Cycling Using a Fixed-Gear Bike: The Kololo Adventure.

As you already know, COVID 19 impacted the world in many different aspects of life and as a result, different people on the globe adopted a range of practices.

In Uganda, one of those practices included using personal transportation, as only essential workers got to drive cars during the time of the lock down.

These forms of transport included cycling and walking to whichever place one needed to be, from just spending time outdoors to buying essential things like food stuffs.

Lucy, one of my closest friends, is one good example that found herself learning how to ride a bicycle.

While she was on it, her dad advised that she uses a fixed-gear bicycle, as that would provide better practice.

Well, there was no lie to that!

If you’re inept about cycling, you’re prolly wondering what a fixed-gear bicycle is, to start with(or may be not, but hey its my story๐Ÿ˜).

Different parts of a bicycle being illustrated on one with gears(Wikipedia,2020)

A bicycle with gears โ€“ also commonly known as a changer in Uganda โ€“ has multiple speed ratios determined by the multiple configurations at the derailleurs, and can be changed depending on how steep a terrain is, making it easy to ride on any kind of road surface.

On the other hand, a fixed-gear bicycle โ€“ also called Manyi gโ€™ekifuba by the Baganda โ€“ has one speed ratio and is usually exhausting to propel forward when riding uphill since one relies mostly on their strength to move it.

On the good side of things, it is really basic, doesnโ€™t require one to worry about the accurate gear combinations and thus the best for grasping cycling skills for a beginner.

Well for me, given my enthusiasm regarding exercise, I think of such a bicycle as the best of the bunch.

Okay other factors are in play here besides exercise.

One: I learnt how to ride using a very big fixed-gear bicycle and for some reason, I reckon bicycles with gears being so soft for me to ride and given my strength, I may as well rip out the chain while cycling.

Two: I have always had a longing for cycling but the fear of using a bicycle with gears always preempted the thought of getting myself one.

The lock down came as a blessing in disguise and I told myself I would get one and implement my long time desire since the roads had less traffic.

Fortunately โ€“ or rather unfortunately, I got me a nice red fixed-gear Phoenix bicycle.

My bicycle. Photo Credit: Brenda Nakandi

โ€œPhew! Well at least I wonโ€™t cause any accidents! โ€œ

So, I told myself.

Now I know what you are thinking – or may be I don’t.

You’re probably thinking, โ€œBicycles with gears are literally the most reliable while riding and you can easily climb hills โ€“ something you canโ€™t do with your beloved Phoenixโ€

Well, trust me I know and this is how.

Before I do so, can I just talk about the why I love about my Bentley ๐Ÿ˜Š โ€“ thatโ€™s what my boss and work colleagues call it.

As earlier mentioned, my love for exercise predisposes me to attempt to reach hard targets while on hilly surfaces that require more energy, unlike bicycles with gears that make it easier.

Another thing is: Itโ€™s pretty funky! The lovely red colour, the beautiful design of the frame, and me seated on it with my usually-coloured hair, is definitely a whole vibe!

Anyways, back to the how.

So, I got invited to a meet-and-greet event for one of those few congratulatory emails you receive in response to a zillion applications you send out.

This was definitely a prestigious one!

The people at the ceremony were the big chiefs whose titles were โ€œTheir Excellencesโ€.

Not one or two, but four of them.

These were ambassadors from Germany, Belgium, the UK commissioner and the EU Commissioner to Uganda.

Yep, I am Big๐Ÿ˜Ž!

Anyhow, prior to the event, the coordinator reminded me how lucky I was to be working in Mulago since the EU commissionerโ€™s residence is in Kololo which is close by Mulago, where my workplace is.

On the D-day, I told myself I would leave 30 minutes before the start of the event so that as part of the chosen 12, I can arrive on time โ€“ at least that is what is expected of bright kids like myself๐Ÿค—.

Under the scotching sun, I got onto my bicycle at 1:30 pm and headed out to Kololo.

In my mind, I already had it all figured out and was certain I would reach 10 minutes before the start of the ceremony.

I mean, I am well acquainted with Kololo.

I have run errands a couple of times while there and I have participated in the MTN marathon which always starts from the Kololo airstrip.

So yes, โ€œThis is definitely a piece of piss for me!โ€, so I thought.

When I reached a spot I knew I needed to be directed to reach the venue, I switched my mobile data on to have google maps direct me to “the red carpet“.

This was now 20 minutes to the top of the hour, and well I was sure I was going to reach latest at 1:50 pm.

Guess what?!

I rode for about 10 minutes only to find myself in the same spot I was 10 minutes ago.

Did I mention that Kololo is hilly and so under the scotching sun, riding using a fixed-gear bicycle becomes a strenuous exercise?!

Well, that is what it is and additionally attributed with lots and lots and lots of sweating.

Not a pretty good sight if you are going to see VIPs!

After a while of figuring out the glitch in my google maps, I realised that the app could only tell me where I was and which way I should go before starting the journey.

So I adjusted to that.

Whichever street name I arrived at and looked familiar from the app, I just followed until I reached the final route to the place I was headed.

The hill lane was my final route and it got its name from its terrain โ€“ It is literally a hill.

And with my bicycle, I couldnโ€™t climb while riding so I pushed it instead, until I reached the gate at about 3 minutes past 2 pm.

With my sweaty self, I stayed out for about 5 minutes to cool off as I practiced the lines I planned to use on the people I expected to meet, that is, the other bright kids and the ambassadors.

During those five minutes, I comprehended what it meant for a winner like myself to arrive late but also brainstormed how better I should be next time in regards to keeping time, while using my Bentley.

Let’s not deny how good that exercise was!

This was me, โ€œDamn babe, this was one heck of an exercise and you surely did well โ€“ given how much exquisite foods you will eat that are likely to be highly caloric.โ€

And I was right.

I remember tasting Salmon for the first time and lots of other exotic food and cake combinations whose names I sure donโ€™t remember.

By the end of the day, I had left an imprint behind โ€“ I can be flamboyant sometimes ๐Ÿ˜Š โ€“ and none of those people could tell how troublesome it was getting to the venue.

A collage showing: the Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda and South Sudan, H.E Rudi Veestraeten and I (left); and The Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Uganda, H.E Attilio Pacifici and I(right). Photo Credit: Winnie Nalubowa

For my fixed-gear bicycle, it sure made me an equivalent of a pedestrian sometimes especially while climbing hills and this prompted me โ€“ after that day โ€“ to modify my bicycle to suit my need.

One of the few things I needed to do was replacing the by-then saddle seat post with a longer one.

My bike with a longer seat post encircled in black. Photo credit: Brenda Nakandi

With using a longer seat post now, I can go uphill without going off my bicycle and I am currently not sure if I want to change my gear system, yet.

Such is the power of a combination of being physically fit, having an ingenious mind and passion about exercise – not bragging, just saying๐Ÿ˜€

Okay serious business, please donโ€™t hesitate to share your comments and questions in the comments regarding this experience!

33 Comments

  1. Firstly, congratulations on your blog. i love this post, plus your red Bentleyโค๏ธ. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m just imagining your kololo struggles, but gladly the day turned around for you.
    Secondly, i look forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written, Brenda. Youโ€™re wrong about bikes with gears though being soft though. They can be adjusted to your level of difficulty. You should get one it will make it a lot easier to climb those Kololo hills.

    Like

  3. Hahahaha…interesting experience girl.
    I need to hear your story through the traffic lights and the very busy streets of Kampala. Tell us about cycling in a dress on the streets. ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€

    Like

  4. Nice Bentley Brenda, let me bring my porsche panamera and we can have a race. First one to the bottom of the hill buys the Ice Creams ๐Ÿ˜› Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well…
    Brenda, Big indeed you’re… ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š Well, more still, in thought. Quite a sharing!!! Thoughtful of You.
    I’ll be waiting for more and more… especially that your adventure on a “gear-full” cycle. ๐Ÿ˜„ Nonetheless, your enthusiasm and “physique” can’t go without mention… Otherwise, nice Bentley you got right there. After seeing yours, I guess am looking forward to a race with my Peugeot. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love that this piece gave me quite a laugh & was so informative as well! Kudos ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ Iโ€™m looking forward to hearing about your next adventure, & whether youโ€™ll carry your pretty Bentley along ๐Ÿ˜…

    Like

  7. Itโ€™s always an adventure getting lost while using Google maps๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜œ.
    Kudos ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฟ ๐Ÿค— to Bentley ( Surely I am a fun of โ€œka bentiโ€) and you Brenda. At least you finally got to your destination. Public transportation has lost a valuable customer๐Ÿ˜.
    I canโ€™t wait for your next adventure.

    Like

  8. Nice article from our very own ,i really enjoyed ๐Ÿ’ฏ
    Big up Brenda ๐Ÿค™
    I and Dancan we really appreciate your love for our garage๐Ÿค๐Ÿค
    โ€œRed Bentleyโ€๐Ÿคญ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…

    Like

  9. Such an adventure well explored Brenda!! Not to mention the endless benefits to save money, wellness, beating the traffic, fresh airโ€ฆ

    How an organised bike rally to raise more awareness, it would make a great blog and increased interest.

    Like

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