Answers To Most Frequently Ask Questions On Bicycle Africa
Mountain-bikes work on all the programs. Some programs use predominately paved roads where touring bikes are suitable. Detailed information on selecting and setting up your bicycle and equipment is sent in the pre-departure information packet. Most participants prefer to take their own bike. This is practical because bicycles are carried as accompanied baggage on international flights. On some airlines this service is free, but some charge a hefty fee so it is good to check the baggage regulations before you make a final decision about an airline.
As the airline reduce their baggage allowance and increase their baggage surcharges, good quality folding bikes become a serious consideration. The Bike Friday “World Tourist”, which fits in a suitcase, has been used by the program director and participants on all of the programs; through the sands of Mali, rutted roads of Ethiopia and mud of Cameroon, without failure and with great overall satisfaction. There are some compromises: the small wheel can drop further into holes and alter the inertia of the bike, and the shorter wheel base changes the center of gravity to be much more over the front wheel. This is most likely to catch up with you going downhill on a rutted gravel road -- but also can be mitigated with strong cycling skill. If you are considering taking a folding bikes and have questions, please contact us.
Rental bicycles are only available on a few programs -- none in Africa. There are several factors that interfere with our ability to provide rental bikes for our programs:
Generally the people who have been most interested in rental bikes are those who wanted to do additional travel after the program without a bike or are try to avoid the airlines hostility towards bicyclists. The most common solutions have been to beg or buy a modest used bike at home for the trip, pay the airlines one-way, and then donate it or sell it at the end. It is possible, and sometime cheaper, to buy a bike locally, but you have to be prepared to be challenged by the quality of the bike (see " African Panther.")
The bicycling difficulty is moderate and designed for generally active people. There have been a lot of participants on the program who have never cycle toured and never done international travel before who have thoroughly enjoyed the program. It is an active program, but it is not an iron man competition. The bicycling is meant to be a means to cultural immersion. If you are in descent condition and curious about the destination you should be able to do the program, regardless of past experience. Daily distances average less than 40 miles (65km) per day, are usually between 30 and 50 miles (50-80 km) per day, but may range from 20-80 miles (35-100km) per day. It is good if you can work up to averaging 10-12 mph (16-20 km/h) on rolling terrain. The daily plan is linked to road conditions, terrain and points of interest. We try to start programs with lower mileage and let it increase as people get in better shape and adjust to conditions. If the roads are rough or ascending the mileage is usually lower. If the roads are smooth or descending the mileage may be more.
Unless otherwise noted the bicycling portions of the programs are “self-contained,” which means there is no support vehicle carrying baggage (local transportation is generally available if people get tired). For “self-contained” tour participants carry their own gear on their bikes using a rear rack and panniers. Individual gear usually averages about 20 pounds (10 kg). If an Ibike program will be your first exposure to self-contained bicycle touring you are not the first. The pre-departure materials provide tips and guidance for packing for self-contained bicycle touring and the office is available to help you and answer your questions. (Where identified, programs have dedicated support vehicles to carry gear and assist cyclist.)
Educational value, cultural sensitivity, environmental impact, safety, road quality, riding difficulty and climatic norms are considered in route selection and scheduling. Each program is unique. While safety is a factor in planning the program and most roads are low volume, because the program involves bicycling on roads shared with motor vehicles and, in part, routes are selected because they go to desirable areas, we make no claims as to the safety of the itinerary. It should be understood that bicycling and travel are calculated risk activities. Bicycle Africa subscribes to the International Bicycle Fund's 'Code of Responsible Travel'.
These programs are in non-western countries. We primarily stay in towns and villages. Accommodations vary according to opportunity. Sleeping arrangements range from local housing, dormitories, simple hotels, tourist class hotel and tented camps, as available. We endeavor to select clean, friendly and secure accommodations. Rooms are generally, but not always, double occupancy. Will try to match people with roommates, if they wish. If you don't have a roommate, or don't want a roommate there will be a single supplement charge. This represents the actually difference in the cost to the program. Single rooms cannot be guaranteed. Some facilities are rustic. Plumbing, electricity and modern services are not always available.
Meals are provided at or above the local standard -- its Africa so variety is often limited. Food for certain restrictive diets may be limited. Choice of beverages (i.e soft drinks, beer, liquor) is usually limited. Two meal per day are provided. Because it is the time that everyone is easily together, Ibike usually picks up the tab for breakfast and dinner. Even at midday the group often eats together, but sometimes some people take the opportunity to wander off and do there own exploration. We encourage people to carry some snacks at all times, but there are usually shops, markets or restaurants along the way where you can purchase things for lunch. On the rare occasions when we aren't likely to be able to find food around "lunch time", the guide will tell the group in advance and they stops at a market or shop to buy things for a picnic lunch.
It is very hard to identify an "average participant" or the "average group." Past participants have ranged in age from 9 to 73 - most are between 25 and 55. But, in fact, the groups are quite "age-less" once we get going -- everybody's working on a common project and "age" falls by the wayside. There have been more women than men, but some groups are all women and some groups are all men -- we have no way to predict the mix. No aim is put on age or gender of groups. Most, but not all, participants sign-up alone, some of these people are single and some are married traveling without their spouse (both men without their wives and women without their husband -- we know the program doesn't appeal to everyone.) Participants have originated from every continent.
Programs involve physical activity. For the safety and enjoyment of everyone, good physical and mental health are key to the enjoyment of these trips. We travel in areas remote from modern medical facilities. Participants may be required to furnish a doctor's statement of good health. Vaccination and prophylactic medicine may be recommended or required. BICYCLE AFRICA provides information and guidelines to help participants stay healthy, but is not responsible for participant's physical or mental health or for medical advice prior to or during the program. BICYCLE AFRICA reserves the right to refuse acceptance of anyone whom it deems unsuitable for a trip. We will make reasonable accommodations to enable people with special needs to participate. Under no circumstances do we refuse acceptance based on nationality, national origins, race, creed, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Sign-up by sending your name, address, phone number, the name of the program and a deposit of $300 ($100 is non-refundable.) We will send you a waiver form. When the waiver form is returned, we send a pre-departure information packet. This packet contains visa application forms and instructions, packing list, medical and immunization information, cross-cultural information, a reading list, etc. Early registration is encouraged due to limits on group size (usually 10-12); visa and vaccination requirements; and to give yourself an opportunity to explore the reading list.
Full payment is due no later than sixty days prior to departure. Registrations received less than sixty days prior to departure will be accepted subject to availability, full payment and a late fee of $50. Unless special arrangements are made, all payments must be in U.S. funds.
Costs quoted are based on at least six participants. Fares are in U.S. currency and based on itinerary, tariffs and exchange rates at the time of publication. Unless otherwise stated, the price includes: all leaders, accommodations, two meals a day, transfers, and park, monument and museums fees, on the itinerary in Africa. No revisions are anticipated; however, fares are subject to adjustment in the event of alterations in currency exchange, inflation, the imposition of surcharges or changes in the itinerary, with the understanding that any additional expenses will be paid by the participant. No refunds or credit are given for unused services.
Not included in the price, unless otherwise stated, are: airfare, accommodations, meals and transfers in route to Africa, accommodations, meals and transfers not included in the program, visa and passport fees, vaccination, drugs, medical expenses, beverages, airport departure taxes, insurance and items of a personal nature.
BICYCLE AFRICA and associated companies act only in the capacity of agent for the participation in all matters relating to transportation, lodging, meals and/or all other related travel services and assume no responsibility, how-so-ever caused, for injury, loss or damage, to person or property, in connection with any services.
Please express your individual interests. It is not always possible to make changes in itineraries, but we want you to be as satisfied as possible about overall arrangements. We want everyone to have a great trip!
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