Monthly Archives: February 2011

Races with Heart – Needs Support

This is my friend Mark Odhiambo:

Mark outside WBR

who is the head mechanic at World Bicycle Relief Kenya. Mark is an avid bike racer and spends most mornings before work training and trying to sustain his passion.

He has a lot of success in his career. He was selected for the Kenyan Commonwealth Games team but couldn’t go due to passport issues. He’s been on the fringe of the Kenyan national team and has won/podiumed at numerous races during his career.

However, Mark has no support. Nothing seems to trickle down from the national federation. He supports all his own racing, as well as his family by working full-time as the Head Mechanic for World Bicycle Relief in Kisumu Kenya. He trains 40-60 Km most days before work on his homemade “Black Mamba” bicycle (see picture).

The “Black Mamba” works ok when the terrain is flat (but a lot of Kenya is not flat), it’s a singlespeed based mostly on the Kenyan/Indian/Chinese bicycles common in East Africa. 28” steel rims, cotterpined cranks, large bulky tires and a 52 x 18 drivetrain.

Marks other bike is in a pretty sorry state.

Pretty much everything on the bike is broken or at end of its working life. Road bikes and their parts are really rare in this part of Africa and for someone like Mark, pretty much beyond his reach now that he has school aged children to support. The frame has even broken once and he did a pretty good job repairing it.

The list of ills is depressingly long:

  • The Crankset is bent and the rings very worn (170mm).
  • The BB is loose and missing a lockring.
  • The chain is done.
  • The freewheel is very worn.
  • The rear-hub is 6spd and in a poor state of health.
  • The brakes are made of paper and will work only in the dry and are in desparate need of new cables and brake housing.
  • The shifters are co-opted 50’s campy friction shifters (possibly still useful).
  • The front derailleur is barely functional.

Ideally it seems that if we can find (either new or second hand if things are functional):

  • A new drive train – crankset, bb, chain, rear-hub, cassette and derailleur (need to work at getting new spokes to rebuild rear wheel). 7spd, 8speed, 9speed? Doesn’t matter as long as its functional.
  • A bike computer of any kind to help with training.
  • New brake cables and housing.
  • Bar tape.
  • Decent tires and tubes (potential some Mr Tuffy’s or rim strips).

That will get the bike at least rolling but ideally if we can somehow manage it, it would be great to find:

  • A few spare tubes
  • Spare chain
  • Front derailleur
  • A second set of pedals, with straps and cages. The only pair he has are pretty beat-up and busted.
  • Cycling kit (really hard to get cycling gear in Kenya).
  • New bars and stem (current bars are damaged and should be replaced. The current stem/bars are Cinelli (90mm and 36 c-t-c respectively).

A mountain bike might make more sense as they occasionally turn up in kenya, but for the kind of riding/racing Mark likes to do fixing his road bike would really enable him to fulfill his potential finally.

However, as I’m in Kenya I can’t really organize things (I’m here and parts aren’t) but I’m prepared to put my money where my mouth is, as I would love to see Mark race on something actually suitable for it. So I have at least 100 bucks to spend towards parts and shipping. I’m going to try and rope in Marcus (at Yojimbos) for a few parts (esp spokes as that rear wheel needs a rebuild).

So basically I’m look for someone who would like to help organize on the Chicago/US end such as dealing with collecting everything and shipping.

And I’m looking for people willing to help chip-in. So if you have spare parts that could work (I know I always have spare parts lying around for project bikes- sadly mine are deep in the bowels of a storage unit), or just want to toss in a spare tube, or an old functioning bike computer etc. anything would be great right now.

The first set of major races for the year are in May and this year points count towards qualification for the CAF Games (all Africa games) in 2011. Success would for once lead somewhere, and qualifying for the games would actually given Mark access to other funds and methods of support.

So heres someone that really races with heart and could do with some support. What do you say?

Dead in the water

I was going to write a long post about cycling in Kenya, our experiences with Nyati bikes and how road etiquette works here. I also needed to post about some of the really great projects we’re working on: trying to find some bike spares for our friend Mark (he has been on/off the Kenyan national team but has no sponsors or real equipment), fund raising for the Masiha Orphans’ Home and the Yawa dance group and other worthy causes.

However, my laptop has decided to go on strike (seems that my hard-drive is somewhat corruptted) and now I’m running around Kenya trying to find a 9pin-6pin 800/400 Firewire cable, in a country that often has electricity and water problems. If I can find the right cable, then I can boot my machine in target disc mode and use Beth’s machine to then repair the drive.

Don’t know why we didn’t think of ensuring we had someway to repair our OS installs or hard drives but thats one thing we didn’t think of. Once again, life is giving us another hard-learnt lesson.

So I’ll be pretty quiet for a while until I can work out a solution. So far I’ve been pretty impressed to find 4pin-4pin firewire cables and even a 6pin-4pin cable but nothing that I actually need (not entirely sure why both the USB and Firewire designers had to keep monkeying around with their connectors so theres 3 or 4 different types of each). Right now running around is still fun as I’m exploring all of Kisumu in my quest and its been quite informative if not entirely successful.