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Once upon a time

I grew up with a fellow called Reuben that had a remarkable talent: Whenever we wanted to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and did not have at hand, the legendary Casio Alarm Chrono watch, that we children of the 90s loved very much, all we needed to do was ask Reuben to wake us up at whatever time we desired.

In the seven years I stayed with Reuben, I made hundreds of requests to be woken up, each request was different – 4.30am, 4.13am, 5.56am, 3.20am and Reuben always obliged. He did not have any clock or watch at hand, he just listed to the radio for the time before going to bed and somehow, something in his anatomy kept the time. It’s like he had an inner watchman that was meticulous and punctual.

My inner watchman is not like Reuben’s. He is an unimpressive nervous fellow that worries himself too much and loses count. I ask him to wake me up at 5.30am and he wakes me with a violent jolt at 2am. I look at my watch and he suggests that perhaps there is something wrong with it because himself, he is certain it’s 5.30am if not later. He plants enough doubt in my mind, so I get out of bed and go to the sitting room to turn on the laptop to confirm the time. The bloody thing has about 139 updates to configure before turning itself on and revealing the time, so I wait. Finally, I learn that it’s 2.34am and the fellow (my inner watchman), is very sorry for his mistake. I return to bed bad tempered and it takes me another half hour to fall asleep again.

For the next two hours, the fellow wakes me up every 10 minutes and each time he is sure it’s 5.30am. I regret and wish I hadn’t mentioned the thing to him whatsoever! At 5am he goes to sleep himself, worn out by his efforts and I finally manage to catch some sleep. I open my eyes and see some light. My half awakened intelligence doesn’t tell me anything for a few moments and then it suddenly hits me with the knowledge that the meeting has started and that the bird singing like mad outside, is actually the phone beside me ringing. I scramble out of bed and charge about the room confused, eyes bulging and heart beating violently, it’s 9am.

I tell you this true story about my inner watchman because I do not trust the fellow and tomorrow, I plan on waking up very early to go to the train station to queue for a ticket. I plan to visit Mombasa next week to receive a shipment of bikes that I am very excited about. I mean to use this SGR train thing and I am told that to get a ticket, I need to be at the station very early in the morning and queue with about 5,000 other people. I wonder why the business can’t be done online, or can it? Someone, please tell me.

Anyway, the shipment I shall be receiving has the following bikes in it: The magnificent Bajaj Dominar 400. I believe this is the very first one to be registered in Kenya and I am fiercely proud. The very cool 2017 Bajaj Avenger 200 Street, also a first in Kenya I believe. A pair of very cute Honda Navi scooters, again a first in the country. A triple dose of the irresistible and muscular 2017 Yamaha FZ-25, of course also the first in the country. The very first 2017 Bajaj Pulsar 200NS in the country and finally the regal rogue itself, the 2017 KTM Duke 390, which will not be the first in the country because someone else beat me to it. Confound him!

All these claims to being first are unverified of course, it is simply my instinct that tells me so.

I don’t have a clever nugget of wisdom to conclude this article. Instead I invite you as the biker community in Kenya to come and check out these bikes when they land and to appreciate how far we’ve come as bikers in Kenya. When I bought my first bike on September 15th 2008, a 125cc symbol of humility and poverty, I had almost no choices, but now we live in a world where we can dare make our dreams of owning any bike come true. I shall communicate the date and venue for this celebration so please be on the look out on the various social media pages.

Also, these three bikes do not have owners, so tag a friend that might want one.

Yamaha FZ-25, Blue. Brand new! Ksh. 380,000

 

Yamaha FZ-25. Black. Brand New! Ksh. 370,000.

 

Bajaj Pulsar RS200. Red. 14,000km. Ksh. 330,000

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Petrol Stations: Come on! You can do better than that!

I begin by warning that what I am about to narrate is brutal and disgusting in nature and if you have a weak spirit it will ruin you forever. I offer you the opportunity to stop reading this immediately and think yourself lucky to have escaped with your innocence intact.

A couple of months ago, some two gentlemen of my acquaintance convinced me to accompany them on a ride to Masinga Dam. I loved the idea because it was an opportunity for me to see how three bikes I love compare on the road. I was on a Bajaj Pulsar 200NS while the other two were on a Yamaha FZS-FI and a KTM Duke 200. The bike riding and sightseeing was alright, but it was what these two men did to me during a stop we made that defined my day. The two gentlemen are simple unsophisticated Christian men, whose reputation I do not wish to tarnish and I shall therefore not expose their identities by saying that they are called Peter and Danson.

The stop in question was a lunchbreak in a small ramshackle of a town near Masinga Dam called Kanyonyoo Market. I should have taken a hint from the name because it was a pitiable little town and all it could offer was readymade roast meat in a series of horrible looking butcheries that lined the road.

We got into one of the horrible butcheries and the enthusiastic butcher and his assistant led us to a grill that had heaps of roasted meat which to my trained eye, could not possibly be the goat they advertised. The bones were suspiciously too small and I thought it strange that it was on the same grill as intestines and other internal organs which I imagined were meant to mask the actual taste of the meat.

My simple unworldly companions laughed off my feline and canine suggestions and assured me that in Ukambani, people’s tastes were not as diverse. They seemed unperturbed so I reluctantly joined them in the feast.

When we returned to Nairobi, we each went our separate ways home and it was then that it happened. I had been feeling some abdominal discomfort since the suspicious lunch and it seemed things were getting worse. I determined that I would push on until the house but that determination lasted about one hundred meters when my stomach churned very violently and threaten to expel some elements in it there and then.

I grimaced involuntarily and tried to do the same at the opposite end of my anatomy, but my stomach was not having any of it. It had to expel the culprits and it could not wait a minute longer. I slowed the bike and tried all manner of movements on the seat hoping to reverse the looming onslaught but it was getting desperate. As luck would have it, I was riding through a heavily populated area and an emergency fertilization of the land would not be taken with kindness. Tears were welling and I was horrified it would turn into a full-blown trouser accident but I managed to muster some will power to hold because such an accident would mean I would have to remove the trousers before walking into the house and walking into the house with no trousers, I judged, would traumatize my people irreversibly.

Just as I was saying the words “take me Jesus”, a petrol station loomed into sight. I made for the nearest security guard and asked him where the lavatory was. He pointed it out and I rode right up to the door and leapt at the door handle only to find it was locked. Damn it! At this point, the churning in my stomach had turned into a boiling cauldron, especially at the sight of the respite. I tried to steady myself by the door and then let out a crude animal yell, asking the security guard to fetch me the key.

The security guard, whose lineage I was certain includes a tortoise, a chameleon and a sloth finally arrived. I stared at him with eyes that were a combination of pitiable puppy eyes and the bewilderment of a man being lynched, begging him to open the door. To sustain my dignity as he opened the door, I had crossed my legs into a double helix coil and TIG welded all the remaining gaps.

The disciplines of seismology, geology and meteorology, cannot sufficiently describe the thundering and sheer force with which my stomach evacuated. It was a brutal affair but after a minute or so, I regained a feeling of wellness. I was glad to have escaped with my dignity and I thought about the two evil men I had spent the day with and wondered if they too were in a petrol station somewhere or had succumbed in more embarrassing fashion. Whatever the case, I cursed them comprehensively, wishing them and all their all their descendants for all eternity the very worst.

My indignation subsided and as I slowly took in my surroundings, I realized that my ordeal was far from over – there was no means of acceptable sanitation. Why do petrol stations do that? For heaven’s sake, you are required by law to maintain a lavatory and what’s the sense in having one when it doesn’t have the very tools required to make a trip to it a success?

It is a wicked shame for oil marketing companies, some multinational, not to bother maintaining a lavatory and yet profit from the country’s citizens. It’s not that expensive I imagine, unless your petrol station is at Kanyonyoo Market, in which case I can excuse you because I know the whole town will be turning up every afternoon after lunch.

You must be keen to find out how I eventually got out, but I shall spare you the details and save myself extra embarrassment. I loved that t-shirt though, it was branded with my favorite musician of all time, the late Kiptesot arap Sang of the Junior Kotestes band.

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What bike to buy in 2017

I love listening to people go through the agony of choosing which bike to buy.

My friend Eric aptly calls it “Kung-fu”. In his mind, a sick one I might add, a person agonising over whether to pick a KTM Duke 200 with ABS or one without, is akin to a Kung fu fighter kicking, chopping and performing all manner of violent acts in the air before finally settling on top of a mountain with one foot on the ground and another held up.

When the agony moves to whether it’s actually worth it spending a fortune on the Duke 200 when you could get virtually the same engine and gearbox on a Pulsar AS200 at almost half the price, Eric imagines that the Kung fu fighter has leapt from the top of the mountain, hurled himself across the landscape, kicking everything that’s standing before settling once again on a small twig at the top of the tallest tree in the forest.

I love Kung fu. It’s an absolutely necessary process because it helps justify decisions and creates a feeling of satisfaction, which if you ask me, is more important than the actual value of the bike. As a person that sells bikes, I have been on the receiving end of thousands of such fights. I have had my neck snapped, my head punched and my legs twisted until I tap out. Sometimes I punch back to keep the fight going but some people are very rude and they react by kicking me straight in the plums.

I write this because I know that several new year resolutions have “Get new bike” or “Upgrade bike” somewhere in them and so I imagine the country is awash with bikers looking for their black belts and getting ready for Kung fu. This article is therefore meant to help you begin the fight or at least show you to the right battlefield.

The broad categories

There are six main categories of bikers (and hence bikes): Those that love racing (sports bikes), those that like falling over and being dirty (off-road bikes), those that love looking good but only in urban areas (street bikes), those that love touring the country (touring bikes) and those that love wearing leather vests, taking oaths and keeping long armpit hair (cruiser bikes).

You might know what category you fall into but question is, at what level are you?

Levels of bikers

The first level is the one-percenters. These are people who feel the urge to ride a BMW R1200GS and they go to Bavaria Auto to get one. You are not a one-percenter if you go to Car and General to get a TVS Apache, read on because I will be putting you in your place soon. This level belongs to those that can afford the best of what the world has to offer right now.

The second level is the decent-second-handers. These are people who want to get a brand new R1200GS but economic considerations make them settle for decent second hand bikes. These are usually well kept bikes from South Africa, the US, the UK and other such places; bikes that might be second hand but still are expensive and very good indeed. I love this level of bikers the most because they are pioneers who suffer the cost of importing and owning a bike not supported by a dealership all because of love. These are the true bikers if you ask me.

I like to call the third level the fake-it-till-you-make-it people. These are the folks that will get a horribly old and broken Suzuki Hayabusa and nurse it to ill health, all for the scant reward of telling people they own the fastest bike in the world. These are the chaps whose bikes break down during every group ride and they have a shortcut and an explanation for every single ailment on their bike. They know the mechanic’s children and wife a little too intimately and if you look under their beds, you will find a minefield of broken headlights, fairing pieces, cables and old chains. This level is mainly characterised by bikes from Uganda. The idea here is to own a bike with a respectable name, irrespective of how it treats you.

The gradual-progress level belongs to those that are not able to break the bank the way the one-percenters or the decent-second handers do, but still want a unique and decent bike to begin with. They prefer to begin with smaller cc bikes and slowly learn the art of riding in the hope of eventually buying their dream bike. The more discerning of this type go for very well made bikes that offer good value for money despite the bikes not being immediately available in the country. For example, bikes from the Bajaj Pulsar range and other global brands with licences to manufacture in India such as KTM Duke, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Piaggio. They know that these Indian manufactured bikes are genuinely well made and priced to offer great value for money.

The final level is the dealership-only fellows. These are people that treasure the comfort in numbers and perception of good service that dealerships such as Car and General offer. It is the place that Mr. TVS Apache belongs. Nobody in this group actually wants the bike they own, it’s just that it makes so much sense to buy a bike from a shop you can see and a bike you have seen at least a thousand others riding. They are a sensible lot I agree, but very boring.

Making the decision

By now it should be pretty straightforward then as to what category you belong and at what level you operate. You will find dealers and a community that will help you choose the best bike. You will also find groups of riders that share your interests and ideas about social life so whatever bike you choose, you will not be lonely.

I should also tell you that pillions, people that don’t own bikes but are always riding on one, are there in plenty and they too are of different categories and levels. I shall not delve into that today because my research is inconclusive but I thought you should know that once again, whatever bike you choose, you will not be lonely.

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A banana split and a trouser split – not a good recipe on a bike

The life of a broke man is not one to be envied. It is full of trials and tribulations, which can only be understood by readers of the book of Job in the Bible. Nothing ever works. When you are broke, the simplest plans never succeed, the easiest tasks turn out to be a real mess and you are generally unlucky with everything.

An example of such bad luck and disastrous planning happened in my early youth, just after leaving university, when I received an invitation to attend a job interview. It was a promising job in that I was the only candidate invited for the interview and the pay was out of this world. All I had to do was show up and pass the interview.

I summoned my girlfriend for a celebratory lunch of two packets of chips, vinegar and salt at McFries, all for 100 shillings. The poor girl was genuinely happy for me. She had been through a lot with my bad luck and yet she saw something in me which even I did not see.

Her words of encouragement and affection moved me and so in a moment of thoughtlessness, I promised that I would take her to a Java restaurant immediately after my interview and treat her to something called a banana split, which I had been told by a friend was something quite magnificent.

From my friend’s explanation, three hundred and twenty shillings would do the trick in Java, assuming she didn’t fall to the temptation of anything else in the menu. All I needed was one month or so to save the amount required for the both of us.

The double dose of good news staggered her but she quickly recovered her composure and had the presence of mind to reward my generous intent with a nice warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.

The day of the interview came and I put on my best clothes which comprised of a shirt, a pair of trousers and shoes, all of which had been bought by my girlfriend over the years as gifts. My bike, a 125cc symbol of humility and poverty (which wasn’t bought by my girlfriend), was washed and stood outside waiting to take me to the interview. I said a small prayer and got onto the bike confident that at the end of the ride I would be a changed man with better fortunes.

All through the ride, I felt that the trousers, which I didn’t wear often, were uncomfortable and a little too tight around the thighs and crotch. I told myself it was the modern way of dressing to wear clothes which were a little tight around the crotch, all the successful people seemed to do it and I was about to become one.

I arrived 10 minutes early and thought this to be a good thing. As I alighted from the bike, I heard a loud sound resembling that of a large bed sheet being torn. I looked behind me to check if I could see the strange person tearing bed sheets in an office parking lot but there was no one. I must have heard my own things.

I removed by bike jacket and proceeded to tuck in my shirt properly and neaten myself when I felt a small tear on my trousers just below the belt at the back. I felt the tear some more and was surprised to discover that it extended a little further down. I looked down in bewilderment and saw that the tear was a lot worse than I had imagined! It started from the belt area around my bottom and followed the stitching all the way beyond the zip and button at the front all the way to the belt buckle. It was the worst trouser split I had ever seen, a terrible, vengeful trouser split that didn’t spare me even a little dignity.

I stood there for a while, confused and feeling a light wind blowing through my loins. I considered many things, like tying a jacket around my waist and walking into the interview and in the end decided that I would go to a supermarket to buy a new pair trousers with the only money I had and be late for the interview. I thought it to be the best solution.

At the supermarket door the watchman insisted that I put in storage the bag which I held in front of me. He also wanted me to remove the jacket I’d tied around my waist and to spread my arms and legs wide so that he would scan me properly, but I resisted.

Seeing that he wasn’t going to let me in, I let down the bag and jacket and the two watchmen at the entrance saw for themselves the lay of the land under my trousers. They looked at me in embarrassment and waved me inside the supermarket, it was all that could be said in a civilized world.

I sneaked in, picked a new pair of trousers and wore it in the changing rooms. I plucked out the price tag and took it to the cashier. The cashier refused to accept my explanation that the trouser I was wearing was indeed the one I had just bought and so we had to call the watchman at the door to give an eyewitness account of the state of my original pair of trousers. Someone was sent to fetch that original pair, which I’d discarded in the changing rooms, as an exhibit and the cashier, together with the manager, grudgingly accepted my explanation.

I made it back to the interview venue half an hour later and was informed that they’d waited for me and disbanded so there would be no interview for me and the job offer withdrawn.

I rode back to the house depressed. I had lost an opportunity to a split trouser and to compound the problem I was not going to buy my girlfriend a banana split because I had spent all the money I had saved buying a new pair of trousers.

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Tube tyres will get you eaten by lions

Tube tyres will get you eaten by lions

I bought my first motorcycle days after graduating from university. It was a small likeable 125cc that was reliable to a fault and consumed almost no fuel.

My main preoccupation at the time was the weekend. I endured the working week longing for the weekend so that I could meet up with my fellow broke friends and explore the city in new and exciting ways. It was standard procedure therefore that every Friday evening I parked the bike at home, gave my mother a rubbish story about seeing someone and being back shortly and then leaving the house never to be seen until Sunday evening.

One Friday evening on my way home to park the bike, the back wheel suddenly felt weird. A quick stop revealed it was a puncture and it needed immediate fixing. I pushed the bike about a kilometre to the nearest petrol station where the mechanic promptly announced that he doesn’t fix bike punctures. I considered this for a while and had the idea to remove the entire wheel and hand it to him in the same way people hand him car wheels. Minutes later I was back on the road and having deposited the bike at home and inhaled my mother’s cooking, I bolted out of the house for the usual Friday evening activities.

A week later I could scarcely believe when the rear wheel suddenly felt weird again at almost the exact same spot as the last week. Again I pushed the bike to the petrol station and several hours later I was supervising one of my friends vomiting into a flower bed having had one too many.

It really was witchcraft when for the third week in a row I arrived at the same petrol station, all sweaty from pushing the bike, to have the third puncture repaired. The mechanic suggested that I buy a new tube and that I stop riding on the road shoulders because that’s where all the debris that could cut tyres.

He was right. For the next 2 weeks I had no puncture until I contrived to do something really stupid: Keen to impress some girls I’d told I was a biker, I took the bike with me to a house party where I intended to show just how much of a better man I was because I owned a 125cc marvel of engineering and masculinity while the other idiots mooched about on foot.

Nobody took the bait so at 2am I decided the cause was lost and headed home. My mind must have been preoccupied by the inquest into the unsuccessful evening because I didn’t notice anything wrong until I took a corner a bit too sharply and almost lost control of the bike when I realised that the rear tyre was once again punctured. Damn it!

This time I was in real trouble. It was the middle of the night and I was on the loneliest road in Nairobi – the stretch of Magadi Road between Ongata Rongai and Catholic University, that’s right alongside the Nairobi National Park and a known lion den. I was horrified.

Now, I have always maintained that being eaten alive is the worst possible way to die. There is nothing more humiliating than meeting your creator via the digestive system of another animal. So there was no way I was stopping or even reducing speed in the name of saving the tyre. I made it into safety and got home very angry with the bike and myself. The next day I was even angrier when I discovered I would have to buy a new tyre and tube. The decision had been made, my next bike and every one after that, would have tubeless tyres.

Fast forward and I don’t understand why lots of bikes still have tube tyres. They have no discernible advantage save for the fact that the tyres are made of a softer compound and hence stick to the road better. But this is inconsequential because whereas tubeless tyres aren’t as sticky because they are made from a harder compound, they are less susceptible to punctures and last much longer.

So if you don’t use wire wheels, ditch those tube tyres, they are a disaster waiting to happen.

 

***

spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.

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Mr. Pope, please help me forgive these bastards

Mr. Pope, help me forgive these bastards

At this time, Kenya is blanketed by a warm air of reverence and holiness because Mr. Pope from Vatican City will be popping in for a visit. Catholics have been slaving for months building furniture and drawing up an itinerary while Kenyans on Twitter have been clamouring for a public holiday. Both camps have been successful.

Moses Kuria appeared on Tv a few days back to continue his crusade of wonderfully skewed logic where he’s seeking to undo all the hard work he put in getting people to give false evidence against others so that they get prosecuted. Even he is looking forward to Mr. Pope’s arrival because at some point he said “… he’s prepared himself for the Pope…” or something like that. It’s just a sweet piece of irony that he got arrested for some hateful words he’d spewed a while back, and might not get to see Mr. Pope.

So in this spirit of forgiveness and reverence, I as a biker, would like to draw up a list of people I’d like to see Mr. Pope do something about. These are people we find on the road who make the simple process of going from one place to another a torrid affair full of pitfalls and nasty surprises.

In order to truly express my feelings, I will turn to the comedian George Carlin, whom in his wonderful piece titled A List of People Who Ought to Be Killed, expressed his feelings in a tone that totally resonates with me right now. So here goes:

I’ll start with the lunatics that overtake despite seeing a bike approaching in the opposite direction. Why do they do this? It’s a dangerous thing and a horrible feeling to be run off the road by someone that thinks bikers are nothing more than motorised insects. I fail to understand where their consideration for other road users went to, I fail to understand the impunity and I fail to understand why they have never been struck by lightning.

Another group who ought to have their hair set on fire are those people that overtake indiscriminately then squeeze back in line to when the truck coming from the opposite direction is 30 centimetres away. These idiots see other people as pawns in their game and they never care about the consequences of sudden braking or squeezing others out of their lanes.

Still on the overtaking theme, I would like to see the painful removal of fingernails from the people that overtake from the left, on the road shoulders. There’s no shock nastier than finding a speeding car inches from you on your left side when that was the last thing you expected. It is downright dangerous because bikers drift laterally across the lane every so often and nobody thinks to check for such a thing. Interestingly, bikers do this a lot, even in fast moving traffic. Don’t do this, it is stupid, you will die, and furthermore you are almost always guaranteed a puncture if you ride on road shoulders and your haste will count for nothing.

Another bunch of people I’d like to take to a forest never to return, are tailgaters. Especially those found on busy city roads like Mombasa road. These are the folks that drive too close behind you, causing you to speed up and inch ever closer to the person in-front. If the person in front brakes suddenly there will be nowhere to go and you will make the meat of a car sandwich.

I hate to say this, but the biker community has always had a bunch of show-offs that ride on public roads with speed and lane weaving that isn’t safe or considerate at all. A true story is that I have flagged down and warned 2 riders on 2 separate occasions about their riding and seen them dead minutes after I did so. Do not lane split like a fool, junctions are to be taken seriously, your bike is limited by grip and quality of parts and you the rider have limited skill.

I reserve my worst thoughts and wishes for the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). This is a bunch of triple chinned men and women who sit in meetings making unfathomable rules about road use. My problem with this organisation is that it exists to extort from Kenyans and does absolutely nothing about road safety. Imposing silly speed limits and checking if someone has a KEBS approved bandage in the first-aid kit is idiotic when there are real problems on the road. The only thing this organisation should do is educate the public and focus on the things that matter – pedestrian safety and catching the truly dangerous drivers (and riders) in order to educate them better (or take them to the forest).

So Mr. Pope, I’ll end my list here because I imagine you are too busy to read 900 words. You know what my true feelings are towards these people and I too know that you actively campaign against such evil thoughts and actions.

So instead I ask that you send some divine intervention our way. Tumble down a miracle for example, that will get me appointed the head of NTSA and I will show them how to run a tax payer funded organisation. If this is a far-fetched request then please say a prayer for these people I have mentioned or better still, ask your Italian friends to arrange for a horse’s head to be placed in the beds of these cretinous bastards while they sleep. This should scare them into being sensible human beings when they wake up.

***

spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.

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A fine, jail or both

A fine, jail or both

It’s true, too many people are dying on our roads and we must do something about it. I lost a friend late last year to a road accident. He was a brilliant guy with a real and proper brain – the sort that would have invented something and he had a young family, but he was one of the many claimed by the many accidents on our roads last year. At this point I can imagine that you are expecting me to come out from behind the handkerchief and ask for tough laws and strong punishments to be implemented so that no other friend of mine may ever die again. I won’t, someone else already did that.

To make our roads safer, it is necessary to address the real problems. So allow me to paint the picture for you: Towards the end of Moi’s reign as president, things on the road were bad because roads were terrible and the police were corrupt. When Kibaki literally wheeled himself into power on a wheelchair, he read the best speech I’ve ever heard through a neck brace, saying that he’ll fix the roads so that even he, would never ever need the services of a neck brace again because there would be no road accidents. He fixed the roads but the police topped the corruption rankings yet again so lots of accidents continued to happen.

One of his henchmen was rattled by the alarming statistics and he introduced what is famously known as the Michuki laws and they were ever so simple – all public service vehicles would be required to drive a little slower, not overload and safety belts for everyone. In the first few months, there was a dramatic reduction in road accidents and people were very happy. The president was especially happy and he had the idea to appoint Michuki to oversee other things where he would hopefully make a similar impact but in truth, he made a complete hash of everything instead.

In the meantime, a man called Chirau Ali Makwere had been appointed to do the impossible task of sitting in an office and asking how good the Michuki laws were fairing. Instead he appeared on television denying that he owned matatus and that the increasing road accidents were the fault of drivers and not the police who once again had topped the corruption league table by an impressive margin.

Things got steadily worse until the two most unlikely men, Jakoyo Midiwo and Amos Kimunya, decided that too many Kenyans were dying and they needed to fix it by sponsoring a bill that proposed idiotically huge fines (naturally) for traffic offenders and expanding the mandate of policing the road not just to traffic policemen but to the entire police force. Basically any organized group with a name ending in police would have the mandate to erect some lanterns on the road at night. That was in November. So later at the end of the year, a man in spectacles appeared on Tv, shaking his head disapprovingly, as he awarded the police yet again, their customary end of year title.

After the election there was a lot of jubilation and posturing with shirts folded at the arms along promises of a brand new beginning. Soon a balding man, who had lost quite badly in an election, was appointed as chairman of the newly formed National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and he accepted the job with an unnatural zeal. He appeared on Tv, together with the Transport Cabinet Secretary and declared that in the year 2014, only 2,000 people would be allowed to die on the road instead of the normal 3,000 plus.

They asked some bureaucrats to think of some things to make this a reality and Government workers, being the model professionals they are, came up with a couple of suggestions: Banning of night buses and the introduction of atrociously low speed limits on all roads. All the suggestions were illegal of course, but they didn’t care because while a wily old judge searched his office for his wig before he could drag himself to the courtroom to hear what the hysterical Kenyans had brought before him, several weeks had passed and the numbers of people not dead were adding up. Good job NTSA!

I’ll leave it here today but I will be writing a second part to this article where I complete the history and suggest to the NTSA a concept they do not understand – goodwill. I will also solve police corruption once and for all through the re-introduction of public flogging, and it does not involve flogging of policemen as you might be imagining. No, really, I’ve solved it. Stay tuned.

***

spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.

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Availability of bikes and spares in Kenya

Availability of Bikes and Spares

Whenever I hear older people speak, the talk is mostly about the past and how wonderful it was. No doubt it must have been great in the 70s when girls wore very short skirts, having only two wives showed you lacked ambition and Lungula Transmitted Diseases (LTDs) were as harmless as a light headache. It all sounds wonderful until they get to the part of the story where they had to have a minor surgical procedure and the only pain relief that could be found in the whole country was a piece of wood to bite into.

It was horrible and this am afraid is how everything worked out in the past – a nice nostalgic story preceding chapter upon chapter of horror. I could go on giving examples, and so I shall. In the 90s, we were free to play anywhere with anyone because nobody had heard of child abduction. But then only Tv station in the country opened at 4pm. And when I say opened I actually mean opened, because it started with the national anthem and then a lady, standing in-front of some curtains, welcomed you to the television and asked that you enjoy the viewing and to remember to switch it off after the closing national anthem later at 11pm.

But things are different now and the quality of service is always improving. We used to send money using something called a money order, I queued for 7 hours when it was my time to get a PIN number, buses had no maximum capacity and as a result I used to stand all the way from Nairobi to Kericho.

Plainly right now, this very minute, is the best time possible to be alive.

And aren’t we entitled! This world of convenience that we live in has now led us to thinking that everything good exists by default. You cannot believe a human being does not have access to a mobile phone, and you ask people where their “offices” are as if not having or having only one office is the third worst thing after Ebola and the NTSA.

But I understand this entitlement. It is all the doing of big brands such as Samsung and Safaricom that have managed to bring everything right to your doorstep such that you no longer have to do anything whatsoever, apart from reach for your wallet. Jumia now insist on delivering shoes to your door and thanks to OLX, you no longer have to go house hunting.

For bikes though, this is not yet the case and it is a fact not understood by those of us new to bike ownership. You will be familiar with this kind of post in our forums:

“Hi. Which is the best option for a 1000cc bike with full features (ABS, traction control, power commander) that can do 0 – 100kph in 2 seconds, top speed above 250kph, fuel consumption 45 km/l, very sporty and can go off-road. Very important also is spare parts. I want a bike with spares and service dealership available all over the country. My budget is between 150 and 200K. Please contact me. Serious dealers only.”

You may laugh at this sort of entitled and insane demand but this the sort of questions fielded by bike sellers on a daily basis. It is a situation created by a world where the modern consumer (with full access to mobile money and insurance for their mobile phone) faces a motorcycle industry lacking variety, spare parts, mechanics and everything else.

The industry has not yet developed that much and if you’ve travelled to other countries, you will realise that it never quite develops to the same level of service as Safaricom and Samsung. You will for example find BMW dealerships in South Africa but you will be bitterly disappointed to note that none of them stocks the amazing K1300R. Yamaha Kenya will never stock the MT-09 and the Suzuki dealership in town still tries to sell you the Inazuma, a horrible, shapeless bike with unnecessary bulk.

So dear prospective buyer and consumer, understand that it takes a lot to bring in bikes, it takes a lot to maintain a stock of spare parts, it is nigh on impossible to have an entire range of helmets and riding jackets and you will not find a Service Centre with fully trained and pensionable personnel. A bike is not a laptop and if you find someone offering you laptop like services then they are most likely selling you a bike with as little personality and life expectancy as a laptop.

It is all about passion, building relationships and growing together

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spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.

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Pillion Riders

Pillion Riders

Carrying a passenger is no doubt one of those feel-good things about biking. It is an opportunity to share your enjoyment of the 2 wheels with someone else, to let them see the world as you see it and a validation of your choice.

Is there anything, more exciting than that very pretty girl in the office demanding that you make a point of taking her for a ride? Not even the four horsemen of the apocalypse can pull me away from such an opportunity; I always make sure it happens and in such an exciting way that she squeals with pleasure every inch of the way.

But the realities of life mean that you are more likely going to be carrying someone you don’t desire very much in circumstances that you don’t enjoy or are downright inappropriate. Here is my hate list:

Warm testicle man

I hate this bastard! Why does a man feel the need to hop onto your bike and then press his warm crotch right against you? I always react by elbowing them the hell away. That’s why I like bikes with grab rails at the back. A place for these creeps to hold onto and steer their testicles clear of me.

The fidgets

There are people who like to move about, adjust themselves and do anything but be good pillions. They turn to look at everything. When you are leaning into a corner they lean in as well and give you more to worry about than is necessary. They point at things, tap your shoulder and react to everything you do by moving about.

The lazy sods

These are the people who do not realize they are riding a bike or are too lazy to act right. They head-butt you from behind every time you brake, they are thrown off each time you accelerate and they slip off the seat when you are taking tight turns.

The problem is compounded when you are a sports bike rider and your lazy sod pillion is a person, whom the world vast cannot accurately describe. Imagine having her/his vastness lying on your back, pressing you against the tank squeezing the wind out of your lungs.

The co-rider

These are often bikers themselves and if you are one of them hang your head in shame now. These people have opinions over everything you do on the road. I mean everything! “Turn now”, “Overtake from this side”, “That’s not how to do it”, “This space is enough”…..

They may mean well but their interference usually leads to anger and if you listen to them more than you should, an accident.

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spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.

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Brake Time

Brake time

A few months ago in Nairobi, I was at the Uhuru Highway-Haile Selasie Avenue roundabout waiting for the green light before proceeding onto Mombasa road. Being on a motorbike, I was at the head of traffic, giving knowing looks to the other motorbike riders alongside me hoping that one of them would be interested in a race once the light turned green.

Being a competitive but unfair soul, I set off just as the light turned orange and something totally unexpected happened just as I was halfway out of the roundabout: a policeman launched himself onto the road, right on my path as he inexplicably tried to stop the traffic coming from my side of the road. I braked hard and the next thing I knew, I had hit the tarmac, knee first, bike falling to one side and me right on the path of the other bikes I had left behind as I took off.

This was terrible and very undignified.The policeman did not even give me a second look, he kept on doing his thing. I could see matatu drivers having their sides split with laughter and some woman in a Mazda Demio quickly rolled up her window. A pair of sweating handcart guys came to offer me some advice but I could not understand anything they were saying.

When I had collected myself and at home licking my wounds, I got to thinking: Ordinarily such hard braking would never have resulted in the front wheel suddenly locking causing the bike to skid. What could have happened? Well ladies and gentlemen, I give you brake fluid.

Brake Fluid

About a week before the embarrassing incident, I had been riding as usual and under very routine braking the front wheel had seized momentarily. Everything returned to normal and I didn’t give it much attention, I thought it was my fingers that had grabbed the brake handles a little over zealously and so I forgot all about it. But that was a sign that my brake fluid had lost its effectiveness because it could not apply a consistent force to the brake pads. Another sign, now that I can think about it, was that I needed to pull hard on the brake handle for the bike to stop. If it were a car, the brake pedal would feel “spongy” and it that would require the pedal to be pushed little harder to stop the car.

So to save you from driving into the back of a lorry, I shall give you a few facts about brake fluid. Change your brake fluid after one year, but don’t exceed two years if you are late. It does not matter that you own a Ferrari F50 and you only drive it on Christmas Eve, brake fluid is hygroscopic and this means that over time, it will absorb moisture, which will lower its boiling temperature (yes I said boiling) thus reducing its effectiveness. I fear that I will bore you with words like hygroscopic, poly-glycol and silicone but bear with me as this will help you choose the type of brake fluid to buy when it is time to change.

Yes, it boils

It will be clearly indicated on your car’s brake fluid reservoir cap that you should use Dot3, Dot4, Super Dot4 or Dot5.1. All these Dots are poly-glycol based, the only difference between them being the temperatures at which they boil. The general rule here is this, the faster your car goes, the higher the Dot it requires. Very fast road cars and racing cars would use Dot 5.1.  Ordinary cars and bikes will do well with Dot4.  Super Dot4 has the advantage of boiling a little later than Dot4, but they are essentially the same thing. If your car or bike demands nothing but Dot3, I suggest you sell that old bucket of rust! Dot3 is an older standard but still in use and in some cases interchangeable with Dot4. I will not bother you with the details of the rarely used silicone based fluid called Dot5. Just know that it is quite different from all the other Dots and you should never use it when not specified.

You need to know what you are doing!

Do not attempt to change the brake fluid on your own if you have no idea what you are doing, or if you don’t have patience. If I could borrow Jesus’ words, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for brake fluid to be correctly replaced in a brake system. What you must do after draining the very corrosive and poisonous fluid, is to fill the reservoir with the new fluid and do something that sounds a bit gory – bleeding. Bleeding is the expulsion of air bubbles from the entire brake system. The bad news is that there are millions of air bubbles and that makes bleeding one of the most arduous jobs in car maintenance if you do not have tools such as vacuum pumps to make the work easier.

Besides brake fluid there could be other wrong things with your braking system such as worn out brake pads, leaking master and slave cylinders, punctured brake lines, broken seals or damaged brake callipers. The thing I must emphasize is that you should treat matters to do with brakes with extreme caution.

All diagnosis, maintenance or repair of any component in the brake system must be handled with utmost caution and preferably by someone that actually knows what they are doing.

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spannerThis article first appeared on www.onemanspanner.com.

The author, Bill Mike, is a motorcycle and classic car enthusiast. He often writes about his riding and amateur mechanic escapades, interlacing it with events from his seemingly unfortunate life.