Monthly Archives: May 2011

The problems with Maribou Storks…

Its hard enough to focus on studying Swahili when its 80+ degrees outside. But even harder when you’re sharing space with an ugly 60″ tall bird, weighing around 20lbs thats having trouble getting airborne.

I was in our shared garden trying to focus on the object concord and its use in Kiswahili when the tree next to me seemed to somewhat exploded.

Small branches and leaves started to rain down onto my homework and looking up there was a rather large and not particularly attractive bird swaying somewhat unsteadily in the wind. We didn’t know it was a Maribou Stork at the time and we’re puzzling over what this hefty bird was doing.

All the commotion attracted our local ‘Go-Away’ birds (so called because their calls which are loud and numerous sound “g’way” (*) or a bleating sheep, take your pick) which then made the Maribou Stork nervous. However it was temporarily confounded by the problem that its wings kept getting tangled up in the tree; these storks often have wingspans over 10ft.

We watched it try and solve this problem for a long time without a great deal of success. First it would stretch out its wings, try and flap, destroy more of the tree, withdraw wings, move further along spindly branch, pause to think about it and then try again.

It eventually ‘solved’ the problem by falling off its current perch and somehow grabbing hold of a lower branch. It was not the most graceful of techniques but it did solve a lot of its problems. The noise scared off the annoying Go-Away birds, the act of falling cleared out a lot of smaller irritating branches and leaves and it ended up in a much sparser part of the tree.

From its new perch, it could almost stretch out its wings and with another brief and ungainly dismount, it got airborne just enough to clear the house and away it laboured, off over Kisumu Town.

As the our guide book also says a Maribou Stork is “.. huge and unmistakable” (*) and really its true. Once you’ve seen one, you probably won’t forget especially as they like to “..consort with vultures at carcasses”, which sounds charming.

(*) Helm Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa & Northern Tanzania

Nyati Bicycle Review

I’ve been meaning to post a long review of the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) Nyati Bicycles we bought at the beginning of our year in Kenya. After riding around everyday there are definitely a lot of pros and cons.

Nyati Bicycles

However sadly, some cheeky mwizi (thief) swipped my bicycle while we were taking Beth’s parents to Malindi, so this is more of a postumous review.

So with a little tear in my eye, the good things about my (ex) Nyati 24″ Mens Balloon Bike are:

  • It worked – Everyday we got on and rode around without any real issues.
  • The wheels were awesome – Both were still running true after a lot of abuse.
  • The tires were awesome – You did feel like you could run over anything with these tires. The only ‘flat’ in 6 months of debris strewn roads was most likely due to a faulty value stem.
  • The finish quality was excellent – We’d been keeping our bikes outside and even during the long rains the bikes paint, chrome etc all looked great. So far all that had gotten a little rusty was the chains.
  • It was pretty stable under load – I’ve been boda-boda’ing Beth around on the back of mine and the bike feels strong. The only issue is that all the weight on the rear makes the front a little ‘squirrely’ but thats a problem with loading all the weight high on a rear rack.
  • The coaster brake was a lot of fun – We get lots of ‘wheres your brake?’ calls from the boda-boda riders in Kisumu. But more fun, was laying big skids in the dirt like little kids.

And the bad things:

  • It was heavy, really heavy – I made it worse by choosing the largest mens frame but you really have to work to get up some of the hills in Kisumu; a singlespeed is never ideal on variable terrain but when you have a bike over 40 pounds it just gets a little miserable at times.
  • The bottom bracket height was too low – You get a decent amount of pedal strike on rough roads, which is not ideal when you’re relying on a coaster brake.
  • Everything is loaded onto the rear axle – If you get a flat in the rear, you have to remove the stand, rack, chain tensioners etc just to fix a simple flat. The stand should be bolted on to the rear ends as with other bikes of this type.
  • Non-standard bolts and threads – This is more of a problem of manufacturing in India but between our two bikes we have different sized fittings on the same parts. Some bolts seem to be neither metric nor imperial which makes life a little frustrating.
  • Non-standard wheelsize – WIth hindsight it probably was a little bit of a mistake to bring in yet another 26″ wheelsize (not the same as mountain bike 26″ stuff) into Kenya. It makes getting spare parts a little more expensive and frustrating.
  • A front brake would have been nice – The coaster brake is pretty awesome for most uses but it has a few drawbacks. Firstly, the long throw of the brake means that in stop-and-start traffic you end up relying on your feet more than the brake. Secondly, with a lot of speed on a hill, you don’t feel that you really have a lot of braking control. Finally, when walking the bike with a load, it would be nice to have a little help.
  • The pedals are really slippery in the rain

On the whole the bikes have been great and for the money (under 120 USD) they’ve performed admirably. I hope my light-fingered friend enjoys his or her’s new ride.

I have been enjoying the 28″ wheel Roadster version that WBR graciously lent me. This is somehow more fun to ride and it seems better as a Boda-boda bicycle. Beth has been commenting that it seems more stable as a passenger and I definitely have been appreciating the reduction in rolling resistance from the skinnier tires.