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Enkuto Eratukura #8: Unbeaten Bike

An Eastman bike parked outside of the fabric shop in Kabale. I want one.
Monday 6th April 2015 - 5.00pm

In terms of my health, today was a real low-point. I’d never really felt as poorly as I did on this day on any occasion I’d visited Uganda. I was feeling tired and struggling to hold a meaningful conversation.

Call it paranoia, but having read about Fausto Coppi’s demise at the hands of Malaria, and all of the health checks we had been subjected to in association with the Ebola outbreak, I was feeling a little worried.

I had been drinking a tonic water a day just in case I had malaria and had been taking a heady cocktail of pills and locally-sourced throat sweets too. I was living in the hope that whatever it was would clear soon before the paranoia became as intolerable as my raw throat.

I drifted down with the group into Kabale town, feeling pretty ropey, and opted to wear my kaffiyeh again, today in order to protect my neck from the intensity of the midday heat. As we passed Dave from Coombeshead and saw the colour he had rapidly turned, I was happy with this decision.

We ambled to the Royal Supermarket via the long route, searching for lunch en route at the Hot Loaf bakery which, this year, had only a rather limited selection of cakes available. After this, and stocking up on a few dozen more throat sweets, I led the group towards the fabric shop.

Kabale’s high street, or main street, was clearly in the process of getting a major upgrade. Trees had been felled at the roadside and certain areas of land cleared. There appeared to be money flowing into the area’s infrastructure, that much was clear.

New buildings, and more typically ‘Western-looking’ buildings, were emerging at the roadsides. Also a couple of enormous advertising hoardings had been erected at both ends of the street.

Jas waxed lyrical, in his own inimitable style, saying that he believed that there were more modern cars on the streets than the last time he had visited Kabale back in 2011.

On our walk what caught my eye the most was actually an Eastman bicycle parked outside the fabric shop; dusty, beaten, yet perfect for the job of riding around these rough muddy red roads.

Aside from a robust looking steel frame and tyres of a mighty width, there were a couple of interesting features. Most noticeably there were no cables on the bike. All of the brakes were connected by a series of steel rods and pulleys.

The rear brakes sat parallel to the crankshaft and were also connected by rods. Both the front and rear brakes wrapped over the tyres and rubbed the rims further inward than on regular road bike brakes.

Obviously the bike was single speed for ease of maintenance, but did boast an extra-long chain by way of compensation, and, again, that seemed quite chunky. 

The seat had seen better days, the wheels and mudguards appeared to be a little buckled and the chain looked close to the end of its useful life, but I loved it. I would actually love one for riding around the streets of Islington or commuting to work on.

As the afternoon sunshine sank slowly away, I dreamed of buying an Eastman bike for myself before I snapped out of my daydream and we headed back up to Green Hills for our dinner.

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