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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 01-31-13, 08:29 AM   #1
mev
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Tour d'Afrique 2013

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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
As I've mentioned, I will be very interested to hear what you think of the Tour D'Afrique. All the best!!
Currently three weeks into a seventeen week trip across Africa (my blog: http://www.bike2013.com) and posting a few perceptions so far.

There are some things I really like about self-contained bicycle touring:
  • Ability to pack everything on my bike and feeling of freedom of traveling at my own pace and direction.
  • Close interactions with locals as each day sort out where to get water, food and other supplies. Getting off the beaten track and interacting with locals with a fairly light "footprint" otherwise
  • Relatively economical travel
  • Adjusting the trip as I go along
  • Enjoying my own company as I travel alone or perhaps a few people
Tour D'Afrique is not that type of trip

However, I am having a lot of fun and really enjoying the trip so far. Just as there differences in styles and preferences and not a single approach to cycle touring, a trip like this is not going to fit a reasonable set of folks including some in this forum.

So what is this TDA like and why does it fit me despite the list above? We're on a four-month ride from Cairo, Egypt to Capetown, South Africa with 50+ riders and almost a dozen staff. 11,600km in 94 riding days and 27 rest days is a somewhat aggressive ride of ~125km/day including some unpaved and some rough roads and crossing 10 countries with their own borders, languages, rules and regulations. It all works because there is a certain amount of structure/organization to it and (in my opinion as a rider but not other relationship) because TDA is well run.

As a rider, life is fairly simple: get up in the morning, pack up your stuff and put it in your locker, eat breakfast, check the white board and then ride that days ride at your own pace with your own stops and explorations. Find your way into camp, eat soup, set up the tent, eat dinner and then relax while preparing for the next day. Along the way, have fun and see some of Africa as you travel along. Remember to wash your hands frequently.

TDA describes their rides as "self guided with support", but there is some reasonable support along the way: SAG trucks and staff including medics, mechanics, drivers and general folks helping to conduct a staged race, to check to make sure nobody got lost, etc. I was certainly appreciative of having a wheel rebuild when my rim cracked. There is a mentality of trying to test yourself and ride whatever you can, but this is also Africa and an adventure - so that fallback is nice. With that support comes the ability to travel at the pace we do, with a large group. Also for me comes an ability to see Africa in a way that would be difficult otherwise.

I am an experienced touring cyclist and my previous long tours (see http://www.fietstocht.com) have including my own self-supported ride across Russia, a ride around perimeter of Australia, two trips across the USA and one across Canada - among other places. For most of those trips, I personally wouldn't do TDA because I have confidence and experience to sort them out on my own and value a bit of the deeper "immersion" that traveling alone provides.

However, I took a previous ride with TDA through China (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/mevchina2007) for many of the same reasons as I am on the Africa ride now: while I could probably sort most of this out, I appreciate the extra structure and support of a supported ride to go through some areas where logistics become extra challenging. The important thing to recognize is this is just different than a self-supported ride. In that way, I'm ambidextrous in liking this also as a variety and different way to ride/travel. (It is still a little ways down the road, but most likely on completion of the TDA trip, I will likely "unwind" with my own solo tour on the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) before going back to work...).

In summary, happy customer who would recommend TDA ride across Africa to others (so far), but also recognize that there is a "fit" issue and such trip might not match some preferences and styles. That is ok. I'll keep my blog up to date and perhaps report back here if things change and/or later in the trip.
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Old 01-31-13, 09:03 AM   #2
imi
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Fantastic post, thanks mev! I have had the TDA in mind and hope to get it together within the next few years. Seems like a realistic way to bike through Africa. Your post inspires even more.
Wish you well on your adventure
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Old 01-31-13, 10:38 AM   #3
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Im glad you are enjoying it mev

imi and Machka I work at Tour d'Afrique and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. all the best
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Old 05-12-13, 03:41 AM   #4
mev
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Tour D'Afrique 2013 finished yesterday in Cape Town. I had a blast!

What I wrote above part way in is still true but I'd add some more descriptions and perceptions since then:

1. An additional word I'd use to describe the trip is "intense". Egypt and the first parts of Sudan were easier compared to what came after that in Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The extra logistical support of an organized trip was helpful as I concentrated more on the daily routine and riding. My perception is traveling Egypt/Sudan/Ethiopia/Kenya would have been considerably more challenging as a self-supported ride due to less facilities and different things to get out of a jamb - than it would have been from Nairobi onwards. If I were doing a trip like this not on TDA it would have taken perhaps twice as long than our four month adventure. As a result, a lot of adventure got packed into a short amount of time.
2. There were a some days I couldn't quite complete (e.g. due to heat exhaustion in Sudan, a leg infection in Malawi or breaking rims in Egypt and Botswana) or occasionally chose a shorter day. There were about a third of the participants that rode every single kilometer of the trip and my admiration to them. That is a bit different than my own previous cross continent rides. I attribute that to a difference in approach: when I'm traveling on my own, I travel more by "mileage budget" than "mileage schedule". In other words, as long as I'm making reasonable progress towards the end goal - I'll adjust the days to be longer or shorter as needed. For example with mechanical issues I'll stop to solve them or with injury I'll heal. On a trip with ~60 riders there is more structure and schedule and hence on a particular day you'll either ride the distance or not - but the trip continues. That took some some adjustment but also works.
3. I'd still repeat my description of a happy customer of TDA. The trip was well run and organized and staff did a good job of paying attention to things that mattered and letting the others be flexible. For me personally, I'd still do my own self-supported cycling in areas where I have confidence and experience - and for something similar to Africa I'd do them again (in addition to their Africa rides they have an across South America tour in 2015 that seems intriguing but probably too soon and I might also do that on my own).

So overall I'm still ambidextrous in my style. Had a great trip these past four months (blog: http://www.bike2013.com) and will now fly back to Portland OR where I'll do my own self-supported cycle tour for another five weeks before returning to work.
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Old 05-18-13, 07:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mev View Post
1. An additional word I'd use to describe the trip is "intense". Egypt and the first parts of Sudan were easier compared to what came after that in Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The extra logistical support of an organized trip was helpful as I concentrated more on the daily routine and riding. My perception is traveling Egypt/Sudan/Ethiopia/Kenya would have been considerably more challenging as a self-supported ride due to less facilities and different things to get out of a jamb - than it would have been from Nairobi onwards. If I were doing a trip like this not on TDA it would have taken perhaps twice as long than our four month adventure. As a result, a lot of adventure got packed into a short amount of time.
I'm glad you mentioned this ... these are reasons why I would consider going with the TDA rather than making an attempt to do something similar on my own.

BTW - I have heard before that the TDA trip is quite intense.

I'm glad to hear you had a good time.
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