Guide to Dating a Biker – a girl’s POV

Everyone thinks bikers look cool- even my mum (. There’s something that evokes a sense of danger and freedom at the same time that calls out to you.

And if you are the girl or boy dating a biker, you are the envy of all the girls or boys. You could both be bikers, which has its own set of rules of engagement, or one of you is the biker.

Here’s our mini guide, and not in any order. And ps, don’t take this all too seriously.

First off- expect the unexpected. Biker dudes set up the most romantic dates. You just never know whether you’ll end up going for an outdoor outing at The Forest, or a random ride to Wote twisties. Basically, most of your dates will be outdoors so get used to it.

Be prepared to be jealous a lot! Your girl or guy will always be the one drawing attention. Get comfortable with it, and when you do the indoor dates (read Java and movies) keep your hand close and your attention on your guy/ gal.

You know how cool it looks to be a pillion, bikers make the worst pillions. So just get used to not riding the same car. Get helmet comms so you can tell your partner if you see something interesting to point out. Or learn signals and develop your own sign code.

Dating a biker dude is like dating a Subaru guy- they spend lots of money on their bike, or mostly their gear. When he or she says I’m broke, it could be that he or she splurged on that 15K pair of riding boots or jacket that goes with the helmet.

Don’t take it personally if your partner suggests deodorant- biker jackets smell, as does the helmet, so clean them both regularly. Invest in a couple matching jackets, and look cool together.

When you go to your partner’s place, remove your jacket and please don’t place it on the seats- can you imagine all the gunk it carries?

Don’t be a serial biker dater. Bikers gossip like the Mean Girls. Your story will be everywhere, and even before you date anyone, they will be knowing all about you.

On the same line, if both of you are bikers, try and keep your lives separate- have your own group of friends and haunts. There’s nothing worse than breaking up, everyone knows about it, and you keep running into each other.

The BroCode is real. Much as you can, don’t date a biker’s partner (especially when they are still together). And no revenge dating either. It just creates a vicious cycle.

If you are the kind of person who wants your every call answered and text responded to immediately, you’re in for a long wait. One, your partner could be riding, or using that as an excuse not to respond. So chillax.

Lastly, remember you are not alone. Football widows/ salon boyfriends can relate- be ready to have a lot of me time if you are the non-biker coz bikers love me time. That 10 minute ‘I’m going out to get some milk’ could turn into a 3-hour random coz you met some guys on the bypass, or you just couldn’t resist the long me time.

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Inked Ride to Lemon Valley in Elementaita :- Lessons Learned

As the day for the ride drew closer, the apprehension rose due to the rainy weather. But, riders being riders, the resolve was still high so we opted to proceed with the ride.

We left in groups however because one person had a morning engagement and the other had bike trouble and needed to see the mechanic before hitting the road.

The ride to, was uneventful save for low visibility as we approached Kijabe, we maintained slow speeds and got Naivasha and the sun was out.

We had breakfast in Naivasha and proceeded to lemon valley in Elementaita.
The cottage and views were breath takingly beautifully. The hotel however had a birthday party that evening and the music was loud but we mentally sang along most of the night.

After a filling and delicious breakfast, we headed out for Nairobi after the morning rain subsided.

The ride back was quite a learning experience. Once we rode past Naivasha town, the rain started, a few kilometers later the fog and cold set in.

From the ride back we had a few personal lessons collated here:

Lessons learnt from the ride:
1. Be cautiously prepared; we told ourselves we could outride the rain but alas…so always putting on rain gear, warm jackets, padded trousers carry bungee cords or luggage nets for bags, waterproof rucksack covers.
2. Lane splitting on a busy high way; this requires tact. Some person found it useful to warn the driver of the vehicle she was following about my intention well in advance and consequently she was more confident.
3. Use of hazards; visibility at some points was 100 meters or less. The use of hazard indicators in fog to increase visibility and we noted not all bikes have these so its important to know which bikes have these and ensuring they are on in such weather conditions.
4. Riding in the rain; items like Turtle wax are essential to an easier ride , we didnt have this and it would have been helpful for us to have the water not obstruct our visors! (And toothpaste for fogged up visors)
5. Full coordination: prior to the ride back we should have checked again for full instructions and directions to avoid getting separated. Never leave a rider behind, if one of your party experiences a mechanical problem be patient and once it’s solved you can all get back on the road.
6. Similar to no. 1- Rain gear, wear it when leaving or leave it behind. The rain can be heavy so stopping to wear it sometimes doesn’t help since the time it takes to stop and gear up you could already be soaked.
7. Layering; Thermal wear should be considered especially when riding in cold/rainy weather.
8. Make your own decisions on the road. As much as there’s a riding plan, one needs to own their decisions, for instance when to overtake, comfortable speed etc

Thermal wear should be considered especially when riding in cold/rainy weather.

Check out Yummy Mummy’s Vlog on the ride.

The Throttle Queens Nairobi to Kigali Experience – Planning for a Motorcycle Trip

Destination

Where are you planning on riding to?

We were planning a ride to Kigali, Rwanda, which is approximately 1200km from Nairobi.

Kigali became our destination point randomly. We were having a discussion after riding to Moshi, Tanzania noting that our COMESAs were going to expire after a year and we wanted to travel to another country before the expiration date.

We thought of Kigali as one of us had a biker friend there and voila, that was our next adventure.

Pick a destination that is interesting, within the limits of your riding abilities. Consider how far you’ve ridden previously and be honest with yourself about the kind of mileage you’d be to do in a day. These are the bikes we had for the trip; Apache 180cc, two ZMR 223cc, KTM 390 Duke, BMW F650GS and a BMW F800GS.

Relationship with the bike

It is important to know how well you can handle your bike given any road condition as this will affect how you ride.

Riding skills also matter but these are things that one acquires over time. It is said that we become skilled when we do something for over 10,000 hours.

Hence we encourage one to use your own bike as you would know the limits and if you are borrowing a bike, make sure you have used it for quite a while before the trip for both commuting and for a considerable trip. This way you get to know the bike, be comfortable with handling it.

Servicing the bike and tools

Ensuring that your bike is serviced is a must before embarking on any trip. We took our bikes for service and also replaced parts such as brake pads and discs, chain and sprocket etc., in preparation for the Rwanda trip.

There is nothing worse than being stranded on the side of the road because of an avoidable problem. It is also necessary for your mechanic to train you on how to do a number of checks on your bike in case of anything.

We appreciate our mechanics, Shazid Khan, Weru (Two Wheels Den), Steve Daas and Njeru Miti for giving us mechanics 101 on how to sort ourselves in the event we get an incident by ourselves. Further to this ensure your bikes has adequate toolset to deal with these incidents such as allen key set, oft used spanners such as number 10, etc.

Your mechanic should help you get together specific tools for your specific bike. True to this, we had to jumpstart one of the bikes at 5am on part of our return trip.

Figure 1 Learning how to remove a tyre to change a flat

During the trip you will be required to do checks on the bike every morning (these are checks you should be doing every morning regardless of whether you are going for a long trip or going to the office or going for a random).

These checks include: checking engine oil, coolant levels, brake lights, signal indicators, pressure on tires. In addition, appropriate roadside assistance is important because you never know when you might need it however we were not prepared for that and that was a challenge.

We got overwhelming help from Ugandan and Kigali bikers whenever we had issues and we are forever grateful to our East African biking community for their support.

What to pack and how to pack

It goes without saying that with motorcycles you learn to pack light. Or have to pack light. One should invest in a good set of panniers (preferably waterproof) or get waterproof bags that you will put in your stuff then put the stuff in your panniers

. On that rain note, raingear is necessary. Please carry raingear that you have tested before. One of us had bought rain pants and was using them for the first time during the trip. They were a total waste of space as the pants let in water and she was soaked from the first downpour.

In addition, you can have a top box or dry bags to tie to the pillion seat to give you more packing space. Depending on the number of days, pack those number of tops/tees plus two extra ones in case you’re not planning on having your clothes laundered where you will be staying. Have a sweater or jacket for the night. Two or three trousers depending on the duration of the trip, toiletries as a basic.

For the ladies, create space for a nice dress or two ( and pair of nice heels/flats. You never know where the night will take you. We had two awesome night outs – one in Kampala and one in Kigali.

Figure 2 A neat trick on how to fold clothes so as to fit more

Riding Gear

As with any other bike ride, you need to be fully geared. Special attention to the gloves. Use waterproof and heavier gloves as the early morning chill can freeze your hands if you’re riding with summer gloves. Use a helmet with clear visor as you cannot be sure you will not have some night riding due to delays. Which we did. We rode at night a lot due to delays and riding at night with a dark visor is dangerous.

Border control

It is important to have all your documents ready, know what is required and pack them. Pack your documents close by such that you will not waste time accessing them.

What we carried for the trip included log book, COMESA motor insurance, passport, yellow fever, Driving Licence.

If the bike you will be riding is not yours, get the log book and an authorization letter from the owner.

The borders are different, some are one stop and others are not. Be prepared to lose a bit of time depending on the queue. You do not have to have an agent help you; everything is pretty much straight forward. The Busia border was the fastest for us, Malaba and Katuna not so much.

For the COMESA motor insurance please note that there are two types. You can get one from our border control. This one gives a longer duration, is cheaper and covers only 3rd party. Alternatively, you can get a COMESA from your insurance company. This is one is short term (probably only for a month) and is a comprehensive cover for all the countries.

If time allows it, clear border checks at the end of day of travel. This is because if you wake up to do border cross like we did when crossing into Uganda through Malaba we took two hours and this wasted our time for Day 2 of travel.

Accommodation

When planning your route where you will be spending the night also matters. A hotel that is biker friendly will do as they may have a spot that you can park the bike for the evening, keeping it safely out of the way. We were lucky to be helped by the Ugandan bikers and Kigali Free Bikers on getting proper accommodation. This depends on the amount of mileage you will be covering per day. It helped that we connected with Uganda Bikers and Kigali Free Bikers who shared with us where to stay. If you have no contact, please do as much research as possible about your accommodation. What you need is a clean bed, hot shower, hot meal and safety for your bike and luggage. The basics.

Liaison with different bike groups in different countries
Further on liaising with different biker groups in different countries, this is a necessity. Due to wasting two hours at the Malaba border we were quite late in getting to Kampala. Had we gone by ourselves, we would have gotten stuck in the traffic. Thankfully, the Uganda Bikers were waiting for us at Jinja and they helped us navigate through back routes with less traffic.

Again due to delays in day 3 of our ride to Kigali, we had to ride 515kms from Kampala to Kigali. We began the trip late and arrived at night. The Kigali bikers came to the border to pick us up and helped us nagivate to the hotel. Without them we would have had a longer night as we were already super fatigued and we were now having to ride on the right side of the road which confused us.

These bikes groups have social media presence so hit em’ up before taking the trip. The East Africa motorcycle community is such a blessing and so welcoming and so accommodating. May God bless them!

Figure 3 With our Ugandan Queen B, Angela (in luminous green helmet)

Safety on the road

One must be alert on the road especially since on these long trips you are riding on the main highways that has buses, trucks, trailers and other private motorists.

Yes, our awareness campaign was on sensitizing all road users to share the road however this is not practiced by all. You must watch out for other road users that will overtake on one way roads pushing bikers off the road. You have to watch out for unmarked bumps and sudden road surface change such as oil spills, gravel, etc.

Updating Family/Friends

Make sure a friend, family member or any other contact you trust knows what your plans for the road trip are and check in with them regularly. If anything goes terribly wrong, being able to call in for help will make a real difference.

We all did this and kept on updating those who matter and our followers on social media as well.

Fueling the bike

When going on a long trip it is important to always top up on fuel whenever you make a stop. Knowing the capacity of your bike will also go a long way, you will know what distance you can cover before the next stop. Note that you are relying on the mileage not the fuel gauge.

We covered an average of 400km every day and we stopped to top up on fuel after 130km which was like 2.5 hours of riding, as many of the bikes had a small tank. Just imagine pushing your bike down the road because you didn’t bother to fuel in the last stop! Again, thanks to Vivo Energy for sponsoring our whole trip.

Figure 4 Victoria fueling her bike

How realistic is the route you plan to take

Plan the route you intend to take and make sure that the distances are realistic. Where we planned to sleep on the first two days did not work out (Tororo, 456km from Nairobi and Mbarara 478 km from Tororo).

This was because of the border where we lost 2 hours and one of our bikes had stalled on day one. So we ended up sleeping in Malaba, 439km from Nairobi first night and Kampala 221km from Malaba on the second night. We rode for 515km from Kampala to Kigali on the third day, where we ended up riding for close to 10 hours, border time included. Truth be told, we were tired. It was exhausting.

There is no point in planning overly optimistic distances if you or the bike can’t handle it. On our way back to Nairobi, we had wanted to use the Tanzania route but it would not have worked because there are those who had smaller bikers therefore we wouldn’t have made it to the next fuel point as the distance is quite a long stretch and we’d have gotten more tired so we’d be rushing to get home and wouldn’t have enjoyed the best part of a trip which is the road there.

So we therefore decided to use the same route through Uganda back. However we used Busia this time round for the border and the scenic route through Muhoroni and Londiani. By the time we got back home in Nairobi, we had covered 2601km that entire trip inclusive of our shenanigans of going to Burundi, hehe.

Hydration and Nutrition

A camel hydration pack is a must have for every rider because you get dehydrated. When riding a motorcycle on open road, we are exposed to the direct sun and other elements. Plus, the wind has a drying effect on the body. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are fully ventilated or not, dehydration does not vary with the outside temperature. You are not supposed to wait until you feel thirsty to rehydrate. You may not feel it at first but your body will start getting tired as you continue to ride.

As we were riding long distances, our brains were always focused on the road, we were consuming energy therefore very necessary to eat when we stopped. You can fall off your bike due to dehydration or hunger.

Refueling the body is of importance. Recommended fluid intake is 2 liters. We made sure we all took water at every stop and when we got to the hotels.

We did not understand how bikers fall asleep while riding until we took this trip. Riding for three days non-stop takes a toll on your body and mind. Have adequate sleep each night and this means no partying on the long parts of the trip. On the road, take advantage of the pee and fuel breaks to stretch and take energy foods and drinks.

Fatigue is dangerous as it only takes one second for one to close their eyes and into an accident.

Ride together

Most importantly as you are riding, stick together; know who is leading and who is sweeping. This was never an issue for us; we stuck together throughout the whole trip. Share the information about the distance with each other. We knew what distance to cover for the next 2 hours so everyone was aware how long they were riding for. The person good at directions or with a phone holder or Bluetooth helmet was always at the front ready to help in case of anything. And having a powerful bike sweeping so that in case of any issues, the sweeper can dash to the leader while alerting the rest of the team to slow down to a halt.

As a group, there will be different riding speeds however the maximum and minimum speeds should be agreed upon beforehand and persons to be paired in twos or threes so that there’s at no point any one person riding alone.

Enjoy the trip

Last but not least, enjoy the ride! Every trip is unique, so take your time and enjoy to the fullest, stop to take photos, stop to appreciate the environment, stop to take a breather or to stretch. Just do you!

Figure 5 Always pray
Adios,
Shish For Throttle Queens

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ROAD RACING AND BODA BODAS, BURNING THE KENYAN BIKERS CANDLE FROM BOTH Ends by Jinx

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Di Life goes on…….”
Oh Yoko Ono, you ruined a good thing.

Anyway, so the title, yes! Road Racing and Boda Boda riders, burning the Kenyan Bikers candle from both ends.

It’s a sad but true reality that so so so so many find it hard to come to grip with. However, this post is not about bashing either community so put away the pitchforks. I highly respect both groups. It is just my take on the two and the similarities shared in terms of danger.

Road racing… In every race riders get onto their bikes knowing full well that the next accident may be the one that takes their life. Such a similarity is shared with boda bodas.

Let us look at our roads. Our roads are shitty! Period! This is a common denominator on road racing regardless of road closure. The bumpiness, the blind corners, the signage, the debris, the list goes on and on and on.

This is infrastructure’s contribution to the danger of road racing. This also applies to the boda boda scene. The only difference is the speeds involved, but if you see some of the bodas on the road…

Either way in both groups, mishaps cam happen because of the road and its appendages. So getting on the road is an inherent risk for both groups.
Secondly the skill level.

To quote Dej Loaf, “Let’s just be honest, let’s just be real.” There are no schools dedicated to racing at the speeds guys do on the road in Kenya. So majority learn from what they see and a few are privileged to get formal international training. However, the irony is that the few I know, don’t race on the road. So what gives?

I guess from racing on track to road racing, the sense of safety on the track takes precedence. The large run offs, smooth clean asphalt, spot emergency services, skill-level matched categorization etc. I guess this steers away the formally trained racers from the road.

My point is, watching Guy Martin doesn’t make you Guy Martin.
I have been told that it takes 2 hours to become a boda boda rider. Just two! Kinda feel cheated on spending thousands on formal learning. However the difference is shown on how one controls the motorcycle especially when there is impending danger. Most boda boda riders have barely any know how on control when, you know “it” hits the fan. Because one thing is that they don’t know the capabilities of their motorcycles and their skills. Its twist the throttle and go. Kinda shares some similarities with racing without formal training, don’t you think?

I understand the need for speed and I will not assume that neither road racers nor boda boda riders do not know what they are doing. My high horse is parked. For some the risks are well understood and they do it anyway because that is how they are wired.

Additionally, for boda bodas it is a way of life. It is what pays the bills. It is what puts food on their tables. However there is a lot that can be done to reduce the alarming loses we see in both avenues.

For racers, organization with strict rules and regulations, thorough road preparation, speed traps, skill level categorization, first aid training and spectator protection. In addition, transparency and liability, because the veil of ego driven secrecy around the scene in our country bastardizes the events in their entirety.

For boda bodas, it is a way of life, but is it worth your life? Formal training, adherence to traffic laws, proper certified protective gear, well serviced machines, liability and personal responsibility (the mob protection has to end) may just be the solution to the crisis we are facing.

Remember, whatever path you chose to go down, follow it knowing it is your life and no one has the right to tell you how to live it.

Ride safe.

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Di Life goes on, la la how the life goes on.”
The Beatles.