As you read this, trust me to have made a number of deletions just so I can have the best beginning line for what I am about to share.
Also, this is going to be a really long piece, so buckle up as I take you through the BEST BIRTHDAY TREAT ever!!!!
Birthdays are things I like to commemorate and I am always looking forward to making merry when it comes to my close friends and family.
Now imagine how far I can go when it comes to celebrating myself.
This year as I clocked 26, I knew clearly that it was going to be something about cycling that would gratify me as I celebrated myself.
Should I buy myself a road bike?
Can I change the current gear system on my bike to a multiple gear system?
Maybe I could do my Northern bypass trip that I have been putting off for ages?
All these questions kept coming to my mind but none seemed to get me as excited as I wanted it to be.
Until I saw this advert about cycling to JINJA
“Yes, this is it!!!!” I told myself, as I selfishly cancelled the plans that coincided with the specific day the adventure was meant to happen (the plans I am talking about were made in December😬)
I mean, the slogan of the entity that was organising this trip is “One Life, Ride it!” – Pretty much what I was interested in feeling like, as I celebrated myself.
In fact, the few people I told about my plans thought I was super crazy.
Well, maybe I am, and I just needed to know what my limits were.
So, I made arrangements – starting with acquainting myself with the exhilarating experience I was getting myself into.
For starters, Jinja is a district in Eastern Uganda known for its beautiful scenery attributed by the source of River Nile, the longest river in Africa.
It is about 80 km away from Kampala if you consider using the Kampala-Jinja Highway.
The plan – as I learnt from JEFF, one of the guys from this entity or Ultimate Cycling Uganda being the name it goes by – was that for safety reasons, it would be an off-the-road cycling adventure, and the consequences for this was making it a longer route (about 100 Km)
The other thing he mentioned was that I needed a mountain bike, even when I insisted that I had a very convenient well-conditioned fixed-gear bike that makes me well-acclimatised to cycle on any terrain – Don’t judge me, you’re not me.
He convinced me well enough to rent one.
Not so much though, as I didn’t agree to renting one at 100,000 UGX.
I mean, how extravagant can I be spending a sixth of what I spent to buy my current bike, to rent a bike for two days!!!
So, I got me a cheaper deal of 60,000 UGX, at that time the best I could find for what I had budgeted for.
Little did I know my choices would rebound on me, as you will learn later
Silly me didn’t even bother to check out the bike the day before – for reasons you would refer to as excuses
I assumed telling the person that would get me the bike, about my tall stature and my ostrich-like long legs, was enough to get me the bike I needed for the 100 Km – which I know was reckless, and yes, I learnt my lesson and below is how.
The morning for the voyage found me super pumped up as always, to do a journey I anticipated would be an unprecedented experience for me.
On reaching the place where we were supposed to set off from, I saw a bunch of well-dressed cyclists: some unloading their wide-framed and long-seat-post bicycles off their cars; others assembling their bicycles from scratch; while others engaged in chit-chat and laughing like they have known each other for a long time as their gigantic bicycles laid on the ground.
To be honest, I fretted a little, they looked so professional!!!
Meanwhile, worry didn’t halt me from eagerly looking for the “gigantic” bicycle I had rented out to use for my trip.
To my surprise, I was shown a miniature bike that was not in any way appropriate for my size.
“Oh wow, is this what Hamza got me?” I grimacingly asked the driver of the van that brought the bike from Design Hub where Ultimate Cycling Uganda’s home is located.
“Oh, is this yours?” he rhetorically asked as he laughed while handing it over to me.
When Jeff saw my bike, he was in utter disappointment.
“If I had seen this bike before it came here, I wouldn’t let it get on the van!” He furiously said as him and the other guide tried to increase the length of the bike’s seat post to suit my body.
In a couple of minutes after finishing doing what they could, Arnold – the other guide – took me through a quick lesson of how to shift gears after socratically confessing my ignorance about bikes with gears to him.
We later convened as the whole group going for the trip for a few remarks before setting off at about 9 AM.
Being gung ho about the journey, I didn’t actually realise how inconveniencing my bike would get later on, during the “taxing” parts of the trip.
I made sure to stick at the back of the flock with Arnold as I still had my novice mentality keeping my excitement in check.
Through Kampala suburbs, we rode as we entered the rural areas towards Mukono.
For the most part, I kept a tight rein on my seemingly stubborn bike as I was not only on a physical journey to Jinja but also, on a mental one to study the bike’s technicalities, on job.
Being with Arnold at the back, he ensured that I have it good, especially on the hills.
At one point, when he saw me struggling with shifting my gears on a hill in Mbuya (a suburb in Kampala), he pushed me as he rode and I ended up just sitting on my bike for that part until we reached the top.
I should say I seemed to have a solution for whatever hindrance that came up.
Until my bike’s stand started to uncontrollably fall down as notified to me by my colleagues.
I didn’t think it would cause any havoc if my “rein” was held tighter, so I kept cycling with it hanging.
As I approached a hump along the way, I tried to dodge it (the hump) by passing my bike through the space between the hump and the footpath it was close to, only for it(the stand) to get held in the ground and cause me to fall off my bike.
I felt that pain my friend
Not because of the stabbing-flash sensation that needled on my left elbow, wrist and thigh that I fell onto, but rather, I was seen by spectators along the way that seemed to enjoy the flawless show (that I messed up) staged by my colleagues that had passed them before me.
Lucky for me, my team didn’t witness that (neither did Arnold) and when I reached where everyone was waiting from, Arnold frugally fixed my bike by tying a POLYTHENE BAG on the stand to prevent any further hanging.
Of course, this was after me telling him about my unfortunate incident.
I thought that was the worst that could happen
I was wrong – it was just the beginning of the actual ordeal.
Because my bike was too low for my gorgeous height, it kept taxing my knees, shoulders and wrists in ways I swore never to let myself experience EVER AGAIN!!! (imagine pedalling while squatting, on a bumpy terrain)
Only Arnold got to hear me rant.
This affected my speed, so much so, that all the planned major breaks, were also aimed at waiting for us (Arnold and I)
On approaching them, by all means that meant resuming the journey (I think they presumed I was well rested from the slow speed)
You know that saying: late comers eat bones, I for one didn’t see how the bones looked like when it came to devouring the chicken that was part of the refreshments – IT WAS THAT BAD!!!
I only rested when Arnold stopped to fix bikes that had broken down, and this happened only twice
As we rode off, Arnold told me a lot about cycling including his experiences which lowkey numbed the frustration and pain from my MENACE of a bike.
One of them being his longest ride of 1000 Km, from Kampala (Central Uganda) to Kidepo(North-Eastern Uganda)😮 – He is “goals”
When I complained to him about my wrist and palms being stressed from the bumps on the road, he offered his gloves to reduce their effect on my hands.
On top of that, he stocked many bottles of mineral water that he frequently offered when he had me panting after climbing a hill – Like yooo, Arnold was the actual MVP
Arnold did a myriad of things just so I could have the best experience for my trip and if I finish them all, I will have to write a full book!
At some point, my bike became overwhelmingly slow that a suggestion was made for me to sit in the van.
I had vowed not to do so.
Yes, my lagging-behind became annoying, but I wasn’t willing to sit in the van, I mean, where was the fun in that?
Luckily for me, when the van receded to find Arnold and I to get me into the van, two lads with REALLY GREAT mountain bikes were seated in the van taking a break from the enervating that came with cycling.
Instead of giving up the struggle (and I didn’t plan to), I nicely asked one of the lads to let me use their bikes as they rested.
“Are you okay with a 29-inch wheel?” one lad asked
“Duhhhhhh, how can I not be, my bike is a f**king 26-inch wheel” I mumbled as I subsequently and loudly responded, “But of course!”
It got offloaded off the van, handed over to me and I was back on the road, CRUISING.
There was a MAMMOTH difference!
It was swifter, more comfortable and everything sexy a cyclist would want to have on their mountain bike.
I didn’t have to fight with gear-shifting as with the “shitty” bike.
Arnold being my “sensei“, cautioned me to take it slow on the brakes as that bike had a crisp hydraulic brake system which responds faster than the ordinary calipers.
I mean, wowww!!!
I was now literally driving except that I was pedalling – does this even make sense😅?!
Seriously though, it felt wayyyyy better and in fact, Arnold acknowledged my great speed as we went on.
On the next and last two breaks, I kept with the pack and yes, the journey started to become what I wanted it to be – THRILLING.
We arrived in Jinja at about 5pm, all safe and sound but super exhausted, of course!
I for one, felt my face super sticky from the sweat and the dust that I accumulated from the ride.
With my bike issues, a number of my colleagues were quite impressed with my performance which I mostly attributed to ARNOLD sticking with me the entire journey.
I got acquainted with a group of amazing adventurous people and enjoyed every bit of time we spent together, in fact looking forward to more.
More still, I saw these very beautiful plants and couldn’t help asking to pick a few buds for me to propagate at home.
Did I learn my lesson, YESSS!!! I have started saving for a mountain bike and I am happy to have you contribute to it😀 as I learnt that they cost as much as 800 USD 😒 – from Arnold of course 🤗
Looking forward to the comments and the contributions too, regarding how long you have walked/run/cycled for😃
PS: I am still celebrating my birthday🤩🎉🎊😁 so I am happy to receive any kind of gift from you!