If you have overslept, run late in Kenya or gotten home at odd hours of the night, then you’ve most likely used a motorbike. Motorbikes, commonly known as ‘nduthis’ beat traffic, get to places where public service matatus don’t, and due to their increasing number, are often very affordable. The ride experience varies on who’s atop the bike however, and different riders will give you a different experience.

Older Riders

You’ll find them wearing three sweaters and gumboots even in Kenya’s sweltering hot season. Most will have older models of the bikes, two helmets, an old, unwashed reflector jacket. Mostly family men who need to put food on the table, they understand the need to keep their word, and charge a fair price. They’ll have a lot to say if you engage them though, so keep your thoughts to yourself unless you want a lengthy conversation.

Dirty boots isolated on white background

Younger Riders

They have mostly newer, flashier bikes, with mufflers on the exhaust and loud speakers playing Vybz Kartel, Mbogi Genje or Roots Reggae. They mostly have on Merrell open shoes, a vest and a beanie hat, no helmet, jacket or reflector, they clearly trust their tough exterior more than they trust helmets and boots. They mostly probably learnt to ride from their friends and if you’re willing to overlook the small issue that they don’t know, or care about road rules, then you will get you to your destination on time. They don’t have time for small talk, and any attempt at it will be met with nonchalant grunts. Also, they’d rather drive to Ngara from town to find an agent for you, than accept an M-pesa payment

Straight From Upcountry

These guys are probably the best riders, and most fair priced riders you will find. They will have on all the proper gear, and will follow all the rules, even when you are in a hurry and don’t care too much about driving on the pedestrian walkways. They are mostly escaping unemployment upcountry and are just happy to be making a living in Nairobi that doesn’t break their back or require them to be up at odd hours of the night. Their bikes are ‘covered by the blood of Jesus’ and will ask customers to ‘come tomorrow if they want services on credit’ or at least that’s what the numerous stickers on their bikes will say. They’ll accept M-pesa payment and probably thank you after you disembark.

Shifty Looking Characters

This category will mostly be wearing half office wear and half bike wear, and will ride up to a full bus stop and ask whether anyone is going to a faraway location. With a briefcase on the side and you aren’t sure if they are a bike messenger trying to make an extra coin, or soon-to-be-kidnapper. They’ll lower their asking price to match yours but will not entertain M-pesa payments. They are mostly office messengers who haven’t figured out how to turn their bike from an office asset to an money-making activity for them.

The Drunk-ish Gang

This is the funniest of the lot. You’ll probably find them at your hour of need. Their breathe, (and they love to give stories even when you communicate against it) will ensure you wear your mask, and they’ll need a lot of reminders on turns, on locations and on the price. They drive slow, despacio, no hurry in Africa for them. They’ll have loose change in dirty, crumpled fifities, and they’ll mosty have their m-pesa name written in small caps when you ask to send them the payment.

What have I missed? What other nduthi experiences have you had? Talk to me in the comments below

Categories: Short Reads


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