It's been a long process, but I'm delighted to say that the Kenya Bike Odyssey (KBO) bikepacking route is now published and ready to ride. You can see the full route details HERE. The full-length documentary film showcasing the route and the development process is also live, you can watch it on YouTube HERE and it's also embedded at the bottom of this page.
An excerpt from the write-up, which summarises the route:
The Kenya Bike Odyssey is a true African epic, featuring 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...
I'd dreamed up the idea a few years ago with my friend Eric Nesbitt, a Kenyan whom I'd met on my first visit to the country, whilst cycling Cairo to Cape Town, and then in January 2021, I flew out to Nairobi along with another friend, Gretel Henke, to spend three months scouting out and then fine-tuning the route, which we had initially been referring to as 'The Trans-Kenya Bikepacking Route', before eventually changing the name to 'The Kenya Bike Odyssey) much later on in the process. We just about managed to complete the route in time before flying back to Europe, and my plan had been to get everything written up over the following few weeks in the UK. I also had around 150 gigabytes of video footage that I'd taken in Kenya which needed editing into a documentary, so I knew I had a lot of computer time ahead of me.
I had been hoping to get the project completed fairly quickly, but sadly life had other plans and my father passed away the day after I returned to England. He died unexpectedly, leaving behind a big mess, and a lot of work to do, not to mention a family to look after. My life immediately went on indefinite hold, and the KBO with it. The rest of my year was manically busy, and it wasn't until early 2022 that I finally had some spare time to devote to putting it together.
Designing a route in Kenya is very different to anywhere else I've ever been, as it comes with some major and unique challenges. Because so much of Kenyan land is privately owned, we were working with several private conservancies, where special permissions and rates had to be negotiated for cyclists on the route. Nothing happens quickly in Africa, so this ended up being quite a lot of work. With 2022 being an election year, something that always seems to stir up trouble in Kenya, there was also a minor conflict that erupted in one region, which meant we had to rework the route to bypass the proximate area due to safety concerns. All of this took time, and then it was also a fairly long process getting the route published, as the KBO is a major route and bikepacking.com wanted to do their due diligence before going live.
On top of this was the small matter of editing together almost 1000 video clips into a feature-length documentary film, something I'd never done before. I have no formal training in filmmaking, and prior to putting together the documentary for Kenya my longest video was only a little over 10 minutes long. My previous videos were also far more basic, so there was a steep learning curve for me. The finished film is far from perfect, but overall I'm pretty happy with it, as I think it does a good job of showcasing the route and demonstrating part of what is so special about Kenya. I learned a lot from making it, and I know that my future films are going to be a lot better (especially when it comes to audio quality for interviews) as a result, so the experience was worthwhile for that alone.
The whole project has taken an enormous amount of time and effort, so it's a great relief to finally have it published, but I'm also immensely proud of what Eric and I have created. Blood, sweat, and tears have gone into making it, and the result is something completely unique, a bikepacking route that I'm confident easily ranks amongst the best in the world. I have received so many messages over the last few weeks from cyclists excited to get out and ride it, so I can't wait to see how everyone gets on. Kenya is such a spectacular and magical place, so I'm incredibly happy that more people will now have the chance to discover it for themselves.