Cycling around historic areas such as Anuradhapura and Sigiriya is the best and most enjoyable ways to see these important sites. Bikes are also an ideal way to explore the North and East via the lightly travelled roads typical of these regions.
More and more hotels and guesthouses have bicycles that guests can hire.
Simple, cheap mountain bikes make up many of the rentals you’ll find in guesthouses and hotels. Rates average about Rs 500 per day.
- If your accommodation doesn’t hire bikes, it can usually hook you up with someone who does. Many places rent bikes to nonguests.
- Bikes available for day use typically are not suitable for long-distance riding. Bike-rental shops offering quality long-distance machines are rare. Consider bringing your bike from home if you plan on serious cycle touring.
Tour and outfitting companies organise cycling tours of Sri Lanka and may also help you get organised for independent travel. Some operators are:
- Keen long-distance cyclists will enjoy Sri Lanka, apart from the steeper areas of the Hill Country and the busy roads exiting Colombo. When heading out of Colombo in any direction, take a train to the edge of the city before you start cycling.
- Start early in the day to avoid the heat, and pack water and sunscreen. Your daily distances will be limited by the roads; be prepared for lots of prudent ‘eyes down’ cycling as you negotiate a flurry of obstacles from potholes to chickens. Remember, too, that speeding buses, trucks and cars use all parts of the roadway and shoulder, so be cautious and wear visible clothing.
- If you bring your own bicycle, also pack a supply of spare tyres and tubes. These suffer from the poor road surfaces, and replacement parts can be hard to obtain. The normal bicycle tyre size in Sri Lanka is 28in by 1.5in. Some imported 27in tyres for 10-speed bikes are available, but only in Colombo.
- Keep an eye on your bicycle at all times and use a good lock.
- When taking a bicycle on a train, forms must be filled out, so deliver the bicycle at least half an hour before departure. At Colombo Fort train station you may want to allow up to two hours. It costs about twice the 2nd-class fare to take a bicycle on a train.