Madagascar is ideal for mountain biking. Given the conditions of the roads in some areas, it may often be just as fast to travel by bicycle as by taxi brousse. Cycling away from the main roads require planning especially when it comes to food and water – so fit your bicycle with as many water bottle holders as possible.
You can usually stop over in villages at night – after gaining permission from the village head, teacher or local dignitary – to set up camp, use the water or light a fire. Along the main routes, there is the possibility to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants.
Basic bicycle parts and inner tubes are sometimes available in larger towns, but you should come prepared and bring any equipment, spares and tools you may need. In addition, it is a good idea to bring an extra tyre or tyre patch if you are riding off-road or long distances.
Mountain bikes can be hired in many of the larger towns including: Fort Dauphin, Antsirabe, and Ambodifotatra on Ile Sainte Marie. The bicycles are normally just for local use and, in most cases, not in a good condition for long journeys. You will need to bring a bicycle from home if you do decide to do lengthy trips.
It is advised to have a mountain bike, and not a road bike, for Madagascar as most terrains are: sandy, muddy, rough and rocky. Some roads – like the stretch between Tulear and Morombe – have rough sections.
Central and Southern Madagascar
South of Antananarivo is busy and hilly at the outset, but there are good places to stop and eat along the way. The cooler temperatures are pleasant for cycling. The area between Antsirabe and Fianarantsoa is hilly, but particularly scenic and logistically easy with numerous possibilities for detours en route.
Heading from Antananarivo to Andasibe, and then to the coast at Ambila Lemaitso, is a good trip. Between Ambila Lemaitso and Toamasina the scenery is less interesting, and there are some hills. From Toamasina to Mahavelona, the road is pleasant and flat, and the route from Mahavelona north to Soanierana-Ivanyo offers spectacular scenery. From Mananara to Maroantsetra, the route is rough and rugged but scenic.
North-Eastern and Northern Madagascar
Mountain bikes are ideal between Cap Est and Iharana. This area has great scenery and a few villages en route. There are almost no facilities between Iharana and Ambilobe and the road is in a rough shape. Between Antsiranana and Antananarivo, you will need to be self-sufficient with water, food and camping equipment as there are a few facilities along the way and the road is only partially paved.