Farcing Champagne Ridge

By CoolMen

Published on 09/01/2022

I started cycling about three months ago. The other day, a female friend asked me if cycling “adds stamina.” I remained tight-lipped about that.

This adventure ride I had, that I’m about to narrate to you, might just be the proverbial brew that lets loose secrets held behind these tight lips. The title of this story is apt, so if she is reading this, hang in here to the end, lady, I just may answer you…

Like I said, I started cycling three months ago. During that period, I’ve been looking for like minded lunatics to hang out with. Today I think I found the right mix.

A friend sent me a poster for this day adventure ride event organised by an outdoor adventure company @adventureescapadeske. It was not barbarically priced (KES 1500), so I jumped in with both pedals.

On the day of the ride, we check in at around 8:30am, ready to see what adventure our guides have prepared for us.

Morning arrival and preparations.
Getting to know each other, and a quick briefing on the route.

We are to ride in two groups, one group to do a shorter and easier 20km, and the group with higher levels of of lunacy to tackle the 40km track. I appoint myself as one of high levels of lunacy, and opt into the 40km group. If I die, I die. Hardly anyone in the group seems keen to do the 20km stretch… Some seem undecided, but there is a general gung-ho spirit to go 40.

Trouble starts immediately we set off. It’s a long steep incline getting out of here. Really steep! Jacob’s ladder to heaven reincarnated!

Tony, our guide leading us out.
Quickly wearing my SPD shoes…
And off we go…
The climb begins…
And gets even climbier…

Mid-climb, my chain pops off. I took my bike for service yesterday, and the fundi told me my small front ring has a bend, one he couldn’t straighten at the time. I need the small ring on the hills, but the bend is causing my chain to keep falling off…

Putting back the chain…

I reach the top of the hill where some of the faster guys are waiting for us. I’m heaving and wheezing like an Omicron-stricken walrus. My limbs are shaking, I feel a bit dizzy, and I’m clinging onto my bike for balance. My lungs and my legs are burning red.

Top of the hill.
The rest arrive, some pushing the bikes.

It’s like 300 metres into our ride, and the gung-ho spirit we had a few minutes ago has been flogged to death, and replaced with what-the-hell-am-I-trying-to-kill-myself-ho.

The three ladies promptly drop out of the 40km plan. They will do 20km with another guide. We, the boys, stick together, doing 40 with our guide, Tony.

We set off…

A few minutes later we hit this climb that knocks the wind out of our sails. But we sail on…

Tears! Tears only!
We stop to wait for each other. It’s adventure, not a race.
We stop here for a breather, and I realise I have been here before, during an adventure motorcycle ride with Tina. Beyond that fence is a small dam, and on that day we had a chat with the dam’s caretaker.

We take another break at a shop, and buy some water and bananas.

After this we take a descend into a riverbed. We can’t ride over the large boulders and have to carry our bikes…

Another break, with a bit of tomfoolery.

As we set off, I realise my rear wheel is flat. There’s a thorny branch stuck to my tyre.

Flipping the bike to repair the punctures…
The others come back to help…

I carried a new spare tube, and choose to swap the punctured one with a new one, since the old one already has about four patches. My ride buddies repair the old one, anyway, even as we put in the new one. The repaired tube goes into my bag.

We set off…

At a rocky climb, our guide goes down. It’s a technical section, and his shoe refuses to unclip as he tries to steady himself. His shoe is still stuck to the pedal, and I have to help hold the bike up so he can free himself. No one is hurt, everyone is good natured about it, and we keep going.

Another break…

As we set off, I notice that Brian’s rear wheel is flat. And thus begins another puncture repair session in the sun.

Yo! You are flat!
Sinia mzima wa wali!!
Them: Helloooooo…
Me: Aiiii! Hiyo ni luga gani? Sielewi! Habari zenu?

Once the leak is patched, we put the tube back and air it up. Or try to. Coz after trying three different pumps, the tyre won’t inflate. The tube still a problem. Out it comes again, and we find another big hole. We have no idea how we might have missed such a big hole before. We patch it.

We set off. But a minute or two later, Brian has disappeared behind us. We come back, and find him with the same tyre flat again. Since he and I use the same tyre size, I offer my tube that we had repaired earlier.

Where is Brian?
Back to the sunny workshop.
Another break to wait for each other.
My chain pops off again at another climb.
He stops mid-climb to take a breather.
Top of the climb.
He makes it to the top, cycling.

Another break, and a probox grinds to a stop near us. The driver asks if we know Kinja. Anyone who has been in the cycling arena for a while knows Kinja. Kinja is a certain man who is almost 50 years old, but is the living nightmare of 20 years olds at local races. The probox zooms off, leaving us wondering how he knows Kinja.

After this we head over to a look out, a place to take in the view of the Champagne Ridge. We push our bikes through the thorny landscape to avoid getting punctures.

Climbing out of there.

The probox shows up again, and the driver tells us that he is a retired cyclist. He used to ride between 1999 to 2008. You who is asking me about stamina, were you born even? But I shall answer you… Maybe…

It’s now the last stretch home. Abraham and I take the lead. We push hard. We are fighting wind and dust. We reach the last hard climb, eager to conquer it and roll down home. It’s so steep and bumpy, even cars are getting stuck.

My chain breaks.

Very steep climb. One of those cars was stuck, and struggling to keep going up.
My chain snaps.

I left my chain tool at home. I saw Tony with one, but we have left them some kilometres back. Luckily, nothing is lost. I find the popped rivet in the sand. We try to hammer it back with rocks, a futile attempt.

Trying to hammer the rivet back with rocks.

Tony arrives and fixes it with the tool, as easily as if he were sipping tea. I won’t be leaving my tool at home again. Lesson learned.

More mechanical problems… Brian’s (another Brian) bike has shot its stem bearing or collars… Or something. His steering is loose. Tony advises him to push it all the way back. Riding it is dangerous.

Home stretch.

And so we limp home, to find the girls napping on the lounges. They finished their ride about an hour ago and have just been waiting for us to arrive.

We end our adventure day over a sumptuous meal of ugali, goat meat ,chicken and fries, swapping our day’s stories and getting scratched by resident cats.

I hadn’t ever met half of these people before, but I have a really good time with them, a camaraderie built on the foundation of thigh-powered two wheeled adventure. As one of us would put it, “Thighs save lives.”

Anyone who wants to know if cycling adds stamina, just show up for one of these adventure get-togethers, and bring up the topic after a whole day of tempting fate, when everyone is high and giddy on adrenaline. Verily verily, you will get answered.


Did you enjoy this story? Want another? Read about my solo adventure motorcycle ride to lodwar, through Kacheliba and Lorengippi, and my terrifying trip across Lake Turkana on a small boat with my motorbike onboard, and camping for a night among the El Molo, the smallest tribe in Kenya, and eating a tortoise… Ah… I’ll just leave you to read it HERE.

Go HERE to see all my stories.

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