What’s it like cycling in Gozo you ask ?
Once you hop on the saddle, you'll be subjected to either the best of your life or a traumatic experience.
I'll split this into two sections, the pros and the cons of cycling in Gozo.
Obviously, as with every Pros and Cons list, i'll be starting off with the Cons.
First off, you are BOUND to end up in a bad road. And by bad I mean : You'll have to turn on your ninja-like agility and monotonously avoid the endless array of pot holes.
People in Gozo are not accustomed to seeing a road cyclist so you BETTER be extra vigilant in narrow roads with junctions in them. You will encounter some drivers who will emerge from a junction and cut you off, it's just how it is.
Most motorists completely ignore stop signs, I mean come on, why stop on a stop sign?
Indicators...I'd just like to point out to you people who don't use indicators (you know who you are), did you know that your car has a set of indicators (THAT COMES AS STANDARD ON EVERY CAR) that MUST be used when turning right or left? If you don't know how to use them, i'll gladly make a tutorial for you.
Republic Street Victoria
If you are passing from Republic Street, which is the holy grail of illegally parked cars with their hazards turned on - but don't you worry, they'll just be 5 minutes (probably). This is a major safety hazard for cyclists as you'll be constantly in the middle of the road and you MUST stay on the look-out for any door flinging.
A Motorist's Weapon
The grand 'Horn'. I've encountered an endless number of drivers who blatantly beep their horn at the sight of me cycling at the side of the road as it makes them think that they're 'superior' in some way. Then there are the beepers who decide to honk their horn because there's an egocentric cyclist in the middle of the road TRYING to avoid perilous potholes that could pose as a grievous threat to the cyclist and by the way, we'll only take 5-10 seconds to get back to the side of the road! Don't beep your horns, it's scary for cyclists and besides, we HEAR you coming behind us!
*I am not pointing any fingers at anyone and I mean no harm to anyone. It's just a minority that can be mean sometimes. Most of the people here are extremely kind!
Mountain Bikers who have gone on some trails in Gozo, I’m sure you have been confronted by at least one angry being who claims that you are ruining it for him right? Yeah…I had the unfortunate experience happen to me once when we had a group of Maltese cyclists come to Gozo. We stopped in the cave above Ramla (Nadur) and placed our bikes above the cave….a few seconds go by… "PRIVATE PROPERTY AW, PRIVATE PROPERTY” - pointing at us to move our bikes (which it obviously wasn't, as the bikes weren't on any type of field, just on some rocks)…nonetheless, he mouthed off the Maltese lot and us with some unintelligible words which i won’t be typing on here but I'M SURE you already know what was said.
Take 2 : Junctions
I'll stress this again : Drivers will pull out of junctions even though you’re 50 meters away from them guys. Always, hands on the brakes when you see a car at a junction, no matter what!
The Speeding Overtaker
What gets me the most is the “super speeders” ….come on guys, you’re on an EXTREMELY TINY ISLAND with the longest straight road being about 2km (14km in Length). Do you really need to overtake a cyclist with less than 1 meter of space whilst you’re hurling down a road at 100km/h (which is illegal by the way) into a round about?
The Overtaker from the Opposite Lane
This has happened way too many times that I have became numb to it. Why must some motorists overtake from the opposite lane whilst there is a cyclist in the opposite lane? What If I were to swerve to dodge a pothole and you're rushing into me? What If I were a motorcyclist ? Would you still overtake that car and come onto my lane, right in front of me? What would happen then? Think...
Yes i'm pointing at you, the person who always seems to be in a hurry...IN GOZO. PLEASE.
As a General Rule
ALWAYS OPEN UP YOUR DAMN MIRRORS!
And I'll end this on a good note...
This one is extremely laughable…sometimes whilst cycling I overhear (mostly elders) people mumble as to why i’m not cycling on the PAVEMENT!?! …Ah Gozo...
Cycling in Gozo as a whole
Gozo is a GLORIOUS place to cycle in but it depends on the time and day. For example, cycling on a Tuesday from 12pm onwards would be very peaceful whilst if you were to go cycling on a Monday at 8am...you'll be in quite a semi-stressful situation (only if you are in main roads such as Republic Street though). Other than that, Gozo is great!
If you’re into mountain biking, THE TRAILS IN GOZO are amazing! Especially in the months from October to May, everything is ten times greener and the air is cleaner than clean! If you're the adventurer type of person, you'll LOVE going around uncharted places in rural Gozo.
Whether you're cycling on the road or off the road, Gozo is full of eye-gauging landscapes and scenery. You'll find yourself inundated in a scenery full of grass, greenery and an almost perfectly placed natural trail whilst mountain biking towards an uncertain destination. When you're on the road, you'll always be right next to nature, if you look right or left you're bound to see trees and green areas all around you.
Cycling on the road can be a lot fun if you're well prepared before going on your ride. Meaning that you should plan your route carefully and treat yourself to a few stops here and there. That coffee break is essential!
There are many drivers who are considerate too in Gozo. I’ve encountered countless times where a driver has yielded for me to pass in front of him whilst stopping a queue of cars behind him!
The Logical Overtaker
Most cars that overtake at regular speed will usually leave a good enough gap that will make you feel safe. I salute you!
Many locals will wholeheartedly greet you even though you’re a (pesky) cyclist! Some would even provide help for you if you’re caught in a bad situation - I was once caught in a heavy downpour and was urged by a man in a garage to take shelter in his garage until the rain stopped!
Punctures are inevitable. Though even if you puncture your tyre, you'll have plenty of space to change your tube. You can either pick to stay on the generously sized pavement or (in most roads), you'll find a small passageway that leads to a trail where you can shelter yourself whilst you change your tube.
The majority of the MAIN roads in Gozo are wide enough and most of the time quiet enough to fit group riders that choose to ride 2-abreast (which is legal by the way).
Roads are constantly being upgraded and fixed in Gozo and there are only a few bad roads left which are very short anyway.
Now this might be a con for some but it sure is a pro for me. If you're the type of person that loves hills, you've come to the right place! Gozo is FULL of hills. I'm constantly left baffled when I finish a ride and notice that I've done 300-500 meters of hills yet I was only doing (what seemed to me) as 'training straights with no hills'. What's even better is that you've got a very large variety of hills to choose from, they range from short to long hills and from moderate to extremely steep. By extremely steep, we're talking around a 36 DEGREE GRADIENT HILL, to my non-cycling-technical friends.....even certain cars would find the hill difficult to climb!
The Morning People
If you go out to cycle in the early morning (around 5:30am to 8:00am) you're going to encounter a lot of people doing their daily walk, cycle, run etc...most of these people will greet you a " Good Morning / Bongu ". Some tourists would even encourage you with words of praise and maybe even a photograph!
Quite a self-contradictory list if you ask me. This is all due to the fact that in Gozo you'll meet all types of people with different behaviors towards cyclists. But I'll stress this again, if you would like to start cycling on Gozo, Malta or anywhere else...Don't think about it too much! Just get any type of bicycle with 2 wheels and set off! If you stay wary enough, abide the traffic laws and road regulations, you'll have a blast and you'll never regret your decision! Cycling is a huge stress reliever and what's really the cherry on the cake (for me) is you can enjoy cycling with your friends and even when you're alone! So go on and burn some calories, meet new people, explore the land, stay safe and have fun!