On August 30, Kenneth Kiplang’at set a new personal cycling record. He cycled for the longest distance he has ever covered in one ride—370.17 kilometres.
From Juja to Nakuru Town, via Nairobi’s Central Business District and Naivasha, and back all in a single trip. Total time on the road: 15:10:59 hours, at an average speed of 24.4km per hour.
“I was so excited when I got back since it was the first time to do such a trip,” says Kiplang’at.
“I left home at 4 am, arrived in Nakuru at noon and I was back to Nairobi at 8.30 pm.”
The 28-year-old is an ardent cyclist. He is an ultra-distance cyclist and he had peddled for 275 kilometres before pushing further.
Kiplang’at describes his journey into cycling as an accident.
“I started cycling in 2014 as a cheap mode of transport between casual jobs during the holidays. Within no time, I found passion in the lifestyle. Now cycling is part of me,” he says.
Nonetheless, 15 hours on a bike requires more than passion.
“Every bike ride demands confidence and faith. Confidence that you’re in the right state of fitness to conquer the miles, and faith that you’ll return home safely,” he says.
This is especially important because ultra-distance bike rides cross through sections peppered with hazards like rude motorists and bad roads. It takes mental strength to survive such unprecedented challenges.
Six years on the road have done well to prepare him mentally and physically. Even so, he prepared afresh as one cannot rely on past successes.
“My preparation entailed both high altitude and high-intensity training. On a Thursday preceding the Sunday ride, I did a short but intense 50km interval ride. On Friday, I did an 80km ride which was mostly climbing hills.”
Additionally, he ate a balanced diet, settling for one rich in carbohydrates and proteins. Kiplang’at’s training was not in vain. Between Naivasha to Kinungi was 20kilometres of climbing, which saw him ride against gravity. In Gilgil, were strong headwinds that affected his cycling speed.
These are examples of challenges cyclists face on the road, besides bikes breaking down. To overcome such minor but highly inconveniencing bike troubles, he has invested in puncture-proof tires and two sturdy bikes – a Giant TCR Advanced road bike designed for tarmac roads, and a modified Specialised Expedition all-terrain bicycle for both tarmac and dirt roads. He also carries with him a spare tube and a puncture repair set.
“I didn’t get a puncture but if I did, I’d have easily fixed it,” he says.
Being a wine lover, Kiplang’at knows that long rides, like fine wine, require patience and perfect ingredients.
“One has to ride efficiently to conserve energy. This requires patience. I took a break every 100 kilometres. To re-energise, I ate easily digestible meals. During the trip, I ate two bananas and four chapatis, drank two cups of tea and lots of water. Heavy protein meals are a disaster in waiting. I ate a protein-laden meal once I got back home to repair lost muscles,” he says.
To be both safe and on the road, he ensures that he is visible day and night. He has flashing front and tail-lights, and a loud voice to command space on the road.
“There’s no room for timidity,” he notes.
The bike has been good to Kiplang’at. It has seen him not only become as fit as a fiddle, have a robust immune system, see sights, and make friends, but also cycle his way into great opportunities. Kiplang’at is an agricultural consultant, founding a company called Kenarava Group.
In 2016, he went to Israel for an 11-months internship.
“During weekends and holidays, I’d cycle across the Arava Desert to explore the landscape and make new friends,” he recalls.
This gave rise to his Israel-positive social media campaign dubbed #MyAravaStory, which gained acclaim as he provided a first-hand perspective of “life in Israel.”
As a result, a documentary dubbed “#MyAravaStory” was filmed by the International Student Film Festival-Tel Aviv to capture his extraordinary new life in Israel as a Kenyan cyclist and agriculture student. Following its success, he was recalled by the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi to lead the 2018 cohort of Kenyans training under the Kenya-Israel diplomatic food security project.
He now serves a key role in the Jewish National Fund (JNF)— USA Joint Institute for Global Food, Water, and Energy Security — an initiative supporting agriculture in the developing world.
“It all started with cycling and now I’m on the path to help effect global change among the most vulnerable communities on earth. What a ride this will be,” he says.
The Nairobi-Nakuru cycling trip must have been the most challenging. It was not, he says.
“While in Israel, I did a mere 40km ride. I rode from the Dead Sea area, which is the lowest point on earth at 400m below sea level, to Arad Town (600m above Sea Level). Save for the electric views, the constant bone-breaking climbing through the afternoon's sweltering heat of 40 degrees Celsius made me question my lifestyle choices,” he says.
What is his next cycling adventure?
“A Nairobi to Kisumu bike trip with my cycling crew, and a personal goal to cycle from Nairobi to Mombasa in a single ride— 500km under 24 hours,” he says.