The Importance of Bikes in Africa
Bicycles are a vitally important form of transport throughout Africa. If you're planning a cycling vacation, it's likely you'll be riding a quality mountain bike. But most of the bikes you'll be passing along the way, will be of the sturdy Chinese variety, with no gears. Despite the often hilly terrain, these bikes are strong enough to carry heavy objects, bring essential supplies to rural villages, act as taxis, and transport families to work and school. They are easy to fix, and do not require expensive gas that's often hard to find. They are more reliable than vehicles and don't require roads. (A list of charities supplying bikes to Africa can be found below).
Mountain Bike Safaris and Tours
Mountain bike safaris and tours are becoming increasingly popular on private game reserves in both Southern and East Africa. Mountain biking is also a popular sport in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Rwanda where the mountainous terrain and good roads offer wonderful active vacations. South Africa is a mecca for all cyclists. There are plenty of scenic routes to enjoy, both on and off the road, especially in the Cape Town area. See more below.
Recommended Bike Safaris and Tours
- iBike - Offers small group, guided cycling trips in Ghana, Uganda, Tunisia, Mali, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Botswana, Namibia, and Burkina Faso.
- World Bicycle Relief offers several trips a year in Zambia. Not only will you enjoy the Zambian landscape, but you'll also help build your bike and then deliver it to rural communities in need.
- Escape Adventures - A small company based in New Zealand specializes in mountain bike trips. They offer a 16 day East African adventure, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya. They also have a family-friendly option for the same route.
- Wildcat Bike Tours offer two mountain biking tours in Morocco that will appeal to the experienced mountain biker. They also offer tours to Tunisia, which they hope to resume in 2012.
- CycleActive offers mountain bike tours in Malawi and Ethiopia, for all levels of experience.
- Rwanda Adventures offers mountain bike tours throughout Rwanda, one of the best cycling destinations in Africa.
- The spectacular desert of north-west Namibia sets the scene for a 6 day mountain bike safari, popular with fit adventurers.
- Adventure Sport and Leisure company offers several 3 and 5 day mountain bike tours in Tanzania. Their itineraries include Lake Natron, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ngorongoro Highlands.
Best Time to Hop on a Bike in Africa
Biking holidays in Africa are best when it's dry and not too hot. Click here to get climate information for individual countries. East Africa biking trips are best in January - February and July - August. In North Africa, October and April are good months to go biking. In Southern Africa, the dry winter months from May to August are best. In West Africa, November and December work well because there's less dust, its dry, but it will always be hot!
Crossing Africa by Bike
There are quite a few adventurous people who choose to spend a year or three crossing the African continent by bike (some of their web sites are linked to below). And it usually takes that long unless you join up with Tour d'Afrique. Tour d'Afrique specializes in a cross-continent bike race, from Egypt all the way down to South Africa. That's a distance of almost 12,000 km (7,500 mi) and they do it in four months. You can join "legs" of the race, if you're not up to the whole trip. These include 1-2 week rides through Ethiopia. Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana and the Sudan. Read the blog to get race updates.
Cycling Across Africa Travelogues
If you plan to cross Africa on a bike there's nothing more valuable than information from those who have done it.
- Helen Lloyd, Take on Africa - Helen maintains an excellent site with regular updates, photos and lots of practical information to inspire others. She's en route from London to Cape Town and has been on the road since 2009. She's expected to arrive in Cape Town around February 2011 (ish). Helen is raising money for the Welbodi Partnership.
- Eric and Amaya cycled over 40,000 km's through Africa.. Their site is a fantastic cycling resource. It includes comprehensive information about routes, gear and surviving the open road. Read their Top 10 Myths About Cycling in Africa. They are raising money for World Bicycle Relief.
- The Big Africa Cycle's, Peter Gostelow has been on the road since August 2009. His site has lots of valuable information on West Africa along with wonderful photos. He's riding to raise money for the Against Malaria Foundation.
Bicycles can change lives, here's a list of charities that could use your support.
- World Bicycle Relief
- Village Bicycle Project
- Bikes Without Borders
- Bicycles for Humanity
- Bicycling Empowerment Network
Mountain Bike and Road Bike Races in Africa
Road races are common in South Africa, the famous Cape Argus Cycle Tour draws over 40,000 riders from all over the world, to enjoy this scenic route every year. There are hundreds of smaller races held throughout South Africa and Botswana year round, some for fun, some professional. Adventure Racing SA has all the details. The biggest mountain bike race in Africa is also held in South Africa - the Absa Cape Epic.
Mount Kenya 10 - 4 - Organized by the Mount Kenya trust, this race is held annually to raise funds for local communities and conservation efforts on Mount Kenya.
Tour de Wilderness -- a 5 day mountain bike tour through some of South Africa's finest game parks, helping to raise money for villages close to Wilderness safari properties.