21 December 2011

I wear stuff out

Bike gear wears out in my use.

Mostly it was planned to wear out by the manufacturer. Not true of the lock on my father -n law's house. I bet this lock is from before I was born and still in use daily! Now that I think of it I wonder how old it is.)

I return from last trip and my rain coat is in taters, one pannier the waterproofing is gone, brake pads are worn out, pump hardly works, and it bums me out.

And we wont even mention the drive train of the bikes and tyres and tubes. Especially tubes and chains.

Is it just the Norwegian protestant in me of does this bug the average consumer?

But hey don't get me wrong here. I AM THE LUCKIEST BICYCLIST IN THE WORLD. I am only pointing out that I am fine tuning my kit. Because of the best family in the world I am going to get closer to perfection on my bikes. It might not be light and sexy or flashy, but i think it might last longer than i need it.

I have to get some of the stuff from literally half way around the world, so it is a big deal and a hassle. It almost seems like I spend more on maintenance of my bikes than on our car.

This brings me to the idea to simplify the bike thing even more. The reason I don't want a "modern bike"is gear wears out fast. I want stuff to last and feel good. I want panniers made of cotton duck and not nylon with sprayed on waterproofing.

The last trip I wore tyre sandals and platform pedals. You know how much bike shoes cost? You know how long they last on bush trips?

20 December 2011

Trip stopper: MUD!

We made it across the mud flooded "graveled" road and spent 30 minutes washing the bikes in a brown flow of water. It had just poured on us for an hour, and there was water everywhere. One of those rains " that is the biggest down pour ever". On the other side of the low lying valley the road was adobe hard and sandy and we rode into Murongoine village. We were happy to not be suspicious and leery of the road ahead of us.

We are nowhere near where we wanted to be at the end of the day. I ask a shop keeper with a bicycle how to get to Losinyai. It turns out both to the north and south the river is flooding the road and the big sand trucks cant get through. As more people eavesdropped our conversation, they wondered how we had even got to this village, locked between two rivers. " Well , where did you come from then?"

This is how we got there.

Henry and I decided to do a short trip Saturday to Tuesday, but we both needed Saturday to get stuff together for the trip.

It has been raining a fair amount, and I was looking at options where there would be no mud, we need sandy or hard tracks.

Certain mud sticks to the tyres, then more mud sticks to that mud, then it gets caught on the frame and the brake arms and then the tyre wont turn and the bike weighs twice as much. It can be a show stopper. Getting closer to the day it seems it hasn't been raining so much and Henri says south of his house it is dry.

We plan to ride to Lolkisale , then along Tarangire National Park and then East to the big Kiteto road and back home.

I meet up with Henri at 7am. Riding south it is good and dry for about an hour. Suddenly we have some mud but it doesnt build up on my bike. Henri has fatter tyres and his clog up and he is stuck. A show stopper. No smiling on his face at that moment. You find a stick, you scrap in hard to get at places while your partner stands around being impatient. Then you turn around and find another way, and then smile.
We turn around and decide to check the road further west that has some gravel on it, or go up and over monduli mtn and a completely different trip. We will decide when we get there.

An hour later we are in Kisongo on the highway and asking several people and they say. "No problem , this road is okay all the way to Lolkisale, no rain out there, they put gravel". We trust them and cruise out the road. Life is good, we are finally on our way away from town.

The road is good for an hour and then we come to this seasonal river. The water and rocks aren't an issue but the mud on both sides is. We both carry one bike at a time. The water is to our thighs. Zoom in on Henri's front tyre. 3o more seconds in that mud and it would be caked up to the brake arms and locked.

We cruise further away from town on our way to Lolkisale and sandy roads. The soils around Mnt meru it is clay soil, a bit lower patches of black cotton soil.

We cruise on and hit a few mud spots in low lying areas where rains have covered the road and left thick soupy clay . Henri has worse time than me.

This mud was just shy of covering the road.
Spoke too soon and before we realize it we have ridden halfway into a hopeless frustrating quagmire. It takes awhile for it to buildup, then it is glue. No happy campers. The masai walking by ask what we were thinking riding out here today. They say we are in the middle of this bad section, we might as well continue as the road is okay further on.

Pictured below is after making it through and cleaning the bikes for 1/2 hour. No pictures of the before as I am too hassled to think about a pic, and my hands were all muddy. We eventually hired people to carry bags and bikes to get to this point. Several times I felt it was completely hopeless, seeing mud in all directions and my tyres locked up.

This was a nice group of boys. The little one enjoyed looking at the bicycles and asking questions. He wasn't' so helpful as he was more into playing with the bicycle.

It is now clear we cant get through to Lolkisale mtn, the road is worse after Moita we are told. So at Moita we will head over to a major gravel road heading towards Terat and Naberera. Then we might swing over to Lolkisale. Everyone pretty much agrees that we took the wrong road, yep.

We stop for lunch under a shady tree. Half way through my p&b roll a guy on a bike rolls up from same direction we came. I am amazed that he has made it through. Seems he is amazed also. He stops under the tree to commiserate with us. We compare notes about how hard it was. He also is glad to be through the mud. I wonder if the bald narrow tyres help, or the fact he has no loads. We share our food, and then set off together.

He moves fast! We talk while riding, He is going same way as us after Moita. We stop in Moita to buy water and have a coke. The road is mostly good now, occasionally we freak out when we see dampness on the road and monitor how much mud sticks to the tyres, ready to stop. Our fellow traveler is surprised people in Kisongo told us road was okay.

From Moita he says we should take short cut, that it is okay, trust him. There is rain coming from the east and we are riding SE. I realise that i was on this track with Thomas once.

All goes well and on the level ground but it is hard keeping up with our guide. We are going south on the edge of a rocky escarpment, eventually we will drop down the escarpment and across a valley to the graveled road.

We lose our guide on the long rocky down sections. Then it started to rain. I mean pouring rain. There was water running everywhere. Click on the picture. The track Henri is on has 5cm /1inch of rain, and then we come upon streams running across the stream we are riding in.

We finish the steep slope and it is still pouring. Stupidly we start riding on the flat valley and get bogged down. We turn around and the rain washes bike free immediately. Rain is good and bad.

What to do? Set up a rain fly? stand in the rain? go knock on a door of a hut? We do the later. In the boma we find all the doors closed and locked from outside (we think) . So we stand under an eave on the leeward side of a house for a few minutes. I look at the door again and notice it is just closed, not locked so i knock and yell "hodi". A young women opens and then slams the door! Eventually she nervously agrees to let two white, wet, freaks into her place and we drip water on her mud floor. She knows little kiswahili. We sit on plastic buckets and ponder where to camp. I take this picture when it starts to decrease.
Again download picture check out the 3cm of water running through their compound.

The rain lets up and people stir from other huts glancing nervously at us. I talk to a woman my age and she says we turned down the escarpment too early , that the improved road across the valley is further along. I insist we get escorted to that road and she sends her daughter in law, the young woman who let us weather the rain in her house. She carries her young child on her back in the light rain.

She shows us a track on top of the ridge, but the neighbors all argue with her and then she changes her mind and shows us another track, realizing her mistake.

We ride that track and come to a wide improved gravel road running east west. I vaguely recollect this the longer we ponder which way to go. To the west we can hear a torrent of water in a valley, to the east we can see the road going through the valley and it looks muddy. Back the way we came will now be impassable. There is a boma off to the side and they say the torrent is impassable and then mud all over. The valley has a "short" section of mud. Maybe half a km we can see. We discuss with them a place to camp, they can't see that, and we can't see sleeping in one of their 3 huts, together with the crowd of people that is probably only half who stay there as they are all women. They say the mud is short sections.

We ride down to check the valley and true to their word it is only short sections flooded with mud. We cautiously go through. Henri locks up twice but we are across and on hard sandy improved road. We thoroughly clean the bikes now as related in the first paragraph and ride into Murongoine Village, to be told we are now stuck between a river and another river.

We don't fancy staying in this squalid truck stop, so ride north out of town towards the intersection with main road going south. It is 6pm and we need to find a place. I unwisely tell Henri to go check along the roaring river if we can camp there while i fix my loose crank arm. He gets bogged down and comes back to the road. We start talking to a guy, who starts with. "why did you ride out into that mud" I unabashedly ask where his boma is and he points back a few hundred meters. He says no problem we can put up our "tents" as his place.

Tents in this situation are easier to place. Trees are few and far between or in the fence line, making hammocks hard to place. We manage. Henri ends up outside the fence.

Once the tents are up we move into his small hut and sit and heat up our sauce. All of the children spend the evening outside the door watching us. By the end they are all crowded in the doorway. Laizer joins us for some coffee. We have a pleasant time sipping whiskey and talking with him.

We have not gone far today. I doubt 60km but basically we were on the move from 7am until 6pm. I sleep really well until 2am. then I am awake and it seems like the music from the village is really loud. I turn on my phone and it shows even the trees my hammock is attached to. then i read some news and try to sleep again. At 4am the music stops and I fall asleep until 6am.

We have some coffee and granola and pack up. That is Laizer our new friend and his children in the bright morning sun.

I advise aborting the trip. We ride home in about 3 hours on a big gravel road.

Note the pannier on front of my bike. That worked really well to put loads on the front of the bike. much better than on the back only.

The way home.

25 November 2011

The jury is still out.

DRAFT (come back later)

What bike should I commute on, touring bike or mtn bike?

This post is for my benefit, but the ten readers might find this post interesting or useful. ( This blog originally started as more of a journal of my trips, it has changed, but not sure what it is right now.)

Above is 1970's Raleigh Grand Prix touring bike.
-skinnier tyres, so faster , easier on smooth roads
-fewer gears, yep you read right and I will explain below.
-light (see below)
-Many hand positions

-No racks yet, harder to mount the front rack, will need brazing
-high off ground
-skinny tyres not good on rough roads, sand , mud
-mud sometimes cakes inside fenders
-No granny gear for the really step roads

Above Trek 6500 ~year 2000 Mtn bike
-Racks front and back
-Fat tyres for rough road
-low gearing
-shock in front for rough roads
-tyres thicker, less flats

-No fenders yet, harder to mount the front one.
-No light yet
-fat tyres slower on paved roads
-fewer hand positions

A bike is a bike right? Well, sometimes but I am a bit complicated, I could get by with one bike (i have 3 now). But I could see owning more also . The bike setup for overnight bush bashing is different from the bike for a 4 hour mtn bike ride. Road riding with club is specializied.

I have points to make about a commuting bike:
-Is weight important? Not all that much as I carry loads anyway.
-Was the theft of my old bike a good thing? NO but I have had a wider experience with bike setup and types, and it is pointing me to a better bike. Like something is different about the raleigh. My hands dont go to sleep! With my expensive road bike they do. Why? Curved fork, narrow handlebars? different fit?
-gearing. It is way overrated having lots of gears, wide range and properly spaced is what i need . On the Raleigh if i could have smaller front chainring it would be great.
-Weight should be in front. I have read that proper touring bikes are more stable when there is load in front. So far i find it better than just the rear.
-can I get by with one bike? Yes but I will have several.
-Fenders!!!! yeah. They are important, but there is the issue of caking mud. But fenders going to work are required now.

The Trek mountain bike cost me $200 from the Goodie's used bike and spare shop in town. (His operation is a blog post in itself). Then I spent a few more dollars for front and rear racks. I dug around for bar ends and new cables. It needs some partial fenders and shifter and rear cassette are not quite compatible.

After riding it a few days I looked at the bike more. It is a Trek 6500. I am not a weight weinie. I add on so much stuff to a bike that it is senseless to buy a bike for lightness, when i am going to permanently add:
-front and rear racks
-frame triangle pack
-light mtns

However I noticed two days ago the frame says "ultralight frame" . I have been wondering why this bike seems faster than my old bike.

It also slows down faster and smoother. The brakes are really smooth.

So I had pretty much decided that my commuting bike would be the 1970's Raleigh, a heavy large framed road bike with full fenders. I haven't managed to get racks, and am tired of a backpack hung over the handlebars, so i have ridden the mtn bike as a commutter and now i dont know what to do.

I do know now that the commuting bike should :
Full fenders. Even the standard fenders are not long enough, especially the front, it should extend way far below the bottom bracket. This stops spray on the shoes and keeps bottom bracket drier. The mountain bike, i could figure out full fenders, but what happens off road? fenders get clogged up with mud.
Simple. few gears, less maintainence.
Lots of cargo capacity.
Front Rack. I finally have a front rack on a bicycle of mine. Yes it is better. Jan Heine publishes the only magazine i subscribe to, and he says start putting weight there.

Simple is better. with the raleigh i could get by with the 5 rear gears. I never use the large chain ring commuting to work.

wheels. The road bike might be slightly faster on the paved roads, but i have 1 km of trail and rough dirt road, where the mtn bike excels.

I found this dynamo and light at the used bike store. It is setup to be one unit but i split it.

Tonight I try it out on the ride home.

Free Dress day for a commuter

The younger bicycle commuter has free dress day today at school. As long as you pay your 1000 shillings and follow the theme you get a day off from the school uniform. Today it is mismatch day.
It is another excuse to show off how cool her commuting bike has become. She is also a cool kid.
Normally the commuter looks like this below:

21 November 2011

Number 25!


Hamisi, finishing number 25 works at my company, full time. Hamis and #42 and #44 are all in Arusha Cycling Club and on the Tanzanian National team. Juma is from Zanzibar

#25 doesnt sound all that hot place to finish unless you know this:

-There are 10km laps, if you get lapped you are out. 30 were dropped
-The winning time was 44kmph over 140km. That is speed of top European races.
-elevation is 7,000 feet
-At that speed if you lose contact you are out.
-I would venture that all but 10 in that 50 are professional or fully funded by their governments
-All the other coaches later told our coach they didnt expect our team to hang on.
-Our coach was never able to get water to our team, as we didn't have domestiques and our car was 12 cars back. They did that on their one water bottle.
-Our guys work jobs and ride in their off time.
-Hamisi had to take his vacation days for this race.
-Afterwards, the head of UCI (middle second pic) , MacQuaid says he will give Tanzania 5 high end bicycles, slightly used by pros in Europe.
-There are pros who ride for big European, Austrailian teams in this race.
-The wheels, bottom bracket and crank off my low end racing bike were on Hamisi's bike.

The coach for Rwanda, Jock Boyer, called our coach on the last lap and said our boys are doing great, right with them. Jock Boyer was the first American to ride the Tour de France in the 70's.

right now they are at Tour of Rwanda for 8 days tour.

Passing the baton

Last week two of my age mates schemed to ride bikes up mtn meru, then do a recce by foot on "old routes" up the mountain.

We tried to get their 20-30 year old boys to come, one my godson, but they opted for clubbing the night before. I think the real reason is they know we are old, and we are slow. We thought different at the time.

" Yeah we can do it"
" Yeah man , instead of straight up 7 switch backs, lets go up on West meru plateau with bikes."
"That means we can ride bikes higher"
"Yeah then we can be above tree line fast' "
"Dude lets do it"

So Tadayo, Maiko, and the usual meet before dawn my house and ride in the dim light. No mechanicals but my tyre needs pumping twice before the slime takes over. (BTW I can buy slime in a couple of different shops in town now! Way cool.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, so we cross the ngaremtoni river canyon. Complaining about how steep and rocky it is . you carry and lift the bike. Suddenly the green turns to dusty forest and we slog up the logging road. Luckily, there is no traffic.
We stop for our first view, below, but as serious adventurers we keep going to breakfast up on top. You have read of my physical deficiencies, but other people have one year old fake hips, and another has a leaky heart valve.
Lousy phone camera. I need a camera mom! The last one Bernice (mom) bought was really nice, shock and water proof and took better pictures than I can snap.

I swear Thadayo is on that road over there. We take this contouring road to avoid passing through a forest gate up on the plateau. It is also fun to ride level and look down on Lengijave and Kilima Moto hills.

We get back in to a rain pattern and pass a peach grove. Yep you read right. Unfortunately we are a month early. Peaches grow fairly well up here and worms seem less of a problem.

We pass back into national forest that has been clear cut and planted with potatoes.

Now I know why the 20 year olds opted out. They know we are damn slow. They will party all night wake up at 9 am catch us at noon. We are moving pretty slow now and keep checking if the brake is rubbing or there is a flat, or a buddy is holding onto the seat for a tow. Something is making the bike heavy.

We had stopped down there in this valley. Just to catch our breaths but ended up laying down and eating some snacks. Not breakfast mind you. We are serious and need to keep going. I adjust my rear deraileur so that the 7 speed shifter shifts on the higher 7 gears of the 8 speed cassette. Confused? I needed the smallest gear. I was pretty impressed, I was able to do that in about 30 sec.

Ffinally up on the plateau in a short section of native forest. Mike carrys his hiking gear in a backpack! I have everything on the bike.

The plateau is still plenty of uphill, infact mostly up hill. Even the flat started to be hard work. Bionic man is suffering understandably. Time was he was the crazy fit one. This is him below, on a flat stretch trying to coast. We now have turned the cornor and are in heather country. Old fire cleaned out the trees. Moor land is fun to be in except we are now 2800m.

Finally we stop for breakfast about 11;32 am. We carefully put our bikes aside and sprawl on grass. Grass about as cushiony you can imagine. It is like sitting in a bean bag chair. We talk about our aches and about how tough and strong we are. We change the objective from "walk above vegetation line" to "Lets walk for about an hour or so."

Thad remembers from 20 years ago that you have to whack through here and eventually get to animal trails. We bush whack, back track, and eventually are on a old faint track that sometimes seemingly dissappears.

We walk up on top of one ridge and about 1300 decided we should wisely turn around as even coasting down might be difficult in our state.

Once on the bike it was about 90 minutes to Ngaremtoni, 95% coasting, 1/2 on bone jarring rocky road. It is tiring on the arms. My headset losens up.

We cycle through the trashy urban sprawl of Ngaremtoni, unfortunately this is what Africa is like folks. It isn't so much filthy, it is dust and trash that has blown around on the roads. There is a huge sea of humanity on these roads. Get the picture?

We make it home around 1700 and the boys arent too keen to start driving and loiter over a glass of koolaid and a look at Bernice's rock garden. Tadayo takes a cutting and discusses plants.

12 November 2011

Bothering me

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about." -Benjamin Franklin.

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr133951.html#ixzz1dSySRyyY

I am bothered by the second one. I don't write that well, but I used to do stuff worth writing about. I have gotten to busy building around the house and then losing my mountain bike put a spanner in the works of doing "something worth writing".

Tomorrow, tomorrow, i will try to do something worth writing about.
I rode the "new" mountain bike to work yesterday. There are some kinks to work out but it promises to be a good bike. It feels smooth and i swear it pedals easier.

07 November 2011

For awhile I thought I would never be back to normal, back to my normal . I am talking about losing my bicycle , lights, rain gear, pump, bags, etc to a &^*@$&^ thief and my reaction was to freeze, unable to cope, at least for a week.

Another week and I will not miss the bike, I am still way bummed about losing the stuff, like camera, pump, lights, and rain gear. It is not convenient to acquire here. And finding all the extras for the bike is taking awhile, like good bell, mud guards and fenders, bags.

The 1970's Raleigh (previous post) is turning into a great bike. I have changed to aluminum rims and lengthened the front fender since I last wrote. I am finding it is a superior bike for commuting, so even if i got my bike back this is my commuting bike. This bike is much faster and cleaner to ride to work. It has pretty fat road tyres so the rough road to the highway is not a problem.

For last Wednesday's club ride I was unable to use my modern 20 speed road bike. I rode this old touring bike with the 4 Tanzanians going to the African bike championships in Eritrea today. ( Some of the parts from my bike were on one of their bikes, extremely light carbon frame.) That is a story in itself. Remind me to go on vacation next time our club gets into something like this. I have spent way too much time for someone else's dream.

They of course start out in Zone 3, at 60% and I had no problem until just before the police post at Oldonyo Sambu. That was after about 500m of elevation gain. My point is the bike is not that much different than my new one. I performed about the same.

I also notice my hands did not go numb, and my foot maybe a bit better. I rode 2+ hours without stopping. I wonder if the narrower handle bars is the reason.

What I really need for this touring bike is a front rack and maybe full frame triangle pack, and of course the lights.

Over the past week I have been in charge of getting the bike's ready for the Championships, and in the end we called in the best mechanic in town. We were done and he saw me messing with the truing of my touring bike and like that he did it up for me. I think now I can ride no hands. I will use him more often for fixing some stuff.

A week ago I sprung 330,000 shillings or about $200 for a used 8 speed Trek hard tail mtn bike. Maybe 6-12 years old. The second hand shop fixed it up fairly well , it works but I have been spending a week rebuilding it. I still have a ways to go but it is starting to get there. Yesterday I found that a bearing race in the headset was upside down, and I got the racks on firmly and some bull bars. At 6pm i road around the neighbor hood and was shocked how much better it felt than my old bike. Could this be, or i have just forgotten?

Hopefully I will now have some bush adventures to write about now.

11 October 2011

Yet another bicycle

The old mtn bike is not cutting it.

I had a 1970's Raleigh hanging up, not ridden in ten years.

I stripped that on Sunday and added fenders.

Yesterday it was raining when shesha took off on her bike for school so i tried to see how it was. Needs some fine tuning and more stuff, but no mud got on me.

Today was the maiden voyage.

Shesha thought it was cool to ride to school in the rain. Was glad she had rain pants on. Good job Mom for buying those.

05 October 2011

New commuting vehicle

Yesterday I was in my workshop at 0630 and by 1030 I had a temporary commuting bicycle. I specifically needed fenders and a rack. I used Bernice's' old bike that had been dismantled waiting for spares some years ago . Actually this is the first mtn bike I had, it is a Everest mtn bike, no shocks, 7speed.

It is too small for me, which kind of surprised me as when i first started riding again in the 90's it was on this bike. I just didn't know it was too small.

I put on a small front rack and tried a pannier on one side. hardly affected the handling, so now i know. Today i took a computer bag and stood it up on the rack and it wasn't as good but less bike geeky looking.

Picture tomorrow.

New Philosophy. stay away from bags that look like they have a computer in them. So i wont use this bag. Looking for a gunia (gunny sack) to use.
A year ago this guy won the Vodacom Mwanza race. I think 150 km. He broke away and no one wanted to take the energy to chase him down and it got too late and he won the 1.5 million shillings ($1,000).

Being support of another team this should not happen and an embarrassment, but on the other hand way cool.

02 October 2011

Steal anything but my commuting bike!

Thursday night at 8 pm my mtn bike / commutting bike of 13 years was stolen at the shoprite complex.

I always lock my bike. Somehow when we moved from Empire club after a meeting for Elvis's around the world trip to a wine bar I didnt lock it. I put it right outside the door, and was only going to stay a few minutes. Maybe it was the 2 beers before.

Anyway GONE. I was so shocked and pissed. the next morning I could not function. It had all my commuting kit i have been acquiring for some years. Rain gear, lights, pump, tube, reflective sash, etc.

So now i am commuting on my race bike until i can figure out another bike.

Kind of a bad time for it to happen as I dont have excess cash right now and my credit card dont work so i can't order the lights and stuff on line.

Oh well, it is just a "thing" and maybe i have too many things.

15 September 2011

Is bicycle commuting dangerous in Arusha? version 4

I changed my mind. It is dangerous and risky. I was scared about 6 times on the 20 minute ride to work. I yelled 3 times, once when a motorcycle speed around me then veered off the road in front of me.

But I am still going to do it.

Driving a car scares me also.

13 September 2011

Mika am waiting for you to ride to SA.

What's it called when you tick off one of those items from the "To do list before I die"? This is Mika Peterson who helped me tick off climbing the big diagonal crack on Longido. I need him to help me do the ride to South Africa. Not becuase I need his physical help but because he will just someday say, "Okay we go next week" and we will go. That is what happened with Longido crack.

Mika is about as cool a godson an old man could ask for. He is ~23 now, strong as all get out, dred locks to his shoulders, likes the bush, and is so mellow. His only drawback is he is too sought after by women, so he is not always available.

If you climb far enough on Mnt Meru you get to ride in this.

And then of course you get a screaming single track through trees, but we have only a few weeks left as the soil turns to dust..

09 September 2011

Another commuter in the family

Nashesha has been saying for a year she is ready to switch from bus to riding her bike to school. I kept thinking the coordination of an escort was complicated.

We live in a town that is mostly safe, but a 12 year old girl riding alone might be tempting thieves. And she has to cross two crazy highways and then ride through some secluded areas. My son Seth did it when he was twelve but that was 15 years ago and he is a boy.

School resumed Monday and we informed the bus that Nashesha would not ride the first week of school in the bus. Today we will tell the bus we thank them for their services but we don't require them anymore. So that means we have another commuter in the family, she has made the commitment.

I rode the first day, and the second day morning went with Paulo and Nashesha, but Paulo met her and rode shotgun on the ride home. I left word she should call when she got home, so i would know she wa safe. She called but thought i was crazy.

The next day I text her in the late afternoon, "Mambo? How was the ride home?"

I get response back "Fine. Im grown up now! ok?"

I have to stop worrying about her commuting to school by bike.

We still have the issue of when it is raining, what to do about feet and pants but have some time to figure that out.

Today is friday, and I need to be in office early, and she is fun to ride with so i ride with her to school just for fun. I leave her at the road to lock her bike herself and ride into town.

Which is another story. I pass long long lines of slow moving traffic. How do you put up with it people? I figure i spent 25 minutes from school to my office and people in cars 40min.

06 September 2011

Bicycling clothes

Sometimes a cartoon fits. This is my philosophy about bike clothes for most commuting rides.

24 August 2011

Babati tour

I needed another people tour, so I went went to find people to ride with, like this guy.

Bernice and Nashesha were going to Nairobi to get Bernice a visa for Thailand. I decided it was a good time for a short tour. Again I announced a trip on email but only got regrets for responses.

I could not figure out where to go until the last day when I decided to go on road bike to Babati Town and check out the new road from Minjingu to Babati. New in that it is now tarred.

On Sunday morning I leisurely packed, went shopping, checked email and did nothing much, so I was not able to leave until 3pm. I carried light camping stuff, hammock, sleep bag , sleep pad, wood stove, teapot, and breakfast for the two days and one dinner. I carried a change of clothes for town, some tools and spares, novel, snacks, lights etc.


Right away I noticed the load was strange and had to retie the back bags in one km. Then on the road I noticed there was a dramatic shimmy when riding no hands or even one handed. I thought briefly about turning back and changing bikes, but I decided to live with it.

As the day was on the tail end I needed to keep moving as fast as prudent. As I rode I got motivated more and more, not to ride fast but enjoying the ride. The shimmy just meant no riding without hands.

The wind was at my back but it was only at Mti Moja, 45 km out, that I started to really fly and between there and Makyuni my average speed increased from 25 to 29 kmph. The rolling hills passed quickly and at 5:15 I rolled into Makyuni for a meal. Little did I know that would be the same type meal every meal every day. I was surprised how early it was as I was fixated on watching the average speed slowly go up. I added some water and snacks and pushed on by 6pm looking for a road into the bush to stealth camp.
Here is my loaded bike outside the restaurant.

I found a track and rode off the road for 2km and then saw a small ravine with trees and rode carefully to there.

There was a breached dam and elephant crap all over but none recent. It is too dry now for elephants. This picture shows my tracks around some elephant spore.

It was blowing still and the hammock needed the side rope. I finished diluted coke and biscuits and read for an hour into the dark.

I noticed a smell of rancid fat, like you smell in a masai boma. I must of got it on my jacket because it is still there.


I was awake more than a few times and wide awake at 530. I got out at 545 and made a fire in my cook stove and made tea while I ate granola. I packed up and was walking out of my camp by 7am. On the way to the highway I passed a young giraffe.

It was cool but not cold like Arusha and I enjoyed the tailwind through Minjingu village and cruised on.

Just before Vilima vitatu I came up behind a cycle tourist. Rode up next to him and we chatted away.

Andy is cycling from England to SA for charity of some sort. www.kop2kop.blogspot.com

The wind changed to head wind and we stopped for a cup of I had a donut. Andy can talk! We had allot to talk about also.
I was not pushing it but not going slow either and he was staying right up with his heavy loads.

Before Magugu someone called my name and it was Lucas. He lives around here and saw me go by. He used to race bikes and come to Arusha. He rode with us most of the way to Babati.

Andy got on well with Lucas and gave him $2 for some new spokes and respoking as his back wheel was all over the place.

I did not think too much about that until later when i learned on what a tight budget Andy is on.

Babati is up in some hills, so we had some climbs and it became less desolate. We rolled into Babati mid day and took the first guest house. 8000shs for Erik for self contained and 6000 for a shared bath for Andy.

The manageress went and got two beers and two plates next door for us and we kept on chatting.
We were joined by another boarder, and we talked with them also.

After showers we took a walk of the town. On the first day of this trip I realized I could do some work while in Babati by checking out the town for possibilities of us doing business here. Babati is now a regional Headquarters for a new Region and Habari Node Ltd staff are thinking it would be strategic to start operations here.

I noticed this sign, with the habari.co.tz domain!
That made me feel important.
Not alot of big businesses although it is a big sprawling town.

Mostly friendly town, not many yelling kids.

The sun came out and I got slightly affected by the sun. by 4pm we were suddenly back at the bar / restaurant next to our lodge so we sipped beer and chatted away. Several guys came by that i knew and one bought a round.

We had same meal for dinner that we had for lunch and called it a night. I watched some news in the common room and then read in bed.


I woke fewer time than in my hammock but less comfortable, as I am not comfortable on sheets I do not know about and there was some noise.

Andy made me some tea to go with my granola at first light. I gifted him all my left over food supplies but snacks. We said good byes to manager and Andy and was on the road by 7am. Andy was still packing. Now I realized Babati is considerable up in the slopes of a mountain. So I had some fast downhill runs and I had to add a light pullover. The shimmy was a bit better but still can not ride no hands. I still don't know if it was front or back causing it..

When the build the road they need enormous quantities of fill and so dig mountain sides and sometimes big holes like this one that fill up with water. They were also burning bricks with rice husks on the other side of the pond.

The wind stayed the same so I was able to stay 30-35 kph on the flats. By 9am I noticed Lucas on the side of the road at his village and he flagged me down.

We went for tea at his house and he prepared to ride with me to Arusha. He has 6 kids!

Sitting in his living room drinking tea and looking at his old racing pictures I noticed some small shoes behind the door, then I notice there were feet in the shoes. His laughing dad took him from his hiding place crying. He eventually got used to me and smiled and laughed.

They grow "Ufuta" for cooking oil, a programme of Farm Africa. He is going to ride with me to Arusha, about 100km, take his bike to mechanic, then sleep somewhere and return the next day. He tied a spare tyre below his seat. No water bottle, no extra clothes, maybe some tools but no pump!
Compare with my bike and it's load.

Now I was going 35 to 40 in Lucas draft! I gave up taking a turn in front. After 30 km I had to tell him to slow down as I worried I would tire.

Makyuni by 11 am and the same meal as everywhere. rice, meat sauce, bean sauce, spinach, cabbage, fruit. We both had milk tea and I had a coke at the end to perk me up. Usually I start with the coke as the sugar helps my appetite.

We stopped maybe 45 minutes and then did several long climbs 2-3km each and then through the rollers. Had some soreness on my hands and neck. I was wish the seat was my mtn seat, which is softer, wider and broken in.

Lucas lead less. After Mti moja the pain in my toe flared and I managed to deal with that while riding. We made the last hill quickly up to Monduli corner in the big chain ring! We stopped at Meserani for another coke and more water.

Speaking of water, check the amount of water this guy carries on the way back after he drops the extra person.

We are home at 330. 170km in 8 1/2 hours, which includes two big stops of 1:45 and one short one!

Need to figure out the shimmy and get another seat.

happy trails!