Tradition dictates we meet up in Karen at the Tin Roof Café and leave promptly, two hours late. From there, we gamble our lives through the snarl of traffic, potholes and road works to Ngong and Kiserian where we fuel up and find out which bike is misbehaving this year. There’s always at least one. Once past Kiserian, we can relax and start enjoying the ride and the spectacular scenery. At Cona Baridi, on the southern shoulder of the Ngong Hills, we catch a glimpse down to the valley where the lonely Magadi Road snakes its way through the Olorgesailie basin where our ancient hominin ancestors roamed a million years ago.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride – DGR – is a global fundraiser where guys (and gals) with vintage/ classic/cool one-off bikes get together once a year, dress up and do a loop of their city in the name of prostate cancer research and men’s mental health.
The DGR, as it’s also known brought together over 116,000 riders in 678 cities in 2019, and raised nearly six million USD for the cause. It’s a chance for classic bike fanatics to dress snazzy, show off their rides, and have a good time for a great cause. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride – DGR – is a global fundraiser where guys (and gals) with vintage/classic/cool one-off bikes get together once a year, dress up and do a loop of their city in the name of prostate cancer research and men’s mental health.
A typical DGR ride starts at a central point in a city and makes its way around the main streets, stopping periodically at cafes and restaurants along the way. In Kenya things don’t always work out the way they’re expected to. So, 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 to Magadi, one of Kenya’s hottest, driest places, stay the night at the Lake Magadi Tented Camp and return the following day.
Roaring past Olepolos, the fantastic nyama choma joint perched high above the plains, we descend along the southern flank of Mt. Esakut to our lunch spot under a now familiar roadside thorn tree. It’s a chance to doff jackets, check bikes and chow down. The support cars open up and sandwiches and drinks pour out.
Appetites sated, it’s usually a straight shot to Magadi after lunch. The mercury rises steadily with every kilometre as we descend to our destination at 600 meters, so barring mechanical hiccups, we keep the throttles open and eat up the kilometers. By the time we see the lake, it’s usually well over 40C and we are all very keen to hit the swimming pool and bar at the TATA sports club.
Having cooled off, a sub-set of bikers splits off from the main group to continue the ride. Heading south from Magadi town, we explore the dried, salt encrusted flood plains and climb the ragged, dusty hills before pausing at an overlook to watch the evening sun burn itself out over the Nguruman Escaprment in the distance. Flamingos dance on the mirror-still lake below and Mt. Shompole becomes a silhouette on the horizon. We always return in darkness, following the bobbing of our headlights (if they’re working) in pitch blackness to the distant lights of camp, the bar and a hearty meal. This year, the Magadi Tented Camp organized a real feast for us with Indian dishes and roast mbuzi. It was a great way to end the day.
Sunday is the actual start of the DGR, so up with the birds and having broken the fast, we head over to the Magadi Total station to add go-juice to our steeds. Rumbling out of town, spooking flamingos feeding in the acrid ponds, we head for Oltepesi, a dusty place half way back to Nairobi where the official DGR begins and we meet up with anyone who didn’t partake in the overnight part of the ride.
From there, the group begins the steady climb back up to Cona Baridi. This becomes another test for the equipment as some of the hills are very steep, and stopping to let the oldest bikes cool before setting off again is not uncommon. Dressed in fancy – but not overly protective – gear, we take it easy on this section and claw our way back through the manic traffic of Rongai on our way to the Ngong Racecourse where bikes and riders make an appearance at the Concours d’Elegance, the official end-point of the ride. Pulling in dusty and happy after another hot, sweaty ride is a fantastic way to end the DGR, Nairobi-style.