Viva la Bicicletta – Cuba Work Bikes

27
Jan
2012

Beautiful Cuban “work bikes” and a post about cycling in Cuba, by guest writer Kathy Campbell.

Viva la Bicicletta – An article and photos on Cuba and their Working Bikes

by Kathy Campbell

If you love bicycle touring then you must make some time for a bike tour around Cuba.  There are so many reasons to go there and if you are able, so many reasons to bring a bike and leave it there.

We got our reconditioned bikes from World Community, a local community group that collects unwanted bicycles, re-conditions them and donates them to international and local groups or individuals who really need bikes.  We made our donations, packed our bikes into boxes and shipped them to Cuba cost-free as humanitarian supplies.  The condition on the free shipping was that we were to donate our bikes, and not to bring them home.

Cuba is excellent for biking, few cars, great scenery and there is such freedom in getting off the plane, pulling the bikes out of the box and putting your own transportation together as a group of friendly interested locals gather around.  Nothing is wasted.  Once we were ready to go the crowd gladly gathered up our bike boxes and other gifts and we were on our way.

Cuba is a country that truly appreciates the bicycle.  Bikes are the workhorses of the working class.  Anyone who can’t afford a car (and this is most people) aspire to own a bike.  Many of the bikes we saw were vintage.  Classic models that had been creatively adapted and repaired then pressed into service as portable fruit and vegetable stands, knife sharpening shops, carnival rides and cyclo taxis.  Pedal Power prevailed and you were never out of site of a bike anywhere you went.

Cubans have great respect for bikes.  Big trucks changed lanes to give us space to ride, there was no tendency to cut you off or to push you aside.  If you really want to enjoy biking, rise early and get out before the heat of the day, siesta or swim at the beach when the sun is high, then head out for wonderful cool of the afternoon ride.

Sure you have to be careful as the roads are often rough and there are an alarming number of missing storm drain covers which could result in very serious injury…  Otherwise the road is yours and if you do not feel up to riding the distance, you can check your bike like luggage onto a Viazul tour bus, travel across the country and retrieve your bike to ride again.  Transporting your bike is cheap and safe and we never had any problems getting our bikes on and off of the bus.

The Cuban people are creative and resilient.  They have been isolated from world commerce by the US and know little of the outside world because of filtered news channels and lack of access to the internet.  What they do have they make the most of.  You can fix a flat anywhere and no tube, no matter how many holes it has is ever thrown away.

As you ride keep your eyes open for the amazing Cuban  work bikes.  They are all around you, expressions of creativity and resilience, reflecting the best of what is Cuba.  If you like the photos in today’s post, go ahead and:

Enjoy Your Ride
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  • James

    I volunteer at Workingbikes.org in Chicago which collects bikes in the area and sends them to other countries.We have sent several containers to Cuba.It is great see bikes getting put to work.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Hi James, it’s awesome that you volunteer at Working Bikes.  I’d like to feature that organization in a future post for sure.  Glad you liked the pictures.

  • Anonymous

    revolution is a common  factor among cyclists, tat said I’m off for 3wks of cuba. Taking a bike to leave,see bikes for cuba.

  • Eric Hutchins

    Nice Flags on the 3 wheeler :).
    Cool post.

  • Anonymous

    Love this story.  Love the pictures.  And I also love the fact that Cuba doesn’t have a huge North American influence.   I really hope to visit there someday….and definitely bring bikes! 

  • Kathy Campbell

    We had two wonderful trips to Cuba and know that the bikes that we left with friends there are really appreciated.  We were inspired to cycle Cuba by our friend Carl who is an amazing cycling senior.  He has cycled in Cuba for 7 trips and can kick my butt on a bicycle anytime.  Note also that there are buildings devoted to safe bicycle parking in most towns and all of our guest house hosts welcommed our bikes into the house.  Check out World Community http://worldcommunity.ca/.  They do excellent community to community work educating us as well as giving us the means to donate to Nicaragua and Cuba. 

  • Blake Jr

    I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba and heard it’s a nice place to ride.  I hope to get over there for some sun and cycling and I’ll have to look for working bikes as well.

  • Jennifer

    Beautiful photos.  I think it is juts brilliant what you have done in Cuba and I find it inspiring.  Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Pam

    This is a facinating story and the pictures are just wonderful.  This reminds me of the time I spent in central America and would often see similar type bikes there.  The term “working bikes” is perfect.

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