Patrick Kamau Njoroge had been riding a bicycle from the time he was 10.
“It was the family’s bicycle so it was mainly used to deliver fresh milk. But when it wasn’t being used for deliveries, I’d go riding with the older boys in my neighbourhood,” he recalls.
“We all grew up in Limuru and we found that biking brought us together,” says Patrick, alluding to his two friends Benson Njenga and Joseph Maina. “We all shared a passion for adventure and loved moving around the tea plantations on our bikes. We’ve been good friends ever since,” he adds.
But back then, the three cyclists had no idea they’d be making a successful business out of their favourite pastime. “We actually started thinking about creating a biking business late in 2014 when I was in my last year at (Maseno) university. We didn’t register Active Motion Kenya until early 2015,” Patrick says.
But even before Active Motion Kenya was registered, the trio was mobilising friends to make brief biking trips around the county with them.
They didn’t charge anything at the time. But then they found those same friends wanted to take more trips with them. That’s when they began to consider monetising their bicycle rides.
By this time, Patrick had replaced the family’s ‘Black Mamba’ bicycle with a proper mountain bike, the kind that can take on Kenya’s rugged, often bumpy and pot-holed roads.
Today, Active Motion Kenya owns 10 mountain bikes which they rent out to clients who come on their weekend bike tours and don’t already have their own.
“Most of our clients (around 70 per cent) have bikes of their own, but for the rest they can rent bikes and helmets from us,” Patrick says.
But since their weekend biking groups can run in size from five up to 50, they occasionally has to get more mountain bikes from their supplier who brings them in from the UK, China and the US.
The outdoor adventure company also organises hiking tours which they advertise as being— like biking — both healthy and economical ways to see the country.
But whether their tours attract cyclists or hikers, Patrick says the company invariably has a paramedic travelling with the tour just in case someone needs assistance.
And when it comes to the bike tours, there’s always a bus backing up the travellers. “We normally don’t ride our bikes in town,” he says, noting that there are two regular rendezvous points. One’s in front of International House, just around the corner from the Nairobi Hilton. The other is at The Mall in Westlands.
After someone signs up for the tour of their choice, the listings of which one can find either on the website or on its Facebook page, then they’ll be informed where and when to rendezvous. Setting off in the bus, which is equipped with a super-sized bicycle rack fastened to the top of the bus, the tour will formally begin in any number of places.
Tours may start off in Limuru heading to Mlango Farm or from the Ngong Hills biking towards the Suswa Mountain. They may go from Brackenhurst to tour various tea plantations in the area. Tours may even run from the Aberdares all the way to Thika town.
“What we aim to do is provide our clients with unique and scenic experiences,” Patrick explains to me at our first meeting. He had escorted his group of a dozen multinational travellers to see the Red Hill Art Gallery after which they planned to have lunch just next door at Zereniti Gardens.
When they bike to a place like Suswa Mountain, they’ll bring their own chef to ensure their cyclist guest eat well.
He says they have also found that hiking is quite popular among both foreign tourists and locals alike. Some hikes are relatively short, running around three hours, while others can go on from six to eight hours.
Among the places AMK takes their hiking clients are the Chyulu Hills, the Aberdares Ranges, Mount Kenya; and this coming weekend, they’ll head to Eburru Forest.
“We always make prior arrangements with either the Kenya Wildlife or Kenya Forest Services,” Patrick says, adding “this coming Saturday, we have a free biking event which will start off at Casual Bites Café in Westlands.”