This particular obsession has broken my spirit when races go wrong after months of training and it has thrilled me more than I knew possible when everything falls into place. It’s given me memories with family and friends that I’ll never forget and some I only wish I could forget. It’s humbled me and built my confidence. It’s also used up a lot of energy that might have ended up spent on less productive things, I don’t do so well when I’m idle and not working towards a goal. Anyway… when we decided to move to Kenya I knew that breaking my dependence on cycling would be a major obstacle to overcome so I started weaning myself off my 150 miles / week training early and slowly. It’s hard to describe what a hole that left in my life. I began commuting by bus, and tried to substitute other forms of exercise into my daily routines. I was somewhat successful, but during the winter I began commuting to my new job on an Extracycle I built up from an old mtn bike just to keep sane. There is something about being outdoors, working my body until my mind calms down, and feeling the world around me in a physical, tangible way that I really need on a daily basis.
When I moved here it was the end of that for me. My parents had even given me money for christmas to buy a bike here in Kenya when I arrived, but folks, if you think cycling is risky at home, here it is beyond description. Driving is enough of a risk on it’s own. At least that’s what my sane mind tells me. But this week I couldn’t take it anymore and after much talking with centre staff I decided to donate a couple of bikes to the Karibu Centre. I bought two sweet Indian machines and then took them to the Jua Kali (street metal workers) and had them fabricate some strong racks and reinforce the frames.
These type of work bicycles are everywhere here in Kenya and they will really help the centre and staff in many ways. Two of our staff live in Kiganjo, a community that is about 5 miles down a long dirt path from Karibu Centre. They WALK every day and it takes them about 45min – 1 hour each way. They will be able to take one bike and ride together, the racks are strong like the bicycle taxis here and this should cut their commute down to about 15 min. When the cook goes to the market, she hires bicycle taxis to transport a weeks worth of fruit and vegetables to the centre, now she can take a groundsman and transport it all on our centre bikes. When we have errands to run in town, workers are frequently sent on foot for a 1 hour walk to do some routine business. Well, one hour just turned into 15 minutes with a nice breeze in their face. Volunteers wanting to head back to the guest house early can now get a ride the local way, on our very own boda-boda piloted by the gregarious and saftey conscious Karibu Centre security chief, Tito. And finally, I came to the conclusion that if I can race down curvy mountain roads in a tighly packed peleton at 50 mph I bet I have better than average cycling skills for Thika and they all seem to get around fine on two wheels. So we’ll have a much happier boss around this place if he get a ride in once in a while.
Today Tito and I picked up our two new bikes and rode them back to Karibu Centre. Poor Tito though he’d be funny and raced past me right away which triggered my racing reflex. I gave it a little gas and about a minute later I looked back, he was nowhere to be seen. I soft peddled it back to the centre, waited a few minutes, then turned around to go find him. He eventually peddled up panting and sweating. He said it felt like someone was beating him with a cane all over his butt and thighs. I guess I forgot I probably have better than average cycling power too and what’s slow to me even in my untrained state is probably a little brisk of a pace for the average man from Thika. Sorry Tito, I’ll slow down a little next ride.
Now for some pics, beautiful shots to a bicycle addict: