The major risk with bike touring is of course traffic. Drivers in Italy and France have a lot of respect for bikers and generally keep a healthy distance. Before my trip to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco I actually wrote farewell letters to my closest relatives and put in my desk drawer at home, mostly because I had no idea how bad traffic would be. In the end, drivers were very nice, and I only had one scary incident in 8 days of biking.
Being helpful to car drivers is a good idea to maintain respect between bikers and drivers. If you have a row of cars behind you, get off the road and let them pass.
Don’t listen to music while biking! You need to hear traffic coming up from behind! Keep an eye on meeting traffic – if they swerve right to the edge of the road, then you probably have meeting traffic behind you. Be extra careful when the road makes a right turn, since that is when cars and lorries are going to be closest to you.
Also remember, it is the second car that hits you! If you hear a vehicle behind you, it just might be more than one. The second and third may not have seen you at all until it is too late, so keep right also after the first car has passed.
In summary, if you see a row of meeting lorries, you hear lorries coming up from behind, the road is narrow, the road makes a right turn and there’s a metal railing smack up against your right, make a hard break, lean up against the railing and hug it tight till all cars and lorries are gone. This exact scenario is not too uncommon in countries like Romania. Stay alert!
It is tempting to drink cold beer when it is hot, but better stay off alcohol while on your bike.
Imagine biking at night in the mountains of Morocco, your only light is a headlight. Suddenly you have a few hungry stray dogs closing in on your legs! You shine your light in their eyes, it makes them raging crazy. This happened to me twice! I panicked and had to bike for my life for 100 meters until they gave up. Luckily a wise South African biker I met on the Pampas plains in Argentina told me what to do – just stop, put the bike between you and the dog, and they will soon enough stroll off since there’s nothing to chase any more. It has worked like a charm, so far! We only talked for 20 minutes, but this tip has saved me a lot of agony. Thanks pal!
Then there are tunnels. Many are poorly lit or even pitch dark, some are very narrow. If you absolutely must enter a scary tunnel, turn on the flashing red tail bike light, or push your bike through the tunnel on the left side of the road!
Terrorism shouldn’t really be a problem, but do some research before you go. Is there any risk of kidnapping? As an interesting side note, Frank Lenz, an American bike adventurer, disappeared in 1894. It is believed he insulted the wrong person in Turkish Kurdistan.
In the end, the biggest problem for you will probably be theft. Stay close to your bike, phone, passport and credit card. If possible, keep a spare credit card, a large banknote like $100 and a spare SIM-card in a separate place from everything else of value, in case you lose your main wallet or phone.
My personal best tips are:
- Spend some time each evening planning the next day: which roads to take, where to eat lunch, where to stay the night. Leave open for various alternatives.
- Be kind to yourself
- Take a day off once a week or so
- Take a break every second hour or so, have a coffee and something sweet, enjoy the view
- Don’t push your biking into the evening and dark – the last hour you bike each day is much harder than the first hour
- Eat well
- Be careful with that alcohol
- Lock your bike and stay close to your stuff