Cycling in Barbados is an unforgettable experience. Here are some tips to make sure you have a fantastic time.
For route suggestions, downloads and everything else you might want to know about cycling Barbados, read our comprehensive ultimate guide to Barbados cycling!
Preparation is key
- It’s possible to hire a road bike in Barbados, but we found there weren’t many hire shops nor a great selection. If you’re planning to do more than a couple of rides, we would suggest taking your own. Likewise, it’s a good idea to bring any tools and spares you may need. Read our article with info on bike hire and bicycle shops on Barbados for more information.
- If you’ve got the choice, consider a titanium bike over a carbon bike and put on some 25mm tires (or even 28mm) to increase comfort. The road surface is poor in places and these tips will ensure you feel less shaken about.
- To give you enough gears up the steep climbs, consider a compact or semi-compact gearing.
- If you ride frequently while in Barbados, you are likely to get caught in a rain shower at some point, even in dry season. We found that the temperature remained warm so we didn’t need a rain jacket; but you may want to pack one just in case.
- Take lights. While you shouldn’t ride in the dark, you may end up starting early and/or finishing late.
- A good lock will be useful if you decide to use your bike to get to tourist sites.
Barbados cycling routes
- Plan your routes before you visit. Our ultimate guide to cycling Barbados contains loads of information on routes we’ve personally tried and tested. We give you route profiles, descriptions, photos and videos so you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Our GPX downloads may come in handy too.
- Although there are loads of roads to choose from, the road surfaces are probably the biggest negative about cycling in Barbados. Road surfaces are variable with all manner of imperfections, from loose gravel to holes, expansion cracks, grates, raised ironwork and polished concrete. Be super careful if you get caught by a rain shower as some surfaces are extremely smooth and slippery.
- Road surfaces change frequently. Particular care is needed on descents.
- As at home, avoid getting too close behind vehicles since drivers may be unpredictable – plus being right behind a car/van will impede your view of the road.
- The busiest roads are the west coast road (also known as the ABC highway) and the roads in and out of Bridgetown in peak times (see below). The central section of the ABC highway between Warrens and the Bussa roundabout is multi-lane and can be unpleasant to ride.
- When route planning, bear in mind that even roads marked as highways can be narrow and in poor condition. The smaller roads are sometimes tracks or private roads.
- There is a lot of development along the west coast road, so you only catch glimpses of the sea, between villas and hotels. The east coast road is much more open with fantastic scenery.
- A Garmin is particularly useful in Barbados because many of the roads are not signposted.
Best times to cycle
- Get on the road early. Locals start riding at sunrise and you should consider doing the same. Not only is the traffic much lighter but the heat is less intense.
- Don’t ride in the dark. We got caught out once and the road surface and lack of hard shoulder made it risky and unpleasant.
- Weekends, public holidays and/or school holidays are good days to choose to ride, particularly if you’re going to ride the west coast rides and/or around Bridgetown.
- Prevailing traffic in the morning rush hour (7-10:30am!) is into Bridgetown and in the evenings (4:30-6:30), it’s the opposite. Once you’re about 5km from Bridgetown and not on the west coast, the traffic thins.
Hot, hot, hot
- We visited in January, the best time of year to go as there’s generally a cooling breeze. Despite that breeze it was HOT and humid. If you want to cycle Barbados, copy the locals: start at sunrise.
- Go heavy on the suntan lotion and remember to reapply. The sun is seriously hot, deceptively so when there’s a breeze or it’s cloudy.
- It’s worth getting a copy of Barbados’s Highway Code booklet to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road in Barbados. You can get this from any of the Barbados Licensing Authority locations (Holetown, Oistins, Bridgetown).
- Drivers are generally courteous and will give a friendly toot to indicate they’re going to overtake. However, we found a few paid scant attention to cyclists, passed close and fast and ignored priorities.
- Many of the roads are narrow and/or single track. Oncoming vehicles may overtake or pass stationary vehicles directly into your path.
- Cars drive on the lefthand side and there is no hard shoulder. Riders from the UK won’t find this a surprise but riders from North America might! Take particular care at intersections (look left first) and make sure you are on the left hand side of the ride after making a turn.
- On highways, beware cars changing lanes abruptly without indication. In towns, note people may open car doors without looking.
Been cycling in Barbados and got some additional tips? Please comment below!
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