Africa through the eyes of a cyclist

Florence Ryan

This is Florence Ryan's second bicycle. Her father bought her, her first when she was four years old.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Florence Ryan is currently in Kenya on a mission to cycle 13,000 kilometres across Africa.
  • The 24-year-old left Europe in December last year ready for her once-in-a-lifetime experience.

She was four when she got her first bicycle, a Fahrradmanufaktur TX-400 but never imagined that she would use one to tour other countries.

Florence Ryan is currently in Kenya on a mission to cycle 13,000 kilometres across Africa. So far, she has cycled 5000km across Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

“I have only ever owned two bikes. My first one was when I was four years old, the second one is the current I am cycling across Africa. It is a touring bike with a steel frame, perfect for this kind of expedition,” says Florence.

The 24-year-old left Europe in December last year ready for her once-in-a-lifetime experience, and in January 2023, she started cycling from Egypt.

What inspired her?

“I am a super curious person. I love learning how other people live and like to try new things. My dad was the one who taught me how to ride a bike, but back then I would do it once in a while like during summer. There is a French couple who came to my school narrating their journey, they walked across Africa and it took them three years. I was amazed and amused,” she says.

But it is not the first time she has challenged herself to outdoor cycling, the first time Florence did was in August 2022. When she bought herself a bike for the first time.

“Together with my friend, we started with a 10-day training cycling with zero preparations. A 616km ride from Paris to the Atlantic Ocean. So many things went wrong, I had an accident before even leaving Paris, and at one point my bicycle broke,” recalls Ryan.

Florence Ryan

In terms of endurance and exercise, all that Florence Ryan does is cycle, though on some days she  stretches.

Photo credit: Pool

She says as a cycling newbie, she is learning a lot from her Africa journey, for instance fixing flat tires.

“I lived in Senegal as a teenager, there are magnificent landscapes. Africa is huge, this is the reason why I wanted to see it most uniquely. To have a taste of the life of our nomadic ancestors and reconnect with nature. Usually, I spend 80 percent indoors, and this time I wanted to know what would happen to me if I flipped and spent most of my time outdoors and I love the experience,” says Florence.

In her journey across Africa, she recalls Northern Sudan as the most memorable. While there, a region called Nubia, rich in history and culture, caught her attention.

“The people there were the most hospitable and kind I have ever met. Plus, the landscapes in the Sahara were amazing, and camping under the stars was a dream. Now I am heading to South Africa and will be crossing the southern African countries.”

In her backpack, you will not miss a water bottle, snacks, a hat, sunscreen, wipes, sunglasses, a camera, a power bank, and lip balm.

To reduce her luggage weight, she she writes postcards in each country and sends them, as well as a few belongings, back home by post. 

“That way, I do not have to carry much in my luggage.”

Florence Ryan

Florence Ryan, who is currently cycling 13,000km across Africa, when she crossed the Equator in Nanyuki, Kenya. 

Photo credit: Pool

Long-distance cycling has become a pastime for many, and Florence advises that cycling long distances is not for the fainthearted. In her case, she says cycling long distances is meditative in a way as it helps her have time to think.

In terms of endurance and exercise, she does not do anything other than cycling, some days she tries and stretches but sometimes she forgets. 

“I am not a pro cyclist, far from that. Like I said, I owned a bike when I was four, and did not cycle much growing up. So anyone can do it. Your body gets used to it.”

She uses Google Maps a lot, every day in fact, even when not traveling. 

At times, she pins locations in lists of her favourite places and places she wants to visit. 

“Polar Steps is a cool app to track a trip and post about it, kind of like a travel diary. is an app where you can download maps, really good if you are going off the grid and do not have service for a few days.”

What is another must-have?

“Safety is most important, so I would say a good helmet. Other are a comfortable saddle, a hat and sunglasses as well as sunscreen. Everything else, like clothing, is not very important. For sleeping gear, a good waterproof tent, a comfortable mattress, and a sleeping bag are important.”