Cars don’t crowd the roads we’ve been riding across Africa. With one lane of pavement bending through the land’s terrain, the sound of an engine is as likely as the hum of bicycle tires passing by.
Even though we enter these communities as clear outsiders, the bicycle becomes a connection point. Recognizing the physical exertion required, they relate to these strange foreign humans. Often people shockingly say, “very strong” when we tell them we rode 60 kilometers over the hill from the next town over. I don’t know what they’d think if they knew we came 3,000 kilometers across half the continent.
In nearly every place we stay, other cyclists can be found. Even small children’s bikes hang outside stores. Its the common form of transportation, and the only means some people have in their life.
We met the Sudanese cycling team riding through Khartoum. They used bicycle riding to travel across Africa as well. They compete in races not just in Sudan, but Rwanda, Eritrea and Egypt as well. We shared photos of our different travels, united by the love of propelling ourselves across the land!
In Ethiopia especially, people take pride in their bicycles and decorate them to the highest potential. Flowers taped on to the handlebars, fabric wrapping their frames and spray-painted fenders are commonplace.
Often as we pass through, the locals will ride a few kilometers through their hometowns, pointing out the oh so familiar road-side spectacles. One time, a child had proudly added a plastic bottle to his rim, so every time he rode, the chi-chug of the bottle hitting the ground made the sound of a horse galloping.
There was a steep hill climb out of a town called Debre Markos, and I was lucky enough to have the motivation of a local farmer returning home in his bicycle to motivate me up the incline.
Sometimes it’s the familiar feeling of pushing pedals in a very low gear and zig-zagging up the road that transcends the English-Amharic language barrier and produces friendships immediately.
Africa in particular is a good place for bicycles. Development is tricky in these rural, agrarian towns, and a bicycle can go a long way, both physically and in helping development.
We are honored to see how integrated the bicycle is into the local community nearly everywhere we are going. It thrills me to know, thanks to the support of everyone back home, we have raised over $10,000, or 70 bicycles through World Bicycle Relief!!