Cuba on a Bike Friday Tandem
We were recently contacted by Australian Bike Friday owners Shirley and Geoff. They have a wonderful story to tell you about their experiences touring Cuba on a Tandem!
Having cycled around Cuba in 2009 on standard road bikes which we gave away at the end of our month, we decided to take our Bike Friday Two’sday Tandem back to this cyclist’s paradise in Nov 2015. There are good roads with almost no traffic and the few truck and bus drivers are just so courteous being used to sharing the road with their own cyclists, horse carts, oxen , donkey or pedestrians with wheel barrows.
We flew from Toronto to Varadero airport near the city of Matanzas where I remembered a Casa Particular (homestay bed and breakfast) with plenty of room to put the bike together. They were happy to store the suitcases for us.
While it is possible with only English, a little basic high school Spanish allows you to go off the tourist path and when we stopped for a drink and to watch a farmer with his oxen – he came over for a chat. Como se llama sus bueyes? (What are the names of your oxen) opened a lovely conversation.
Same with this chap – happy to chat as on a bike you are at their level.
We went from Matanzas in north to Playa Giron on south coast then east to Cienfuegos and Trinidad enjoying music in every town. We then took a bus 1000km to Santiago de Cuba and over the mountains to Baracoa so we could cycle back with the prevailing winds behind us. The tourist buses are smaller than in USA so our bike did not initially fit underneath but the very helpful elderly bus station attendants wouldn’t let anyone on board until they worked out how we were going to fit the bici doble abajo – eventually with handlebars and seats off it was in.
Tropical Baracoa was another music haven
From Baracoa we had to go up over the mountain range pass known as La Farola – 15km long continual grind up on a smooth elevated concrete road with no other traffic.
At 62yrs I was a bit concerned but with a few stops we made it OK with the help of the local delicacy – Cucurucho – grated coconut mixed with honey, sugar and guava – perfect cyclist boost food wrapped in an environmentally friendly banana leaf
Over the top we stopped for more food and to put on more clothes – then with the essential tandem drag brake on full – continued down the other side to the coast to a little basic concrete cabin on a black sand beach and a sumptuous fresh fish meal
We never booked ahead except for the first casa in Matanzas– we used the Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba and in each town if not approached by a cyclist as we entered we went to a listed casa– if it was full there was usually another nearby or the owner would recommend a friend’s casa. The government approved casas have a blue anchor . They are of very high standard with ensuite, fans/AC and the most wonderful home cooked meals. Usual cost $25/night/room. Breakfast $4 and evening meal $8-10pp.
While we didn’t get any true punctures with our marathon tyres we did run into a spot of bother initially starting off with a new back tyre- somehow once fully laden we kept getting pinch punctures on the inside surface – finally resolved by putting a round of electrical tape along the rim. But we had used almost all our patches and none are available (bring all your spares) but Poncheras (tyre repair businesses) are everywhere and happily repaired all our tubes by vulcanisation.
Cuba will never afford internet in people’s houses but they have provided wifi in the major squares of most large towns so they are abuzz each evening. $10 for 5hrs access.
It is very safe, the people very friendly and the ice-cream excellent even if there is only one flavour available at the local Heladeria/Cremeria. We had a bowl of 3 scoops of pineapple icecream each, X twice it was so nice. The 12 scoops cost ~30 cents in the local currency but some Spanish needed.
A few other photos
We used the latest Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba along with the Lonely Planet Cycling Cuba Guide which was a one-off published in 2001 for ideas on cycling routes plus International Travel Maps Cuba 1:600,000 waterproof/tearproof.
Cuba does not stamp passports but instead issues a separate tourist card so has always been able to be visited. We were there for all of November at the start of the dry season. You are welcome to contact us phone +61 354248374 (being aware we are 6-9hrs behind) if you need more information.
A special thanks to Shirley and Geoff for sharing their story. If you’d like to learn more about their adventures, you are welcome to reach them by phone in Australia: +61 354248374. Please be aware that they are 6-9hrs behind US time zones!
Learn more about the intrepid Tandem Two’sDay that Shirley and Geoff used on their travels!