There are a number of tour operators offering cycling holidays to The
Gambia. Bicycle Africa based in the US specialise in medium soft bike
tours / cultural adventure for Westerners looking to learn more about
the country at a personal level. The IBF also has a good travel guide.
Having a bike in The Gambia is very useful, especially for getting to
certain tourist attractions and for transportation to anywhere that is
too close for a bush taxi and too far when the heat makes you a bit
lazy for long walks. Additionally, a leisurely bike ride is a great
way to explore the Gambia.
However here are some negative factors to consider:
1. Deep sand sometimes renders un-rideable roads that go off the beaten
track, especially in residential areas.
2. The dust makes bike repairs more frequent than in the Europe or UK.
3. Vehicle drivers and road traffic in The Gambia can be a risk to
Generally these are smaller considerations in the face of a bike’s
convenience. Number 1 can be avoided once you learn the best routes
and become an experienced sand rider (this takes practice); number 2
because bike repair “shops” (i.e. roadside stalls) are plentiful,
inexpensive, quick, and have qualified owners. Number 4 is truly
something to contemplate, but most accidents can be avoided by taking
reasonable safety precautions, explained below.
Buying a bike:
Bikes should cost around $50.00, less for an older model, perhaps more
for a newer—since you are likely to be making this large purchase at
the beginning of your visit, it is best to ask a Gambian to accompany
you to get a fair price. Atlantic Trading Post, opposite of Westfield
taxi stop, has good selection, but there are other places sprinkled
around the Serrekunda area. Keep your eye out when travelling the area
and of course, ask Gambian friends for good places to go. Test your
bike thoroughly before buying—if there are any problems, ask if they
can be fixed before purchase. The seller should repair/tune-up the
bike on the spot for you, and make all necessary adjustments, such as
raising the seat and handlebars.
matter how good your bike is, you will need to get your tires pumped
and gears oiled every once and a while. There are many repair stands
you can stop at on the side of the road; if necessary, you can leave
your bike for a few hours for larger projects. Tire pumping usually
costs a few dalasi per tire, and a full bike oiling perhaps $3.60.
Other repairs vary by cost of supplies and labour.
helmet should be first on your list of necessary accessories—in
fact, Peace Corps volunteers are required to wear one every time
they mount a bicycle in this country. A bike chain with a key
lock is a necessary investment (keep one key with you and one
key in a safe place).
If you get a combination lock, your bike
is more likely to
property—which is all good and well except when your bike is
absent ten minutes before class starts! If you plan on riding at
night (which should generally be avoided), a light is essential,
as it gets dark very quickly. Thirdly, a bell or horn is an
appropriate purchase, as you will have to share a skinny path
with pedestrians that are oblivious to your presence.
Gambian drivers are sometimes less than sane, you must be alert
at all times when sharing the road with motor vehicles—potholes
and uneven pavement edges will cause you to ride more towards
the middle of the main road than you may like.
safety advice is similar for walking. Never try to
predict what motor vehicles will do and don’t act unless you
know for sure. If blinkers are used at all, they are just as
likely to be on unknowingly as to signal imminent turning. When
crossing the street, keep in mind that there are few speed limit
and thus it can be difficult to gauge how fast or slow they are
barrelling towards you—if in doubt, wait. Be especially careful
when riding on busy roads such as Kairaba Avenue, as cars merge
on and off in all directions.
Taxis will present a special
danger as well, since they make frequent stops on the side of
the road. Always move to the rights side of them, even if it
means going to the sand. If you are forced to pass between them
and the road, make absolutely sure the driver is aware of you as
you pass—and remember that eye contact doesn’t necessarily mean
they aren’t looking right through you. If you sense a taxi is
about to move on or off the road, it is wise to stop and let
them do their thing without getting in their way. The best
biking advice is to be as predictable as possible—don’t make
spur of the moment decisions about the direction or speed of
your travel and always make sure you brakes are in good working
order. Last but certainly not least: ALWAYS wear a bike helmet
that fits you and is buckled tightly.
Cycling Trip Operators: