30 May 2012

Suspicious Behaviour

I am under the impression that a fair chunk of people think it is quite peculiar,suspicious and probably irreverent that I ride a bicycle to work.

This is especially true of people driving cars, so I assume it is a middle class and above thing. At a stop sign the other bicyclists pretty much ignore me, the pedestrians stare, and the people in cars I swear are talking about me.

I experience it everyday but today was poignant.

We rent office space at the Arusha International Conference Center (AICC). Picture at top. Whoowee. This week AICC has a huge and "important" meeting. The annual meeting of the AfDB. If you know officialdom and you know Africa this means protocols, security, and disturbances to the proletariat.

I have been sick so missed the fun of the first day, monday, trying to get into our complex with and additional 5000 delegates and support staff. Today I can go to work and there were cones across the entrance but the normal AICC guard must know me, so i ride in between the cones.

BUT, behind him stands a guy in a suit, secret service looking type. There are people walking in on both sides and a car begging to get in. I get stopped by the suit.

He is stopping a bike, are you kidding? This is a meeting for the money of Africa. They erected not less than a hectare of extra tents outside (refer to picture at top), they spent something like 150million dollars. So I guess I am suspicious.

I had to produce my ID for the suit for the first time at AICC . EVER. Sometimes a new security guy for UN might ask where I am going but always the AICC security informs them I am "OK". Suit reads it and as he hands back he says "Managing Director!"
He asks the AICC guard "okay? Can he go in?".

He says " oh he is well known"

I then kid the suit "Kumbe wewe mswahili" ( translated goodness sakes your a swahili speaker)

We laugh and I shyly ride past the suits and SUVs and park my bike near the trash bin. behind the stalls and stalls of displays.

29 May 2012

First time in awhile

For the first time in awhile I haven't ridden a bicycle in four days, nor have I drank alcohol.

Is this a lifestyle change?

No I have a case of amoeba. the pathogen knocks you out and the medicine jumps on you while you are down.

Instead I would dream and hallucinate about bike rides in my fevers and lying awake.

20 May 2012

Thanks Brenna

Recall in March I posted about Brenna.

Well Brenna was hosted in South Africa by Carrie Buckmaster, for like a month. Carrie is in Arusha for a short time writing about my buddy Elvis riding around the world raising money.

So Brenna said we should look each other up, so we did and how did we decide to meet? By doing a bike ride of course. I invited the two secondary school students and Julie, but they had other stuff or were tired. Brenna had a serious looking camera so i tried to give her my camera phone every time we stopped. Instead she took a picture of this sorry old saggy guy.

We meet at the clock tower and ride through Ilboru and then we move over to smaller tracks. In the forest we stop for some chai and food and a group of women come along. After some minutes of banter picture taking comes up, and we decide it better she take a picture of us, but her phone is out of "charger".

You can tell we are having a good time by now.

Everyone is getting a kick out of the pictures taken.

Carrie is one of the fittest women I have ridden with here in Arusha. So she opts for the full loop, up to the end of the forest road where it passes through native forest.

Then we start the downhill. Soon we get to this steep part and we both walk. I just happen to decide to snap some pictures.
And I capture Carrie crashing into the bushes.

But we are both laughing about it.

Later on I stop as we cross a gravel road. as I am talking to some guys Carrie comes down fast and cant stop for the ditch on the big road and crashes into me. No serious damage.

13 May 2012

Wrong Road

Wrong road and wrong day. Picture taken after we had turned around on the wrong road.

The plan was to ride around Mnt Meru. I have done this ride several times but not since they stopped bicycles and foot traffic from going through Arusha National Park. The next road is further east and makes a longer trip.

Our day starts in the dark . Thomas Holden and I meet in Majengo at 530am. Even before 6am there was plenty of traffic as we ride right through town. It starts to drizzle and then rain so I put on my O2 Rainshield rain coat and take off a layer. We ride the old road to Moshi, a good gravel/dirt road. We have some coffee out of Thomas's thermos and wash a bit in a stream outside of Usa River town. Thomas is on a mtn bike without fenders and I am on my Raleigh touring bike with full fenders. I feel I am very smart as he has mud all over including his face.

I had forgotten to look up where the road around the park starts from, so I try to see on my smart phone but the Internet is too slow. We get on the main highway for 10 km to Kikatiti where "I think" the road starts.

We ask and they say this road up ahead goes to Momella. It probably goes but the road starts climbing and climbing. It stops raining so we take off raincoats. then the road has less gravel and is just soil .

On an uphill we both find soil sticks to tyres and we come to a standstill. With my fenders it is harder to free the tyres.

We turn around after a short discussion, and it starts to rain. I try using my water on the tyres and that allows the wheels to turn and with water on the road now it frees up. Now it is raining for real.

We reach the highway and take the first picture. The rain coat and floppy hat work great and I am dry from waist up.

We deal with the highway and before Usa River turn on to track again. We find this river and wash some mud off.
After 30 minutes I think a freak slab of mud catch the tyre and get caught in the mudguard and then it just kept adding on until my tyre wouldn't turn. If i found any water on the road it would lubricate and the wheel would turn. Just before i found a river again my rear shifter cable broke. I fixed it in largest rear cog and we rode home with me using two gears.

Round trip was about 90km in 7 hours, 5 hours riding. Top speed was 60kmph !!! Gained 650meters

At Arusha it hadn't rained much and at my house not at all.

05 May 2012

Fact finding trip

Olokii bridge. I have ridden to this bridge several times over the years, sometimes it was the destination and sometimes i pass by going south. Today I wanted to find out:
-Can I ride my Raleigh 1970's road bike to this bridge?
-How much water is passing the bridge?

The road is good and the bike was good and it was a good match, this road and the raleigh bike. It is only 27 km to the bridge, the first 15 on tar road and then good road like this. Some sections were smooth and some of the down hills were a bit rough.

I met up with a young man on a single speed and then we rode together for 10km to his house just before the river. He had a small shop and I bought a soda and he had to ride off to meet someone so he left me to talk to hist 4 year old daughter.
I tried to get her to take a picture but she took a picture of the bushes instead of me and my bike.

All the rivers, Ngarenarok, Themi, Naura, Kijenge Rivers all flow into the Themi river. You can see that there is serious amounts of water that have taken away older bridges.

Looking upstream . too many plastic bags.

04 May 2012

Bicycle Commuting Reason # 5

-It is fun.
-It pollutes less
-It is faster
-good exercise as opposed to sitting in a car

the fifth reason I bicycle commute is to help me be a little more humble.

On a bicycle in Arusha I am a lower class citizen and seemingly with less road rights than if I was in a vehicle, even if I was in public transport. I don't always appreciate it but it is good for me , keeps things in perspective.

Chainring and Dynamo

The smaller chain ring was great. It is 36 instead of 42 now. I went over the Fortes hill without pushing, I spun instead. For the first time on this bike I rode up the steep hill just before my house without falling off!

Day two was also cool for lights, although i rode home in the light somehow I had the lights on and didn't notice any drag!

Next step is to charge my phone and laptop while riding to work.

I was going to post a picture of my dream crank from Compass Cycles but it is copyrighted. Here is the link. Only $400. Even smaller chainrings possible. This would be the last crank and rings I would need, they would last the rest of my riding lifetime..

03 May 2012


"LBS" is Local Bike Shop in bike jargon. For a couple months I have been harping about my second hand LBS, I promise I won't blog about it soon.

I felt so good biking home with bright lights yesterday that I stopped on the way to work at Goodie's Shop to share with him how good the dynamo works. I realized I needed a picture and rather than edit old post I start a new one. Goodie is wearing the red hat.
I enquired if he had a smaller chain ring so they brought out a pile of rings to see if one would fit . Those bikes in the back are for sale or rent, and there are more bikes as you go further into the alley. The open door is another business, dressmaking shop, another blog in itself. The mechanics work in the alley way.

At the end of the alley is a mud walled house with a small window. This room is full of used bike parts like what you see here.

Today I found a small chain ring, two rear racks for the Raleigh, another Shimano light with the special connector, and a complete rear wheel (700mm, including hub,rim, and tyre, 6speed cassette). About $50 for everything. It seemed more expensive than normal. They offered to change the chain ring right then , which is cool so when I ride home tonight it will be fun to see how it works on the hills.


Shimano Dynamo

Holy Shmoly!

Yesterday before riding to work I put connectors on my shimano dynamo hub and tried to wire it so I can use one or the other dynamo.

Right away i noticed two things as I set off for home in the dark of night.

At very low speed the lights pulse, and secondly MAN ARE THE LIGHTS BRIGHTER. How can a better lighting system make me so happy? I could even see my lights on the road with cars coming my way.

01 May 2012

Boys afternoon

I didn't belong to a fraternity in college. In fact my college didn't have any frats. Since a few years I belong to a group of three who meet in frequently to have profound discussions and laugh a bit and maybe just maybe have a drink or three. I can't reveal names as one is a fugitive from injustice without any valid passport, and the other is a bum who quit his job a few years ago. The requests to join the group are numerous, but always declined with a smile.

So back to biking. I woke up this May Day morning morning thinking I haven't done a longish ride and it is a holiday. I can't today as I want to show up at work for awhile.

But I had completely forgotten that to ride to my fraternity of three gathering I rode about 30km each way. Coming home I left about 6pm , full of good food a a wee bit of wine. The last 30 minutes was in the dark. I thought that was kind of cool that I hadn't considered a 60km ride yesterday as a ride, it was just transportation.