Motorized Bicycles in Nairobi

Motorized bicycle in Nairobi

I was driving down a street in Nairobi today and did a double-take when I saw a man standing by a motorized bicycle. One u-turn (of questionable legality) later and I was chatting with Samuel Magethe, a local carpenter who does house calls. Apparently, he usually carries his toolbox and wood supplies on the back of the bicycle, though he didn’t have them with him today. He has used the bike for 2 years and says that it’s a great help to him as he gets older and has problems with the hills.

Motorized Bicycles in Kenya from WhiteAfrican on Vimeo.

I talked with Samuel for a while and found out that he had bought the engine and bicycle in downtown Nairobi. Since I had to go downtown anyway, I decide to hunt out the seller and see if I could get the background story on where the motors come from and the specs on them.

Julius - manager of the downtown branch for Adtec motorcycles

It turns out that the engines, and bicycles, are imported from the ADTEC Corporation in Japan. (As an aside, it appears that Adtec motorcycles are part of the big influx of Asian motorcycles being used as taxis in E. Africa.) It’s a 48cc 2-stroke engine that has a top speed of 40Kph (25mph). The tank can hold 2 litres of fuel and they claim that it gets 70 kilometres per litre.

You can buy the bicycle plus engine for 15,000 Ksh ($200) or just the motor for 10,000 Ksh ($135).

The company that sells them in Kenya, Adventure Technology Company Ltd, has their main office in downtown Nairobi, where they had their last two bikes that weren’t sold. In 2009 they imported 500 bicycles and sold them in their 13 branches across the country. The branch manager, Julius Lumumba, tells me it’s a good business, and they sell very quickly – especially up country in places like Kakamega, Bunguma and Kisumu.

Julius holding up an Adtec motorized bicycle in his shop in downtown Nairobi

Adtec Bicycle Engine

[Note: I forgot my cameras today, so I just had my iPhone to do the pictures/video with, thus the lower-res, sorry.]

Author: Erik Hersman

Erik is the owner of White African, a blog about technology and Africa. He is the co-founder of Zangu, a new web and mobile phone application that he hopes will change communication in Africa. AfriGadget is another web project of his, not that he doesn't have enough of those already...

4 thoughts on “Motorized Bicycles in Nairobi”

  1. Love it Erik, I have so been looking forward to a post on these amazing highspeed bikes that overtake cars in traffic! Fantastic – but why the hell doesn’t anyone wear a helmet? Also what are the legal implications – doesn’t his make it a ‘motorbike’? If so does the cyclist require a driving license?

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  3. Ive got something that looks like the exact same engine on my bike here in Sweden, its a great way of getting to work when the roads arent frozen.

    The engine is two stroke so you have to either buy gas with 4% oil mixed in or mix it yourself, i do it myself as my 1960 moped runs on the same stuff.

    CDI ignition, seems really reliable (a lot more reliable than my 1960s moped but i really should get it looked at by someone who know that kind of stuff 😛 ).

    The engine outputs power for lights.

    Ive talked to a local guy that sells these engine kits and have for a while, he says the only parts that really tends to wear are the pads in the dry clutch but they are really cheap(maybe 4 dollars) and easy to replace.

    If they wear out and the exact parts arent available im sure one could just cut some from a left over brake pad from a car or something similar, i thought id mention this because of this sites hacker mentality 🙂

    I bought a replacement kit of pads with my engine but i havnt needed to change them yet, ive been riding it spring, summer and autumn for two years whenever i dont need to travel more than maybe 15 kilometers but i have gone further a few times.

    On the fuel consumption i have to say that the estimate is a bit optimistic but there might just be something up with my carburetor even though ive taken it apart and cleaned it.

    A friend of mine has the 60cc variation and i think that it is overpowered for use on a regular bike frame as it has slightly bent the back of it, and it does about 60 km/h.

    As for legality, here it is illegal. It is an unregistered uninsurable motored vehicle and therefor can only be used on private propery.

    Ive never been bothered by law enforcement though, ive been passed by police vehicles several times as well as seen offices checking it out while it was parked outside the burger joint where i was eating at the time.

    I think it would be different if say, a 14 year old kid was on it, im a bearded 26 yo and almost always wearing yellow high visibility construction worker clothing and always a helmet when riding.
    (Here in Sweden you have to be 15 and get a sort of license for driving a moped if you bought the it after last summer, if you got it before that its alright as long as you are 15.)

    Most people smile when i pass by and a lot of older guys come up and want to chat about it as during the 60ies and 70ies Sweden had a lot of bicycles with engines that at the time were classified as mopeds and were legal.

    Those old ones are still legal but the new arent because of outdated rules and that the new engines arent regulated by our system yet, i dont know the full details. Bureaucracy ya know? 😛

    Anyways, this site is great and i will be following it from now on, i got here from Hackaday 🙂

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