Cycling For a Cause by Jesse Lemmen

Cycling For a Cause by Jesse Lemmen

I am not a naturally born cyclist. Although I was raised in the hilly South of the Netherlands I actually didn’t ride bikes much besides commuting to school and or to see  friends like everyone else. My father has always been an extreme cycling fanatic and as a typical teenager I was therefore interested in many other things but cycling. In 2021, during my first visit to Kenya, I became acquainted with the burgeoning Kenyan cycling community through the Great Migration Gravel race initiative.

On Instagram I reached out to Geoffrey Langat – one of the stage winners of the Great Migration, without realising how professional these guys actually are – and asked him the simple question: “Should I bring my cycling gear when I visit?” His simple response was “Yes.. please do”. Since then I have visited Kenya about 8 times (I have lost count) and spent hours and hours on the bike with young and old motivated locals to explore the green hills surrounding Eldoret. 

Now three years later we find ourselves at the onset of the Kenya Survivor Ride on Monday morning April 15th. Nineteen guys and one girl, 15 Kenyans and 5 Dutchies, were flagged-off from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Western Kenya. The route spans 575 kilometers, featuring 6000 meters of elevation gain, with planned stops at four local hospitals for welcoming receptions. A chase car, fully equipped with energy drinks, spare tubes, and emergency bandages, accompanies us, along with a videographer onboard to document our journey.

The aim of the journey was to raise awareness about childhood cancer in the country with 50 million inhabitants, approximately half of them children. In addition we wanted to link the different facilities involved with childhood cancer care and fundraise to kickstart a Kenyan childhood cancer survivor association.

Each day, we were greeted by dancing and singing hospital officials, accompanied by important local stakeholders, to discuss childhood cancer care in Kenya.Caregivers and childhood cancer survivors shared their testimonies to inspire and encourage both healthcare professionals and participating cyclists.

So far, we have managed to raise an impressive €8000, a sum that will go a long way to significantly improve survivorship care. Even though we were focused on a serious and impactful goal, the journey was about the roads leading us there.

We have passed unbelievably beautiful valleys, small sleepy towns, climbed steep hills, passed by some zebras and baboons and eventually found our ways through the chaotic highways and traffic of central Nairobi. During a five-day journey like this, a very strong camaraderie is formed. Young, enthusiastic students accompanied the oldest participant, a 63-year-old, during his toughest moments. We shared meals of rice and beans in a local eatery, surrounded by the vibrant energy of cheering children lining the roadsides.

We should not forget that Kenya is an upcoming cycling country. When you stay together as a group, you are able to teach the trucks and overtaking cars some road discipline. The tarmac is generally smooth, but there are still many potholes, bumps and loose chippings that require complete focus. When laughing and cheering, you may sometimes forget that there are still many road accidents happening every day. Servicing your bike is expensive and therefore most cycling enthusiasts use old spare parts that would be thrown away in Europe. 

This may sound taxing, but to me it has actually been very inspirational. We love to talk about sustainability. These guys and girls practice sustainability. Musa was proudly sporting a jersey from Kees’ Fietsshop Noordwijk that he bought at the local market. Stanley was so happy with two extra inner tubes because normally they would just glue the tubes several times until they fall apart. The lack of resources may be hindering, but it fosters an environment that encourages you to be inventive and creative, working together as a community.

If you would like to support this amazing initiative, then visit their website and contribute here! Kenya Survivor Ride