So you’ve decided you’re ready to join the ranks of the city’s intrepid cyclists. Nairobi’s growing community of pedal pals
Getting out on the road with your new gear can be intimidating at first. But why go it alone? One of the best ways to acclimate yourself to cycling the city’s thoroughfares is by joining one of Nairobi’s growing number of community-organized cycling groups for a weekend ride.
There’s a great deal of safety when moving in numbers. Tips and tricks can be gleaned from more experienced riders. And of course there’s the thrill of shared triumph derived from conquering a foreboding slope in the company of newfound friends.
Spin Kings Kenya
is a friendly and approachable gang of weekend warriors dedicated to spreading the gospel of the two-wheeled lifestyle to Nairobians of all skill levels. Weekly routes are shared in advance via their active social media presence.
Saturday rides are the best for beginners. The group converges in town at 7:30am in front of the Garden Square Restaurant on City Hall Way, just behind the Holy Family Basilica. Carefully thought-out routes, usually between 35-50km, traverse some of the city’s best paved and most scenic suburban roadways.
A volunteer brigade of motorcycle marshalls are on hand to help clear the path of traffic when the group enters busy roundabouts, while a support vehicle will often trail along as sort of rear guard to make sure no stragglers get left behind.
Frequent, preplanned rest stops give an opportunity to catch your breath, take in the sights and get to know your fellow cyclists, while allowing slower riders catch up with the pack. Any unfortunate tyre punctures will usually be attended to by an enthusiastic band of OGs eager to help.
Though the demographic trends largely towards men, a growing cohort of ‘Spin Queens’ are making their presence felt, with children as young as 7 also taking part.
Those who feel ready to challenge themselves are welcome to attend the Spin Kings’ Sunday rides, which tackle longer distances and steeper climbs. The Semi-elite tier of riders go for round-trip distances of 80-120km (think Limuru or Isinya) while the Elite tier ventures even further afield (places like Naivasha or Machakos Town).
All Spin Kings activities are free of charge and open to the public. All you need to take part is a bike in working order, a helmet, a facemask (for the time being) and a smile.
Visit their Instagram for more.
Critical Mass Nairobi
A monthly twist on the group cycling theme. The local iteration of a global phenomenon, this group has a slightly political bend. The goal is to advocate for urban planning models that center non-motorized modes of transit and are more accessible to the city’s masses, rather than ceding ever-more road space to the cars of the privileged few.
The same principle of strength in numbers applies. With several hundreds converging on the CBD for the monthly rides, Critical Mass hopes to shift the culture and mentality around how bicycles are viewed. Rather than a stigmatized ride-of-last-resort for those who can’t afford cars, Critical Mass argues that bikes can be the vehicle that carries Nairobi into a safer, less polluted future.
The last Saturday of every month sees the cheery mob amass in Jevanjee Gardens. Marshalls take their jobs seriously, arranging carefully planned routes and working together to fend off car-traffic to keep everyone safe.
Riders of all levels are welcome to take part and the routes are usually manageable, with accessibility being prized. The result is a sort of roving carnival on two wheels that hopes to save lives. Children of all ages frequently attend in large numbers. By making drivers more accustomed to seeing bikes as valid elements of the city’s traffic, the thinking goes, fewer cyclists will be splattered by impatient Subarus speeding with abandon down Waiyaki Way.
Details of the monthly rides are shared on Critical Mass’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. November gatherings tend to be the largest convergence, as the group rests during the December holidays.
A cycling sisterhood aimed eroding the stigma around Kenyan women riding bicycles.
Whether for fun, for exercise or simply as an affordable way to navigate the city while avoiding the pests that often plague public transport, there are countless reasons for ladies to get in the saddle. But outdated norms around modesty can make some women and girls the target of harassment when cycling, especially alone.
“We realized that cycling is generally a male-dominated exercise,” Deputy Director Carol Mbutura explained. “We decided to come up with a group for women where we learn from one another, we teach one another and we cycle together.”
Each-one-teach-one is the name of the game, with members training complete novices in how to keep balance and carry out basic repairs. Rides occur once a month and a schedule of events is available on the Dada Rides website.
Visit their Instagram for more.