Cycling in Ethiopia is a fabulously rewarding way to explore the country. If you want to cycle across the country, come well prepared with a sturdy bike, plenty of spare parts, a good repair kit and the capacity to carry sufficient amounts of water. New and second-hand cycles can be bought in Addis Ababa, but they are not generally the type of bike you’d wish to conquer the Historical Circuit with!
In the past, irregular terrain and brutal roads have scared off most adventure addicts and their bicycles – to that cyclist we saw about to climb into the clouds on the approach to the Simien Mountains, respect! But with today’s greatly improving road network it may just be the right time for you to give it a try.
- Cyclists should show the usual caution when travelling around the country: never travel after dark, be wary of thieves and keep the bicycle well maintained. Brakes need to be in good working order for the mountainous highland roads.
- Don't expect local drivers to keep an eye out for you – trucks, minibuses and other vehicles often come around corners on the wrong side of the road, so be vigilant and prepared to dodge sideways off the road at a split-second's notice.
- Be particularly wary of dogs; sometimes it’s best to dismount and walk slowly away.
- Cycling in the rainy season can be very hard going.
- Punctures are easily repaired: just head for any gommista (tyre repairer) or garage. Many mechanics are also more than happy to help with cycle problems, and often turn out to be ingenious improvisers.
- There are special customs regulation regarding the importation of a bicycle. A deposit must usually be left (amounting to the cycle’s worth) at customs at the port of entry on arrival. When you leave, this will be returned. This is to deter black-market trading.
- Cycles are accepted aboard Ethiopian Airlines international flights. On domestic flights you’ll need to check first in advance as it depends on what type of plane is covering the route on that given day.
- Finally, a few tips from a seasoned African cyclist: check and tighten screws and nuts regularly; take a spare chain; take a front as well as rear pannier rack; and pack a water filter in case you get stuck somewhere remote.