wire basket carrier.

Thika town: Cycling on the wrong side.

Plenty of cycle room. No pedestrian pavement though.

Nyeri Town?… maybe next time.

Pineapple patrol: You haven’t been to Thika if you haven’t had a juicy pineapple.

Nairobi here we come. Back onto the open road. The journey back was a climb out of the Chania River valley. My heavy bike saw me get left behind by SK most of the return journey. Waaaait up!!!

A woman and child get a ride on the back of a fixed gear bike, on the service lane. “Usitupige picha we mzungu!!” (“Don’t photograph us you white girl!” – I’m black by the way) 

The road markings end just after the Thika town turn off.

Pushing a fixed gear bike uphill on the wrong side of the highway. Notice the surviving factories, in the once burgeoning industrial town that Thika once was, in the background. It’s slowly returning to its former industrial glory. This highway will make sure of it, I hope.

Motor cycles are popular in Thika, as they are everywhere else in Kenya. Noticed lots of  bicycle tire tracks on the upcoming pedestrian pavement.

Thika town was once a prosperous industrious town. This appears to be a power plant or leather tannery. Not sure which. Thika hosts a leather processing plant among other industries.

This spot looked like a disaster waiting to happen. People crossing over the metal barrier across the road. I noticed a lot of shuttered glass on the tarmac as I cycled past, that confirmed my fears.

The underpass leading back into the Central Business District. Very dark in there. The lights should stay on day and night for better safety. It’s not safe to stop, but the entering the tunnel bumps slowed the traffic enough to allow us to jump onto the drainage cover.

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

✿ DelicateMatters ✿

22 Feb

In slow traffic, some male drivers slow down, roll down the passenger window and give me a thumbs up or an approving nod or a smile. Female drivers mostly ignore me and concentrate on not running me over by giving me a wide berth in traffic ❤. Taxi drivers in my hood flash their headlights in approval as I approach. Matatu conductors hang half out of the window with a blank stare as the matatu overtakes me in traffic, I just smile and wink if I recognize the conductor from my public-transport-commuter days. The City Council parking attendants nod and say “Hey”.

There have been times I’ve been peeved by lewd sexist remarks. All from men. All of them pedestrians. Never the male cyclists. I ignore them. It’s good for your heart, to ignore them, that is. Wave back to the positive ones.

One time, a matatu driver slowed down alongside me so that his male passenger, ridding shot gun, could make a sign at me that signified giving oral sex to a woman. I 凸(¬‿¬) welcomed him to try. Promises, promises.

In Industrial Area cycling near some road-side motor garages: “Tete is tete, Madam!” (Not sure if this is positive or not)

In Nairobi West, Birongo Square cycling past the car-wash guys: “Madam si utapanuka sana?”  ό,ὸ  (reference to my private parts expanding from cycling)

Road-side critic in Nairobi along route number eight in Kibra: “Madam si unaharibu mambo?” ⊙_☉  (Reference to damaging my private parts)

A pedestrian in Industrial Area: “Madam si umeiva?” (positive: Referring to my being with it.)

A pedestrian on Ngong Road: “Madam si unipee lift” (Jokingly requesting a lift on the rear carrier)

A pedestrian crossing between cars: “Yeah Baby! Uko poa!” (“Yeah Baby, you’re alright!”)

A male pedestrian’s approval on Uhuru Highway: “Eeh Madam” (Yes, Madam”).

Others make cat calls and kissing sounds or blow me a kiss.

The positive comments mostly outweigh the negative ones. I guess there is a genuine thrill they get seeing me cycle.

The comments directed at my ✿ lady bits ✿ are somewhat troubling to me. I find they are morbidly at home in the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) debate. There is a strange obsession with womens’ sexuality, in most African cultures, that is very misplaced. Now, I find it linked to female cycling. This blog sums it up nicely.

FGM is about curtailing, inhibiting, preventing and controlling women’s expression. Riding a bicycle for me is about freedom, confidence and movement. It’s an antithesis to FGM, to me.

Riding a bicycle in many African cultures is seen as a male activity. No eyebrows raised at a man cycling. Women are rarely encouraged to take up cycling. Fewer try to, save for those in some urban areas where the gender bias on many levels is narrower, only slightly. Even fewer women own a bicycle.

I find the ease with which my privates are up for commentary by total strangers, quite frankly, annoying. It reminds me why there were few male voices in the anti-FGM movement despite it’s obviously retrogressiveness, even with all these road-side motor mouths. Without the external parts of my lady parts, as happens in infibulation, none of the lady saddles ever designed would make riding comfortable.

Even with all the nonsensical comments by road-side obstetricians, on-line articles on cycling saddles raise issues with cycling discomfort and temporary troubles for men, that can turn permanent. The discussions about female saddles mainly point to mere discomfort that can be resolved with adjustments to seat post height and and saddle angle.

A quick search shows that the on-line articles on women’s seats are more than those on men’s. Not to be confused with the issue of ergonomics and design for comfort, the larger debate on women’s seats is mainly driven by aesthetics and the importance given to providing a wider variety, in different colors. Some of which are exorbitantly priced and come in vagina colours – pink and red. Others in white with blue or pink highlights. Of course there are ergonomics concerns in women’s saddle discussion, just not related to adverse health implications.

A quick google search revealed as follows:

“Men’s Cycling Saddles” – 1,210,000 hits

“Women’s Cycling Saddles” –  1,380,000 hits

To some extent, the Kenyan road-side gynaecologists  are both right and wrong.

Perhaps what these crude, rude critics mean is the fact that cycling results in a rush of endorphins (feel-good-chemicals), and a higher sex-drive. That comes with any good work out, as with cycling. It is something they cannot reconcile with.

The painful truth is, when you start cycling, there will be slight discomfort, not only in the region of your privates, but your gluts and thighs too. This goes for both male and female cyclist beginners. Like any form of exercise, the new positions, new use of muscles and the resulting pressure WILL cause some pain.

The discomfort for women is not permanent, no matter what you have heard or read, and can be remedied… 

There are adjustments to your seat and handle bars that you need to make. These adjustments are peculiar to your physical build – mainly your height. If you cycle regularly and the discomfort subsides then returns it means that the correct adjustments to your seat were altered.

I learnt from my cycle buddy FR that the seat should be higher than the handle bars to make the most efficient use of your energy. The top of the seat, however, should reach mid hip when standing next to the bike. This advise works, but may actually be harmful to your nether regions.

If you can afford it, when cycling long distances, wear the proper cycling kit – the pants or shorts with a padded crotch. You could also get a proper, ergonomically designed  racing saddle. These are available second-hand, as good as new. Your regular workout or work clothes will do just fine.

Saddles for women have a wider groove or centre cut-out than those for men, to accommodate a wider pelvic girth. The heavier you are the longer the discomfort takes to wear off. I will get a nose-less saddle for women one of these days. This buyer’s guide is useful when making choises.

You and your hand tonight Ma!

Like all muscle aches, a massage in the shower between cycle trips helps.

Yes, a massage, stop looking at the screen like that. Acting all coy, as if you don’t know how to do it. There are muscles there too. And every bit of muscle plays a big role in your cycling comfort.

So when the aches begin, use your head, ermm… your hand. Just as you would for other aching muscles.

Happy Nairobi Cycling!!! ❤ Nairobi! ❤ Cycling!


“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a  feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”                                        

– Susan B. Anthony

About Susan B. Anthony: http://susanbanthonyhouse.org/her-story/biography.php


My cycle buddy AG shared these tips with me:

“Beginner technique: How to set up your mountain bike”: http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/article/beginner-technique-how-to-set-up-your-mountain-bike-22707

“Beginner’s guide to mountain biking”:


Something on male cycling and sexual health:

“A Delicate Matter” http://www.livestrong.com/article/130600-cycling-male-fertility/

Something on female cycling and sexual health:

“CYCLING & MALE FERTILITY” http://www.womenscycling.ca/newsletter-august-september-06.htm#delicate


“The Agony of de Vagina” http://www.womenscycling.ca/newsletter-august-september-06.htm#agony

” Cycling May Diminish Sexual Pleasure in Women, Lead to Numbness of the Genitalia” http://medicaldaily.com/news/20120515/9894/relationship-exercise-cycling-bicycle-women.htm


20 Feb

I have mentioned Mbagathi Way as a cycle friendly route before. Judging from the speeds on the descent, it’s also a motorists’ haven.

Driving down that descent on the inside lane at 80 Km/h, I remeber feeling the flinging force tagging me towards the center… Slow down ya’ll!

Mbagathi Way is probably the only main road in Nairobi that is made entirely of concrete <<< That is not counting the few sections of road paved in concrete blocks in Nairobi. This road was supposed to showcase the possibilities for road construction using concrete. They did a damn good job.

Vision 2030 needs to drive through here.

Besides the cool ramped pedestrian footbridge, I absolutely love the steel pavement foot bridges over the streams.

This past weekend I cycled along Mbagathi Way on the way to Langata Road.

In Pictures:

The top of the Mbagathi Way Pavement looks very inviting. This is the left flank leaving the Kenyatta-Ngong Road roundabout. Whoever thought up the steel foot bridges where the little streams pass was genius!

The largely disused older pedestrian footbridge with steps on either side. People prefer to cross dangerously beneath the bridge. Notice the all covered up concrete wall sides of the bridge.

The paving drops off suddenly where there are entrance ways. Stand up as you drop!

They really went crazy with these little pavement protectors. More bollards! Even harder to scoot around these three as they are close together. Two would have sufficed. Just go slow.

They did a great job on the road but did not expand the foot walk over the railway line bridge. Cars whizz dangerously close to pedestrians as they begin the steep descent. Three weeks ago a car went partially over the railing sending a pedestrian to his death on the railway line below. I hear they picked him up in pieces after the train went over him. There is now missing railing at the accident spot. Don't look down!!

The pedestrian foot bridge has a ramp. I noticed most pedestrians used the ramp going up and the stairs coming down. This bridge was made with Love, it's finished with pink terrazzo!!

On the first landing. I tried cycling up, but it's too steep. Push, iPant. Not sure if the pink terrazzo is safe when wet in the rain.

The landing at the top. The designer built it to be open sided as this area is relatively unsafe. But the city went ahead and allowed billboards to be posted on either side. Retrogressive.Imposing edifice coming up on the other side. The metal barrier running along the middle of the road still does not deter pedestrians from crossing the road beneath the bridge. I spotted a few cyclists carrying their bikes over the barrier too. SMH.

View from the top landing. Stair way on the right. Notice anything peculiar? Yes, no human faeces or litter on the top of this super clean bridge. The open sides and the regular use of the bridge make it impossible to have enough "privacy" for that.

Another steel foot bridge over a tributary stream. The unnecessary bollards are spaced too close together here Not sure what the point is for these two.

A roadside florist/tree nursery owner has turned this section into a lovely tree-lined pedestrian boulevard. Watch out for the low hanging branches!!

...and more bollards! But this entrance just outside Amani Counselling Centre has a pavement ramp! I doubt this was part of the road contractor's design. Great also for the other-wise enabled persons, though those closely placed bollards can make it hard for a wheel chair to get around.

...and more bollards approaching the Mbagathi Way-Lang'ata Road roundabout. These are well placed apart. I can scoot around on the left or right as pedestrians go between them. What's with all the bollards though?!! The lower section of Mbagathi Way is safer for the cyclist to get back on the road as it flattens out and widens entering the roundabout Just after Amani Counselling Centre. Note that the right pavement flank (the ascending side) is too narrow for cyclists and pedestrians in a section where several wall eat into the road reserve. It's safe to cycle on the road on the climbing side as traffic is slower. Careful not to fall into the open gutter!!

This is a highway of many firsts: First pedestrian footbridge with a ramp, first wholly concrete road and the first road to have soooo many bollards!! They are like miniature trees growing out the pavement them bollards!

In retrospect, there are very few trees along this concrete road.

A route that is easy on your bike and on your butt.

Happy cycling in Nairobi!! ♥Nairobi! ♥Cycling!!


15 Feb

Since I began cycling in November 2011 there are things I have come to appreciate about cycling in this motor-crazy city, even though the city plans do not appear geared towards accommodating cycling:

1. The brave Black Mamba cyclists who wear neither helmet nor reflective gear.

2. The polite truck drivers on Ngong Road who hoot gently. #iCanHearYou 🙂

3. The awesome footbridge with a rump on Mbagathi Way. Pangani-Ngara area will need one or three of these.

4. The pedestrians who give way on the pavement.. You don’t need a bell, they just part and let you through. Ahsante {:)

5. No road rage from motorists towards cyclists.

6. The conscientious lady drivers. Special thanks to the Vitz girls, they know what it’s like being bullied on the road.

7. The industrious corner cycle repair guys in the Nairobi neighbourhoods.

8. The readily available second-hand quality bikes.

9. The friendly and supportive news-stand guys, security guards, shoe shiners and taxi rank guys.

10. The fact that in Nairobi, traffic light rules don’t apply to cyclists. Yay!

11. The creatively pimped out Black Mambas across the country.

12. The malls and buildings that accommodate bike parking.

13. The supermarkets that readily pack your groceries in a small box to go on the rear carrier.

14. The fact that the city has a bicycle parking.

15. Weekend cycling in a pack with supportive cycle-pals.

16. The downhill rides in the traffic-free suburbs on Saturday morning.

17. The adjustable strap messenger style cross-body purse or handbag (no back pack for this stylish girl-cyclist).

18. Slim trousers and skinny jeans for stylish cycling in Nairobi.

19. The wide well paved pavement on Mbagathi Way that can accommodate, cyclists and pedestrians.

20. The gaps in the pavement blocks on Ngong Road that allow rain water to drain (no Splashing) and cyclists to avoid road hogs.

21. Clean city public toilets for freshening up before a meeting in the Central Business District.

22. A cosy nook for my bike under the stairs. No parking woes in my building.


Happy Nairobi Cycling!! ❤ Nairobi! ❤Cycling!

Nairobi in February 2012. Clear blue skies. Taken from KICC building in the CBD.


This post celebrates love for Nairobi from a cyclist’s point of view in this season of love. LoveNairobi. ❤Nairobi.

Tips for our city fathers:

 Ten lessons from the great cycling cities. 


Bwana Mayor! Two-Wheel Parking Woes

8 Feb

One of the most important things I never gave  much thought to – which is well pointed out in this article that indicates that neither do planners – as I opted to begin cycle commuting, was parking and security for my bike when in the Nairobi Central Business District. The first time was when going to Times Tower where security had been stepped up such that even the space up front where motor cycles parked was clear and cordoned off. Just few feet away is the National Oil petrol station and a courier van. I toyed with the idea of requesting the courier guys to watch it for me but changed my mind when I noticed the newsstand guy sitting on a box on the pavement just outside the perimeter metal barrier.


Good thing he remembered me from some time past when I had been forced to leave him with a package I was carrying because the security at Times Tower wouldn’t allow me in with it. He moved his box for me to chain the bike to the metal perimeter barrier behind him. Gave him thirty bob for the trouble even though he did not ask.

The second time was when I went to see my tailor on Biashara Street. I found a very cheerful guard at the entrance. After watching me, chain in hand, trying to figure out how to secure it to a Nairobi City Council trash bin or the telegraph pole, he gestured towards the wall and moved his tomato crate seat for me to lean the bike against the wall.

“Hapo iko sawa.” (“It will be just fine there.”)

Gave him twenty bob for his help, voluntarily. As I left the tailor’s pushing my bike along the pavement, I noticed Black Mamba Bikes secured creatively; chained to a metal security door just next door, chained to a telephone line pole and just outside City Market chained to a disused door.


In pictures:

On Biashara Street

On Biashara Street 2

Outside Kenyatta Market. Love the front carrier :).

The third time was at a bank on Kenyatta Avenue. Just outside the bank there were three Nairobi City Council Officers, two uniformed and the third plain-clothed, busy looking out for motorists running the red light.

As I leaned my bike against the wall outside the bank, I looked at one of them and asked if it was within the City By Laws to leave it there briefly. One of the uniformed ones feigned deafness as the plain-clothed one assured me it would be fine.

The fourth time was at one of the posh old buildings on Wabera Street as I went  to a stock brokerage that I had visited numerous times before. The security guards looked down their noses as I parked the bike against the wall at the entrance, took off my helmet and walked over to the lifts in the ample lobby.

“Madam, unataka kuacha hiyo hapo?” (Madam, are you leaving that there?”)

Ummm… Let me think …Yes I am going to leave it there. As if I am going to take it with me in the lift six floors up.

“Tafadhali enda u-park pale kwa parking ya piki piki. Hapo Kanjo wataibeba.” (“Please go park it at the motor cycle parking. If you leave it there the Nairobi City Council officers will carry it away.”)

I obliged and pushed it over to the motor cycle parking. As I stood there, chain in hand, once again eyeing a City Council trash bin, a taxi driver at the taxi rank nearby offered that I chain it to the pavement railing. Sharp!

Choices for secure bicycle parking in CBD are few, but the helpful nature of people makes it easier. This is not to say that the City which has a smoking booth, tidy shoe shine stands, neat dustbins, clean and functioning public toilets has no designated bicycle parking…

It does…

Nairobi’s sole bicycle parking spot.

Nairobi’s bike parking on Koinange Street. Notice the mangled metal bicycle stands at either end.

This bicycle parking (pictured) spot is at the bottom of Koinange street outside the public toilet, adjacent to the public smoking booth and a church; this is perhaps the most accommodative street in CBD Nairobi – also hosting Casinos, an eclectic traders market, hair salons, print shops, stationery stores, hardware shops, restaurants for all pocket sizes, university colleges, mid level technical colleges, banks, and a haven for twilight girls after sunset .

The bicycle owners secure the bikes to the metal stands sticking out of the ground. Some of the stands are mere twisted metal in the ground from being repeatedly ran over by passing heavy vehicles over the years.

How to secure your bike in Nairobi.

For now this will have to do.

It can get better and neater though; it would be great to have something like this, that allows you to wait out the rain, while the city can earn from a fresh branding space! How about these ideas from Cycle Hoop that could see those headless, former parking meter poles turn into bike parking. Some day, hopefully in my life time, there will be a map of Africa like this one that details commuter cycling infrastructure.

Some suggestions to the City Fathers to make some money:

From: http://www.cyclesafe.com/Lockers.tab.aspx

Or to save space and accommodate more bicycles in a smaller space the stackable bike rack:

From: http://www.parkabike.com/stack-rack.html

Happy cycling in Nairobi and beyond!!!!