The courage and perseverance of the riders in a very challenging terrain have brought the Great African Cycling Safari a worldwide following thanks to social media, which provided real-time updates of an epic tour of almost 5,000 kilometers through difficult terrain.
At least half a dozen stages in the hill country of southwest Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi were the drivers’ nightmare – long, rough, off-road and heights up to 2,364 meters above sea level.
Then there was there were five stages in the Dodoma area in Tanzania, where the riders faced headwinds and were dazzled by clouds of dust while cycling on unpaved roads on mostly flat terrain from ruts.
But every update from the demanding terrain posted on social media drove more traffic to Cycling Safari’s Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter, according to Canadian Scott Rowswell, a retired communications and IT ex perte, who ran the cycling safari route from his home in. from half Canada, and also monit he drove the social media activities of the event.
He said while many of the supporters are mostly cyclists from East Africa, there is evidence of a growing following from Europe, North America and the Middle East.
“These are cyclists who are interested in distance cycling and touring,” he said. “This group likes rides that are challenging. So I see peaks in posts describing difficult stages, especially in hill country like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. “
” Another group seems to like the idea of really tough multi-day trips like the tour tests. grit ‘”, he remarked.
One such technical challenge was the 22nd stage of the tour from Kihihi to Ruhija in Uganda on August 26th.
” This is for the history books. Almost constant ascent of 197 km, almost everything on gravel road, with almost 10,000 meters of ascent and descent. Most of the stages of the Tour de France are not that difficult, ”said a post on the expedition’s Instagram page.
For comparison, this year’s Tour de France – the most famous cycling event in the world – stage 15 Port d ‘Envalira through the Pyrenees-Orienteles area had a maximum altitude of 2,408 meters, but the stage was only 11 kilometers long, a breeze, said Ugandan cyclist Peter Ssali.
“Yes, it was tough and only the strongest survived,” wrote John Balongo, expedition leader of the Cycling Safari.
Ssali, 24, who runs a bicycle parts shop in Kampala, and on his second tour with Cycling Safari, said the Bwindi area in southwest Uganda and Kwa Mtoro gravel roads in the Dodoma area, Tanzania, were some of the toughest terrain he has ever faced.
“These were the most demanding Stages because of the bumpy roads that my bike couldn’t handle “He said.
He said they were pleasantly surprised by the increase in the number of fol lowers this year, especially online.
” We have no magic. It’s the usual promotions on our social media platforms. We don’t even pay for it, everything is organic, ”he explained.
The other factor driving global online following is that the event is a form of adventure tourism and people care about it Activities like biking and hiking are numerous and come from all over the world and are always on the lookout for such events, especially those that are digitally marketed. It’s easy to follow them.
The bike tour ended in Arusha last week, almost two months after the flag-off tour covered 4,936 km, through Kenya in 194 hours and 48 minutes in 55 days, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. It remains to be seen whether it has achieved its goals of promoting the unity of the East African community and raising awareness of climate protection. On the final day, the tour had more than 20,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, according to Rowswell.
He says East African viewers on Facebook account for 65 percent of the total, with Kenyans making up nearly 50 percent of the total while Europe and North America each make up 15 percent and Asia has the largest share.
Kenya appears to dominate because it has a vibrant and large cycling community, but also as one of the first countries to have cyclists toured while the growth in European and North American views was driven by posting to groups in these areas.
Analysis of social media profiles shows that the global fan base of. East Africans are driven in the diaspora. By September 17th, the EAC Cycling site had reached 7,054 people.
In total, more than 1,000 riders took part, but only 26 cyclists completed the entire tour.