TIPS FOR CYCLING IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Words + Photos by: Evan Christenson
I’ve been asked time and time again how to even begin to approach riding in the developing world. It’s a frightening concept with often incredible rewards if you’re willing to step out past the initial wall of fear.
But that wall of fear can seem daunting at times, and it will restrict your riding to such a small part of the world. Past that wall, that intimidating, imposing and restricting blockade of fear lies adventure and wonder. On the other side is a world you may not understand. You may be unsure you’ll even like it. But you clicked on this article, so the thought must have crossed your mind.
So here are my tips for transitioning on the bike from a developed world to the non. Because so much lies on that other side and it can be so magical that it would be a shame to discredit it from the start.
Find a flow.
Riding in cities that choke with smog and bustle with motorcycles is incredible. It’s terrifying- but in the exciting way where you’re so on alert with adrenaline that everything feels alive. And once you can begin to trust the drivers and yourself a flow develops. On a bike in traffic there is more freedom. Gaps are easier to shoot and flowing in traffic becomes more of a game than a bike ride. Police officers rarely reprimand cyclists, and often in developing countries they are understaffed to the point where laws are more suggestions. Use this to your advantage. If you feel unsafe- ride away from the traffic. If there’s a break and you’re waiting at a light- go. Prioritize separating yourself from the waves of traffic, and being ready on the side of the road once the traffic returns. Pull off the road and wait if you’re uncomfortable. Getting there late is more important than not getting there at all.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by buses and motorcycles and cars and kids and pedestrians and the unending overlapping of them all. Developing cities are a hectic necessity sometimes. Big routes in developing countries can require you to go through them to pick up supplies or connect to different roads, so when you’re exhausted from weeks of riding already and need to get out as quickly and safely as possible, you need to return to your flow state. Find your breath and work with the traffic. Once your cool is lost and the chord begins to fray it’s all too easy to watch the commotion and panic. Don’t do this. Trust in yourself, but more importantly-