Maybe you have travelled recently through the Nakuru-Nairobi highway and have noticed that apart from the various beautiful formations of flocks of traveling birds, there are cohorts of motorbike riders.
Motorbike adventures are becoming popular among Kenyans. Instead of driving or flying to destinations in the region, some Kenyans are choosing to learn how to ride motorbikes, plan their own routes and become one with the scenery as they set out into the world.
Ninety Niners, which is a biker community comprising about 36 members plans long trips once a month.
“Motorbikes are incomparable. I have a car but I would rather travel on my bike because of the open air, a lot of wind on my face and I cannot be stuck in traffic,” says Parkimain Lekishon, the president of the club.
The Ninety Niners look glorious as they ride along the highways. Some wear masks like the Jabbawockeez dancers and you would not be wrong to think they too have a choreography set out.
Their formation is called the Wolf’s Pack. In it, there are two well-experienced riders at the front and the middle. The back has one strong rider as well as the leader of the group.
The newbies are sandwiched between these riders and the strong rider at the back intervenes when the rest get out of formation. Rather than side-by-side, each rider travels a short pace behind the other, like the right foot and left foot when walking.
Motorbikes also allow riders to take reasonable detours. An exploration into Naivasha’s roads, for instance, gives you a chance to see giraffes attempting to camouflage themselves behind the trees.
Although motorbike riding requires grit, there are a lot of tender things that make it endearing to riders.
For instance, new riders are invited to join the group on trips and receive advice on how to improve their biking skills. Adventurers also see riding a form of bonding and consider as family the friendships they build on the road. When not on the road, many biker communities run different charities.
The Ninety Niners requires their members to be free from alcohol or any other substances that can impair their vision, and Mr Lekishon proudly says that despite their numerous trips, they have never had an accident.
Fell in love
To join the Ninety Niners, a background check is done and the club even gets referrals from people who are familiar with you.
Predictably, the best thing about motorbike adventures is the scenery.
According to another biking team, Throttle Adventures, Rwanda’s road network gives you a chance to gawk at their hills.
In Tanzania, the variety in climatic regions makes for breathtaking landscapes: the desert area around Dodoma gives sudden way to the Murang’a-like green of Morogoro. Then you may be rewarded with an unforgettable trip through Mikumi National Park and finally to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam with their Coastal flair.
The two-person Throttle team meets biker communities in different towns who escort them on their trip around the world by reaching out to them through Facebook.
The team, which is in its first phase of a trip around 50 countries on all the continents, swears by Kampala’s groundnut sauce, Zanzibar’s shoki shoki fruit and Kigali’s roasted matoke.
As bikers zoom past you on highways in their heavy coats and helmets, it is easy to imagine yourself on their bikes.
To embark on such a trip, Throttle says, you must first train on motorbike riding on all kinds of terrain including dirt roads. Then you must buy the appropriate bicycle which takes into consideration your height and weight. Their bikes are BMW F700s. Finally, you must plan your route.
“It is not possible to go into each and every country for various reasons such as visa and the things you want to see as an individual,” says Wamuyu Kariuki who does a double-take before confirming that she is currently in Makambako, Tanzania.
You must also build necessary networks in different countries and familiarise yourself with paperwork requirements such as visas.
Tanzania has borne many fruits for the team, including a great time at a night market called Forodhani where they bought street food and a surprise meeting over nyama choma, beer and music with the Minister for Tourism after the Bagamoyo marathon who “was pretty excited that Africans can do what we do.”
People say when they travel that the people they met were “very welcoming and very warm” but Throttle Adventures took it to a whole new level when they went to check out of a hotel in Rwanda and found that someone had paid their bill.
The team has liaised with bikers in Kericho, Kisumu, Kampala, Kigali and Dar-es Salaam. However, they found that towns outside Kenya had fewer bikers and not as many women in their groups.
Wamuyu’s decision was informed by a lost opportunity in car riding when she could not drive competitively. She then decided to start riding motorbikes.
Dos Kariuki, the other member of Throttle team, fell in love with motorbike riding when he got a ride from a friend from Westlands to Kinoo and decided he was going to buy a bike.