Kenyan bike-mechanic's homemade tools

Here's an inspiring video of Mohammed Makokha, a master bike mechanic in Nairobi who has designed and built a bunch of custom tools for repairing bikes.

Video of home made bicycle repair tools and gadgets in Nairobi


  1. I was going to make a truing stand in my metal shop class just never got around to it, It’s nothing special and is a simple concept. these people live in a third world country so we think of them as dumb? So if they do something like this, it’s really “inspirational”. I made a bike stand with adjustable clamp and everything like a stand you would buy, Can I have a article written about me? Oh wait, I don’t live in a third world country. So no one cares.

  2. well, I’m not being funny, but what’s so special? Yes, credit, he’s resourceful and made his own, but making a replica of a standard truing bench is pushing the “master bike mechanic” who “designs and builds custom tools” headline. In fact, what he build looks a bit like this one:
    For the really resourceful, keep the wheel in the fork, turn bike upside down, adjust brakepads to run very close to the rim, get out $1.99 spoke key, true away.

    1. Yes I agree generally. My preferred way of truing a back wheel (at least) is to use rope to suspend the bike from its seat. I have seen motorcycle mechanics in Malaysia improvising similar maintenance stands.

  3. Homemade truing stand FTW! Also, that is an excellent design for a spoke wrench- you never have to look for the right size again.

    The guy who is currently teaching me bike repair organizes bike tours all over the world. He meets people like this all the time.

  4. Hey look he made a park ts-2, it’s not like his truing stand or technique is new, innovating, or even that advanced. For his own sake he should probably replace that spoke wrench with a nice set that are comfortable to use. Coffeemoon’s suggestion of using the brakes to true works great, i’d like to suggest using a zip-tie cut down to size on a wheel without a rim brake.

    1. I think the point is that he may not have a Park Tools distributor in his immediate area. Wait, let me check the Park Tools site…nope, no distributors in Kenya.

      Also, like many people in the third world, he may not be able to afford a nice Park Tools truing stand. So he made his own.

  5. I disagree with these people. My whole world is parts fabrication, mostly for aviation but also for whatever comes up. Now I’m not familiar with custom bike tools at all. But just watching this sent me off on tangents of imaginary tools yet to be built. I love it…

  6. Sent an email to Pascal Katana, a Univ of Nairobi student who is building bicycle chargers for cell phones and to Paula Kuhumbu, the videographer of Mohammed, just to close the circle. Maybe those three will have something to talk about together.

    The ingenuity coming out of Africa is blowing me away. Young people like William Kamkwamba, the windmill boy from Malawi, are inspirations not only to Africans but to Americans as well. You should have seen how the students of MIT greeted him a month or so ago.

  7. I agree that the truing stand is nothing special, although it does look to be quite nicely made and he certainly seems to know how to use it.

    But that custom wrench for removing gear blocks is way impressive. The only thing is I can’t figure out how the heck it works!

    The video is maddeningly unclear on the details, but it seems to attach to the teeth of the gears — and you can’t remove a gear block like that. Turn it one way and it tightens; turn it the other and you’ll get no purchase because the gear block will freewheel. What you need to do is unscrew the locking device in the center of the block. And for that you need a specially shaped key (usually consisting of two-prongs or else a multi-pointed star — see here for an example).

    So if this guy’s wrench device works on any key shape, then that would be great! But how does it even transmit torque to the key/lockring? I can’t see that it even makes contact. (The block that he’s unscrewing in the video has obviously already been pre-loosened, so that doesn’t count.)


    (FWIW my best guess is that in proper use, that screw device orthogonal to the top face of the wrench is somehow tightened down onto the lockring so that the lockring ‘binds’ to the gear block. If you could do that, then freewheeling would be prevented and the whole assembly could be unscrewed.)

      1. Sork, thank you — that completely explains it then!

        (My road bike dates from the mid-80s, and somehow I’ve just never had any occasion to get up close and personal with one of these new-fangled Shimano cassette freehub things. So I learned something here today ^_^ )

  8. Neat. What I find most remarkable about this video, though, is the mechanic’s gentle patience with interviewer, who came off as rushed and subtly condescending to me.

    As an engineer, former bike shop employee and generally handy person, I’m going to borrow his line in response to “how did you come up with such a thing?” Namely, “You just look for a way”. Often, what more needs to be said? It’s a handy intermediate between blank stares and the detailed philosophical inquiry into the nature of work, human cognition, the scientific method and an introspection of your own problem solving quirks that it would take to actually answer that question.

  9. I’ve got a pretty similar truing stand in my basement. As far as I know, it was made by my grandfather, probably 50-60 years ago, so I’ve got prior art. ;)

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