Shut your eyes and go: a guide to cycling the roads of Nepal

Early on in my days of cycle touring across India I was given some advice about cycling on Indian roads by a local Punjabi in Hoshiarpur: There are laws, but nobody follows them. There are rules, but nobody knows what they are. Take your own path.

In Nepal, the same principles apply.

  • The roads are rarely flat
  • The roads are rarely straight
  • The roads are rarely smooth (see here)
  • Tarmac is a scarce commodity
  • High speeds are therefore rarely achieved
  • The bigger the vehicle the more right of way it has. This one is paramount for personal safety. On a bicycle you are the lowest priority vehicle on the road
  • Overtaking on blind bends is de rigueur
  • Do not be afraid of oncoming vehicles in your lane (see above). This will become a frequent occurrence. Drivers generally give each other less room than they will give you
  • Drivers still drive too close despite the above comment. This is just something you must get used to
  • Drivers will brake suddenly. Mostly due to the above comments
  • Don’t bother indicating. Nobody else does.
  • At roundabouts and other junctions shield yourself with a bigger vehicle. Much as one does as pedestrian when crossing the road – put some locals between you and the oncoming traffic and look to them for both guidance and protection
  • Drivers will honk their horns to alert you to their presence. However, they will wait until they are right alongside you, as if you haven’t heard their roaring engine approaching over the enormous noise of your bicycle. They also do this when oncoming on an empty, straight stretch of road. Perhaps to check that you are awake
  • The correct side of the road for driving is the left hand side
  • Drivers will pass on whichever side of you is most convenient
  • Take the side of road that is most convenient for you. It doesn’t matter if this is the left or right hand side of the road
  • The smoothest section of road is generally the edge closest to the large drop down the mountainside, which seems to be invariably on the wrong side of the road and essentially on the footpath
  • Traffic jams are an everyday occurrence. As are Mexican stand-offs between drivers. Be prepared to find the narrowest gap possible to continue on your way. Or be prepared to wait
  • Roadworks are also very common as almost every road I have taken appears to be mid-construction. Ride over them. Walk over them. Carry your bike over them. The labourers will stop their rock-breaking machines to allow you freedom of movement. Briefly
  • Overladen vehicles are a photo opportunity rather than a risk
  • If you leave a gap, someone will fill it
  • It’s everyman for himself. Or every goat, cow and buffalo
  • But ultimately, if you need it, someone will give you and your bike a lift


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