Africa is a continent ripe for exploration on two wheels, offering every kind of cycling experience imaginable. From long hauls on desert roads to jungle tracks and mountain passes, Africa’s landscape forms a cycling mecca – but there are some important things you should know before embarking on a trip to this vast continent.
In this post, we’ll run through everything you need to know about cycling in Africa in order to make your trip a success – whatever kind of cycling adventure you want to experience.
A common misconception amongst travellers is that Africa’s roads are almost all impassable and of poor quality. While there are many examples of poor infrastructure across the continent, it doesn’t mean that the whole of Africa suffers from poor road quality that’ll affect your cycling trip.
In fact, the route between Cairo and Cape Town is almost all paved – with a few exceptions – meaning a trans-continental ride can be completed on a hybrid bike instead of a wholly off-road- ready bike with full suspension.
What to pack
It goes without saying that Africa’s large stretches of wilderness make it an alluring destination for a multi-day cycle tour. However, whether you’ve opted for the Sahara or the Serengeti, it’s unlikely that there’ll be roadside assistance imminently available should the worst happen to your bicycle. Make sure to pack plenty of cycling equipment – everything from extra inner tubes to air pumps and spare derailleur hangers – to make sure you’re not left stranded hundreds of kilometres from the next town.
You should also take the climate into consideration. A shady sun hat is a must in all areas of Africa, but if you’re hitting the highlands of Kenya or Lesotho then you’ll need thermals, as the temperature will drop the higher you climb. Don’t forget a solid raincoat as well as mudguards on your bike if you’re riding through Equatorial Africa during rainy season.
If you’re crossing borders, then be sure to pack some US dollars to pay visa processing fees which will be mandatory at almost every border crossing. Purchasing your visas in advance is another solid option if you want to avoid being overcharged, which is sadly a common occurrence.
Vaccinations and preparation
Many African states are volatile places that are simply not safe for a touristic visit. These include the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia, North East Nigeria, South Sudan and Chad, amongst others. It’s advisable to check the UK Home Office’s travel guidelines before planning a route through any African country – although the vast majority of Africa is safe and hospitable, you can’t be too careful when passing near active conflict zones.
Vaccination is also very important, as there are a number of diseases that Europeans are highly susceptible of. Contact your local doctor a few months before your trip for medical advice and you’ll receive vaccines for the most common diseases such as typhoid, cholera, yellow fever and rabies – alongside other region-specific vaccines.
All these precautions might make Africa seem a daunting destination for a cycling holiday, yet once you’re there we’re sure you’ll fall in love with the huge variety the continent offers tourists on two wheels. Whether you’re touring the Atlas Mountains in Morocco or organising a cycling safari, you’ll leave with unforgettable memories and an increased affinity for this glorious continent and its people.
Alex Jones is a features writer for Start Fitness – providers of running, cycling, gym, football and
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