Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Handlebar Shape Database is a Very Helpful Tool

Chip Marten's labor of love,  is a database of currently made handlebars showing specs like rise, sweep, and drop and overhead views, so you can overlay our Clarence Bar and Osprey Bar to see their subtle differences. Database includes mainstream brands like Bontrager and Zipp as well as bars from custom frame builders like Ahearne and Sklar.

Be sure to check it out next time you are considering renovating your cockpit.
And consider donating to keep the project going.

More Bar News:
We will be adding a 46/52cm (XXL) size to our problem solving Condor 2 Handlebar.
Available October 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Experiencing the Geographical Majesty and Hospitality of Nepal

Born and raised in the Sonoran Desert of Tucson, Arizona Elliot Dumont loves traveling by bike. His trips include the Arizona Trail, Continental Divide, Colorado Trail, Mongolia, Nepal, and Baja among many others. Cycling has always been a staple in his life,  since since middle school and it is where he finds himself to be the most comfortable. For this trip Elliot wanted to take a different turn and focus on not just on riding, but explore the cultural aspects of our changing world and using a bicycle for a vehicle of connection with the people and the landscape. I love my Soma Juice 29er and feel it was the best choice for any international trip.

Words and Photos: Elliot Dumont, Roadrunner Bicycles

Flying into Katmandu I was struck with the thought that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. These were really big mountains. And these weren’t even the big ones. The mountains that surround the Kathmandu valley rise sharply as does the rest of the country. Nepal is about the size of Tennessee with its lowest point being about 1000 feet above sea level and then the land literally skyrockets upward to the height of Everest at 30,000 feet. My plan to ride back roads from Kathmandu to the Annapurna circuit, then around the circuit and find a bus back to Kathmandu alone and self supported suddenly seemed figuratively and literally much more daunting than I had thought.The airport was full of adventure-seeking tourists and business people as well as local Nepali. Outside the street was full of hired drivers with signs with a lot of yelling in Nepali for taxi cabs. The dust from the dirt road rose as cars passed by in the thick humid air. The heat of the sun was penetrating. The monsoons were nearing a close and though rainstorms were frequent, the sun had dried the roads. The ever growing population and traffic made the air quality in Kathmandu pretty poor. Traveling through the streets packed with people, the life of the city ebbed and flowed around the narrow streets and along the stalls selling tea, dahl baht, all sorts of steamed and fried goods, clothing, tailor services, kitchen equipment, and motorcycle shops.I pulled into the hotel unloaded my bike box, checked into my room, dropped off my luggage and quickly assembled my Soma Juice 29er. It was my vehicle of choice for this adventure. A sturdy frame that was a great ride when I rode across Mongolia. It had the dependable handling and comfortable feel I wanted knowing I would be navigating some pretty gnarly descents and spending very long days in the saddle. A few days prepping in Kathmandu and I was off.

The monsoons had dumped their last bits of rain as I had made my final preparations to leave Kathmandu and the roads were not dry yet. I left the city behind as I climbed into the clouds along the main road that headed north. The road turned to dirt and soon mud. The sedimentary rock that comprises most of the lower Himalaya create a soupy mud like mixture when wet that is great for farming but poor for roads and draining. The roads when wet can be nearly a foot deep of mud and nearly impassible if only by a large truck or tractor. Somehow buses and all sorts of other vehicles find their way along these windy and dangerous mountain roads. I was glad I was on a larger tired 29er bike that could torque through the mud better than a gravel or touring bike.
The hillsides in Nepal are an impressive feat. The people in Nepal have found a way to eek out a living on the steepest terrain. The climbs meandered for miles gaining thousands of feet of elevation before plummeting in a similar fashion down into the next river valley. These large geographic barriers have led to Nepal being an incredibly diverse place with over 100 ethnic groups and nearly as many languages. Due to the rain and the steepness of the terrain, it took me an extra day and a few diversions to get to the start of the circuit. One delay led me to stay at a family’s house. It was getting dark and I knew I wouldn’t make it to the town I wanted to. The sun was setting. I had asked about the location of campsites as I passed through a town earlier. I was instructed to just go to a tea house. I had no idea what a tea house in the countryside looked like. I found this family sitting on their front porch. I pulled over. Put my hands by my head as if I was mimicking sleeping and said, “Tsea?” (Tea) and pointed to their house. They paused for a second and then waved me over. That evening we chatted as they made dinner. Their grandson was staying with them and he translated for us. They let me stay the night with them and in the morning we ate breakfast together. I paid them what I thought was a fair price and they agreed. It was an amazing experience to be able to connect with total strangers and be in awe of their hospitality. 

Entering the circuit I was struck by how different the towns were from those in more rural areas. The abundance of hotels and amenities like wifi and western food was reminiscent of home and a sign of how these towns had transitioned to a tourist economy. The road along the circuit was in fairly good shape although landslides were an ever present danger. During the monsoons, the landslide danger grows exponentially with one villager telling me about a village across the valley that was nearly wiped out from a large landslide. The road would sometimes be covered by a landslide and I had to choose between picking my way across the steep debris field carefully or backtrack and ride/carry my bike along the trekking path. Moving further up the circuit, the mountains of the Annapurna range came into view. They were impossible to look at without craning ones neck upwards. They were huge.
The religious mix of Nepal is spread between 80% Hindu, 10-15% Buddhist and the remaining 5% split between ethnic religions and Christianity. These religions are commonly split up along altitude. Ethnic groups that inhabit higher elevations are more likely to be Buddhist and those lower down especially along the border with India are Hindu. It was evident as I climbed along the circuit to witness the change in morning rituals and through conversations with people. The route climbed up to Thorong La pass at around 18,000 feet. Definitely the hardest hike a bike I have ever done. Leaving before daylight, I had strapped my bike and all of my gear to my back, around 80 lbs all together. I slowly made my way through the darkness. The stars were out and the faint moonlight illuminated the distance snow covered peaks. The temperature was pretty chilly, my CamelBak I had rested on my chest pack was starting to freeze over. The sun came out and that warmed the air a bit, but the wind picked up and sucked any warmth away. Due to the weight of my pack and the altitude, I could not walk far or fast. It was slow going. I would take ten to fifteen steps then rest on my hiking poles. After 5 hours and 2,500 feet of ascending, I reached the summit. It was delightful. The descent was amazing and it burned through a pair of brake pads. It descends some ridiculous amount of feet in a very short distance. There has been nothing like it I have ever ridden.

"The descent was amazing and it burned through a pair of brake pads."

I descended into the lower Mustang region. Upper Mustang, further up the river valley, is the most remote area of Nepal. It has been deemed by the government, in the name of cultural preservation, a protected area that requires a guide and a steep entrance fee to be able to explore that area. I descended through the holy area of Muktinath and further down the valley towards the rain forest below towards Pokhara. The dry arid desert slowly turned to pine forests and then dense jungle. I was blown away by how the descents kept going and going. When I thought I had descended all that I could I would come a vista and see yet thousands more feet I would descend to the next town. I ended the biking portion of the trip in Pokhara before spending a day before taking a bus back to the bustling and chaotic streets of Kathmandu.
It was an incredible and rich experience. I was fortunate enough to speak to many different types of people from all different walks of Nepali life. I found out just how little I knew about Nepal. In the day and age of adventure and the freedom by which we throw that word around little attention is paid to the people, places, and history where these adventures take place. I would like to thank Soma Fabrications for their support and help to get me along this journey and empowering me to be able to research and write a book about this adventurous place and its people. Thank you also to Stan’s No Tubes, Thompson Components, and all of the people that contributed to my Kickstarter. Thank you to my family and my girlfriend for their love and support. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Show Us That Baby Blue!

A somewhat atypical build to show you how the new Smoothie in Baja Blue builds up:
  • Mostly shiney silver components. Most folks will use black bits which looks just fine too.
  • New Albion 46-34t crank set for more useable gearing for mere mortals
  • Soma Supple Vitesse 700x28c tires, decent tire clearance especially with these newer Shimano 105 calipers
  • With the matching steel fork though the matching carbon has been slightly more popular.
  • Colored spacers: We don't usually mess around with colored spacers, but they work well here.

Offering CrMo steel or Carbon Fork options. Who loves you so much to offer TWO fork options?

A couple of 5mm red spacers to echo the red stripes on the downtube and seat tube panels.
Thank you Pedal Revolution for helping with the build.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Purple Reigns: Soma Rush Build

Build Details:
Rush, Matte Purple, 59cm
Crankset: IRD Defiant 46t
Pedals: MKS Sylvan Track, Soma cages/straps
Chain: Izumi
Cog: Soma: 18t
Hubs: Suzue ProMax, 32h
Tires: Soma Shikoro 700x28c
Rims: Araya SA730
Bars: Nitto B802, cut to 560mm
Stem: Soma Sutro
Seatpost: Soma
Saddle: Soma Hishou
Brakes: Dia-Compe BRS-100
Cable Housing: Yokozuna Italian Vintage Housing

This was a special build for an upcoming review.
Bike build by Pedal Revolution, SF.
Wheel build by Hands On Wheels, SF

Thursday, January 24, 2019

New Colorways for Rush and Smoothie Frames in 2019

Available to order now! Soma Rush in Matte Purple

Graphics are not removable, but they aren't loud.
Removable graphics look bad on matte finished frames

Our Smoothie Road frame gets a classic baby blue that you may not think of as classic. But it has been
used on custom hardtails to Look carbon road frames. We call it Baja Blue.

Our Smoothie still keeps the traditional component standards (like EC34 headsets )that go so well with
slender steel tubes

Friday, December 14, 2018

New Bar Alternatives for Bike Packing and Touring

A New Alternative MTB Bar
Darren McKay, the proprietor of Dream Cycle in Vancouver, BC, suggested we create a handlebar similar to the riser bars on mountain bikes of the 1980's. He thought it would be a great option for bikepacking and touring bikes. The Dream bar has a 25° backsweep, which is not only a very natural grip, but also keeps bar bags away from your hands. The 780mm width is more than enough to maintain control control in most type of riding. The 50mm of rise is a touch more than the average trail bike riser. The Dream Bar is in stock now!

CONDOR 2: The Sequel:
The Condor Handlebar, which we launched last year to quite a few puzzling looks and chuckles, has really found its share of fans. A few cyclists are finding it is their solution for back pain, more comfort, less hand numbness.  Many are using it to create a more upright ride position on bikes which don't have a long enough steerer to raise the stem. It is a beautiful design by folks at our distributor in Japan. Tokyo San Esu.

The Condor 2 is the result what we've learned from feedback from Condor customers, including bike shop owners. It is a simpler looking bar, but it actually allows for more useful hand positions than the original. The bend is still compact, but fits slightly larger hands. The drops are 1cm wider on each size, so the 44cm is 50cm at the end of the drops (center to center).
And the big deal is the still the rise, which stays almost the same. The Condor 2 should be available in mid-January
Original Condor

The Condor TWO!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Cape to Kapp: Pedaling Under the Suez Canal Requires More Patience & Perseverance Than Legs

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.  She has just finished the epic African leg of her journey and is now in Israel. This post is about her experience getting permission to cross the Suez Canal Tunnel on her touring bike.

I think I've made a bit of history?!!!! I have cycled through the Suez Canal Tunnel on my Soma Saga!!!!!!!! No one is allowed to do this! I've only heard of a small group of Egyptians who's done it legally. They had the support of an Egyptian ministry. Two other solo foreign male cyclists did it as well but they both got arrested afterwards as they did not have permission. Could I at least be the first solo female cyclist to do this?
A process
It was quite a process getting the green light. I came riding before noon. Armed army personnel greeted me at the first checkpoint. "Hi! I'd like to cycle through the tunnel."
"No. It is not allowed."
I then confidently handed over an eloquently formulated letter by The United Nations Environment Programme's 'Share the Road' Programme in support of my low carbon emission mission. 
There was some quick discussion between the two which I could only make out "It's the UN.". They picked up the phone to call a superior. The person at the other end of the line picked up another phone. So did the commander above him again. I don't know how far up in the system it went, but down here they started looking at me positively hoping that I'd be allowed. They were really impressed with how far I've come on my bike and supported what I was doing.
Making friends at the army checkpoint

I don't know how long I waited. For a good six hours at least. I was really hopeful. If I didn't stand a chance, then why would they take this long to get back to me? In the end they did reply --- with a 'NO'?!!!  I was so surprised. Why not? 
They cited lack of traffic safety through the tunnel and because the first 30 kilometers after the tunnel has seen activity by militant groups present in the region. Another army officer I spoke to was of the opinion that it was not that dangerous – that the likelihood of anything happening was very slim. "But if it did... One video of a pretty girl in the wrong hands would have devastating effects on Egyptian tourism [it's already suffering due to previous terrorist attacks]." The officer who conveyed it was very sorry. So was I. I asked again. I didn't want to give up. I was told that if I didn't leave, I would not be allowed to pass through the tunnel at all.
Nuns that allowed me to stay overnight at their church.

A New Plan for Tomorrow
I was taken in by Greek Orthodox nuns that night.  Before going to bed I texted one of the guys from the Egyptian group that had cycled through the tunnel. The army had refused them too, BUT THE POLICE had helped them and escorted them through! How does that work? I thought the army had greater authority than the police? I went to sleep with a new plan not knowing how everything would turn out. I'd either be allowed to cycle through or possibly be banned for good from crossing the tunnel, and therefore not able to continue by bike via the Middle East en route to Europe...
I woke up the next morning, feeling as if the whole day was completely open ended. Just had to deal with what came my way in a good way. I went to the police and presented my case. "Yes, of course, but join us for fool* and falafel for breakfast first!". Really? I couldn't believe it! Two hours later I rode up to the same army checkpoint from the day before – followed by the police, I saw the same army officer sitting there. I could tell he was not happy to see me. "Hi! I have found a solution to the safety issue! The police will escort me!'
The local police made it possible. Thank you.

New calls where made. I got an interrogation. 'Where have you been since you left here yesterday?'. It wasn't enough to say "in town". 'Where in town?" I had to provide names of the places. Show it on my map. I was pleased with myself when I could present a selfie of me and the nuns;-) 'How much money do you have?'. Pictures of every single page in my passport were taken. 'Where did you study? What did you study? Where are your parents? Write down all the countries you have cycled through, including the dates of entry and exit here'. 'Why are you doing this?'. 'Because of climate change. Because I care about the people and other species that are and will be affected by it'... I passed the test. 'Ms. Teresie. I am happy to see you again'.
Uncertainty and confusion
Back to the waiting game. We went through all my stuff. I showed him everything I'm carrying. I think he was quite impressed with my set-up. He certainly took a fancy to my knife! Haha. All this time, I did not know, if I'd be allowed to cycle through the tunnel. I wasn't sure if I dared to hope anymore. 
"Yalla. Hæ!" I was suddenly told to get on my bike in the direction of the tunnel. I didn't dare to clarify could I really go? I just moved. We came to a second checkpoint. New faces. Another presentation of my passport and UN letter. What did all of this mean? No one told me anything! Was told to come inside and sit down. 'It's the first time we have someone doing this. And it's a woman'. 
My heart jumped. Could it be? I got all emotional. 'Shukran! Thank you!'. It was a solemn moment. I believe I was even shaking a little as I got back on my bike and set the course for THE TUNNEL. It was unreal. Still couldn't fully believe it. I said to myself I wouldn't until I actually cycled into its depth. But now I was hopeful! And now I saw the opening of the tunnel approaching me! 
'STOP!!!!!!!!'. 'No, no, no, we have permission'. 'No, it's not allowed to cycle through'. Three armed army soldiers in uniform blocked the entrance. The police in the police vehicle shouted something to them in Arabic. And then they turned around! 
'What are you doing?' I said incredulously. They drove off, leaving me stranded right there, five metres from the entrance! 'What is happening?'. Was I not allowed in the end, after all this?! Would I get arrested? After much confusion and more waiting while curious cars and trucks passed this blocked lone long distance cyclists in front of the tunnel, a police vehicle from the other side of the tunnel came through. This was the one that was going to escort me. And my three new armed friends had been filled in meanwhile - she is good to go.
The Ride Under the Suez Canal
I am forever grateful to EVERYONE involved in making this possible! I can't believe my luck. They could all just have said no. What an experience! It was with a whirlwind of emotions as I cycled through it. Disbelief. Gratitude. Defiant joy. "Hell yeah!!!!!'" Tears. Fear of getting a puncture down there. That I wouldn't be able to breathe because of all the exhaust. That I wouldn't be able to cycle up the incline at the end. Typical;-) When I saw the light in the end of the tunnel, I started waiving to oncoming cars. I had the biggest smile. I heartedly laughed to the shocked and smiling army officer that greeted me as I came out of the tunnel on the other side. 'Hi! :-D'.

[Editor's notes: * "Fool" or 
 fūl, is a dish of cooked fava beans served with vegetable oilcumin, and optionally with chopped parsleygarliconionlemon juice, chili pepper and other vegetable, herb and spice ingredients.
The Suez Canal in Egypt is an artificial waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. "
The canal offers watercraft a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans via the Mediterranean and Red Seas by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans, reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi).(Wikipeda)" There is some incredible history involving the canal and surrounding areas.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bringing Back the Mini Velo and the rim-brake Buena Vista

The original Soma Mini Velo complete bike.
It was a challenge back then to find a rear rack to fit it.
But it is 2018, so can you imagine
how big a frame bag could fit on this?

The Mini Velo project we embarked on almost 8 years ago was not a smashing success in terms of sales. The majority of American bike enthusiasts just didn't see the logic or inspiration for a bike with smaller wheels.

Is America ready now? We don't know. Based on our embrace for huge cell phones, large pick up trucks, and fat bikes, probably not. BUT we do know that even after retiring it, our original post about it still continued to get a significant number of visits. And we will get a desperate e-mail every blue moon from someone telling us we need to bring it back.

So we have decided to produce a few framesets -- not complete bikes as before -- and will be marketing it under our sister brand -  New Albion Cycles. So you crazy kids can build it up with drop bars, pursuit bars or townie/riser bars.

No photos for you yet, but it will be matte red and have the same component needs of the Soma Mini Velo ---- cantilever brakes, recumbent type 20" wheels (not BMX), and quill stem. Same Tange tubing. Almost the same geometry.
Probably ready to sell before December.    UPDATE: Check out the New Albion Microbrew now.

What is a Mini Velo?
The Mini Velo for the uninitiated is a small wheel (usually 20") bike with a rigid non-folding frame. It has been a common category of bike in Japan for years now. Mainly they are specced as affordable city cruisers.  Some big brands that have released urban style mini velos in the US include Cannodale and Orbea. Respect is a small company that sells fixed gear mini velos.
But mini velos have only reached critical mass in Japan and Southeast Asia, where they can take a number of forms -- upright urban bikes, fixies, light touring, mini-cargo, and even straight-up road race bikes.

Why would you need a Mini Velo?
Mini velos are super compact which makes a whole lot of sense if you live in a small apartment or one of those cute tiny houses. They are also easier to maneuver onto the subway or elevators if you are a bike commuter.

Why would you want a Mini Velo?
Most of us aren't that hard up on space. And some of us could care less if a co-worker doesn't like us dragging our full sized bike into as elevator with them.

So what else would attract someone into getting one?

1) Quicker acceleration off the line: 20" wheels spin up faster and easier. A semi-racey mini velo will get a jump on a 700c carbon wonder bike every time.
So with a mini velo might have you not minding slowing down at intersections -- you know -- because you don't want to lose your momentum.

2) For the thrills: Short wheelbase and small tires mean most are more responsive than criterium track bike. Perfect for dodging potholes that are always a threat at ruining your day on a 20" wheel bike whether it is a mini-velo, folding bike or BMX. They have a smaller tire patch too.

If you are riding one at speed, you will want to be extra alert and that might make you a better rider.

3) Show off that big ring: With small wheels you need a full size crank to give you the right gearing.
So you can be in 53t big ring all the time, even when your buddies shift down to their 34t a couple of miles ago.

4) All bicycles have their charm and you believe in the n + 1 Rule.

Other News:

We added disc brake compatibility and sliding drop-outs to our mixte frame and we thinks it hella dope. And most of you did, too. But we also started fielding calls asking "Is the rim brake one really gone?" So we are considering bringing the rim brake version back in a limited sizes and quantities.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Sudan Was Flat Out Hot

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.

Unknown challenge ahead
On the 11th of April, I crossed the border to Sudan from Ethiopia on my Soma Saga! So ready for Sudan. So excited!! I had been told it was going to be hot. Very hot. But as I was getting my visa stamped, I had no idea that for the next nine days I would struggle on the bicycle seat in a heat unlike anything I've experienced before. I'm not exaggerating.

Sudanese cycling conditions
Sudan is extremely flat, the roads are long and straight (and at times boring) so I thought I'd easily do 100km in a day on my way to Khartoum. Most likely more. My mistake was to keep on pushing to reach this target, even though the elements were telling me not to. As soon as the sun is up here, it gets hot. Between 11am and 12pm to around 4pm, I'd say it's unbearable on certain days this time of the year.
Most people take it easy during these times.
I was cycling on a bike packed full of stuff.

After about 15 minutes of leaving the filled water bottles on my frame, the water is as hot as tea water. 

Constantly drinking, hardly peeing
Semi desert landscapes. Some shrubbery, the occasional tree. Lots of sand. Vast open landscapes. Blue sky. The regular animal carcass next to the road. On this stretch, I frequently flagged down vehicles to refill my water bottles. It's far between the taps and I didn't want to cycle with an additional 10 litres of water, making my bike super heavy. Pretty much all cars and trucks stop! It's easy. I even had one of the dangerously fast busses hit the brakes and give me cool water. Cool is key. After about 15 minutes of leaving the filled water bottles on my frame, the water is as hot as tea water. I'm not kidding. You are constantly drinking, hardly peeing and do certainly not feel refreshed after a sip. I'd be scared to cycle this stretch in this heat if it wasn't for the possibility of getting water from passing traffic. Very scared.

No escaping the sun
Have you ever had to fix a puncture next to the road at midday, in the scorching sun, with no shade, at 47 degrees celsius? (That's 117 degress F)  The heat influences everything. How you feel, what you think and how you deal with the situations you are in. I fixed this puncture, but upon my second one later this day, I just crawled under a tree that provided a tiny bit of shade (far from enough!!) and laid there. I was even so close to the next village. Less than one kilometre away. I could see houses, but I just could not get myself over there. The heat was too much. I had to wait it out. This is the first time on the trip I've actually laid down next to the road. The warm wind made it even worse. Hotter than a hairdryer! The less limbs you expose to it the less uncomfortable. How do you do that?

Fluctuating emotions
On this stretch, I teared up at least once a day. Once out of hopelessness (the road surface was so bad. It would not end). Several times out of gratitude (as when a truck driver handed me a sesame seed snack in the middle of nowhere in the desert!). A few times as I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had days I was only able to do 34km and 41km. It got a little better once I hit the Nile. One day, to my extreme surprise I did 100km! And finally, I reached Khartoum! My goal. The "desert oasis", where The Blue and White Nile meet. My host had suggested that we meet at Ozone. When I got there, I discovered that it was a full on café with cakes and ice cream!!! How fitting! A cyclist in Sudan's wet dream. I freaking made it!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Underdressed At the Circumcision Celebration

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.
(This is her sixth journal entry for us. She's in Egypt now, but this entry is from January)

This is the beauty of bicycle touring.
The openess. Randomness.
Discovery. Spontaneity.
And love, actually.

So Much Generosity
I was actually a bit sad when I cycled the last 10 kilometers in Tanzania on my Soma Saga, approaching the border to Kenya. I stopped a few times. Turned around and looked behind me. Being all melancholy as I was leaving behind me the heartfelt, warm encounters I've had over the last ten days. Every day. So much love. So much care. So much curiosity. So much generosity.

Another New Country! Kenya!
After the form filling, stamping, mandatory picture at the boarder with me and the bike, I did my first kilometers on Kenyan soil! On this first day, I ended up paying way too much for a soda at a gas station and seeing a huge dead hyena right next to the road, gaping at me, and a dog eating off its bum.
As it drew near sunset I felt a bit uneasy not having found a place to stay for the night. Maybe it was just because I was in a new country. My standard procedure at the end of a day of cycling is to just find some random people, strangers, and ask if I can pitch my tent in their compound. I've gotten quite good at it. 100% success rate! That might tell you more about the hospitality in the countries I'm cycling through rathet than me, necessarily. Or maybe both;-)

Party Invitation
My first night in Kenya I ended up spending with Jeremiah and Florence! I just met Jeremiah on the road and he took me through bushes and over hills to his traditional Masaai home! Forget about concrete and bricks. Cow dung and gras is the ting! Maybe it was the chai, the fire, the maharagwe, the questions whether I liked cow blood, capitalism vs communism, or wanting to join the village's celebration of a boy's circumcision and passing of his exam that made me stay the next day. As I was falling asleep in my tent, I could hear voices from the houses on the opposite hill where food for next day's celebration was being prepared.

New friends... Jeremiah and Florence

The women were still cooking when we all went to join the festivities around noon the next day! I've never seen such big pots, so much food, so many goats being slaughtered. Even though a cyclist is always hungry, I found myself having to say 'no thank you' to some of the food that was offered. I was stuffed! All around me were beautifully dressed women, in their characteristic traditional Masaai wear. I had been admiring their 'look' for days, seeing Masaai women walking next to the road north in Tanzania. Their necklaces, earrings and bracelets, colourful and shiny, made them visible from miles away in the otherwise brown and grey landscape. A beautiful sight.

The Holy Grail
I was so underdressed. Rose, Jeremiah's grandmother, asked if I didn't have anything else to change into. I tried to explain that I didn't have anything nice to wear as it's not part of 'bicycle touring essentials'. One does not want to carry anything that is not strictly necessary, keeping the weight of the panniers as light as possible. After some discussions with her friend, which I didn't understand a word of, Rose said 'Come with me'. Then the two grannies lent me a dress and necklaces they had made - admitting me into the holy grail of the Masaai. 
I was so happy and felt so included, especially after desperately wanting to take a picture of the ladies next to the road for days, but not being able to without having to pay a stiff price. Many have learned to make money off the interest in their culture. When we returned to the celebrations, everyone was saying 'Wow, you look so nice!'.
The rest of the day, we all sat in the shade, listening to the speeches and singing over the terrible loudspeakers. Topics of dancing and not do drugs. I ended up snoozing with my head on one of the women's lap. I registered someone else put a blanket on me. In the evening when we sat around the fire with the immediate family and I returned the necklaces, I felt that something was missing around my neck. I said I felt empty. Then, completely unexpected, Florence found one of her necklaces in the neighbouring room and just gave it to me! Something to remember her by. As if needed, but so much appreciated! Rose had already given me one of her bracelets that I treasured dearly. It's the act, not the items that are so special to me. What they represent. They asked me if I didn't want to stay another day.

In the morning, after having been served one cup of chai after the other, we said our goodbyes. It was hard to hold the tears back. I couldn't. Who knew that me, Florence, Rose, even Jeremiah, would be all teary eyed, not wanting to say goodbye just 36 hours earlier? I left with so many good wishes!! I doubt I will ever see them again. I will however always, always remember them and feel so incredibly lucky and grateful for having met them. So much that I can't see what I'm typing anymore. This is the beauty of bicycle touring. The openess. Randomness. Discovery. Spontaneity. And love, actually.