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
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.
Cycling Tour Operators:
Helping to promote eco-friendly bicycling holidays.
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.
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 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 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.
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.