Tag Archives: Kikuyu

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!

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*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!

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.

REAR WHEEL:

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.

CLEANING THE CHAIN & CASSETTE:

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,

WHEEL BALANCING:

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.

BRAKE PADS:

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.

Tips:

You can build your own bicycle repair stand. I could not help noticing it would have made Samson’s work easier: http://www.bicycling.com/maintenance/repair-maintenance/your-30-hardware-store-stand