17 March 2009
Bicycle Hero #1, Saidi Juma
Saidi Juma I have to mention first.
After I had been riding a bicycle recreationally and commuting for a few years I became interested in bicycle racing. This was around 1998. After being in a few races I started to become buddies with some of the racer, Saidi Juma being one of them. We would meet on a weekend and do long mountain bike rides.
I then hired Saidi as a bike messenger for the office. Most of the bicyclist were unemployed. I thought I could help him out. It was the other way around.
Staff were a bit skeptical that it would help until I told them send him to deliver everything, even 30 kms away. Within a week he became indispensable. Now after 10 years he is also the person who draws and deposits money in the bank.
It doest end there.
Because of that success our club, Arusha Cycling Club, has now found employment for more than 7 cyclists as bicycle messengers, several others as laborers, and the number keeps growing. Nature Discovery, Dorobo, Regional Air, AFAM, Greenfootprints all have at least a bike messenger. Saidi has been instrumental in finding the right cycler for a company.
I still like racing and follow some international races and participate in our club racing. Saidi is 34 years old and is still the #1 rider in the country. He might not win every race, but that is because our club knows the other club riders are playing off him, so he sacrifices himself so someone else in our club will be sure to win.
Most new people coming into the club, join because he was encouraged kids in his village to pick up the sport. He is the club chairman and is the one we all listen to on the road. He is the one yelling at slackers.
What I find amazing is Saidi started to take care of himself at an early age. He had both parents until recently, but his father was an alcoholic and could not provide properly. So as a young teenager he started paying his own school fees and making money. At 20 he was doing the same for his future wife who was in primary school still and her parents were poor.
He now owns a nice block house, and a string of mud walled rooms for rental.
I would like to ride with him more, but he is a serious rider and either they drop us old guys, or i feel bad that they are dawdling along with us.