Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey (Video)

The Kenya Bike Odyssey is a 1000-kilometer cycling safari through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Africa, and it’s Kenya’s first long-distance cycling route. This film documents the story of how the route was made…

Formerly known as the Trans-Kenya Bikepacking Route, the Kenya Bike Odyssey is a new route that launched earlier this week. We were excited to publish this one, and it was immediately added to dozens of Bucket Lists, no doubt. When Tristan approached us about publishing this epic undertaking, he had already created a video documenting the making of the route to provide a backstory. Find that below, followed by a short interview with Tristan featuring a few questions we had about his experience creating the Kenya Bike Odyssey.

How’d you meet Eric Nesbitt?

As part of my ride from Cairo to Cape Town, I was fundraising for a charity, Build Africa, and I gave several talks about my journey along the way to encourage donations and spread awareness. Eric attended one of the talks I gave in Nairobi, and after I’d finished, he very kindly offered to give my bike a service. He also helped me plan out the rest of my route towards Uganda. We met up several more times in Nairobi and stayed in touch long after I’d left. It was that initial month I spent in Kenya—riding trails that Eric had suggested—that made me want to put a bikepacking route together there in the first place. When I finally had the opportunity to go back, Eric was the first person I called. I asked if he’d be interested in working together on the project. He was immediately in, and the route was born.

Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey video

Is the Kenyan cycling community excited about the route?

I put this question to Eric, as he’s in a better position to answer it than I am. Here’s what he had to say: “Although the cycling community is growing fast in Kenya, until now, very few have been involved in bikepacking, with most people driving out to destinations, base-camping, and then riding out from there on day trips. A big part of the reason for this is simply due to the lack of any real long-distance bikepacking route options, as well as a lack of exposure to the concept of bikepacking in general. Reception to the Kenya Bike Odyssey has been extremely positive, so we’re hopeful that with the release of the Kenya Bike Odyssey, we’ll start seeing more Kenyans giving bikepacking a go!”

Tell us about some of Eric’s other routes and cycling efforts in Kenya.

Eric runs a fantastic bike shop in Nairobi and organises a lot of group rides in and around Nairobi. However, his main passion is running the Rift Valley Odyssey, a multi-day mountain bike race that takes place once every year in September, at the height of migration season. The race looks absolutely incredible, and I really hope I get the chance to ride it one day! Eric also runs several shorter races and bike safari events throughout the year (one of them literally involves mountain biking down Mount Kilimanjaro), so I’d highly suggest checking out his website for some more of the amazing projects he’s involved in.

  • Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey video
  • Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey video

People who haven’t cycled in Africa might be a little intimidated at the prospect of tackling such a ride. Do you have any recommendations on how to approach a trip like this one?

I think many people have preconceptions about what Africa will be like, with safety concerns, in particular, being common. This is totally understandable, as Africa in general is very misunderstood in the West. But, the reality is very different, and my advice would absolutely be just to go for it. Your fears and concerns will fade away very quickly once you actually get to Kenya and realise what an amazing, exciting place it is and how incredibly friendly and welcoming the Kenyan people are.

Security issues are always possible no matter where you are in the world, but I honestly don’t think that Kenya is much different to Europe, North America, or most anywhere else when it comes to this. Kenya does have certain parts of the country where safety is an issue, but the route gives these a wide berth. I’ve cycled through a few genuinely dangerous places over the years, and Kenya doesn’t even rank for me in this. I feel much more comfortable there than in certain parts of Europe. Being a little intimidated by the idea of an adventure in Africa is totally understandable, but don’t let your worries hold you back!

Other than Kenya, what were some of your other favorite places on the African continent during your big ride there?

People often talk about “Africa” like it’s a country, but obviously, it’s an enormous continent with a huge amount of variety. Egypt stands out for its food, history, pyramids, and temples. Sudan for the vastness of the Sahara Desert and the astonishing kindness of the Sudanese people. Uganda was gorgeous, and I miss eating Rolexes for breakfast. In Tanzania, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Botswana for the brilliant people I met there, the endless wilderness, the elephant encounters, and the leg-sapping sprint races with wild ostriches on the road. Namibia for its sense of space and solitude, and for the bucket-list vistas at Sossusvlei. South Africa for the feeling of pure joy and relief at finally sighting the outline of Table Mountain on the horizon, and Cape Town for being one of my favourite cities in the world. Africa is such a special continent, and once you’ve spent time there, it has a way of pulling you back in. I don’t know exactly when, but I have no doubt that sooner or later I’ll be back.

Kenya Bike Odyssey Bikepacking Route

Did you have any encounters with animals that were borderline scary? Any tsetse flies?

I wouldn’t say I’ve had any serious scares with wildlife in Africa, although I did once have an elephant start stomping towards me when I perhaps had gotten a little too close. That definitely got the heart thumping, but I was still a fair distance away, and when I quickly backed away from it to give it more space, the elephant calmed down and let me go. Generally speaking, as long as you keep a respectful distance from wild animals and use common sense, you’ll be fine. People often worry about lions, leopards or hyenas, but the reality is that sightings of these animals are incredibly rare, and incidents involving humans are rarer still. The biggest scares I’ve had with animals whilst cycling were all outside of Africa; most notably coming face-to-face at close range with a brown bear in northern Hungary, and various encounters with enormous bear-sized dogs whilst crossing Tibet.

As for tsetse flies, yes. Unfortunately, I’ve had the (dis)pleasure. I didn’t see any in Kenya, but a cloud of hundreds of them terrorised me for a full 60 kilometres of cycling in a forest in Tanzania, three straight hours of attack with no hope of escape. If you’ve encountered them, you know. Rather than tsetse flies, I’d prefer mosquitos, midges, ticks, leeches, sandflies, horseflies, and virtually anything else I can think of. Tsetse flies really are the worst.

Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey video

Tell us a little about the bike you rode on this route. If you were going to ride it again, would you bring the same bike?

I rode the route on a Surly ECR, rigid fork, and 29 x 2.6″ tyres. The 29 x 2.6″ platform I used was a great choice, although wide tyres aren’t really necessary for this route. The ECR did great and was a fantastic choice for it, but if (when) I ride it again, I know I’ll be even happier to be on my current bike, a hardtail Tout Terrain Outback Xplore. The Kenya Bike Odyssey is very rough in places, so a suspension fork is definitely a good idea, as it’ll let you have a lot more fun on the descents than if you’re going fully rigid, even with plus tyres. My Outback also comes with a Pinion C1.12 gearbox drivetrain and a carbon belt drive instead of a chain. This would have been a big help in Kenya; the year we were there was extremely dry and dusty, so we were having to clean out our drivetrains at the end of almost every day, whereas with a Pinion and belt, this isn’t necessary at all. Either way, I’d really recommend low gearing, as there are some tough climbs on this route!

You rode the Jordan Trail and made a film about that trip (which we featured on the site). How is the Kenya route and experience different (or similar) to that one?

I think the routes and experiences are very different, but it’s potentially difficult for me to properly assess why this is. Whereas in Jordan I was just following a route somebody else had made, in Kenya, I was putting together an entirely new route of my own. I definitely find that route development innately has a different feel than following an existing GPX, so my comparisons are inevitably clouded by this. That said, Jordan and Kenya are very different places and the vibe is therefore dramatically different in each. Jordan felt a lot quieter, more isolated and remote, although part of this may have been due to the fact that I was there in the middle of winter. Kenya is much more colourful, and you’ll meet more people, although of course there are big swathes of wilderness and remoteness there as well. I’d easily rate both the Jordan Bike Trail and the Kenya Bike Odyssey among my favourite bikepacking routes in the world, so I consider myself very lucky to have ridden both!

Making of the Kenya Bike Odyssey video

Do you have any other big rides planned?

I’m heading to Cyprus next month and will be looking to put together another new route out there, so stay tuned for that. Afterwards, I’ll probably be in Southern Europe for most of the winter, and possibly Morocco if I can make it work. When Covid-19 first hit, I was in Patagonia, in the process of cycling up to the top of North America from Ushuaia, and the pandemic eventually forced me to bail out back to the UK. So, I feel I have some unfinished business. Starting in the summer of 2023, I’m hoping to resume that journey, albeit in the opposite direction, riding south from Alaska and spending the next few years making it back down through the Americas to Argentina. My original goal when I started my round-the-world trip was to cycle 100,000 kilometres through 100 countries, and I still have around 34,000 kilometres and 34 countries to cover, so there’s a long way to go!

Kenya Bike OdysseyThe Kenya Bike Odyssey features 1,000 kilometres of dirt roads and singletrack. Starting in Nairobi, it roams through an array of landscapes, with everything from high mountains, verdant forests, picturesque lakes, rugged windswept plains, red sands, and enormous swathes of wild savannah. Combined with the opportunity to experience the rich and varied Kenyan culture and cycle amongst abundant wildlife such as zebras, giraffes, antelopes, warthogs, and elephants, this route offers an experience not found anywhere else in the world. Find the full route guide here.

Related Content

Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...



Bikepacking Videos


Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.

Share This

Thanks in advance for spreading the word!