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Solo Female Bicycle Touring… Is it Safe to be Packin' Oestrogen?

I often receive emails asking whether cycle touring is safe for lone females. So I asked Loretta to share her thoughts, in her own inimitable way…

“Well, hello sir, thank you so much, but no thanks, I am okay”, I belt out with a tummy jiggling chuckle.

A helpful testosterone filled crowd has gathered around me as I repair a puncture deep within the tropical Malaysian rain forest.  There are so many oil stained calloused hands trying to hold the bicycle tube or check that my air pump is fastened securely that I can hardly lift a hand in my own assistance.  As I crouch over Pandemic (my bike) amongst the crowd my stomach has cramped from laughter, for this is country number 14 in which my estrogen has created yet another helpful bunch of skilful men, all in possession of PhDs in fixing stuff.

The sound of my own laughter, as I press the patch firmly onto the tube, is only muffled by my memories of the familiarity of the extravagant displays of genuine altruistic interest in assisting anyone in perceived need.  As I round the world solo by bicycle the cultural similarities of men from around the world is endlessly entertaining.

It’s the estrogen you see; a masterful diva of devotion, distraction and 24 hour road side assistance on a bicycle tour of foreign lands.  The estrogen extravaganza, a festival of aid in which the men of the world bolt forward unsolicited with thoughtful assistance and not usually needed helpful action.  Past aid includes carrying my bicycle up the stairs of hotels, patiently gathering around in celebratory anticipation of assistance when I repair a puncture, offering me clothes right off their backs and on many occasions, taking me into the safety of their home for tea and a rest with the family.

The men in attendance of the international estrogen extravaganza can smell the wafting scent of a female from across the deserted Gobi desert of Mongolia, through the mountain passes of the Himalayas and in the deep mud of the landslides of northern Laos.  I can draw a crowd of genuine harmless assistance just about anywhere.  Need directions to a safe spot for the tent?  Want some extra hands to carry a loaded bicycle up some stairs? No worries.  Being a woman is the most useful of the safety plans and survival tools that I pack daily in my panniers/bicycle bag as I cycle around the world.  A tool that so quickly melts all language barriers that at times I wonder why there is such an exaggerated stereotype of women travelling solo as unsafe especially if they are travelling independently by bicycle.

When I began my round the world by bicycle adventure a year and a half ago, I would turn down most offers of aid.  I was determined to be self sufficient and my natural, “no thanks, I got it” attitude, which got me off the couch into this adventure to start with, would not accept any offers of assistance.  However, as the journey continues, it has become clear that the men of the world genuinely want to help.  So nowadays I just say, “thank you”, and pat my estrogen on the back.  As a solo female traveler, I am cloaked with attention and all I can do is push the pedal into the next country and say cheers to the men of the world.

As well as cycling round the world, Loretta is also selling these cool t-shirts for charity.

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  1. I once pointed out to a female colleague that she had a far easier time with the grumpy old gits in the office than I did. Despite the fact that she tore me a new one, I think I had a point. (Although maybe it was that I should keep my borderline sexist comments to myself 🙂 ). There is no shame in taking advantage of us sad males, none at all.

  2. And of course, Al’s publisher Eye Books publishes a book called “Riding with Ghosts” written by Gwen Maka who undertook an epic 7,500 mile solo journey through the Americas. Her story started with a trip to the supermarket: “One day, as I returned from the shops on my bike, laden down with six precariously wobbling carrier bags of food for my three teenage sons, an idea began sneaking into my mind. It was like a virus which had lain dormant for years, and suddenly it burst forth into a fully fledged outbreak…. I would go cycling!” Cycling Workd describes Gwen’s adventure “A fantastic read,” and Wanderlust magazine: “Fascinating.” You can see more here: And if you haven’t read Alastair’s books yet, please do buy them from him.



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