Viva la Bicicletta – Cuba Work Bikes
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: