Sunday, December 13, 2009

Knackered in Nanyuki

I was disappointed to learn the North Kenya Classic mountain bike race had been cancelled due to lack of pre entries and too much rain, but decided to head up there anyway, if for no other reason, to see more of this amazing country. As it was, they were having a North Kenya Mountain Bike Club race anyway, so I went for that.

It was due to start at 09:00 and the first rider pitched up a few minutes after that. Registration was a matter of writing your name in a book. There were 2 groups; the youngsters doing a shorter route and the main ride setting off a few minutes later for a 50 km route. Race cost, BTW, was 100 KES – About R 10!

Last minute registrations and riders line up while Peter Viljoen, organiser, briefs the riders. Note the whole event was filmed for TV!

Some of the bikes in the race.

Riders lining up for the start

The seniors race started off from the Sportsman’s Arms hotel at the foot of Mount Kenya with a neutral zone (pole - pole) around the town of Nanyuki. Then we headed out of town on a potholed road followed by a muddy dirt road. The group was still mostly together and I was managing to stay with the front riders on the slightly difficult surface. Peter more or less explained the route to me and then gave up and said “just try hang on!” Then we hit a section of brand new tar road. Suddenly they were out the saddle and gone! No way could I hang on. After a while a guy on a Black Mamba came past me and I hung onto his slipstream. The Black Mamba is the choice of commuter bike in Central and East Africa – basically a 1930’s Raleigh design still being manufactured here – all steel, double top tube, huge wheels, (> 29”) with 48 spokes, wire brakes, single speed… see the photo later.

But this dude (I later discovered his name is Silas) was so fast I could barely hang on to him also! I bravely took a turn in front, which lasted all of about half a minute, when he decided to have none of that and overtook me again. Together we ate up the road; averaging about 34 – 40 kph. The tar road lasted about 15 km and towards the end he pulled away. THIS WAS A VERY HUMBLING MOMENT FOR ME!!!

The route turned off towards the right onto a gravel road with a few downhills and climbs. This is my opportunity to catch up I thought. No way José. I could just about see myself gaining after the 1st downhill, but on the ensuing climb, he disappeared into the distance again; overtaking the rider on the Landrover bike. I resigned myself to let them go and just try hold my position till the end of the race – I really did not want to come last. I did not take any photos en route – the scenery was unremarkable (as Kenya goes anyway) and Mount Kenya was still covered in cloud. I knew there was still a bunch behind me and tried to stay ahead of them. A young lad also on a Black Mamba overtook and motioned to me to suck his wheel. I tried to hang on for a while. Like an utter sportsman and gent he slowed down when he saw I had dropped back and motioned again. I waived him on and said “Asante rafiki, mzungu mbaya” (thanks, dude, this honky’s toast!).

Later I passed a commuter also on a Black Mamba, who immediately decided to race me and made me eat carrots also, before turning off to go to church. Finally I reached the main road back to Nanyuki and in another 10 k’s the finish at the Sportsmans. Just over 2 hrs for me; 48 km and 300 m of climbing.

I stayed to watch the prize giving and was stunned to be presented with a 1500 KES prize for the 1st master! I immediately returned it and asked for it to be divided amongst the other prize winners. There were substantial cash prizes for the winners in each category and lots of lucky draw prizes too!

This is Silas, with his Black Mamba. Note the saddle; the hooter, the floor pump, can of 3 in 1 oil, mudguards and frizzbee chainring bash guard! This is also the kit he rode in! By the time I finished he was already on his 3rd cigarette. I donated him and another rider each as set of Anatomic bibshorts and cycle shirts, so next time they kick my ass they will at least look more professional!

The winner, Daniel, (1:39) being presented with his prize.

Daniel hands out a loaf of bread to each of the youngsters to take home to their families.

The podium of junior rider riders.

The 2 runner up masters

All respect to the incredibly athletic Kenyans. A big thank you to the organisers and sponsors, Rift Valley Adventures and The Sportsman’s Arms!


  1. Dude, what would Silas do with a sub 10 hard tail bike with all the trimings???

  2. Crumbs, humbling indeed! Hats off to those chaps - and to you for managing to hang on... :) Keep the stories coming.


  3. Hey dude
    Awesome, man. Great riding, great writing.
    It sounds like this was organised in the true spirit of cycling and comeraderie.


  4. Nice going Dick. Sounds like Silas is a Kenyan Sauser on a 25kg bike!

  5. what a fantastic bit of writing enabling your readers to live it with you. Well done for your generosity to the participants.
    Your dad would have been proud of you.