FINANCE YOUR TRIP AND MAKE YOUR SAVINGS LAST
See the post 10 TIPS FOR FINANCING A LONG BIKE TRIP.
THE CHOICE OF YOUR BIKE
My bike became my best travel companion! I bought it in Europe, and yes, I’ll bring it back with me at the end of each trip!
In Africa you can find bikes but they are of lower quality and good bikes are hard to find and more expensive, it’s better to take it with you in the plane, even if most airlines will charge you for that.
I’ve been advised in several bike shops in Barcelona and I also read blogs of travelers by bike to help me to find a good bike. I choose the American brand Surly, and I do not regret. I also equipped it with marathon plus tires, which have lasted quite long. I changed my rear tire 2 times and I had about thirty punctures in total (but especially at the rear) for 14358km.
If you need a spare part, the more commun your bike is, the easier it will be to repair it on the spot: tire size, type of brakes, etc. Remember to take some spare parts but do not load you unnecessarily either. Ask for advice at a bike shop or read several blogs of bicycle travelers to have multiple opinions depending on the type of bike you are traveling with.
LEARN HOW TO REPAIR IT!!!
Very important! How to repair a puncture, to change the brakes and the chain. I learnt the basics through YouTube, before leaving and on the spot with the help of other cyclists I met along the way! I bring with me tools and some spare parts. I can not take everything either. It is possible to find bike shops in most major cities.
WHICH ROUTE AND HOW TO FIND INFORMATION
Before I left, I already had an idea of my itinerary that I then adapted according to the time available and advice from other travelers. As I had time, I was able to do everything by bike and really take the time to rest, go at my pace and even make detours! I think it’s good to leave time for improvisation, do not plan everything in advance, be flexible!
Now with social medias, it is easy to find recent information from travelers who made the same trip. I helped a lot with photos of Instagram for example and thanks to that, I also knew other cyclists on the same route, some in front and some behind me! I also read some blogs even if the information dated back a few years, the roads and landscapes have not changed too much.
A handy tool is maps.me, although there are some improvements to be made in maps of some countries like Sudan for example, it has been very useful for planning throughout the trip. Maps are downloadable and are then available offline.
START THE GOOD SEASON
This is also why I was “in a hurry” to leave, I wanted to avoid hot weather in Sudan at all costs. The last 15 days there were still very difficult, with more than 45 degrees celsuis!
I have not been able to avoid the rainy season in many countries, the dry season falls rather during the summer in Europe when I have to work.
It is not easy anyway when you go for a long trip to have the ideal season in all countries.
FOOD, CARRY A STOVE OR NOT?
Cyclists eat a lot! Basil, a very nice Swiss guy I cross in Namibia even told me, “we only do that: eat, sleep, pedal!” Hahhaa he is not so wrong!
I decide not to carry a stove: too bulky and too heavy! You also have to carry refills and find out where to find them, cooking pots and more water for cooking… It would have been very useful in Botswana and Namibia, where villages are scarce, towns and campings far from each other. In these countries, I load my bags, it’s almost the end of the trip, so I get rid of some personal stuff and spare parts to bring more food! Canned food that I eat cold, bread, cheese, biscuits, fruits. In Sudan, I have a huge bag on top of my back panniers to carry provisions and water in the middle of the desert about 300km…
In general I find to eat in villages for cheap, less than a euro meal, in small local restaurants, although it’s always the same available. I end up eating the same dish all week but I’m not too difficult. I find supermarkets in some big cities and capitals, to change a little or find chocolate 😉
Restaurant in the middle of the desert, Sudan [/ caption]
GOOD EQUIPMENT AND SUITABLE FOR YOUR TRIP
I advise you to take material of quality as you go for a long trip and you want to avoid having to repair your equipment as much as possible. Take care of it once you leave. Especially your bike and camping gear. You’ll hardly find good camping supplies in Africa. Even if they have genius to make things last and they can easily repair anything!
Important before leaving: check your equipment, especially if you don’t use it regularly!
Tent: I use a one man tent, brand Coleman, easy to set, light, small, and resists heavy rains. But it’s difficult to put in the sand and hard ground. Do not really resist strong winds.
The good things is that you can see the stars and hide in the bush if you do not put the rain fly (dark-green colour). A stand alone tent is probably more practical.
In any case, take a good waterproof tent: you don’t want to sleep during the rainy season with a tent where the water comes in as soon as it rains a bit. It can be cool especially at altitude! Also take the time to try it before leaving if it is new.
Sleeping bag: I use a 5 degree celsuis sleeping bag. Enough for me and for the countries I crossed, even if it was a little cold in South Africa at altitude (early May). It depends on your itinerary and the season (it can snow in Lesotho for example!).
Stove: I decided not to carry cooking equipment, too bulky and too heavy in my panniers for a single person. If you cook, you must also count the weight of food and water. In any case, if you take a stove, do not choose a gas stove because recharges are hard to find in Africa (except maybe in Egypt and Morocco?) But rather a multi-fuel one.
Other: I found it very convenient to have a solar charger, especially in rural areas or in the desert. I put it on my bike on top of my back panniers. It works with a USB cable, and charged my external battery while I cycled. Brand RAV power, bought online.
Checking the material before leaving [/ caption]
I’m always careful, cycling or not. It is true that I crossed desert areas and sometimes you would think it’s dangerous for a woman alone. I felt safe the whole way and I even felt the people were very kind to me and wanted to protect me, maybe like their daughter or sister.
I had to take a bus in Kenya to make a 200 km trip in the forest because the police but also the locals warned me of the danger: armed bandits often block the road to steal vehicles. In this case, it’s better not to take the risk and listen to the advice of the people who live in the area.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
This is the last tip I give you here but it’s very important! You will be a long time on the road, it’s a wonderful experience but sometimes it’s tiring, physically, but also mentally, especially if you are alone. Sometimes you will have problems. With a small budget, you will have to sleep in dodgy places where sometimes the lack of hygiene will make you feel uncomfortable. You will also often eat the same thing or canned food. From time to time, pay a bit more to sleep in a nicer place or eat a better meal even if you spend more money that day! If you like a place or a country, stay longer, you may not have the opportunity to come back! Take your time and enjoy the adventure!
Take things with optimism. Do not worry too much in advance, every thing and every country in its time. People will also help you a lot when needed! Maybe more than you would imagine. And finally, there is a solution to all the problems. Bad moments don’t last long and you also forget them quickly!