30 May 2011

Not sure what to think of this ride.

I text Thomas Holden : " Do U have plan for Sunday Ride"

He sms's back : " come my house 0645 and we will make one, coffee ready at 0630".

I text back a bunch of questions but he is not chatty at all. So I go unknowing but prepared. I take a thermos of milk tea, a water bottle of mango juice, a bottle of water, 2 pbj sandwiches , some dates and more tools and spares anyone would ever need and ride down the mountain.

I arrive at Thomas's house and find two bikes upside down outside his workshop and Thomas busy fixing something. That is a bad sign, more than likely there will be mechanicals.

Despite being five minutes late but I am offered coffee anyway. The coffee I am told is on Thomas's work bench. I find 10 empty cups and a big pot of coffee. Hmmm. "Thomas! how many people are coming? "

Thomas mumbles "Well maybe 7 or 8." and sheepishly continues to work on his bike.

Hmmm. The amount of time actually riding goes down exponentially with the number of riders on a ride due to mechanical failures. The curve gets steeper depending upon the experience of the riders. The names include a fair number of unknowns, and some knowns but not regulars.

But the list includes my buddy Wes Krause. I haven't seen him for half a year so I figure it "will be a good one" if he is along. If I could chose a mtn bike riding partner it would be him.

As expected there are mechanicals right away. See the loop on the map. We go 2 km, and then have to start over. It is issues with Thomas's bike all day that keep us from riding constantly. The stops turn into social times and so the day is a good one.

My phone runs out of charge so I miss mapping the last hour or so. Need to figure that out.

State of some of the trails.

In the middle we drop the bikes and hike up Oljoro Hill. Pretty steep but the views are pretty good over my shoulder.

Just about to reach the top.

28 May 2011

A ride in between

Being a parent bit into my biking activities last weekend .

Normally, Saturday morning is the best day for a " good one", which means a long ride in a new place. However Nashesha, the kid, needed to get to school and back on Saturday for a training hike in preparation for a class trip climbing Mnt Meru.

I wanted to work on our unfinished 25 year old house on Sunday, and if I ride long then I am too tired to do much ruling out a long ride on Sunday.

I worried about this dilemma / crisis all Friday and saw no alternative but to take the kid to school by 830 am and pick her at noon. I figured it is easier, cheaper, and better to ride bikes to her school and she is willing. I will ride in between drop off and pickup.

We have a lovely ride to Nashesha's school, through suburbia, along a major highway, through a forest, and then a coffee farm, before arriving early at the school parking lot. We lock her bike and Nashesha demands a hug and I ride away.

I haven't a clue where to go, or what kind of ride I should do. I don't have excess energy so I try to think of someone to go visit. I either don't have their number, or they don't answer, or I don't feel like bothering them. I am forced to stop in the middle of the coffee plantation and spend 20 minutes on the phone with work stuff. I have a new phone, a smart phone with more than you need including a GPS. So I turn that on and decide to do a Monduli Mtn loop we did for the last mtn bike race, the first part only. I doubt I have the time, but I can double back instead of doing the loop.

As usual, once I get going instead of going slow and smelling the roses I ride harder and harder. That doesn't mean I am going fast.

The trails and dirt roads are mostly hard but there is some mud. I do the math, I started riding seriously at 9am so I need to be on way back to school 1015. I make it to the forest and commit myself to the loop. I stop and take a picture with the Android phone. It is the first time on this track there is no lose dust .

I haven't eaten or drank so I stop for a nutritious coke and water and a rough building of wood. I talk briefly with the shop owner, but take no picture, and cruise to the highway and down to the school. As I get off the bike I am a bit stiff, and I realize the guards watching me probably think I just rode 3 km from my house, and not the 45km and 900m elevation gain. I stumble and sigh a bit, hehe. I am early so I check out the map made by the gps on my phone, and its features, like elevation and graphs etc. Pretty cool.

Although I was once a bit of a hacker, and I still can figure stuff out, I can't be bothered with end user stuff, so am not sure when I will post a map.

Eventually the kids straggle in , in different physical states. Nashesha is one of the bouncy talkative ones. I find out that John of the UN ICTR has a daughter in the same year, different home class. He is top dog as our biggest client, so that is cool.

I turn off the mapping and we ride home, mostly uphill. Nashesha does well except when I forget she is behind me and am riding up long hills. Eventually she complains and we slow down. Great kid! How can I be so lucky?

16 May 2011


Found a new trail/road. Unfortunately my camera battery was dead.

Thomas Holden and John Course came around Saturday morning and we road up from my house, crossing ngaremtoni river, and turned up the West Meru Plateau road. We stopped 1/2 way up for breakfast and I sent Thomas on a small track to see if it looked like it contoured around.

In the past few years I now feel like I am a mzee. So I feel no guilt or loss of pride to send someone else to check something out. why should a mzee with grandchildren work as hard as younger people?

Thomas returned saying it didn't go down. So we tried it. It did go down after 10 minutes but not much so we kept going. Eventually it lead us up onto the plateau on the other side of the forest guard post. So now we know how to by pass the gate if they ever start asking us what we are doing in the forest.

The views were spectacular contouring around the plateau. Then the road goes up a ravine and we climbed into thick fog. We came out on top at a water tank and wondered where we were. Vaguely it looked familiar, and then i figured the big road we had come to could only be one on the plateau, so i figured we were 500 meters beyond the gate. We rolled down to the gate, which was open.

A man was asking why we were passing by without stopping, in English. So we stopped and I was thinking " ok, it is starting. We will now need official permission and permits , etc." He was as friendly and cordial as could be and we chatted a few mintues.

Now we had 15 km and 1.5 km vertical to drop. I couldnt keep up with Thomas and John on their full suspension and younger bodies. It was technical the first part, and the second part was just plain fast. I think it only took over an hour to get home what took 3 hours to climb.

12 May 2011

It is raining again.

It is not a problem riding to work in the rain. I have refined my technique again and wear sandals and change in the office to shoes.

The problem is 90% of the cars come from roads that are mud, and then on the main road the mud falls off and finds its way to the side of the road, where i have to ride part of the time.

08 May 2011

Damp ride

Two weekends ago Thomas and I agreed to do a long mtn ride.

Typically , the route wasn't fully decided until we started riding.

I enlisted Paulo to escort me through town at 5am so I could meet Thomas at 530. As I was approaching the rendezvous corner I saw a light coming up his dirt road and fell in just behind him. I thought his light was a car.

We planned to ride up the Monduli Coffee estate road and up and over the farm, down to Monduli town, then up to Monduli Juu plateau and then west on the plateau and drop down cycle across open grassland to the highway and slog home into the wind. I was a bit concerned about crossing the grassland as it has rained at night and there are sections of black cotton soil. Black cotton soil stick more than any other soil to tyres and can then pack the wheel, killing a ride.

We cruised up the Monduli estate road . It is "improved" so nothing was sticking to the tyres. we realized we cant ride through the estate so we tried a track to the side and within a few hundred meters we were starting to get bigger tyres, because of caking mud.
we back tracked and went higher and then tried to ride along their fence, which was like riding down through ploughed fields and grass. At the bottom it did not look good so we pushed the bikes back up to the improved road and it started to drizzle.

We started to be more realistic and even if they let us through the farm, the track down to monduli would be slippery, sticky, and might be unrideable. I mean bike carrying fun. The low clouds seemed all over.

I was starting to have a muddy drive system, but had some extra oil along.

We coasted back looking at conditions on the tracks cutting across to monduli. We ended up riding back to the highway and all the way around to monduli town, and then up to Monduli Juu. The road is more than improved and we road in the drizzle to the top.

The clouds started parting and we rode to the highest point before it drops down into the rift valley and Ketumbeine.

Turning around we could not quite let the bikes go as sections were slippery, but it was still fast enough. We opted for some tea in Monduli town as the village of monduli juu was full of sticky looking mud.

Some clods of sticky mud fell into my drive chain and I now had a red chain lubricated by mud. What i needed now was a torrential down pour to clean it up before I lubricated. Instead the occasional clod spun off my tyres onto my chain.

More fast rolling and a number of cars coming up who didn't move over much. Soon we were in monduli town and tarred road and we found a small restaurant run by pleasant people. They had about a million donuts on the counter for sale and we had a couple and some milk tea.

As we were leaving we met a bunch of small kids who i snapped a few pictures of.

Now we had a familiar 38 km ride home.