It was time again to don spiffy duds, fire up the vintage bikes and participate in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. Of course, in Kenya, nothing works like it does in the rest of the world. It’s part of what makes it so maddening and magical. So, as per our tradition, rather than saddle up on Sunday like the rest of the planet’s DGR riders to putter carefully from café to café, we like to head out on Saturday, ride 100km into one of Kenya’s hottest places, stay the night and return the following day. It’s always a great weekend, and this year we had 13 bikes (in admittedly varying states of vintageness) plus three support cars. Quite the convoy.
Above: The crew on DGR day
Above: My favourite of the old bikes: the BSA Golden Flash. Plenty of real-world patina on this baby.
Above: The most pristine of the vintage bikes: a lovely old Yamaha XV750. She’s been pampered, showed off in bike shows for years, and now she’s back on the road getting some dust on those cooling fins.
Leaving Nairobi is always a mess. Traffic is horrible, and with so many bikes all trying to lane split and overtake, somebody always gets confused. It’s also the best time to find out which bikes are giving issues. This time, it was the black Honda who decided to loose oil, but Famous Rick sorted it out in a trice. As for getting lost, we had five guys ride past the pre-determined checkpoints and only notice it about half way down the valley… It’s all par for the Nairobi DGR.
Above: My XT on Ngong Road, the five bikers who can’t follow instructions, Famous Rick sorting our first issue
Past Cona Baridi, we slid quickly down the shoulder of the Ngong Hills to have some refreshment at the Jordan Breeze. This gave us time to figure out where the others were and to check all was in order. One of the Enfields was acting up, and bad fuel was to blame… maybe so. We pressed on.
Above: Coming round Cona Baridi
Above: My ’81 XT500 Nairobi Special looking the business among the acacias
Above: Checkpoint Jordan Breeze
We set off for our perennial lunch spot under one of very few roadside trees large enough to offer a bit of shade. Lunches emerged from the vehicles and the five eager beavers returned from the valley to join us at last. The grub was excellent and there were special refreshments to quench our thirst in the steadily rising heat.
Above: Lunch spot and shade tree
Above: Obligatory "modern vintage" Triumph promotional photo… Triumph being a sponsor of the DGR
Above: Draining the Enfield’s fuel… it seemed to make things better, and better’s good enough. Ugy and I helping from afar via telepathy.
Off like a herd of turtles, we roared over the wavering sun-baked tarmac past Oltepesi and Olegorsaile toward Magadi, our oven-hot destination. I zipped ahead to set up a few photos while the line of bikes steadily disintegrated. First the big Harley Davidson’s battery connections rattled loose, then a new Enfield 500 lost her battery cover. I sat in the shade enjoying the quiet while the rest tinkered and fussed. Shortly though, everyone roared past down the road to Magadi.
Above: Leaving Oltepesi
Above: The Golden Flash climbs toward the GSU Camp, Olegorsaile in the background
Above: Me chilling in the shade, bikes being fixed, jokes being shared
Above: At the Magadi TATA Soda Factory gate
We soon found ourselves beers in hand soaking in the nice pool at the Sports Club, but for some of us, the riding was not yet over. It’s become a side-tradition for some of us to set out into Magadi’s surreal landscape to get some dirt on our wheels. The first time I led the group, two of the guys were just starting high school. Now, nearly graduates, they handle their bikes with a lot more muscle and it was a blast to see them chewing up the dirt.
Above: An Enfield in the Magadi pans
Above: Hooliganism ensues
Above: The XR600 throwing roost
Above: Weird landscapes are what Magadi is best known for… and mid-day heat
Above: XT and a pair of Enfields
Above: Above the golden plains below
Above: Shiny new Enfield out on her first long voyage
Above: Enfields showing this scrabbly hill who’s boss
Above: Back on the lake shore, heading for the sundowner spot
At the sundown spot, we met up with one of the vehicles who happened to be carrying a refreshing pitcher of margaritas and a restaurant-sized bag of chips with salsa to boot. It was dark before we knew it and the boys led the way back to Magadi at a pretty decent clip, headlights bobbing down the road. I kept well back, running as I was on my XT’s weak excuse for a headlamp. Back at the club, dinner was served and we chowed contentedly this year before heading back for a night cap to close out a good day.
Sunday is the actual start of the DGR, and for us it doesn’t officially start until half way back to Nairobi where in theory others could, but never do, join us. So, having broken the fast, we headed over to the petrol station to add go-juice to our steeds and get a group photo in our glad rags.
Above: Ugy and his Golden Flash looking flashy
Above: The whole crew, ready to roll
The morning was lovely. Cool and inviting. I again split ahead to snap pics of riders zipping past. At some point, riders stopped zipping past. I waited and waited, then finally checked our group chat. A Triumph had a puncture (and was now riding in the pickup) and one of our crew had come off going too hot around a bend. With that news in hand, I promptly started the bike and raced… ahead to grab a beer with the few who had gone before me. It sounded like all was well in hand behind.
On Sunday the 29th of September, I will don my finest attire with my fellow men and women across the globe to join the fight with The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise awareness for prostate cancer and men's mental health. But before I press my tweed and polish my boots, I need you to donate what you can for this meaningful cause and help me reach my goal.
For your uncles, your brothers, your fathers and friends. Donate what you can, for their lives need not end.