If you were tasked with listing down 5 good things that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, you would probably get stuck. For Steve Muchai, however, the pandemic period helped him to discover a new passion and a great way to bond with his children. It all started when Steve discovered that he had gained weight during this period. With all the restrictions, he involuntarily became less physically active. He sought to find a way to exercise, and that’s when he discovered Spin Kings, a wonderful cycling community. This helped him to rekindle his relationship with cycling, and he fell in love with it once more.
Steve introduced his son to cycling and was shocked to see how good he was at it. Since then, cycling has proven to be extremely beneficial to the engineer and his children. They have reached great milestones together and had an opportunity to tour various parts of Kenya.
We caught up with Steve Muchai to find out more about cycling and the Spin Kings community.
1. When did your love for cycling begin?
As a young boy, I cycled a lot. My first “real” bike was a 10-speed mountain bike I got at 11 years old. I rode it mainly around the tea plantations in Limuru where I grew up until my early adulthood at about 20 years old. During my college years, I rode from Limuru to Nairobi a few times and took part in the Uvumbuzi Bikeathlon to Magadi.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, I gained a lot of weight. I decided to go back to cycling to regain my fitness. I met the founders of the Spin Kings group, and after my son and I rode with them a few times, we became totally hooked. My daughter rides with us as well, although she joined boarding school this year.
2. What profession are you in, and does it tie in with cycling?
I’m a telecoms engineer working with one of the world’s largest telecommunications solutions companies. The job has very little to do with cycling.
3. How do you juggle the two?
Before COVID-19 hit I spent over 80% of my time travelling across the world to work, but now I spend my typical day working from home. I’m able to ride during some mornings or afternoons during the week. I rarely work on weekends, so it’s manageable.
Although we’ll continue working mainly from home for the foreseeable future, I expect I’ll be cycling to the office whenever we resume working there.
4. Why cycling and not any other sport?
Cycling is my first love. It has really helped me regain my fitness. I never imagined I could cycle for long distances, but now I find doing over 100km is a breeze. I did struggle with my weight for a while, but once I started cycling over the 100km mark in a single ride, the kilos just melted away within weeks.
I actually play basketball, and I wish there was a well-organized veterans league here. I’m planning to reach out to others who I played with in the league in the mid to late 90s to see what we can do about that. I find golf absolutely boring, but I do swim a bit. It’s a bit of a tie between cycling and basketball for me.
5. Tell us a little about Subaru Spin Kings.
When I joined Spin Kings I realized there’s always a need for a chase car during Saturday beginners’ rides (to support the kids and any beginner who gets tired). Again, during our long Sunday rides when some riders are prone to “bonking”. My red Subaru Outback is always in use as a chase car. It has become almost synonymous with the Spin Kings. It’s now easily the most recognizable car to cyclists especially around Nairobi, even though it’s not the only chase car we use. I’ve heard it described as “ile Subaru ya Spin Kings”.
One outstanding thing about the Spin Kings is that we never leave anyone behind. We have encountered cyclists in need of help, who are not part of our group. The last incident occurred a few weekends ago when a cyclist crashed on the Thika – Kilimambogo road. I gave consent for my car to take a detour and get him to the hospital and later back home safely with his bike – even though he’s not part of our group.
6. Your son recently took part in a cycling event in Muranga. Tell us about that.
Anthony has become an elite-level cyclist at a very young age – he’s just about to turn 17. The Muranga race on 30th January was the first in a series of qualifiers for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. He was grouped with many adults and emerged the overall winner in the semi-elite category, taking the Under-21 title. We’re waiting to see when the next race in the series will be.
7. Which other achievements has he had from cycling?
Actually, this wasn’t his first big victory. On November 21st 2021, he won the under-18 category at the Nairobi City Festival on Wheels, and the next weekend he triumphed again at the last race in the Migration Gravel Race series in Kajiado.
8. How did his love for cycling begin?
Anthony has always loved cycling since he was young, although that was confined to casual rides around the estate. When we started riding with the Spin Kings, he did his first 100-plus kilometre ride one Sunday and I couldn’t keep up. I had to turn back, ride home and pick the car to go chase the group. That’s actually how the whole “Spin Kings Subaru” thing began.
Ben and Levyne of the Spin Kings quickly noticed his talent and allowed him to join the semi-elites every Sunday and since then he’s progressed tremendously.
He’s a day scholar, and I usually drop him off with one bike and he rides back home in the evening. During our beginners’ rides, he acts as a marshal for the young kids – he’s very good with children.
9. How have you supported his talent?
I have supported him by upgrading our equipment, from a simple size 26 hybrid to a 27.5 mountain bike, a light aluminium road bike, and most recently a 29er mountain bike and a full carbon-fibre road bike. Plus an indoor trainer. I continue to make sure he’s able to attend all events that he’s interested in.
I also try to help him maintain a balance between his studies and cycling. But I’m far from the only support system he has. He’s surrounded by more experienced cyclists who are helping to mentor him and keep him focused.
10. How important is it to you that your son develops sports talents?
It’s very important. Sports has a way of enhancing discipline, increasing focus and confidence. With all the negative influences surrounding our kids today, this is a great way of keeping him occupied as well as keeping him healthy. There’s also the possibility that he could earn a living by going into professional sports, which would be great – getting paid to do something he enjoys doing.
11. You recently participated in Individual Time Trial Test. Tell us a little about that.
ITT is a race format where participants are racing against the clock. When you start of a stopwatch or other timing mechanism is triggered. After the race, one’s total time is compared to the other competitors’ times and the ranking is decided based on this. It was a fun, yet challenging activity for me. I’m glad I got out of my comfort zone to try something new.
12. What would you want cycling to do for you? What are your aspirations in this cycling journey?
Having missed out on part of my children’s earlier years, I hope cycling will continue giving me opportunities to spend quality time with them. I’m especially proud that we’ve cycled to Mombasa, will soon cycle to Arusha and hope to continue creating memories that will last a lifetime.
I want to continue keeping fit and healthy too. I also want to contribute towards road safety for cyclists and pedestrians as we advocate for non-motorized transport to be prioritized. I hope to inspire more people to take up cycling, and since it is environment-friendly, I believe we’re making an impact on our climate.
I am a passionate 22 year-old writer. I consider myself a young free-spirited soul whose personality is a mixture of introversion and extroversion. I’m a strong believer in the law of attraction. Everything is a reflection.