cycling India

Cycling down the west coast of India.

In November and December, 2023, I cycled down the Indian west coast, from Mumbai to Kochi. This is a little journal about the trip, with some photos from what was a really nice journey, down the west coast of India.

Starting off in Mumbai with some mechanical problems.

When I first arrived at Mumbai Airport, my plan was to assemble my bike at the airport and cycle into the center of the city. As I unpacked my bike though, I found it broken, like it has never been broken before. The luggage porters in either Copenhagen, Warsaw or Mumbai, had ripped the derailer off, and some cables had been torn as well. Later I found out that the crank was also broken. So instead of cycling into town, I put it on the airport bus and rode into the center of Mumbai, where I found a reasonably priced hotel, with space for my broken bike. I located a bicycle mechanic who could fix the broken parts within two days, while I was exploring Mumbai.

Gateway to India

Gateway to India, in Mumbai.

Broken bike

My bike was broken, upon arrival to Mumbai.

Mumbai is a modern Indian city.

I was quite surprised to see how modern Mumbai was, when compared to Delhi, where I have been a couple of times in the past. Mumbai is in many ways a very pleasant city, with a good vibe. The city has many historical buildings, as well as many bookshops, which makes it very charming. Mumbai certainly has some poor districts too. But when compared to most other big cities in india. Especially Delhi. Then it is actually quite nice. 

Mumbai student

Mumbai is a big student city.

Getting out of Mumbai by bicycle.

Getting out of Mumbai by bicycle is surprisingly easy, if you are traveling south like I am. Only a couple of kilometres from the Gateway to India, you have a ferry pier called Bhaucha Dhakka. From that pier, a ferry company called M2M has car ferries that cross the strait of Mumbai with nice big car ferries, with plenty of space for a bicycle. The ferries are very modern and dock at a village called Mora, on the other side of the bay. From Mora you can easily cycle south on relatively quiet roads. 

M2m Ferry

Onboard the M2M ferry.

Mumbai ferry

Leaving Mumbai by ferry.

Alibag is where Mumbai citizens spend the weekend.

I spent my first night in the small beach town, Alibag. Alibag is very popular with middle and upper class Indians from Mumbai. And I was there on a Saturday, where the beach was packed with local tourists. That was in itself quite festive. But hotels were filled up. The one place where I found vacancy was very overpriced, because of the weekend rush. But at least the service at the place was good, with one of the most excellent receptionists I have ever come across. If a hotel owner, who is looking for a fantastic receptionist, then go and hire the young lady who runs the reception at Hotel Sea View in Alibag. She is an absolute pro. I say this as someone who has worked more than 30 years in travel & tourism. 

Beach Alibag

The beach in Alibag.

Going down the west coast of India, with no tourists in sight.

Moving south from Alibag, on the coastline that is known as the Konkani coastline, had some surprises. Most of them are positive. I was first of all very surprised by the complete lack of western tourists. After leaving Mumbai, I did not see a single western tourist until I arrived in Goa. Not a single one. I had no problems finding accommodation though, as there is plenty of local tourism. Lot’s of Indians like to spend their weekends on the Konkani coastline. That is very understandable, as the beaches are fantastic. There are also quite a few old forts and some very picturesque fishing villages along the coastline. The food is absolutely amazing as well. 

river crossing India.

You have many small river crossings, when going down the west coast of India.

Cycling india

Cycling down an Indian road.

Beach

Fantastic beach, with no western tourism at all.

Konkani

Small coastal town on the Konkani coastline.

One thing that also really surprised me was how quiet the region is. In India, I am normally used to having lots of people around me, who all want to talk, or just stare at me. But on the Konkani coast, people were almost a little shy. Always very polite when I approached them. But never ever pushy. That was really nice. 

Indian fisherman

Indien fisherman, mending his nets.

Only one kid ran after my bike along the Konkani coastline. He was so persistent that I thought there was something wrong, when he kept trying to catch up with me. When I stopped for him, he spent a few moments catching his breath and then told me that he was a coin collector. He had never met a foreign person before and asked me if I had a coin from my country. I right away gave him all the Danish coins that I had in my wallet. I really liked him, as he reminded me a bit of myself, when I was a nerdy kid who was collecting coins, stamps and about a dozen other things. 

Had to take the train for a bit, in order to get the bike fixed.

I had the derailer on my bike fixed in Mumbai, as well as some broken cables. But my crank kept giving me trouble every day. The right pedal arm kept falling off and it got worse and worse, as the trip progressed. By the time I got to the town of Ratnagiri, it was to a point where I had to put the pedal arm back on the bike about 10 times a day.

train Ratnagiri Goa

Onboard the train from Ratnagiri to Goa.

So I decided that the only proper thing to do was to get the bike fixed, or stop the trip and backpack the rest of the way. Now I do not want to backpack instead of cycling. Tour cycling is just so much better than backpacking. But I had to figure out what to do. A very friendly local bike mechanic told me that going to Goa was the best option for me, as there would be big modern bike shops, who would have spare parts for Shimano cranks, like the one I have. So I decided to take the train from Ratnagiri to Goa. It was a little over 200 kilometres and took just under 4 hours. Very interesting trip with a lot of local vibe. 

Probyk Goa

Probyk in Goa is a fantastic bike shop that helped me greatly to be able to continue my trip.

Probyk in Goa is highly recommended.

Once I made it to Goa, I was recommended to visit a bike shop called Probyk, as they should be able to help me with my broken bike. The friendly manager of the shop managed to get me the spare parts I needed. He did this for a very fair price and was all in all very professional and friendly. I can only recommend Probyk highly, should you need to do some bike repair while in Goa.

Goa restaurant

Lunch in a Goa restaurant, with some selfie time, while waiting for the food.

Goa is not a bad place to chill out.

I have mostly pictured Goa as a beach place and a hippie hangout. But as I am getting older, I get more and more into the history of the places that I visit. So I decided to stay in the old part of Panaji, which is the capital of India. Panaji has a lot of vibe from the past and has also become a place where many Indian tourists holiday. Most tourists in Panaji seem to be day trippers from the beach resorts though. I really enjoyed hanging out in Panaji. Both during daytime and also at night. The place has many nice cafes and bars that have a bohemian vibe. That is exactly what I like to come across, when I travel the world.

Panaji

Panaji has a nice bohemian vibe.

Church Panaji

Church in Panaji, Goa.

Moving slowly down towards Kerala.

Moving south from Goa, I came upon a lot of road construction. In a few months or years there will surely be some new roads linking Goa and Kerala. But as for now, there is a lot of construction going on. Meaning that I sometimes had to wiggle my way around bulldozers and construction sites. It’s not like that all the way though. I found many small roads as well that I used. What also happened a few times was that the new road had just finished, but was not being used yet. Giving me several lanes of bike trail, with hardly any other traffic. I passed by Mangalore, which was a big modern city that I found quite pleasant. In Mangalore I also met the only other foreign tour cyclist that I saw on the entire trip. His name was Ucha and he had cycled all the way from Tbilisi to Mangalore. 

shipyard Kerala.

Cycling past a shipyard in Kerala.

Lazy days in Kochi, by the end of the trip.

When I got down to the state of Kerala, the famous backwaters started to appear. They are really scenic and tend to produce many small roads that are mostly suitable for cyclists. Totally what I was looking for after a few days of busy traffic. The backwaters of Kerala actually reminds me a little of the Mekong Delta, which is one of my favourite places for tour cycling in the entire world.

low tide kerala.

Low tide in Kerala.

Arriving in Kochi, I once again decided to stay in the old part of the city. And again it did not disappoint me. Fort Kochi, as the old part of Kochi is called, is very pleasant, with many old buildings, turned into cafes, restaurants, home stays, etc. I stayed at a simple little hotel called Casa Linda. Friendly no thrills place with chilled out management. 

Kerala backwaters.

Kerala Backwaters.

football fort kochi

Local boys playing football in Fort Kochi.

I actually ended up giving my bike to the owner when I left Kochi, as I was flying back to Denmark. My bike had been damaged quite a lot and had already been on several long trips. So I decided to buy a new bike upon my return to Denmark and donate my bike to the little hotel I stayed at. 

Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi is wonderful.

This is something I have done a few times when tour cycling. And I feel good about it. I’d rather donate my bike to someone who can use it, when it is getting too warm out for trips of several thousand kilometres. Rather than taking it home, where it will most likely just be sitting in a bicycle shed until it rusts away.

Kerala sunset

Kerala sunset.

The Indian west coast is not all flat, but the climbs are quite easy.

If you are wondering how hard it is to cycle down the Indian west coast, in terms of elevation, then it’s fairly easy I would say. I had no climbs that I would consider hard. But you do have elevation up to 2-300 meters. Often several times a day. Especially on the stretch between Mumbai and Goa. But no mountains as such.

River India.

The Indian coastline has small climbs between the many rivers. But nothing too challenging.

What about dog chases?

I did not have a single dog chase on the whole trip. There are lots of dogs along the route. But they are generally speaking just dozing in the sun and couldn’t care less about a tour cyclist passing by.

Indian dog.

Indian dogs do not bother to chase bicycles.

Only guard dogs could be a problem. But luckily it’s not that common to have guard dogs. So the dog issue should not be something that you worry about.

Holy cow

The holy cows are also friendly.

Hotels everywhere, because of domestic tourism.

Accommodation was absolutely no problem for me. I am a hotel/guest house traveler. And while you have next to no foreign tourism, outside Goa and Kochi, you have plenty of accommodation because of the many Indian holiday makers. 

Home stay India.

One of the many cheap home stays, where I spent a night.

Prices would range from 8-10$ and upwards. My budget was 40$ a day for everything. And that was very easy to keep. I splurged a couple of times on nice hotels. But mostly I was paying around 15$ a night. 

What about the food along the west coast of India?

When I am in India, I live almost entirely vegetarian. Not that I am a vegetarian as such. When in other countries I eat meat just about every day. But India is just world champions when it comes to good vegetarian food, that has so much nutrition that you can actually cycle 100 kilometres a day, after eating it. The abundance of paneer cheese in the food is probably what I like the most about Indian food. I absolutely love Indian cuisine and would return to India, for the sole reason of having some fantastic food. And I did not get sick from the food. Not a single time.

Thali

I often had thali for breakfast.

Indian food.

I never get tired of Indian food.

Indian food.

Indian food is amazing.

coconut sugar cane bar

Coconut and sugar cane bar, by the side of the road.

I had a heat stroke in Kozhikode.

I suffered a light heat stroke one day, as I was cycling into Kozhikode. The city that was formerly called Calicut. Also the place where Vasco da Ga Gama landed his ship in 1498, after finding the sea passage to India, around the cape of good hope in Africa.

Friendly paramedic

The friendly paramedic I met, just before I had a heat stroke, where he was not there any longer.

My heat stroke actually came a few minutes after talking to a local paramedic Who was out cycling. I could feel it coming though and quickly found a hotel, where I chilled out for the next two days. The heat stroke gave me some fever and I was unwell for about 36 hours. Good thing is that I have tried this before. So I know how my body reacts and what needs to be done for me to get better soon.

Beach Kozhikode.

Nice beach, next to Kozhikode.

What is my final verdict for cycling down the west coast of India?

This is one of the places that has surprised me the most in a positive way, during more than 3 decades of tour cycling. The west coast of India generally has some really good roads for tour cycling. It’s scenic, with an amazing coastline, scattered with beaches and small fishing villages. And accommodation is plentiful, along the west coast of India because of domestic tourism.

roads india

The roads are mostly very good for cycling, along the Indian west coast.

road India

Newly constructed road, with very little traffic.

It’s only domestic tourism though, as I saw no western tourists outside Mumbai, Goa and Kerala. Only a single other tour cyclist, who was Georgian.

I really can’t recommend this route enough. This is as good as cycling in places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Places that I also love to travel by bicycle. 

If you have any questions about cycling down the west coast of India, then feel free to leave a comment or contact me. Always happy to help fellow travelers. 

Rural India

Welcome to rural India.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Cycling 1800 kilometers through India. – Travelling Claus

  2. That is so great! I could never travel with a bike anywhere, however you are awesome for doing that ! Loved reading your story!

  3. Hi, we’ve just returned from 2 months Tamil Nadu and Kerala cycling trip with kids. Loved TN much more than Kerala. How would you compare traffic density India / Vietnam / Phillipines / Sri lanka… if you’ve been there. Thinking of cycling Vietnam next (been to all the the listed countries listed above). We usually choose rural roads if there’s an option.
    Thanks,
    Maja

    • Hi’ Maja.
      I have been cycling in all the countries you mention. For Vietnam, I would say that it highly depends on where you go. The big cities do of course have very congested traffic. And so does the big coastal road, going from Hanoi to Saigon. But once you are off the main roads, then it’s really a good cycling country. Almost all traffic in Vietnam is on two wheels, making it more pleasant than the countries where the cars dominate. Sri Lanka is quite comparable to the Indian West Coast that I have just cycled. The Philippines is fine as well. Main thing to consider is that they have less facilities like hotels and decent places to eat, as The Philippines is more impoverished, once you get out on the countryside. I have a few reports on this blog from my cycling tours in the countries, by the way. All the best from Denmark.

  4. It was nice to see you still keep in fit and cycling always to travel around the world. I still keep follow your nice travel guide post. Take care.

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