What sort of bicycle tools should you take when cycling Africa, and do you need a camping stove for Africa? Your bike touring questions answered.
Questions about Cycling in Africa
Every now and again, I get an email asking questions relating to different bicycle tours around the world I have done. Recently, I was asked a couple of questions in regards to my bicycle tour in Africa.
As well as answering their questions, I thought I'd turn it into a quick blog post here. I hope the answers are of some help to other people planning to cycle the Cairo to Cape Town route!
Do you need a camping stove when cycling in Africa?
Questions: What type of stove did you have before you ditched it in Sudan? We are debating between bringing our WhisperLite Universal stove or our MSR pocket rocket that takes IsoPro (80/20 isobutane and propane) canisters. How often were you able to eat at roadside eateries and is that why you ditched your cooking stove? What is the cooking gas availability like on the route?
Answers: I found that in the end, I could find so much cheap local food that it really wasn't worth cooking any more. Overall, I appreciated the weight saving of fuel and stove when compared with the inconvenience of eating cold food a couple of days running.
There were some problems in Ethiopia where the only things I could buy were biscuits on some days. The reason, I later found out, was that they are Orthodox Christians who stick to fasting days, meaning that it is harder to get some foods on certain days. Meat might be off the menu for example.
I'd always pick up canned food where I could, and fresh fruits and veggies (which need a good wash).
If I was to do the trip again, I actually would start off with a camping stove though. I'd just abandon it at a point where I hadn't used it for a while. Gas wise, I'd use the petrol rather than canisters.
What bicycle tools to take cycling Africa?
Questions about Bike Maintenance Kit: What items did you find were absolutely vital to have with you? We have a Surly Disc Trucker 26” tires and Kona Sutra 700c tires. Did you carry a spare tire the whole way? Spare chain? Anything you found that the bike shops couldn’t cater for?
Answers: While you can expect to find cheap cycling parts almost everywhere, I wouldn't expect to find quality gear anywhere.
In particular, when I cycled, 700c wheels were a bit of a novelty – I couldn't get even inner tubes! Eventually I had to get some new tires and inner tubes delivered at a huge expense to Tanzania from the UK which still brings me out in cold sweats thinking about the price!
I would recommend taking a spare tire each. Also, rotate back and front tires every month, even though it seems a pain and probably pointless after month one. It will make them last longer. One or two spare inner tubes per bike. A couple of puncture repair kits.
I suggest taking a chain per bike, as it might be difficult getting one that suits your cassette set up. Talking of which, take a cassette removal tool in order to be able to take the rear cassette off for when (probably not if!) a spoke breaks at the back. Spare spokes should be taken as well.
Bike shops won't have quality parts, but they can always find a away to get you out of trouble. If you have disc breaks (or anything that was innovative since 2000!), you should expect not to find parts. Take appropriate spares for breaks whether it's pads or discs as well.
I think that about covers the basics – apologies if there was an element of teaching you to suck eggs in there somewhere! But honestly, any one of the things I suggested here to take, even though simple, might save you a lot of time and money on the road as I found out the hard way at times!!