Meet Ben Who Aspires To Develop A Cycling Culture In Kenya
“The Main Goal Is To Influence And Educate On Good Road Sharing Practices And To Create Awareness About Mental Health…
“The Main Goal Is To Influence And Educate On Good Road Sharing Practices And To Create Awareness About Mental Health Through Cycling”
If you have traveled around Kenya, you have seen a Black Mamba Bicycle. When I was growing up, the few times I attempted riding the venomous snake-like metal roadster, which was twice my size was catastrophic, just like our current Kenyan economy, unfortunate and long-suffering.
That, however, is not the case with Spin Kings. In 2020, Ben Asin, a graduate of the Catholic University of East Africa with a Bachelor’s in Development Studies, was battling alcoholism, as a form of therapy and a genuine passion for cycling; he put together a community called Spin Kings Kenya.
Spin Kings is a cycling community which is based in Nairobi Kenya that organizes free cycling rides every Saturday for Beginners and Sunday for amateur and Semi-Elites. At the time of forming Spin Kings, Kenya Asin was thinking out of the box on how he could offer a safe fitness solution and a support system for people affected by depression and loneliness during covid-19.
His romance with cycling started like an affair; he would steal his big brother’s bike, to go and see his now ex-girlfriend and before he knew it he was in love.
The Spin Kings have given birth to Spin Queens and Spin Kids and every weekend without fail, whether raining or sunny, the Spin Kings Community meets up to cycle. I met up with Ben Asin and it was clear he is a man on a mission.
I asked Asin about his cycling journey.
Tell us about your journey through Cycling? I started cycling in 2016 after I stole my big brother’s bike (George Asin) who played rugby and was recovering from an injury and part of his therapy was to ride a bike.
Did cycling help you fight depression? When I started cycling, I was a heavy alcohol drinker, but somehow I looked forward to my weekend rides, two months into my cycling I realized that I had not craved a drink. I then made the decision to work on fitness instead of embarking on weekend social drinking, and that’s how Spin Kings Kenya came to be.
What is Spin Kings’ main goal? The main goal is to influence and educate on good road-sharing practices and to create awareness about mental health through cycling.
How safe is the roads for cyclists and do cyclists suffer from many Injuries? All cyclists should be equipped with proper cycling gear when on the road however, that is not enough because just yesterday I was informed of a hit and run on Thika road and the cyclist lost his life.
There is a need for many road users to unlearn some old driving habits and more initiatives to educate road users on how to share the road. Something that Spin Kings are doing on a daily basis.
I always advise my cyclists that the most important thing is not to be headstrong on the road, first, a car is a metal, and when on a bike your body is the shield.
How do you ensure that beginners are comfortable on the road? We meet every weekend at Garden Square CBD at 7.00 am; every beginner must have the right cycling gear, that is, a helmet, cycling gloves, depending on the ride, the right cycling shoes, and reflective materials. Second, must have a serviced bike, we enforce discipline.
The Elite and team leaders’ cyclists always shield beginners on the roads and act as a support system for the cyclist by offering encouragement along the way.
Boy stuff Asin and the issue of how cycling affects men’s health? It’s not an issue that is wildly addressed; however, it’s important for a male cyclist to invest in very good padding and the saddle post.
Further reading: I encourage our readers to read further on cycling and erectile dysfunction or inflammation in the prostate to best understand men’s health when it comes to cycling. It is also important to visit your urologist if you have concerns, and it is recommended that men over 40 should see their urologist regularly regardless of their activity level.
Perfect weather to cycle? Not too hot, not too cold, however, we cycle in all weather conditions.
Hydration? Any time is hydrating time.
How is Spin King breaking the Bias? Through a more inclusive community, we encourage and motivate women and kids to join us every weekend. We currently have the largest number of women and kids, a total number of 60. You can view our calendar of events through our social media page Spin Kings Kenya.
Community Awareness: Spin king has worked with many companies, and organizations to create awareness on issues that affect the community and environment with Seed Balls Kenya by planting seeds during the tour to Arusha. Donated books through the Watoto Na Mbuku campaign and spread awareness of Myasthenia Gravis, a chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, all this through cycling.
Road Safety: Early this year in January Spin Kings took up a CRS project to mark the Jogoo Road Cycling Lane from Church Army Stage to Buru Buru Junction a stretch of 7km. It was a partnership between Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), NTSA, Kenya Traffic Police, and the Cycling Community.
Road safety is key and a more inclusive infrastructure is needed especially when a bike is seen as a poor man’s mode of transport. Some cyclists may have doubts; about where they can park their bikes; am I safe.
This brings me to the question of how can we improve the cycling culture in Kenya? in my own opinion, I see such realities being met with collaborations with state corporations like The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), Where cycling can be encouraged through a more inclusive infrastructure, i.e., storage facilities within the train system? Meaning one can board the train with a bike. This allows cyclists to cycle freely upon exit of the train, promoting a healthy and less congested space.
As more places become more urbanized, public health is at the heart of many concerns and modern mobility solutions are needed. Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have embraced cycling as a way of life and this too can be possible in Kenya in the near future with the proper planning.
Cycling tourism is also another area to explore, some countries have had huge economic benefits due to cycling tours a good case study in a country like France.
Other areas that need discipline, patience, and understanding are the roads, at one point a person uses the car as a pedestrian, cyclist, rider, driver, and passage. We need more inclusive road policies that embrace different road users.
As I said goodbye to Spin Kings, one thing I liked was the atmosphere, it was filled with joyful sounds and a sense of freedom. I saw how the cyclists were in a sense being one with their bikes. They were all ready to have the wind blowing at their backs. Spin Kings Kenya is more than a community; it’s a family.
The Author is Wairimu Nyathira, a Sports Writer based in Nairobi.