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
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 your safety.
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.
Buying a Bike:
Bikes should cost around $70.00, 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.
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).
you get a combination lock, your bike is more likely
to become community 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.
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 $4.50. Other repairs vary by cost of supplies
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.
The 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 signs 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 Tour Operators:
Helping to promote eco-friendly bicycling holidays.