are all the same type, though of different makes, often imported
from China. They were bought originally in Nairobi but are
now available in Mtoti Andei. A cheap version costs about
3000Ksh (£30) with more sophisticated versions up to
7,000 (£70). Jeremiah, ITDG's transport specialist,
says, "In the interior, away from the main road, you
can't really do anything without having a bicycle." We
talked to one of the shopkeepers in Mtoti Andei who sells
10 per month and reckons that they sell at least 50 per month
in the market where his shop is situated.
They have brakes, dynamo-powered lights but no gears, making
uphill journeys very hard work. They will often dismount when
faced by a small incline. There is a standard size bicycle
for both men and women. Some women are paravets, though the
majority are men. Bikes are used for all sorts of purposes
- carrying someone else sitting on the rack behind the saddle,
carrying materials to and from market, carrying water, carrying
firewood. Anything carried is usually tied to the back or
handlebars. They are "sit-up-and-beg bikes" with
heavy steering and no suspension. It is possible to buy improved
saddles with springs that cushion the bumps to a small extent.
They are a tough people - they need to be - so they are used
to the discomfort of riding over bumps etc. However, we would
think the bikes are very heavy, without any additional burden.
Tyres are standard pneumatic. This is a serious
problem since punctures are commonplace from the many thorns
that blow onto the tracks or are on the farms where the paravets
ply their trade. Repair kits can be expensive so, although
they can usually repair simple punctures, anything worse will
mean a long walk to have a repair done.
They don't usually have any carriers at the
front. Although they may carry produce there, it tends to
make steering more difficult, and it isn't easy at the best
of times. You don't see panniers either, though water cans
are carried either side of the rear wheel, tied to the rack.