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  #1  
Old 18 May 2010
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Ethiopia>Kenya>Rwanda>Burundi>Tan...

Hi All

I am a newb here. I was introduced by a mate who has done the Plymouth- Bamako and is planning his Cape to Cape.

I plan to go Ethiopia>Kenya>Rwanda>Burundi>Tan and on to SA.

Anyway, my main questions concern cycling in Burundi and Rwanda. I have a friend working in Rwanda for VSO and have asked them their advise, but they haven't been out and about much.

Have any of you seen been cycling out there? I'll be with my wife-to-be. Just us. Any thoughts on this undertaking greatly appreciated.

In terms of gear, having read some of the motorbike threads I reckon a mountain bike with sus may be required!

Cheers

David
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  #2  
Old 18 May 2010
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if you choose a full-sus bike have a think about what happens if it breaks down (oil/air chambers and bushes). can you fix it, or live with it ? and can you mount racks on the full-sus you're thinking about (probably not) ?

I've motorbiked Ethiopia/N-Kenya, though didn't see any cyclists at the time. A lot of the cyclists I've seen in West Africa (similar terrain) were on fully rigid tourers.

have you done much cycling touring before ?
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  #3  
Old 19 May 2010
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Hi

Thanks for getting back to me. I should clarify, I didn't mean full sus, that would be ridiculous as I am sure you would agree! I meant hard tail. I plan to get my gf a 29er hardtail.

I can mount racks on a hard tail, so that's not an issue.

I haven't done cycle touring, but I have cycled big distances. I have a few mates who have gone around South America and I plan to steal all their kit - bags etc and plunder their knowledge.

Very excited. Very.

I met a bloke last night at my kayak club who rides motorbikes, he said he knows a few stupid cyclists who have been across asia, but not africa. I have also now been put in touch with a girl who rode london >cape town. Crazy.

Cheers

David
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  #4  
Old 19 May 2010
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I went through this process a while back, there's a thread somewhere. I didn't find any mountain bike suitable, and couldn't really find a second hand one either.

It was mentioned to me at the time that hybrids would be a good choice, as they can still be sourced new and in steel. I thought they were for old women with wicker baskets, but now (having done some touring) realise they would make good tourers.

even front suspension will be battered, and I doubt it'd last too long. It's a personal preference mind you, but the 'roads' there won't be smoothed out like your average UK mountain bike trail. and you'll end up with a bouncy front-end, and the front-rack fitting compromise. I'm not sure how East Africa roads compare to SA roads.

re the mountain bike/hardtail choice. modern mountain bikes aren't built for racks/touring, so you have short-ish chain stays. this means your heels could be banging into the panniers, which I think is worse for shorter legged riders. and, obviously, an aluminium bike is much more likely to fatigue and snap than a steel one.

it's good you have mates equipment to plunder, and brains to pick. there's also a website called crazy guy on a bike, which hosts others trips. it's worth a read through.

I ended up going with a Surly LHT, which is pretty robust and has eyelets all over the place.

If you get yourself sorted I can give you a multi-day route (up here) that will give you a taster for the kinds of conditions you can expect. Well, except for the heat that is..!


cheers
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  #5  
Old 19 May 2010
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PS. 26" tyres are what you'll most likely find, you might have trouble with 700c wheels.
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  #6  
Old 20 May 2010
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Hello mate

That's really useful info, thank you.

The main reason I am keen on using a MTB is that I have a very nice, light Scott Racing Team one now. You're right about the mounting, I would have to buy a post kit to mount a pannier well. As for front bags, I am optimistically aiming to just use a bar bag.

having said that, your Surly looks very sweet indeed. My issue however is cash! I am getting married before I go, hence the need to pilfer what I can.

Regarding the smoothness of trails, the stuff I ride is anything but smooth! Wales and the Lakes are punishing on the front end. Having said that, the geometry of the bike is probably a bit silly for touring. Hmmm.

There is another factor for me though - my speed compared to my gf's. I could do with a bike that will slow me down a bit so I don't end up frustrating her, so me on a 26" and her on a 29er is a good choice... but we'd have to carry all the spare tyres for her I guess. So much to think about! But it's fun stuff to think about, so all good.

Really appreciate your input, any more of your thoughts would be very welcome.
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  #7  
Old 20 May 2010
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hi there,

do you have a route planned ?

I've mountain biked in Wales, and the Alps as well as up here. When I say 'smooth' I mean they are not bone-jarring. mountain biking in europe tends to be on routes ridden (and smoothed by) other mountain bikes, not cattle trucks. I would say the Corrieyairak Pass or the routes around Glen Tilt up here are comparable to some of the sections between ethiopia/kenya. not all of it by any stretch, a lot of tarmac there too.

One of the things you don't get here is the fine dust, which gets into the seals. being able to service your forks completely will probably prolong their life. but don't expect them to be working properly when you get back.

what is it the locals say, 'if you sweat you die' ? pace is slower there, and making the end of the day is sometimes a sweet achievement. being quick on the bike is soon put into perspective, so I wouldn't worry too much the speed differential. but getting her a 'non African standard' 29er in an attempt to make her quicker is maybe not a sensible idea ?

have you thought about an old tandem ? obviously that would go slap-bang against the Team Scott Racing mentality, but it might just cancel out a lot of potential stress points.

what did your mates take on their tour of SA ? Stephen Lord's Adventure Cycle Touring book is worth picking up, it has lots of useful info and some really good stories to get you dreaming.

I'm not trying to be doom and gloom by the way. it will be a great trip, and very memorable!

here's a pic of northern Ethiopia, above the Blue Nile.
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Ethiopia>Kenya>Rwanda>Burundi>Tan...-209.jpg  

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  #8  
Old 22 May 2010
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Hi again

You're not being doom and gloom! I expected a bit of discussion on here... it's what I was hoping for!

Regarding the tandem idea, I'll be blunt - no way! I would hate it, she would hate it, it'd be a nightmare to throw on the top of a van/truck/bus and would be way less fun.

Regarding the non-African 29er, I'm not so certain. I have read in a few places that 29" wheels are not uncommon.

I should be clear - I am not aiming to race through Africa, but I am a lot faster than her due to the fact that I do a lot of fell running training which tends to make you quite fast on bikes too. I just want to even it up as much as possible, not to race.

My route... no, but at the mo I am thinking Eth > (is this bit dodgy?) Kenya > Uganda > Rwanda > Burundi (ok?) > Tanzania (to coast) > Malawi > not sure from here, maybe coast of Moz, maybe in land to Bots.

My mates loved South America. A lot. They enthuse about it. They covered a lot of miles, from Ecuador, down to Patagonia, across to Argentina, Bolivia... a truly epic journey. You can read about it here Cycling Amigos - South America - Cycling and Exploring

Cheers for the offer of riding up your way. I would love to. I'm on Skye next weekend. No cycling but a spot of fell running and a stag do.

Cheers

David

David
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  #9  
Old 22 May 2010
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Eh up mate
I'll be honest, i can't see the pair of you on a tandem either!!
On the front sus thing......can you get some with a lock out, so if they do puke their oil from worn seals, you just lock them up and carry on no probs??

See you soon
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  #10  
Old 22 May 2010
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never say never with a tandem.. they are a bit like top boxes on motorbikes, very uncool until you try them.

between ethiopia and kenya is (or certainly used to be) a terrible section. I snapped the Enfield here, and I met a a couple of guys that sheared off the shocks on an Africa Twin and a GS. this is where I'd be worried about riding a light weight Alu bike.

there are decent tarmac roads elsewhere in ethiopia though, and further south into Kenya. so, if you slung the bikes in a truck for that particular section you could probably ride any bike.

if you're into Tanzania you may well think about slinging the bikes onto the boat over to Zanzibar. Some nice gentle off-road tracks through the island.
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  #11  
Old 22 May 2010
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Hi Dougie,
I've got no problem with tandems, my cousin and his wife love theirs dearly, i just can't see it working for Dave and Bec that's all.

Happy travels
Sam
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  #12  
Old 15 Jun 2010
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be inspired

I met this chap when heading up East Africa a couple of years ago, what he did was impressive, be inspired by him. I have just toured SE Asia on a bike with rear suspension and it was fine, go for it.
to-adi - Adrian Guggisberg - Home
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  #13  
Old 14 Aug 2010
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I really wouldnt stress about the concept of speed, if you're on a road where it is possible to achieve anything resembling speed, you are either in South Africa or about to be run down by a matatu.

29 inch wheels not a problem most of the chinese bikes have 29 inch rims with skiny-ish tyres, not mountain bike width though.

Take a Garmin GPS with "Tracks4Africa" loaded onto a memory card. I have found that the Power monkey explorer has been invaluable for me.

The route you will have to take in N Kenya will preclude damaging the bike due to speed... Tyres will take a belting and your primary issue will be water.
If you get an opportunity to see a "somali bandit", its a tad late to do anything about it.
About the best you can hope for is to look like a starving native on a bike. I shouldnt have to say it but wear neutral toned clothes that are light green / khaki in colour this will be reasonable camouflage if needed and gets you to more or less blend in.
Take all the stickers off your bike so that it doesnt look new and modern.

Ethiopia is very high Altitude, be aware of that before you start charging off, 80% of Africa's land over 8000ft is in Ethiopia so the odds are you will be exposed to Altitude sickness.

Kenya is great and very welcoming but remember that Africa's oldest tourism hotspot has also got some desperate people looking for anything to get by today on - food, money, water, bicycles, shoes, clothes and sometimes regretfully jig-jigi.
Anything South of Eldoret is likely to be on a tarred road, so no issues there, but you will miss out on allot of the country thats worth going to but not ona push-bike.

If you venture into Uganda be very cautious of a strong banana flavour'd vodka/rum type drink, one bottle-top should be your limit.

Rwanda Burundi... good luck with the Juu juu's they have a habit of creeping up on you - the mind plays funny tricks.
If you venture off any major roads you will face mud. Lots of the glutinous stuff, where even pushing your bike is a massive chore. Some even argue that its easier to lock the brakes and slide the wheels along with all the gunk that will accumulate in your wheels and forks

If you are heading into Tanzania from the south of Burundi beware that there are many many mountains (Volcanoes actually) and I cant see this as being pleasant on a bicycle, the route along the lake shore I dont know if it is open or not now-a-days but a much more enjoyable prospect.

You will need good luck with the Lions if you head over to the East coast south of the Selous.
Alternatively you head south into Zambia but thats a gauntlet I would not want to do unless I were on motorised transport.
Which leaves you with the only sensible option; into Malawi and a very relaxing time of it too (the first day is all down hill then you hit the lake and crash out for a week or so.) getting to this section is a completely different kettle of fish though on a bike.

Getting through East Africa including Kenya and Burundi / Rwanda and Tanzania is challenging and an entire adventure on its own.

If you were looking to do a Long ride from Ethiopia to SA, then i would bypass most of Kenya, because to get from the North is a massive mission alone whereas you can sneak into Uganda South of Lokichogio and its much easier that way through into Rwanda / Burundi. You will have a similar experience but not as much of the hardship.
the East Coast of Lake Turkana is a huge hardship, and once youve hit your lowest low point, it gets harder... for a log time.
Then you get to an oasis paradise (compared to where you will have come from)

Enjoy and dont underestimate the time that you will need.

P.S. Some of your nights will be very very cold, bring a very warm sleeping bag, or a sleeping system that comprises of two bags, a summer and a winter bag.

Oh and remember the wildlife own the nights -

You have a temporary pass during daylight hours, but after dark, try to be bedded down and snoring or it gets to be a very sad story.


I should temper all of the above by saying that i have not done any self supported distance riding in Africa on a push-bike and this is drawn from my experiences in a Landy and on a motorbike.
I used to do a few day long rides on a hard mountain bike 26" with no issues at all, and would imagine that a Front suspension bike "that locks out" would be very welcome.
Most of this was in the Rift valley where there was a support vehicle for the tents and cooking equipment at the end of the day - hell what am I saying, the support team did everything for us, bar the cycling, eating and showering. it was no hardship at all!
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  #14  
Old 4 Sep 2010
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did you go ?
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