I picked up a new hobby this month: cycling. And my introduction to the sport was a thudding fall. I got the bike and told myself that I would take it easy, but as the tyres started rolling and I began getting the hang of my 9-speed gears, I got excited and started pedaling while descending Ngong Road. And there I was, sandwiched between a lorry and a ditch with panic in my veins, and the inevitable followed.
The last time I cycled properly was in the 90s. “Vioja Mahakamani” was a hit, we were binge-watching “The Bold and the Beautiful” on black and white TVs, and Celine Dion filled our ears. I was a small boy of 8 living in Kangemi, and my favorite pastime was playing brikicho and bano with my childhood friends—Shiko, Jere, and Mercy. Mercy also doubled as my girlfriend. (Story for another day.)
After much begging and pleading my old man finally had Mercy on me—I know you saw what I did there. He finally had mercy and got me a red bike called Hero Jet. My enjoyment of Hero Jet was short-lived because she belonged to everyone in the neighborhood haha, so she always had a puncture or something else wrong with it.
Fast forward to 2023. I am at Decathlon at the Hub Karen, and I have just gotten myself a spanking new bike. I knew my cycling skills were rusty, and I had told myself I would load the bike into a car, and the following day, I would take it out and practice on a not-so-busy road. Sounded like a plan until I started trying it out in the parking lot.
I made countless laps. I pedaled while standing up, and we all know somebody who can pedal while standing up is a pro cyclist, right? Besides, you know what they say when it comes to things that you have done before, you cannot forget them because they are like riding a bike.
It was around 6 pm when I left the Hub Karen. “At any point, if you think you can’t do this, you’ll stop and call an Uber,” I said to myself as I passed a Tuk Tuk with no incident. A Tuk Tuk? Come one. Yes, I was boosting my confidence with whatever I could find.
I turned some heads too. I mean, it’s a large-frame Rockrider Sport Trail Mountain Bike, and when the sun hits my helmet just right, it makes me look like a distant relative of Lance Armstrong. Without the doping, of course. “Gotta show them what you’re made of,” I thought while changing gears and plunging downhill at lightning speed towards the bridge that connects Ngong road to the Southern Bypass.
Before I could say, “Christ on a donkey.” I heard a truck coming from my right side. In my head, it was a heavyset trella truck, creating mini earthquakes with its every movement. To me, this trella was so close, it wanted to cuddle and tell me how its day was. On my left was a ditch. I don’t know about you, but I am not ready for anything serious, so I decided to take my chances with the ditch.
As I fell and got first-hand experience of how an accident sounds and tastes like, I thought, “So this is how it ends: On the road run over by a trella?” In a split second, I think I saw the proverbial white light. I did not resist it. In fact, I felt calm and, in a matter-of-fact way, accepted my fate, knowing I had run a good race, kept the faith, and fought the good fight.
But turns out, the man upstairs isn’t done with me yet because the lorry, which in my head was a trella, was quite a distance from where I was. I got up, dusted myself off, and got back on the road with minor bruises on my hands and knee and a busted fork which was quickly fixed by a guy called Andrew whom I met at Rubis petrol station.
Andrew, who I suspect is called Drew by his friends, is the kind of guy the phrase, “Calm and collected” was invented for. We had a chat, and he ended up servicing the bike for a small fee. I had no other incident for the rest of the journey. In a weird way, I think the lessons from that accident have prevented future accidents.
I have cycled since then, on highways, gravel roads, and off-road. On steep climbs, downhill while holding on to my hydraulic brakes for dear life. I thought running was tough and exciting; I’m finding cycling to be tougher and exhilarating.
The idea of cycling is to keep fit, get out of my head, (You almost need superhuman alertness to be on Kenyan roads.) and at the same time explore new places and communities. I came across a Kenyan cyclist called Moses Amira on YouTube, and I admire what he does for cycling in the country and the courage he exhibits on our roads, which are often crazy. Moses, you are part of the reason I chose the saddle.
I’m also looking forward to the mechanical aspect of owning a bicycle. I have consumed enough cycling material by now to be a bike mechanic. I am looking forward to fixing punctures, oiling the moving parts, tightening loose screws, and anything else I might be called up to do by the bike. And then, one of these days, at 6 pm, when the sun is low, we shall go back to Ngong road, on that southern bypass, and revisit.
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