A [uni]Cyclists Identity

While watching for the second time a younger brother die of cancer last year I made a resolution to work less, live more and spend more time with my children.

So 2012 would be a year of holidays A New Zealand climbing holiday with my youngest son, an African cycle safari with the whole family and an off-road motorbike trip with my middle son

A few months before the African cycle safari my eldest son developed epilepsy and was not strong enough for Africa My wife volunteered to stay behind and mind Tomas I would go with our other two sons Sven and Johan All holidays are special, but the African safari was something exceptional We flew to Nairobi, in Kenya, and cycled down to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania EscapeAdventures.co.nz organised the tour and had a four wheel drive bus to transport all of our gear Theresa and Tim were on bikes, leading the tour for 9 clients, introducing us to the local specialties and providing us with nutritious and delicious food.

Sven Johan and I all ride unicycles, so naturally, we took the large, 36 inch, unicycles to Nairobi for the trip We were so excited in Nairobi and couldn’t wait to hit the trails on our unicycles, although we were also a bit daunted by the distances that we would need to cycle As a backup, Sven and Johan also had EscapeAdventures mountain bikes I didn’t have a backup, but my unicycle had gears, which makes it easier to travel longer distances On the longest day we cycled 103Km, but the hardest days were 65-85Km in the Usambara Mountains and Mt Kilimanjaro foothills

I expected the cycling with my sons to be the highlight of the trip That was extreme fun and rewarding However we all had special enjoyment from interacting with the local African culture Two of our camp sites were within the grounds of maasai villages, and we were accommodated with such warmth and sincerity it was humbling The maasai people live with such simplicity and harmony with the environment and they appear so content and happy There is so much we can learn from their simple and sustainable way of living Within these camps, and all along the way, we were brought into conversations with the Africans who were intrigued by us (Mzungu) and our form of transport I am left with many images of lovely African children and adults showing such delight in their interaction with us Most Africans hadn’t seen unicycles before, which added another level of intrigue

As much as I enjoyed the climbing and motorcycle trips, it was only the cycling safari that allowed us to interact and mix with such an interesting and different culture It’s only by living in other cultures that you can truly understand your own culture I am now wondering who might be up to a cycle tour through China, Vietnam or some other country with an opportunity to learn from other peoples.

Richard Lees. 

Richard and his family are dear friends of ours who share the spirit of adventure and a passion for happy healthy lives and a happy healthy planet. Siting in Manly just days before the World By Cycle expedition kicked off Richard talked excitedly about these possibilities of unicycling in either Africa or China; we were so over the moon when we heard he was headed for Nairobi and were stoked to read about his experience – so we asked Richard to share a story on our blog. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and that some of you may step in for the Asian experience, Nic.


  • susan arney

    What a truly fantastic experience for you all! I can’t imagine the joy you have left in your wake with the many people who had the opportunity to see you on your unicycles…they are possibly still scratching their heads in wonder & amazement!I don’t think you will be short of offers to join you on your next adventure but don’t count on me… 🙂

  • Ali Ambridge

    Loved being with you and your family Richard and would definitely think about Vietnam….have already mooted the idea with Meike (Maria)……….