Motorcyclists in Kenya: A Growing Breed

Kimani Gathu is one mean motorcycle man. Gathu revved up his first bike in 1958. The self-dubbed “fastest grandfather in Kenya” has not looked back since.

“When I am on a motorbike, I feel unique,” Gathu said. “First of all, I feel that I have something most people do not have. Secondly, for me it is like some sort of a therapy. (When) I have problems, I am able to think properly on that motorbike.”

On this day, Gathu hangs out with fellow cycling aficionados. They talk shop and catch up on the latest news from the biking world.

Gathu belongs to a small, unofficial network of Kenyans who are embracing the biking culture. They meet from time to time and they ride together in and near the capital, Nairobi.

The group’s leader is Kevin Oduor-Noah. He’s the founder of Ancient Exclusives, a company that imports and sells motorcycles.

Oduor-Noah says his company encourages Kenyans to take up biking. “Sometimes our clients meet up and they go out for rides. They meet at places inside town, not just moving the bikes on the weekends. We encourage our clients to use their bikes daily,” Oduor-Noah said. “It is a lifestyle -- it is not just something we do for fun.”

He says he wants Kenya to become the biking hub of East Africa, offering bike tourism and races.

Motorcycling for recreation is a new concept here. Most motorized bikes are driven by deliverymen or security guards.

The average price of a motorcycle is about the same as a higher-end automobile, which many middle-class Kenyans still prefer to buy.

Riding a motorcycle here can also be dangerous.

Many of Kenya’s roads are full of potholes. The roads are crammed with mini-buses known as matatus. Their drivers are known to make the roads dangerous for other motorists.

But Dr. David Maina is not deterred. He has been biking for 15 years. “It is a good way of relaxing in the afternoons. It definitely takes off the edge,” Maina said.

Kimani Gathu has owned 23 bikes since 1969. He says motorcycling represents a dream come true.

“This bike is like my toy, my special toy, just to show people that even a poor kid from the ghettos can come up and achieve something,” Gathu said proudly.

He says he’ll still be biking when he is 102 years old.