No 512 – Ready Steady Slow – Pt1

Let me introduce you to Nikki Ray who between August 2018 and May 2019 cycled solo, carrying all her belongings (including a ukulele), from Santander in Spain to Accra in Ghana covering 10,000km in total.

She wanted to arrive in Ghana before her 30th birthday using her own leg power…and she did!

The last few years before starting this trip she had been working as a cycling instructor in London. She did her first solo cycle tour in the Scottish Highlands in 2015.

As an adult she had long been interested in travelling overland, rather than flying, because you get to experience how the landscape and people change, in a significantly less polluting way than flying. She often combined cycling and trains/coaches to travel around in Europe.

Before this trip she had cycled in England, Scotland, France and Switzerland as short trips so this was to be her biggest adventure yet.

She decided to refer to this journey as Ready Steady Slow as she didn’t want to rush to Ghana without taking in everything that was happening around her on the way. Sometimes, however, during the journey she really felt like going Ready Steady GO as fast as she could.

This was especially after having various set backs, for example when she collided with a taxi in Senegal she fell and damaged her knee which put her out of the saddle for a month, during which time she was getting more and more frustrated at not being able to ride.

Equally when she was cycling through the Sahara desert she covered more kms than any other section of the trip. Cycling through the desert was tough so she wanted to cross through asap, one day she did 158km in the Mauritania desert.

In the end over the Atlas mountains, through the Sahara desert and in 40 degree tropical heats she made it to Ghana, cycling 10,000km across 13 countries: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

She is a vegetarian and sustained herself on street food and food that people she stayed with gave me without eating any meat or fish. Mostly she stayed in random kind people’s houses she encountered on the way, sometimes she camped, sometimes she stayed with people from Warm Showers or Couchsurfing (in cities), on a few occasions she stayed in a guest house, and she slept in a some obscure places like in the store room of a cafe in the desert in Western Sahara and once on a night boat going through the mangroves in Senegal.

She rode on a bike she put together myself which she decided to name Frida. The frame (Trek Multitrack Sport 700), both wheels, handle bars, grips, stem, seat post and saddle were recycled/second hand parts, the rest of the components were new.

She started off with slightly used Marathon Mondial tyres and changed each one once during the trip, she also changed about 8 broken spokes and fixed maybe 10 punctures.

Bike Donations Projects Around UK

People can donate their used bikes to be sent to different projects in Africa via Re-Cycle in the UK https://www.re-cycle.org/. One of the projects Nikki visited that received bikes was WYCE in Gambia https://www.wyce.org.uk/about they also receive volunteers.

People can also donate used bikes to The Bike Project  https://thebikeproject.co.uk/pages/drop-off-points who give bikes to refugees in the UK. Bike drop off points in and around London, Birmingham and Oxford.

In Morocco she visited and volunteered with Pikala https://pikalabikes.com/ a social project in Marrakesh where visitors can go on bike tours of the city and hire bikes from them.

In Sierra Leone Nikki visited The Village Bicycle Project in Sierra Leone https://www.villagebicycleproject.org/ they also operate in Ghana

She also met Vida Vivie in Eastern Region of Ghana who runs a cycling programme for girls https://www.facebook.com/Vida-Cycling-Program-VCP-1854670121472578/

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